Unlocking the Power of the Mind

Unlocking the Power of the Mind
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Education, Among Muslims, an Imperative, Must Create Architects of Thought and Intellectual Dynamism

Junaid Ashraf

A brothel was opened recently in the United States that does not have women in it but robots acting as sex slaves. There are already calls as to how the introduction of robots in the industry will further deepen the unemployment. And, there is no reason as to why the powerful global imperialist mafia will not use these militarily to maintain advantages with advanced models. While Mark Zuckerberg has been enthusiastic about the project, Elon Musk has described it as the gravest threat humanity will face. One thing is clear however that Artificial Intelligence (AI) will deeply influence the social economic and military aspects of life. All this is happening at a time when and while the entire mankind has been dragged into the rat holes of social media to consume MacDonald and have morphed into consuming clones of pop culture, and where machines are being turned into humans and humans are being turned into machines.
One needs to be careful about ‘their’ ‘great ideas’. When Albert Einstein was challenging established physics in Germany, how many had felt that a ‘ great idea’ will melt the skins of Japanese girls in Hiroshima? And, when Karl Marx was writing Das Kapital, how many had feared that mountains of dead bodies will be piled up in Afghanistan? And when Sigmund Freud was advocating for lifting the sexual restrictions for making earth a heaven, how many had imagined that generations of Muslim youth will be fed with pornographic content and sexually explicit culture? They know how to make Protestantism out of Catholicism to make usury permissible, and to enter Islam as an Abdullah bin Sabah.
A great Muslim thinker remarks, “if there is fire in the jungle you can’t play violin to it”. In lieu of this, It is, therefore, imperative to examine the history of education in our part of the world. There is an exigent need not just for intellectual defense but intellectual offence and advantage –in science and technology, philosophy and art.
While Sir Syed Ahmad Khan had chosen to study and write about the life of Mughal emperor Akbar, everyone, among his friends admired the efforts. Ghalib was not happy though. In one of his poems, Taqriz, he sent to Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, he wrote;

You waste your time
Put aside the Ain and parley with me;
Open thine eyes and examine the Englishmen
Their style, their manner, their trade, their art.

The razor sharp intelligence of Ghalib had understood what storms were going to break out in the future, even though he was looking at things without the antimony of Hijaz in his eyes. He deeply felt that there was no need to be the prisoners of the past but the freemen of future.
Sir Syed was not happy and he returned the poem. But, the watershed cataclysm of 1857 was soon going to change Sir Syed. A nation that stared straight in the eyes of British imperialism in 1857, which produced the stars like Syed Ahmad Shaheed and Tipu Sultan in the darkest hour of the night of its existence, was defeated. It finally found in wilderness a beloved with a candle of knowledge–Sir Syed Ahmad Khan.
This is not generally known and talked about: Sir Syed wanted his qaum to study science and arts in the local language. The British refused the idea of education in this idiom. Sir wanted brilliant academicians and the producers of knowledge the likes of Beruni and Khwarizmi and Ghazali. British wanted a collaborator coconut class — who were white within black outside cut off from their roots and craving for English fruits not growing anything of their own; the English speaking cement faced loyal servants of the empire in the grand colonial and neo colonial project. Sir Syed was a hero. And, unintentionally , Allama Iqbal praised Sir Syed’s MAO as the first response to modernity.
But, Ghalib and Sir Syed alone were not deceived by the dazzle of modernity alone. In Turkey Mustafa Kamal Ataturk too thought Muslims need to learn not just science from the west but import the complete social political and economic order(dance like them) and went on to ban Adhan in Arabic, banned wearing hijab in public institutions and set up a ministry of music( even the grand modernization project was completed by him partly on the basis of what Turkey currently is a thorn in the eyes of imperialist eyes). Contrarily, Japan after its defeat didn’t think it needed to dance like the west but the country sent its young people to study sciences and arts in different universities of the west, used this human capital to achieve a constant growth in GDP and morphed into one of the most developed nations of the world.
Justice Taqi Usmani once admitted that the response of the religious scholars has been reactionary after they chose to separate the religious and positive sciences and made ‘Dar ul Ulooms’ that , though produced the men of character and spirituality, but failed to produce people who would make path breaking contributions in positive sciences. The advice of his father , at the time of the formation of Pakistan., was not heeded to , when he had suggested that Muslims in Pakistan should get rid of the duality of Macaulay’s system of education and Dar ul Ulooms and instead have institutions where both streams of education are taught. This continues to be unheeded in Pakistan where English medium elite schools, Urdu medium and Dar ul Ulooms continue to exist.
While in rest of the Muslim world, after independence the elite class was seen to be hand in glove with the colonization project, Islamic movements sprang that chose to take power through democracy. Even ‘Islamic schools ‘ were established but they had the teachers coming from the same society and continuing the same process of rote learning to produce activists rather than architects of thought.
It takes twenty years in the west to produce a scientist who does something worthwhile, adds a worthwhile leaf to the existing body of knowledge. In our part of the world, a person is ‘learning by heart ‘ for the first sixteen years without understanding a word till he reaches teenage and his curiosity gets buried in the coffin. The students of elite schools manage to get into bureaucracy or find a job in the corporations but the rest get generally wasted on a large scale. While Mark Zuckerberg was writing computer programmes in his school days and was called a prodigy, the students in the schools are asked to learn the rules like spiritual mantras.
Muslims have been advised by Prophet Muhammad(PBUH) to read Surah Kahf on Fridays because it would protect a person from the trails of dajjal. The last story in the Surah is about Yajooj and Majooj where Zulqarnain( AS) used his knowledge and expertise to build a wall to stop corruption because they would bore through the ordinary walls. The companions of Prophet Muhammad( PBUH) later, found the wall to have fallen. Had Zulqarnain not been creatively a step ahead it would have been difficult to stop corruption. The parallel is telling in our world.
When some young men came to him telling they are pursuing higher education, Iqbal advised them they shouldn’t be just seeking knowledge but producing it as well. One of the qualities of Shaheen in Iqbal ‘s poetry is that he often stays alone. It signified Allama Iqbal’s zest for the Muslim youth to stay alone and be creative. So, while Isreali’s make medical and engineering innovations to the extent that even WhatsApp messages are under surveillance while Khashoggi believed there is end to end encryption Iqbal’s Shaheens need to do more.
Imam Razi had 100 original arguments for the existence of God. Even though, this is not the basis of Muslim faith but Muslims had intellectual defenders. According to Ahmad Javaid, Muslims in the modern era have failed to provide 50 standard arguments against atheism. It isn’t that there are no universities in the Muslim world but schools feeding these universities are the last outposts of the Israeli soft power. No doubt that Abraham( A.S) as a young boy is constantly found in the Quran to be question and thinking while the students think of themselves to be the most worthless creatures on the face of earth not to think of challenging any Nimrod when it is very essential for the Muslim civilization to respond to the challenges like Darwinism — as per Toynbee–not through the likes freemason pseudo scientists like Harun Yahya though.
Since, it is not possible to bring changes in the educational system in the Muslim world through governments given the western interference or to find such teachers or build such institutions on such a vast scale what is doable is that the basic education is recorded to be learnt through internet or smartphones with the help of best teachers in indigenous languages– Arabic, Urdu, Kashmiri, Bengali, Sudanese, Malay, Punjabi, Pashto, Zulu etc. such that the curiosity of the students is satisfied, they are able learn the colonial languages to be to understand the higher texts and they are given the instructions not to indulge in rote learning but as how to think and understand and imagine and how to develop the character necessary for success, to find solutions with the human mind for the problems created by the human mind, like the wall of Zulqarnain.

The author, a student from Kashmir, has done his post-graduate studies in economics. He is currently pursuing his Masters in English literature. He has written opinion pieces, fiction and poetry for various newspapers and literary magazines. And, political activism is his driving and abiding passion.