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Islam and Society: the role of universities (Part— I)

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By Prof Dr Zia-Ul-Qayyum

There is a general consensus that universities are source of new knowledge, innovative thinking and providers of benefits for society’s economic prosperity. But, in my view, universities owe to society a lot more emphasis on their contribution toward building a strong sense of community and social cohesion.

Prof Dr Zia-Ul-Qayyum
Prof Dr Zia-Ul-Qayyum

This social and cultural vitality in our Islamic society can be achieved by creating valuable intellectual resources and providing them space for free and open discussion of ideas and values.It transcends the traditional role of our universities.
There is a growing realization that a chasm has emerged between the contemporary social norms and Islamic thought or way of thinking. It is simply because most of the societies in the world underwent some kind of profound social, economic and political changes in the recent past.
Just two decades ago, higher education was considered an elitist luxury

and primary and secondary education was the main focus of governments around the globe. In this era of transformation,developed societies introduced sound institutional regimes and information infrastructures, realigning the universities’ role to serve the community more efficiently.
However, with the advancement in technology and access to Internet, the world rapidly shaped itself into a global village and the western cultural values and other un-Islamic practices started penetrating in our society.

This globalization adversely affected the social fabric of Muslim societies. Most of our youth started believing that in order to be civilized they need to be westernized first. Teetering themselves on the brink of losing their own cultural identity, they allowed the glorious past of their ancestors sink into oblivion.

They just forgot that Islam is not only a religion of peace but also provides a perfect charter to lead a successful life. The situation demanded the role of Muslim intelligentsia, but it was not its responsibility alone to remove the causes of the ever-widening chasm between the contemporary social norms and the Islamic way of life. Since the situation remains perilous,there is no time like the present for our universities to play their role by integrating education with the teachings of Islam.
No other religion teaches humanism and lays emphasis on compassion more than Islam does. The following saying of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) clearly depicts the virtue of kindness and compassion as one of the central themes of Islam:
“None of you is a perfect Muslim until he desires for his brother Muslim that which he desires for himself.”
(Recorded by Imam Bukhari and Muslim)
It has clear guidelines on the bond between individual and society, an individual’sliberty and social responsibility and human rights in social, economic and political perspectives. Pakistani society is an Islamic society and Islam is an indispensable part of our life.
Unlike other religions, Islam does not distinguish between life in this world and the one hereafter.It does not limit its guidance to success in the life hereafter. A Quranic prayer reads:
“O Allah! Bestow us with your blessing in this world and the hereafter”.

(The writer is the Vice Chancellor University of Gujrat and he can be reached at: [email protected])

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