AT Wroclaw Medical University, Poland, a 32-year-old, Piotr, who was born without his left hand, recently underwent a 13-hour operation and had successfully been joined a left hand to his body. Despite currently only having the ability to move his fingers, doctors are optimistic Piotr will not only gain more mobility over time but also the donor hand will even feel warm to touch and heal itself when injured. This is an incredible achievement of man in the history of mankind. This truly proves the notion, ‘Man is God’s Successor on Earth’ and is capable of doing wonders by seeking knowledge of benefit and putting into practice.
On the other hand, when we look at ourselves, we as a part of this world have no contribution to the welfare and benefit of mankind. Our contribution, in terms of gaining and imparting knowledge, is not Zero but in fact below ‘Nothing’. None of the top universities of Pakistan could secure a position in ‘Top 500 universities in the world’ according to majority of the world ranking reports 2016-17. This is not unfortunate; this is self inflicted. To seek knowledge from the cradle to the grave is not a preaching of any religion other than Islam. Pakistan is an Islamic Republic with a 96% of Muslim majority. Religion is not my topic of discussion here but a major intermediary of the topic. Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.W.) introduced himself as ‘the city of knowledge’. If we possess even a speck of logic, it is not unlikely to recognize the preeminent centrality of knowledge to religion by this statement of Prophet (S.A.W.W).
If we look at the history, the image of our predecessors is impeccable in seeking knowledge and making discoveries and inventions. Imam Jafar Al Sadiq, Yaqūb ibn Tāriq, Ibrahim al-Fazari, Muhammad al-Fazari, Ibn Athari, Naubakht, Al-Dinawari, Al-Khwarizmi, Ibn Battuta, Ibn Rushd, Omar Khayyam, Thabit Ibn Qurra, Sind Ibn Ali, Ali Qushji, Ahmad Khani, Abu Ma’shar Al Balkhi, Al Farghani are a few to mention who are pioneers of innumerable discoveries and wrote countless Books on Medicine, Surgery, Physics, Chemistry, Philosophy, Astrology, Geometry and set foundations of the modern age of science and technology that we witness today. They were all great Educationists. History preserved those contributions as ‘the Golden age of Islam’. Our ignominy in the field of knowledge is reciprocal of degradation in education.
In the wake of perpetual decline in power, Muslims of Sub-continent lived an age of subjugation at the hands of the British. The British Government took over the entire state machinery, bureaucracy, universities, schools, and institutions. During this time, Lord Macaulay’s radical and influential educational reforms led to the introduction and teaching of Western languages i.e., English and Latin, History and Philosophy. The Arabic, Turkish and Persian languages were completely barred from the state universities and schools. English language became not only the medium of instruction but also the official language in 1835 in place of Persian, disconnecting Muslims completely from their great heritage of knowledge from ‘the Golden age of Islam’.
In 1947, despite villainous opposition, Muslims were bestowed upon with a homeland of their own in the leadership of Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah. Allama Muhammad Iqbal, the great Reformist and Philosopher, along with many other great contemporary scholars like Sir Syed Ahmed Khan and Muhammad Ali Jouhar, identified the exigency of educating people and helped them defeat their medieval cognitive complacency. Had Allama Muhammad Iqbal, not conjured up the true spirit of knowledge and self-recognition in the masses, creation of Pakistan would never be a reality. We were liberated in 1947 after a heart-rending cry of torment during the bloody transition of power. This was potentially the most favorable time for us to hold our ground, think critical, make plans and put our foundation right. We had an opportunity to re-establish our connection with our heritage i.e., Arabic, Turkish and Persian instead of English which was imposed on us.
Inception of Pakistan, evidently, provided us with a free homeland but, ironically, not a vision to free ourselves from the British shackles and reconnect with our roots. After three quarters of a century of meaningless freedom we are still enslaved by the abstract chains of servitude. We are still in serious struggle to read and speak English and dress like them in order to ‘look progressive’.
Unlike us, Western world made use of our ancestral knowledge by translating from Arabic, Turkish and Persian and entirely revolutionized the world. In past, our ancestors were a thousand years ahead of the rest of the world, whereas, by disconnecting with our roots, we are lagging more than a thousand years behind the rest of the world today.
England, the home of British, was also a French colony once. After the French revolution in 14th century, Geoffrey Chaucer, Father of English language, and many contemporary scholars translated French and Latin literature in English. Much of the English language vocabulary has been borrowed from French and Latin. Before French Revolution, English was the language of the poor and laborer class. No one in higher or Elite class used to speak in English but French instead. After freedom from French they built their foundation right. They rejected the language of the French rulers and English language, which belonged to the poor class, was introduced and enriched. Today English is the universal carrier of knowledge and education in the world.
Contrarily, our education system is without any vision or planning. We want to be educated but do not know how? Our books are in English but we are not; our medium of instruction is English but our teachers are not; we think in either Urdu or other regional language but write in English. We observe many countries around the world like China, Japan, Singapore, Malaysia where English is not a medium of education and still they are incredibly successful and stable economies and they have contributions to the world of education, science and technology. Our situation reminds me of an ancient proverb, ‘the camel went to seek horns, lost his ears’.
We really need to pay attention to our situation; identify our problem in education system; plan our targets; allocate resources; monitor and analyze progress; and achieve goals. If we really want to imitate British we should do it in a way which lays strong foundation of native language for our generations to come. Knowledge will remain ‘unborn’ in Pakistan until we make our education system ‘fertile’ with our own language.