Education System: Manufacturing Slaves in Pakistan

Dec 21st, 2012 | By | Category: Latest, Pakistan

“Sticks and drones may break our bones, but fitna would eventually be more lethal”

Few months back, a private channel aired different kinds of ads of success stories in education. We had very heated discussions with our friends on Facebook about those one-sided educational promos, in which only worldly education was being glorified: materialism that helped people gain jobs i.e. ‘success’.  Then, nothing was too startling or alarming about it.  With a very smooth transition, the message has been stepped up to a whole new level.  Now they have come up with a very bold and provocative message:  Taleem k siwa Pakistan ka matlab kaya? (‘Except education, what can be the meaning of Pakistan?’ The message is known to at least 44% of Pakistanis in a survey conducted by Gallup Pakistan.

Pakistan, we believe, was forged in the liberating fire of Tawheed, and any attempt to replace this meta-historical basis is to bring a new idol back into the Kaaba of Muslim consciousness. Pakistan was gained in the name of Allah, apart from other factors, such as economic freedom, etc. Saleena Karim in her thoroughly researched and seminal book, Secular Jinnah & Pakistan: What the Nation Doesn’t Know (2005), has exposed multiple myths of secular academia. Some of these textbook myths paraded as facts are: “Jinnah never used the word ‘Ideology of Pakistan’,” or, “Jinnah vetoed the proposals for an Islamic state’,” or, “Jinnah wanted a homeland for Muslims, not an Islamic state’,” or, “Islam was just a propaganda tool.” Suffice to say that Pakistan’s soul is Islam and its supra-identity is Islamic identity, as formulated by Quaid in following words: “The Pakistan Movement started when the first Muslim put his foot on the soil of Sindh, the Gateway of Islam in India.” Of course our history goes beyond this period, and we do not seek to disown or forget our national heritage; but, we do not believe in the modernist, nationalist notions of nationality/identity based solely on geography or race. Rather, our nationalism is based on a direct link with Heaven and the Final Revelation of Islam.

What has to be understood is that formal education cannot be a complete world-view for a nation. It is just a part of the world-view. Unfortunately, we are obsessed with ‘means and money’ due to ignoring sacred, unifying principles of revelations of Islam. The threat of destroying our values by emulating Western culture is a real one, when in fact, we should be working towards integrating modern forms of knowledge within Islamic framework, stresses.

According Dr. Seyyed H. Nasr:

“There is always a relationship between every form of knowledge and a worldview within which that knowledge is accepted as knowledge. There is no doubt about that. The worldview in all civilizations before modern times came from religion. This is true for every civilization. Hindu universities, Chinese universities, Islamic universities — but as Western influence spreads all over the world, we will begin to emulate Western forms of knowledge, which claim to now be independent of religion. But it was not independent of the Christian worldview. The secularist paradigm which was created in the 17th century is itself a pseudo-religion in that it is a view of the nature of reality. There is no abstract knowledge; knowledge is always within the framework of a worldview, of a way of looking at the nature of reality.”

All education is useless until it teaches you the splendours of yourself. The present education system of our country is exactly the opposite to this phenomenon. We rejoice over the Golden Period of Muslims yet don’t acknowledge the reasons behind that epitome. List all the Muslim scientists, scholars of that time and you will notice a common thread running through all of them. They studied history and nature, in addition to inner experience. Their basis for education was Quran. They took the spirit and matter hand in hand. Fresh avenues of research and studies kept coming forth, unlike our rote-learning culture. What is the basis of our current education system?

What does it tell us about our world, our history as humanity, our role, and our future?  What does it teach us except slavery, materialism, inferiority complex, blind-following, selfishness and hording a lot of money! And that’s just one platform.

Dr Muhammad Iqbal raised serious doubts about the colonial educational system prevalent in his time; and, we have many reasons to believe that the ghosts of that period are still living realities. Ironically, credentials of Iqbal are used to convince us about the benefit s of an alien system of education, whereas his severe critiques are not incorporated. In his paper Islam as a Moral and Political Ideal’ (1909), he argues:

“Education, we are told, will work the required transformation. I may say at once that I do not put much faith in education as a means of ethical training—I mean education as understood in this country … I venture to say that the present system of education in this country is not at all suited to us as a people. It is not true to our genius as a nation, it tends to produce an un-Muslim type of character, and it is not determined by our national requirements, it breaks entirely with our past and appears to proceed on the false assumption that the idea of education is the training of human intellect rather than human will. ”

We venture to say that not much has changed, at least at higher levels of education. Secular western world-view continues to dominate Muslim thought, especially in social sciences and even in the philosophy of science; from psychology to economics to, from pure philosophy to governance systems; although many positive developments  have been  taking place in modern fields of knowledge for past fifty years.

Education in Pakistan should be subservient to the genius of Pakistanis and their aspirations; it should be subordinate to the operating Principle of Tawheed. He further inquiries:

“But what sort of education? …  A form of education which has no direct bearing on the particular type of character which you want to develop is absolutely worthless.  I grant that the present system of education in India gives us bread and butter.  Well, if we succeed in securing a few appointments in the higher branches of service, what then? It is the masses who constitute the backbone of the nation; they ought to be better fed, better housed and properly educated. Life is not bread and butter alone; it is something more; it is a healthy character reflecting the national ideal in all its aspects.” [Emphasis added]

Coming back to Iqbal’s scepticism regarding the presumed “magic” of education: how can we put so much trust in (a more or less) materialistic, job-oriented educational system, and announce it as the purpose of Pakistan, as the solution for all of our ills? We believe that present educational system has many, many resemblances with the  colonial setup  of Iqbal’s era. Even the authors find themselves guilty of giving more thought to bread and butter than pursuit of pure knowledge, which was the hallmark of madrassah system before the colonial invasion, according  to educationist Dr Tariq Rehman. Summing up, Iqbal takes a very brief quiz in basic intellectual, moral and practical life of Islamic history – I miserably failed:

“… How many of us know that Muhammad II conquered Constantinople at the age of twenty-two? How many of us have even the faintest notion of the influence of our Muslim civilization over the civilization of modern Europe? How many of us are familiar with the wonderful historical productions of Ibn Khaldun or the extraordinarily noble character of the great Amir Abdul Qadir of Algeria [20th century hero]?”

Our media, like its global mentors, is expert at propaganda psychology: repeat a lie 1000 times, and it will transform itself into a truth. Perhaps this is what they hope to achieve with this campaign of ignorance, devoid of illumination.  We thank the channel for creating this controversy which has led many into serious introspection about the purpose of Pakistan, basis for education, and our comprehensive world-view, including the authors of this article. It seems to be a blessing in disguise!   This introspection is more needed than ever, given that we are far from achieving various educational goals:  high literacy rate while at the same time integrating modern education within Islamic framework, and creating alternative to discourses based on a-religious and secular worldview.


This article is written jointly by Muhammad Umer Toor and Hira Shamim

Muhammad Umer Toor

About the author

Muhammad Umer Toor is a Sargodhian, aspiring to be an academic shaheen. He is learning German and Persian to pursue a multidisciplinary social science masters. Hira Shamim the coauthor of this article is a thinker and writer working towards a positive change in Pakistan

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  1. exactly my thoughts, although most of us chant slogans of education we fail to acknowledge its objectives, I believe we need to start a campaign to educate people about education, those of us who have realized that building a career (in a very myopic sense) is not the sole objective of getting an education, it may not be much since it needs a world of change but there is no doubt that it could serve as the very first step towards a healthier society. But to my peril and many more like me, the current system is no less then a web for people like us, weak-willed as we are, its hard to break-free but who knows after all two plus two equals five.

  2. Downloadable PDF version of the article is available here:

    Umer Toor

  3. @ hani

    “but who knows after all two plus two equals five.”

    Exactly! If we study intellectual history of Europe – how it got from being God-centered civilization to an atheistic one – we’d notice, as per historians of intellectuality, that such Big Transformations are only brought about by a Handful of people!

    Quality reigns in reality… And clouds of disbelief and illusions are bound to be dispersed and vanished before al-Haqq

  4. Response by a friend to this article.

  5. i agree with @hani… we need put forth first step…
    i have a friend and he raises the slogan.. “I dare to understand”… in todays world when nobody cares about understanding…it seems cool to me..

  6. ~ All education is useless until it teaches you the splendours of yourself.
    Enlighting article! The system syllabus all needs a sheer change. Thank you.

  7. Greetings,

    Thank you for this great article.

    You have brought alive the point that a genuine potential of an education system is that it is to build character, suitable for a nation’s essential identity. Otherwise, slowly, over time, it will begin to mimic others. In my opinion, when nations imitate western forms of education, this is an effective path toward the pollution of consciousness by pernicious materialism, modernism, and manipulation.

    As Iqbal writes, “It is the masses who constitute the backbone of the nation.” The backbone is the pillar on which total strength of the body is centered and along which vital bodily life-forces flow. I’m thinking that this is the locus needing to be revivified in order for any education system to be repaired. In other words, I sense it as most effective to begin at the root, and build from there, as opposed to the typical repairing methodologies employed for fixing educational systems such as hiring more teachers, creating new textbooks, building more schools, etc. The root is the people.

    Thank you again for this.

    All good wishes,


  8. @ xavi,

    cool and much needed: especially when sentimentalism takes the garb of rationalism; when TV and internet infects us with sensationalism and harms our clear logical thinking skills

    @ namra, thanks for reading. i hope it leads us to more concrete results through zikr o fikr.

    @ roberts

    thanks a lot robert for this illuminating comment. making an educational system focused on the root or the back bone sounds very interesting. i hope this becomes a life long actualization of our and our best minds to integrate modern education with traditional religious…

  9. I congratulate both writers on writing this timely article. I was also put off by that advertisement at Geo.

    However, I would like to point out two things in line with this article. The views expressed by Seyyed H. Nasr are very much opposed to those presented by Iqbal. According to Iqbal, the foundations of modern Western civilization are not on atheism but on Islam itself. The enlightenment of the 17th and 18th century, which Nasr denounces as Europe’s departure from God was hailed by Iqbal as Europe’s embracing the true principles of Islam albeit in a different form.

    It is true that Iqbal criticized certain aspects of the Western civilization, such as separation of Church and State, territorial nationalism and eventually the widespread atheism. However, he found the sources of these problems within the “tradition” of the West itself, going back to the early centuries of Christianity and in some cases even before.

    These differences between the ideas of Iqbal and Dr. Nasr lead them to completely opposite remedies for the problems of today. After denouncing the modern Western education as unsuitable for Muslim societies, Iqbal upholds the ordinary unschooled masses of Muslim societies, and suggests that we need to discover a new system of education that is more “modern” than the West and also suited to the distinct genius of the Muslim nation.

    Dr. Nasr also denounces modern Western education but the remedy which he suggests is to replace this education with an even more elitist education, which would be restricted to even fewer people and would be based on a certain dogma which he calls “Perennial Philosophy”. Dr. Nasr does not give the Muslim society the right to choose whether it wants to submit to this “Perennial Philosophy” or wants to continue following its own understanding of Islam.

    If we read the writings of Dr. Nasr very closely, it may turn out that he does not believe that the birth of Pakistan was forged in the fire of Tawheed. I am yet to see any comments by Dr. Nasr on the birth of Pakistan but I have read his views about Iqbal. According to Dr. Nasr, anybody who shares the ideas of Iqbal cannot be a Muslim (see Dr. Nasr’s book Islam and the Plight of Modern Man). By this standard, if Pakistan was indeed the idea of Iqbal (as we believe that it was), or if those masses who struggled for Pakistan were motivated by the spirit of Iqbal’s message (as we believe that they were), then the birth of Pakistan could not have meant “La ilaha illa Allah” according to Dr. Nasr.

    I have pointed this out because I am deeply touched with the insight and passion of the writers of this article. They have set out on the noble path of reminding the people that the meaning of Pakistan was Tawheed. I offer them my prayers and best wishes, but I must warn them humbly that in the course of their noble task, sooner or later they may have to refute Dr. Nasr himself.

  10. @ Mr. Khurram,

    It’s an honor and pleasure to read your comment. JazakAllah al-khayr for your prayers and appreciation. May Allah increase our understanding of Tawheed and its application in our individual and collective lives.

    Thanks a lot about presenting this clear difference b/w Nasr’s and Iqbal’s positions on Enlightenment. While many scholars would side with Iqbal that Islam led to their rejection of Church’s positions based on man made sources and inspirations, they nonetheless would side with Nasr in that they were taken out and away from Nur into greater darkness. I still have to read a lot on this, and haven’t read any original sources.

    Are you talking about the last essay in that book? One commentator (who translated it into Urdu) points out that Nasr’s understanding of Iqbal is immature. Need to study this more too.

    Certainly Dr Nasr is not an authority on political movements, and he is concerned more with history of intellectuality than its concrete manifestations. But, i find his attitude towards political movements or forms of govt much more open than those who like to see things in black and white. And i do not know much about his political philosophy deeply. Only that he’s against simplistic, revivalist movements that place political agendas at the heart of Islam today. And I also do agree with him when he says that the idea of Islamic state is not razor sharp and suffers from confusion. By that he means we’ve not been able to synthesize or even analyze clearly a widely agreed upon notion of Islamic state, i surmise.

    His education: Need to study more to appreciate what you’re saying. Marginally-speaking, his father designed the educational system of Iran, and was philosophically, spiritually and mentally at home with orthodoxy and Tradition of Islam, which I believe would resonate well with Iqbal. He mentions that his father was able to integrate modern and traditional sciences with harmony.

    I will be reading Nasr much more critically than i did before.

  11. Although I agree with the basics and fundamental thought behind this article, I failed to find any solution or an alternative for the current problems which we are faced with.

    No education or lack of education is seriously hampering our society and our youth but if we can’t emphasize on the importance of education (though materialistic or the one available to us) how can we think about right or wrong. I just wanted to say that Education is MUST as it will guide you to make a difference between the correct and incorrect, just or unjust and true and false. I believe this is the same education that you guys have got and still be able to think about its shortcomings and today writing this article and inviting others to think about its negative impacts.

    In my opinion, we must not be backward looking and just be proud of what our forefathers did in past and doing nothing rather we should be worried about our futures and how we can make this world a better place to live. Education is just the MEANS and doesn’t stop anyone to think what else is missing from the acquired knowledge through this mean. So Continue thinking and let the discussion going on…………

  12. Thanks for reading and this thoughtful comment.

    Criticism may not give the alternate but its attempt to destroy the destructive is constructive and positive, argues Frithjof Schuon in “Spiritual Perspectives and Human Facts.”

    And our main concern was provoking ourselves and others about right and wrong.

    I do not buy this same argument hurled at dissenters: you got this education and only by its virtue dare you speak against it. I guess the opposite is true.

    Our mentors and spiritual fathers do not share the world views of a secular or materialistic educational system. And honoring the past to us is the sign of progress than being obsessed with new.

  13. It is a valuable contribution Umer and Hira and followed that is followed by a nice discussion, i would just like to quote Rumi which Iqbal referred in Asrar e Khudi in context of current system of knowledge that we want to acquire not for spiritual emancipation but for some other needs:

    Knowledge, if it lie on thy skin, is a snake;
    Knowledge, if thou take it to heart, is a friend.”

  14. JazakAllah for sharing the verses, Dar Sahib. I am also reading israr e khudi. It is a must for anyone venturing to work in academics, espif the work is related Islamic point of view; and even for those who think and remember…

  15. […] above article has been co-authored by Muhammad Umer Toor with Hassan […]

  16. Finally! Somebody who thinks the way the authors do. Finally!

    Enlightening article. Articulated very well indeed. I have just a simple comment. I’m not so sure what you mean “education comes within a world-view” .. If it means, education and Islam go together, okay good. But then, a necessary question comes with it. Who do you think will implement such an educational system?

    I fail to imagine how an individual effort for change can bring about a ‘system design’ change. There has got to be something so (forgive me but there is no other word coming to my brain) “radical” that the entire education system of Pakistan is revamped.

    Right now, the academia is populated by those who will completely disagree with you guys. So then again, the question arises, if enough people exist who hold your point of view, how can they change the system?

    Please address this confusion of mine. It’s a question that leaves me wondering quite often how the noble intentions of Pakistanis will ever turn out into something concrete at the system level.

    Jazakallah to both authors for articulating a very intellectually and emotionally stimulating article.

  17. Thanks a lot for the appreciation.

    Knowledge (especially when it enter theoratical or philosophical realm) has a foundation consisting for assumptions, axioms, views, etc., which can be summed up as a world view. Post-modern and Islamic philosophers emphasize on it a lot. I feel we need to reflect and articulate it clearly.

    As for academia, this is the real place for radical change I believe. Change and transformation is brought by few with huge capacity for intellection. Something we should pray for… I believe we’ve little monopoly or control about outcomes. Have you read the book Black Swan? How can such seismic changes take place? We all can only bet on playing our part… How the change will come: it’s a mystery!

    Yeah it’s a very dumbfounding topic for us too. We think we should concentrate on understanding modernity and responding to its challenges to us (not Islam, as nothing can present an intellectual challenge to it as such); and then acting at whatever level we do best: thinking, writing, social action, etc. Let’s not get bogged down by the pressure to see change coming… I guess

  18. And as for the very relevant, important question: “what you mean “education comes within a world-view” .. If it means, education and Islam go together, okay good. But then, a necessary question comes with it. Who do you think will implement such an educational system?”

    This is what’s known as Islamization of Knowledge. This paper might interest you:

    It can be a tricky term, but it’s a real thing. So far, many grand initiatives have failed at implementing it. But, as you know power and knowledge are closely tied in modern times (at least). So how i believe that the way forward lies in giving strong alternatives to the dogmas of modernism. We personally are at the 1st stage of understanding and deconstructing modernism; separating truth from falsehood.

  19. Finally, Kuhn argues that it’s not the falsehood in a theory that leads to its eclipse, rather strong alternatives to it. So a bad theory will go on as objective unless and until taken our by a more powerful alternative-theory.

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