Why the compulsory study of Islamiyat and Pakistan Studies is dividing us

PHOTO: Reuters

PHOTO: Reuters

In the 1970s, Bhutto introduced Pakistan Studies as a compulsory subject in schools, which was followed by Ziaul Haq making Islamiyat compulsory as well. Later, both the subjects were also made a requirement for the undergraduate degree. When establishing these requirements, Zia said we should also concentrate on Science and Technology, while at the same time not neglect the study of our country and our mother tongue Urdu.

This resulted in a number of subjects we are now required to focus on. The problem is, how can we ‘concentrate’ on everything? Concentrating on one subject means it will become central. But if all are considered vital then there would be no central focus which may just be the need of time. Requiring so many compulsory subjects leaves little time for the ones most urgently needed in the modern world, such as Science, Mathematics, History and Geography, leading to superficial study of everything.

In principle, it seems a good idea to inculcate patriotism and ethical values through Pakistan Studies and Islamiyat. But in reality, it does not appear that people have imbibed the values of Islam. They concentrate on the formal, ritual aspects instead of the basic principles, such as truth, honesty, duty and justice – the very pillars of Islam. Nor is it apparent that the teaching of Pakistan Studies has made people more patriotic or more aware of the needs or problems of our country.

Religious education will be made compulsory till class 12

In fact, there seems to be an enormous increase in corruption, and a lack of awareness or concern about it. Besides, earlier there were many people ready to dedicate their lives to serve Pakistan, regardless of how little appreciation or emoluments they got. Today, it is taken as a matter of course that people have a right to better themselves by going abroad.

It is worth remembering that when Islam came it provided freedom for slaves, security and rights for females and rights for minorities. Hazrat Bilal was a freed slave. Maulana Altaf Hussain Hali writes that people in pre-Islamic Arabia used to bury their daughters alive. It is a historic fact that when Muslims ruled in Europe, minorities received special protection and felt safe. When they were defeated there and had to retreat, the Jews left behind escaped persecution by migrating to Muslim countries. That was the true face of our religion.

Primarily, in a country where minorities enjoy civil rights they often serve more diligently than those from the majority faith and the nation benefits from them. So why is it that though we teach Islamiyat and Pakistan Studies our society seems to have regressed on both matters? Could it be that it is not despite those courses, but because of them?

There are two other aspects of teaching Islamiyat. Even though there is one Book, teachers teaching it impose their own interpretations of the Quran on students. There are different sects of Islam because of these different interpretations. Thus, what should have been unifying for Muslims is, instead, divisive. But if this knowledge was left to be taught at home, as it used to be, there would be less divisive teaching.

On the other hand, those teaching also tend to teach their students to look down upon people from other religions, leading to sectarian violence. Besides, making it a compulsion on everyone takes away the freedom of choice from minorities.

We forget that even major conversions that took place in the Indian subcontinent were not done by Muhammad bin Qasim’s sword but through the proselytising of Muslim saints, including Ali Hajveri (Data Ganj Bakhsh) and Bahauddin Zakariya. Minorities should have the right to adhere to their faith and forcing them to study Islamiyat is not only an infringement of their rights but also counterproductive for Islam.

Shortage of textbooks irks students, parents

To deal with the problems created by such compulsorily subjects in schools, rather than homes, we should focus on the history of successful Muslim governments and not the conquests that installed them. The reason the Romans succeeded in maintaining their civilisation was their governance. The reason the British developed such a large empire was also its government. In fact, Muslims also maintained power over much of Europe through their rule of law. As a result, we need to recover our lost glory not by the sword, but by reviving our procedures of governance.

Dr Asghar Qadir is a professor emeritus at NUST, a distinguished national professor and fellow of the Pakistan academy of Sciences.

Original news : http://tribune.com.pk/story/1160195/compulsory-study-islamiyat-pakistan-studies-dividing-us/