Will Religious Education Produce Scientists Par Excellence?

Will Religious Education Produce Scientists Par Excellence?
Let’s say a woman suffers a heart attack. You take her to a hospital. And a doctor comes to treat her. Anybody in such a situation will ask that the doctor try to save her life for all life is sacred.

Instead, you think otherwise. The doctor’s medical skill takes a back seat as he needs to prove his religious education first. “Don’t touch her.  Recite some Surahs first!” is what you ask of the doctor. This beggars the question that if the doctor is not religious, will you let the poor woman die?

The doctor, on the other hand, could be a believer or an atheist but he will move heaven and earth to save a patient. This comes from one’s own experience when 1996, a great human being, Dr Jai Krishan saved my one-year-old son’s life who is now a consultant with Higher Education Commission of Pakistan.

Punjab’s Chief Minister Pervez Elahi has said Pakistani children can never become doctors, engineers and scientists without reading the Holy Quran. It must remain compulsory in our curriculum.

But why is this imposition there on Pakistani minds? And can it work? On the other hand, the US, Europe, Japan, Singapore and even India are producing the best minds in science and technology -  without the imposition of religion on them.

Our rulers’ children don’t attend the schools/colleges where religion-education is compulsory. They go to universities including Oxford, Cambridge or Stanford and serve societies that built such historical institutions. These children refuse to return to Pakistan and aim to become American or European nationals. Private schooling, private medical care to luxury holidays in London is what they live for and know.

Divine books are full of wisdom and they are widely recited.  There are 50 Muslim countries on earth.  None imposes religion on their citizens like us.  We have excess of religion in every project of life, even in the textbooks of science, literature and social sciences.  Our shopkeepers are Hajis.  They pray five times a day, open their shops with the recordings of Quran. Yet, not a single one sells pure milk. All our contractors are Al-Haajs.  They perform Umrah on a quarterly basis.  But the bridges/roads they build collapse/crack within weeks.

Religious education has been a compulsory element in our curriculum since General Zia’s martial law in 1977.  Yet we have still not been able to produce a pharmacist who could make a single vaccine whether for rabies or corona. Forget medicine, we have yet to manufacture a sewing needle.

Agriculture used to be our strength. All the religious education could not bring any advancement. And now we import tomatoes, onions and potatoes from India and China, leave aside wheat.

None of our universities are amongst the top 500 in the world.  However, we rank 140 out of 180 when it comes to the rankings for the least corrupt nation in the world.

In 2017, the World Economic Forum calculated the human capital for 130 countries in the world.  Pakistan stood 125th for having the worst education system. Pakistan is the second-worst country in terms of gender parity.  The Global Gender Gap report placed Pakistan at the 145th spot in a survey of 146 countries. The only worse performer than Pakistan was Afghanistan.

Our history has proved that masses have more knowledge of religion than the rulers.  Benazir Butto would say azaan baj raha hay.  Rehman Malik was unable to recite the easiest Sura i.e. Surah Ahad in Parliament.  And Lieutenant General Javed Ashraf Qazi, former ISI chief/education minister was hell bent one teaching the nation’s children forty siparahs under Islamiyat!

Our nuclear scientist Dr Mahmood Sultan Bashiruddin claimed that captured Jinns can produce electricity and thus Pakistan can overcome its energy crisis.  The former Prime Minister Imran Khan set up a spiritual university in March 2021 saying, science can’t be understood without understanding spirituality.

If compulsory Quran-reading is indispensable to become a doctor or an engineer, then why we are witnessing the rising cases of sodomy in seminaries?

When our cricket team won the World Cup in 1992, it was far removed from the preachings of Maulana Tariq Jamil. Today, the players offer namaz bajamaat on the pitch in front of cameras and yet, lose matches. Clearly, their prayers don’t benefit them but infidels such as the West Indians, Sri Lankans, Indians, English and so on. And in recent times, when the world was observing ‘social distancing’, Mufti Naeem of Jamia Binoria was preaching social mingling. Corona hit him first and consigned him to the skies.

Last month, Member of National Assembly Syed Mehmood Shah raised a very important issue in a session of National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Information Technology and Telecommunication over the content of an audio message that aimed to spread breast cancer awareness. In his opinion, the word ‘breast’ was spoiling the minds of the youth. In matters of life and death, the fate of this nation is in the hands of such minds.

The indoctrination of religion simply incites religious hatred in a society that is already deeply divided on the basis of sect, language and ethnicity.  All the sects in Islam – Barelvi, Deobandi, Shia, Sunni, Ahle Hadith and Salafi have declared each other as Kafir. Only the non-Muslims treat these bunch of Kafirs as Muslims.  But we never learn and continue to repeat or reinvent the past follies.

Mohammad Shehzad is based in Islamabad. He has been writing for national and foreign publications since 1992. He is the author of The State of Islamic Radicalism in Pakistan (Routledge Taylor & Francis) and Love and Fear: Poems Beyond Time (www.amazon.com/dp/B08ZNK6SHB) He learns tabla and classical vocal music. He is a passionate cook and shares his recipes at Youtube.com/@mohammadshehzad. Email: Yamankalyan@gmail.com