Main reasons responsible for the Muslim intellectual decline was the political disintegration of Muslim world
The Muslim world has witnessed their past glory. It was the age when Muslims were torchbearers of science and technology. From 8th to 12th century, which is commonly known in history “Golden age of Islam”.
Muslim world has produced a number of scholars in almost all branches of knowledge, be it medical sciences or physical sciences, history or philosophy, mathematics or logic and religious sciences.
The Muslim world has produced the scholars which had has no match in the world. Some of the scholars which lead the path-breaking discoveries in the world when the world had no concept of science and technology are Jabir ibnHayan (Geber 721 C.E – 815 C.E), “The Father of Modern Chemistry”, Abu Bakr al- Razi ( 854 C. E – 925 C.E), “The greatest of all Physicians”, IbnNafees (1213 C.E – 1288 C.E), the first person who has discovered the “Circulation of Blood” centuries before William Harvey ( 1578 C.E- 1657 C.E), IbnSina (Avicena 980 C.E- 1037 C.E), who has written “The Cannons of Medicine”, a Medical Encyclopaedia.
This era had also produced Muhadith like Imam Bhukhari (810 C.E – 870 C.E), Imam Muslim (815 C.E-875 C.E), Imam Tirmidhi (824 C.E – 892 C.E), Imam Abu Dawood (817 C.E – 888 C.E), Imam Nisai (829 C.E- 915 C.E), Imam IbnMajah (824 C.E – 886 C.E ), Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal (780 C.E – 855 C.E) and Muffasirs like Imam Tabari (d. 923 C.E), Imam Razi (d. 1209 C.E), Imam Zamakhshiri (d. 1144 C.E) and Imam Baidawi (d. 1282 C.E).
But the question arises what was the reason that dimmed the rationalist spirit of Muslims and lead to stagnation.
After a thorough and careful investigation, the scholars came to conclusion that the main reasons responsible for the Muslim intellectual decline was the political disintegration of Muslim world, dichotomy in education that is segregation of mundane or profane sciences and religious or sacred sciences and decline in state financial support.
The Muslim rulers paid less attention to education and more attention in illuminating their royal courts.
In Indian subcontinent when the Mughals were embellishing their royal courts, at the same time West was establishing universities like Harvard (1636).
According to reports, the total national budget of Pakistan is less than the budget granted by US for the universities in USA.
Similarly, in almost all Muslim countries the educational budget has been remained less than the educational budget of west. As a result, Muslim world could not establish universities parallel to western universities.
In past few centuries, west has carried further researches on Muslim contributions and has emerged with new inventions and discoveries which caught the attention of world toward them.
In Muslim world particularly in south Asia, the Madrassa education was developed before 16th century where along with Sacred education, profane education was also imparted to some extent.
But during western colonialism the madrassas primarily focussed on religious education or sacred education in order to preserve Muslim culture and civilization.
As a Result, Muslims in south Asia Successfully preserved their culture and civilization but at the same time they lost their past identity as torch-bearers of science and technology. The dichotomy in education divide Muslims in two sections, one who remained of conservatives and others who remained of so called modernists.
The traditional education could not compete with the advanced nations of the world and ultimately Muslims remained backward in education.
Similarly, the advocates of modernism with all its glamour and innovations could not provide an infallible formula for the future of Muslims. Had they established an education system based on moral and spiritual notions and as well as on scientific notions at the same, the educational strength of Muslims in India would have been strong today.
Fazlur Rahman Malik, an eminent Islamic Scholar, urges in his book “Islam & Modernity” that: “There was need for educational reform within the Muslim world. The Traditional Islamic Methodology of education was no longer suitable for enabling Muslims to adopt the demands of Modernity to facilitate the latter, therefore a new Islamic Epistemology was needed that would be both Islamic and Scientific at the same time.”
In order to reclaim and to connect with the past Muslim glory and legacy, Muslim world has to develop think tanks by establishing research centres, research institutions and universities of high status parallel to Oxford, Cambridge and Harvard where along with profane sciences, education of religious and sacred sciences should be imparted and inculcated among the learners so that the Muslim scholar would be morally and spiritually strong and scientifically potent and sound at the same time.
Author is research scholar at Department of Islamic Studies at BGSB University, Rajouri