‘Thanks to Allah’

Published February 10, 2012

—Photo courtesy of Fayyaz Ahmed

‘Thanks to Allah’, as our cricketers would say, “Just 40.1 per cent of the 5-16 age group [schoolchildren in Pakistan] could do two-digit subtraction sums (with carry) whereas a mere 23.6 per cent were able to do three-digit division sums. Only 41.8 per cent could read a sentence in Urdu or their mother tongue (English is a far cry). Far fewer could read a story,” revealed the nuclear physicist Dr Pervez Hoodbhoy in his column yesterday, quoting the recently released Annual Status of Education Report.

You bet if the nationwide survey done for the said report had included questions like ‘how to drink water according to Islam’, ‘what to recite in Arabic before you embarked on a journey’ or ‘which foot be placed before the other whilst entering or leaving a mosque’, the students consulted would have come out shining with brilliance.

Primary school textbooks are now replete with such day-to-day knowledge that will win you brownie points in the hereafter. Wasn’t it the founder of Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew, who whilst on a visit to Karachi in the 1970s was asked how his country could help Pakistan become an economic power, and he had remarked with words to the effect, that how can you even begin to think helping a people who believe that real life starts after death? Obviously, we were yet to shape our blasphemy laws back then, and the dignitary left this country in one piece.

The thing is that we are a unique nation of a unique people living in a unique country with a unique, past, present and future, as the very learned and respectable Mr Javed Jabbar has argued in his recent book to present his case for Pakistan. It is this sheer uniqueness that demands that perhaps our children’s abilities too, should be judged by a unique yardstick which is tailor-made to judge Pakistani intellect, and not the run of the mill surveys based on the wisdom of ‘one size fits all’. Tune into a quiz show and you’ll get your answers.

Here is a hypothetical example: please don’t be surprised if many schoolchildren would not know the name of the only Pakistani to have won the Nobel Prize, and at the fact that those few who might know the right answer, would also hasten to add that Dr Mohammad Abdus Salam, despite his name, was not a Muslim. That’s why it was important that the state remove the word ‘Muslim’ from his epitaph in the Rabwah graveyard, which originally proclaimed him as the ‘First Muslim scientist’ to have won the coveted award.

Ours is also a country where young adults in a Pak-Afghan border area barely know the name of the country they live in; many do not know the name of the President or the Prime Minister, as a televised interview by journalist Saleem Safi revealed the other day. But surely, if asked, the same bunch would have denounced America as a reincarnation of Satan in our times and hailed Bin Laden as their lost Messiah. And they would certainly also tell you what constitutes blasphemy, and why women should be locked up.

The knowledge being disseminated from the pulpit (including TV televangelist shows) and the textbooks is simply frightening. It is frightening in the literal sense of the word, because it is aimed at instilling the fear of God in your hearts and minds via the most ferocious of interpretations of the religious dogma. This leaves one incapable of thinking for oneself.

Here’s an example: Tibb-i-Nabawi or treatment through recourse to medicines, herbs and curing techniques used by the Prophet of Islam is today a growing field. An entire brigade of pious, qualified doctors and homoeopathists has jumped on to the bandwagon. Many are administering treatment through Hijama, which is Arabic for an old Chinese technique that extracts toxins from the body by superficial incisions made on the skin and drawing blood, using vacuum cups, hence, ‘cupping’.

The Prophet must have used it and also recommended it for its curative properties, but to call it a divinely-guided cure for all ailments, from pain in the back to diabetes and hernia, is really stretching it, especially the divine part of it. This is precisely what Hijama practitioners claim as they urge you to recite Ayat-ul-Kursi (a Quranic verse with healing and helpful qualities whilst in distress) as they administer ‘cupping’. And thanks to Allah, many are cured.

Who needs arithmetic, reading or writing stories in a worldly language, God forbid, when we have our own unique, divine mechanisms, and Arabic, to guide us through this transitory life on Earth?

 

The writer is a member of the staff at Dawn Newspaper.

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