Universities in Muslim
By Dr Farrukh Saleem
(The writer is an Islamabad-based freelance columnist)
Al Azhar Mosque was founded on the 14th day of Ramadan the year 359 H or 971 AD
(after the name of Sayeda Fatima Al-Zahra).
In 975 AD, Chief Justice Abdul Hasan Al-No'man of the Fatimid Caliphate gave his
first lecture on Shiite Jurisprudence (the ruling elite of the Fatimid Caliphate
belonged to the Ismaili branch of Sh'ism).
So began Al Azhar University. Al Azhar, 1,031 years old, is now the oldest
university on the face of the planet.
Question: How many universities have we built over the past 1,031 years?
In my part of the world, 'The Great Mughal Empire' began in 1526 AD and lasted
for 181 years. Hamida Banu Begum, Emperor Nasiruddin Humayun's widow, spent 8
years building Humayun's tomb.
Emperor Jalaluddin Akbar built Fatehpur Sikri, a walled capital encompassing
palaces for each of Akbar's senior queens.
Emperor Jehangir built ( Deer ) Hiran Minar in memory of his favourite antelope.
Emperor Shahbuddin Mohammed Shah Jahan had 22,000 workers spend 23 years
building a mausoleum for Arjumand Bano Begum (like his predecessors Shah Jahan's
court included a hundred wives, concubines and dancing girls).
( Mumtaz Mahal ) Arjumand was Shah Jahan's favourite wife.
Taj Mahal, in essence, represents two things:
First, the Mughal Era's artistic achievement and, second, Mughal Empire's
financial bankruptcy because of indulging in outrageously expensive buildings
just when resources were shrinking (by the time Aurangzeb took over the Empire
was heavily taxed and financially insolvent).
In One hundred and eighty-one long years, not a single university. Did the
Americans stop the Mughals from building universities?
Next. The Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC), dedicated "to serving the
interests of the world's 1.4 billion Muslims", has 57 Member States.
Afghanistan, Algeria, Chad, Egypt, Guinea, Indonesia, Iran, Jordan, Kuwait,
Lebanon, Libya,Malaysia, Mali, Mauritania,Morocco, Niger,Pakistan, Palestine,
Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Sudan, Somalia, Tunisia,Turkey, Bahrain, Oman,
Qatar, Syria, U.A.E., Sierra Leone, Bangladesh, Gabon, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau,
Uganda, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Comoros, Iraq, Maldives, Djibouti, Benin,
Brunei, Nigeria, Azerbaijan, Albania, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan,
Mozambique, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Suriname, Togo, Guyana and Cote d'Ivoire.
All put together have less than 600 universities; a
university for every 2 million Muslims. Israel has 25 institutes of higher
learning for a total of 6.3 million Israelis; a university for every 250,000. Of
the 600 universities how many have produced a Nobel Laureate?
Answer: Ahmed Zewail (1999 Nobel Prize in Chemistry) received his first degree
from University of Alexandria but his Nobel Prize-winning work was done at the
California Institute of Technology.
Second, Abdus Salam (1979 Noble Prize in Physics) received his M A from
government College, University of the Punjab, but pursued his scientific work in
Italy and the UK.
Of the 600 universities is there one -- just one -- responsible for a major
The House of Saud, for instance, has taken in over a trillion US dollars. What
have they to show for it?
Has any one of their universities produced a medical breakthrough?
Have the Israelis kept our universities from producing a major scientific or
When we were busy building palaces for Akbar's senior queens, they were busy
granting incorporation to the University of Oxford.
When we were busy building for Jehangir's favourite antelope, they were busy
laying the foundation of Puteano College at the University of Pisa.
When we were busy building a mausoleum for Shah Jahan's favourite wife, they
were busy establishing Harvard College . (Harvard's faculty has produced over
40 Nobel laureates).
By the time we were finished with Mumtaz Mahal's memory they had put up some
Look what we have done to Al Azhar. Government control over syllabus and the
politics involved in the appointment of professors is dragging the oldest
operating university down the drain.
9/11 can't turn us into winners. Universities can.