Every society has an established set of virtues and vices and it takes conscious and unconscious measures at various levels to promote the virtues and eliminate the vices. Sometimes a society may face a crisis of values in which the values are at odds with one another or the values suffer from double standards. In that eventuality, the people reflect contradictions in their actions and in the morality they profess. The people are seen violating the values they hold sacred in their sermons and lectures. Such an atmosphere is hazardous for the immature and sensitive young people who react and suffer from mental confusion and are led to believe that there are certain values to be paid lip service only, whereas the practical needs of life demand an altogether different set of values.
In the past, parents and teachers used to make the best of their efforts to provide an atmosphere to their children which is congenial to the development of higher virtues and morals. But the gross social change over the last fifty years, large scale urbanization, ruthless competition for financial gains, and heavy preoccupation in everyday life deplete all time and energy from the parents, leaving behind little time or energy for their children. Whatever time they have at their disposal is consumed by newspapers, television and other recreations. As a result, the younger generation hardly gets any opportunity to share ideas with their elders or to enter into a meaningful discussion. On the other hand, this idea is gaining ground among us that education is not meant to build up better human beings, but only to get better jobs. Consequently, the students' minds are obsessed with better jobs and dreams for higher social status. Obviously, the moral and religious training of the child has gradually been ousted from the preview of education. The system of private tuition among the students and teachers is also endemic. Now the students tend to consider their teacher as their servant, rather than their mentor or reformer. The net result of all this deterioration is that the value system of our society has fallen into oblivion, which we had to transfer to the next generation for the preservation of our religious and national identity.
In Muslim history, teachers have not only distinguished themselves by their profundity in knowledge and research, but also because of their character, piety and abstinence from immoral acts. Throughout their history, Muslims have refused to except the authority of any pervert or debauch as a religious scholar and teacher. We have always attached importance to the character, nobility and conformity of belief and action. In the Islamic view of education, instruction of sciences cannot be divorced from moral and ethical training. It is again a contribution of the modern age that character building has been totally dissociated from education. That is why our system is producing an educated but characterless generation. Maulana Maudoodi once observed:
"Devoid of any divine element and Islamic morality, our education system even fails to inculcate those basic human morals in our students, without which a nation cannot hope for an honourable survival, what to speak of any possibility of its development. The generations being produced by it are unfortunately equipped with all the decadence of the West but do not have even an inkling of Western virtues. They are neither dutiful, hardworking and devoted, punctual, nor do they have any claim on perseverance, determination, discipline or self-control. They do not have any ideals beyond their self-interest. They are just like wild bushes, and do not demonstrate any national character. They would not desist from indulging in the meanest dishonesty, even when they are placed at a very noble position in life. They comprise the worst and the meanest nepotists, smugglers, transgressors on others rights and unwilling workers. We can find thousands of people in our society who can stoop very low to receive bribes and illegal gratification, would go out exerting all kinds of immoral influences to get unwarranted favours, whose lawlessness has no bounds and who would overlook the larger good of the society and the nation for a paltry personal gain. The product of these schools took over the leadership and administration of the country after we won freedom from the colonial rule, and since then, the way our country has been mishandled and routed, by these characterless managers, is indeed tragic. And if you want to assess the character of the generation which is presently at the mercy of these schools and colleges, you can do so by studying them in their institutions, hostels, recreation spots, on national days and on the streets." ("Ta`leemaat", Pg 132)
It is a fact that a civilization cannot rise out of a skeleton of mere ideas and abstract concepts. Civilization finds a concrete shape in the practical behaviour of a nation, based on these principles and concepts. Once the practical aspect is gone, the civilization also disappears and can only be studied through its remnants preserved in museums and chronicles. This necessitates the providing of an Islamic atmosphere throbbing with life in our education institutions, with a view to infuse confidence in our students and to enable them to be proud of their culture, to respect their national character and national emblems, and to ornament themselves with Islamic conduct and morals. They should stand firm on the centuries old foundations of their cultural tradition and at the same time should establish standards of excellence in their academic performance.
We should try to build up a strong character in our students right from the beginning, and they should learn to act in accordance with what they profess, to follow what they consider the appropriate path, to carry out their due role in the society, to adopt what they find good and to avoid what they think is morally wrong. It is imperative for us to cultivate human virtues in our students from the primary level of their education and training. For instance the promotion of punctuality, truth, hard work, honesty, simplicity, hygiene, etiquette, patriotism, mutual love and sincerity, social and civic sense, obedience to law, tolerance and other desirable virtues should be the hall mark of an Islamic education system.
Parents and teachers have to play a cardinal role in the building up of the character of the next generation. The teacher's role is particularly important and has been compared with that of the prophets. Every prophet is essentially a teacher. On more than one occasion, Providence has changed the fate of nations through effective and well directed teaching. This profession is so important and so sacrosanct that the Holy Prophet (sws) proudly declared it to be a prominent part of his personality and prophethood. If a teacher realizes the significance of his job, the tremendous responsibility he is shouldering, the share he has in the future development of the nation, and consequently the accountability he will have to face in the Hereafter, he will at once shudder with the idea of facing the grave consequences of any dereliction on his part.
No other personality can have an influence more profound than that of a teacher. Students are deeply affected by the teacher's love and affection, his character, his competence, and his moral commitment. A popular teacher becomes a model for his students. The students try to follow their teacher in his manners, costumes, etiquette, style of conversation and his get up. He is their ideal. He can lead them anywhere. During their early education, the students tend to determine their aims in life and their future plans, in consultation with their teachers. Therefore, a corrupt and decadent class of teachers can harm a nation much more seriously than a class of corrupt and perverted judiciary, army, police, bureaucracy, politicians or technocrats. A corrupt and incompetent teacher in not only a bad individual, but also the harbinger of a corrupt and incompetent generation. A nation with corrupt teachers is a nation at risk; every coming day announces the advent of its approaching destruction.
Therefore, while selecting teachers, it must be borne in mind that, in addition to their professional competence, they must bear a good moral character and must be observing Muslims. No Islamic education system worth the name can afford to have teachers who are neither good human beings nor good Muslims. The teachers must be models of faith and piety and should have a fairly good knowledge about Islam and their conduct should conform to their faith. A teacher should consider it his duty to educate and train his students and should feel responsible for it. He should feel that his students have been entrusted to him and he should avoid any breach of the trust the society has reposed in him. He should be a sociable person with his roots in the society. People should take him as their well-wisher and a sincere friend who cares for their children. He should actively participate in the social activities in a positive way. He should know the art of teaching with a deep insight into child psychology. He should always deal with the students in a just manner. He should not lose his self-control on mistakes his students may commit, and instead he should respect their feelings and ego, and should try to understand and resolve their difficulties with grace while keeping his cool. He should be able to smile in the face of bitter criticism on his opinions, and should not feel ashamed or humiliated to accept his mistakes wholeheartedly. He should be proud of his culture, his national dress and his national language and should respect the societal mores and detest the immoralities of his times. He should be a missionary, a mentor, a reformer and a guide besides being a tutor. In other words, he should be a perfect teacher and a perfect educationist.
Indeed it is an ideal teacher at the climax of his performance that brings about a positive change in the overall behaviour of his students by leading them to a lofty character and to exemplary morals. While commenting on the role of the Holy Prophet (sws) as a teacher, an orientalist, Robert L. Gulick, writes:
"Only the most provincial concept of education would gainsay the legitimacy of placing Mohammed among the great educators of all times for, from the pragmatic standpoint, he who elevates human behaviour is a prince among educators." ( "Muhammad: The Educator", Pg 4)
This importance of a teacher demands application of rigorous standards for his selection and a constant grooming after that. It is indispensable to accord equal or more weightage to the character and religious commitment of a teacher as compared to his professional competence. A teacher suffering from decadent beliefs and morals is not capable of imparting mental and moral training to students that can go well with an Islamic education system. After all, unlike other fields, if the education system falls into the hands of spoilt people, we are left with no prospects of improvement.
The importance of a teacher as an architect of our future generations also demands that only the best and the most intelligent and competent members of our intelligentsia be allowed to qualify for this profession. It is unfortunate to find that generally the worst and the most incapable people of the society find their way to this profession. Anyone who fails to find an opening in any other walk of life, gets into this profession and recklessly plays with the destiny of the nation. An important reason for this is understood to be the poor salaries of our primary and secondary teachers which are no better than that of clerks. A large number of our teachers is therefore frustrated and disinterested. They have to go for part-time jobs to meet their basic needs. The teachers in rural areas are forced to work in fields, to keep livestock, go for small business, perform services in a mosque or the like. The teachers in urban areas opt for student coaching or part-time clerical assignments. Secondly, the teaching profession also does not enjoy due respect in the society. The primary and secondary teachers are particularly at a disadvantage. Their status is lower than that of doctors, engineers, advocates, civil servants; even lower than that of semi literate and illiterate traders. It would therefore require great commitment for an intelligent individual, however fond of education and training he may be, to forsake the career of a doctor or engineer in favour of teaching. Thirdly, at the government level, the syllabuses have been finalized and the chapter for revision closed, as if they are divine scriptures. The Aristotles of our bureaucracy have left no room for any alteration or revision in the light of new discoveries, research and progress. Even the students striving for Bachelor and Masters degrees have a set of limited books prescribed by the authorities. The teachers only solve the difficulties and then transmit a rehash of these books to the students, enabling them to memorize and copy the notes in their examinations. It is quite beyond the sphere of the assigned responsibility of a teacher to critically analyze the text books. Consequently, the scholars with the ability to critically evaluate and analyze the given material and to add something by incisive research, just do not think of joining the teaching profession.
These are a few reasons that are effectively keeping our intelligentsia away from the field of education. Obviously, we cannot expect an educational arrangement to deliver the goods unless it has a cadre of competent teachers. We need to address these and other associated problems of teachers. The teachers should be entitled to better salaries and better facilities when compared with other professions. It should be ascertained at all cost that a candidate for this profession has a natural acumen and aptitude for teaching. Simultaneously, all out efforts should be launched at the government level to restore the financial and social status of teachers. We do have a practice of awarding the Pride of Performance awards to actors, artists, and players but the outstanding achievements of a good teacher go unnoticed and are not welcome. The notable achievements of teachers should also be appreciated at the state level and while evaluating them, their academic and research output should also be considered. This is an important issue demanding immediate and prioritized attention of the government on emergent basis. The electronic and print media can also play a very positive role in this regard. These measures can go a long way towards a better future of our country and the Ummah through encouraging intelligent and competent people to join this profession and by bringing out their true potential.
(Translated from Moiz Amjad's Commentary on Ghamidi's "Manshoor")