In pursuance of a successful nation, it is imperative to understand the importance of a woman’s role in society; an investment in providing and protecting their enlightenment is necessary to avoid the risk of degeneration. The yearning for a decent education was recently exemplified in the case of Malala Yousafzai – an eleven year old Pakistani girl championing this right of women across the nation. She was consequently attacked in the name of “Islam” by the extremist Taliban group.
Over the past few years, the Taliban have been infiltrating Pakistan from neighbouring Afghanistan. Their growing influence in these rural areas has come at the expense of women’s rights, as they have continued to close several hundreds of girl’s schools in the infected areas. Their false assertions of Islam forbidding a female from acquiring education were exposed by Malala, who began a blog on the BBC website from the midst of the oppression: “I will show them the Qur’an. The Qur’an doesn’t say that girls are not allowed to go to school.” The innocent voice of truth from a little girl could not be tolerated by the fabricators; she was shot in the head on her bus to school by the Taliban on 9th October 2012.
When the notion of rationality and religion coexisting is neglected, such unfortunate and misguided judgements are at a danger of becoming an unyielding threat to the stability of a nation. A recognisable means of achieving rationality is through invoking secular education. Islam itself compels the individual to investigate the truth of Qur’anic teachings: ‘…He is the Mighty, the Most Forgiving; Who has created seven heavens in harmony. No incongruity canst thou see in the creation of the Gracious God. Then look again. Seest thou any flaw? Aye, look again, and yet again, thy sight will only return unto thee confused and fatigued.’1
This instruction of intellectual pursuit does not entail any gender disparity; the Holy Prophetsa of Islam said that it was the duty of every Muslim man and woman to acquire knowledge. He also stressed the importance of educating girls specifically. He said that a man who has daughters and brings them up and educates them to the best of his capacity shall be entitled to paradise. The Holy Prophet’ssa wife, Hazrat ‘A’ishahra, was so cultivated that the Companions would turn to her if they had any queries on a number of subjects, including history, medicine, literature, law, as well as Ahadith (the sayings of the Holy Prophetsa). Her example in Islamic history ascertains Islam’s advocating women’s pursuit for knowledge.
The reality of Malala’s shooting is a struggle between power-hungry groups trying to gain leadership over the people. Women’s empowerment is a threat to their ideology, and whilst attempting to obliterate any attempts that jeopardise their established dogma, they cite “Islam” as a way of justifying it. We have already observed how Islam’s true teachings are in support of women’s education. The Taliban want to eliminate any threat against the exposure of this truth, and Malala was the writing on the wall.
With a literacy level of just 57% of the adult population in Pakistan, a boost in these figures will deflate the Taliban’s chances of succeeding, and minimise the attraction between an illiterate society, and an equally uneducated leadership. The late Professor Dr. Abdus Salam, the Muslim Nobel Laureate, recognised the relation between education and progress: “Misleading and rather inappropriate education is in fact a national crisis right now. I believe that our nation is passing through a grave crisis for which the reason is that a proper educational system has not been developed.”2 This is from an article published in 1986, and it is uncomfortably befitting to the state of Pakistan’s educational system twenty-six years on. The international scale of attention brought on by Malala’s predicament has led to over a million people in Pakistan signing petitions to ensure that every girl has a place at a school. If this can pressurise Pakistan into taking control of their educational system, without any gender discrepancy, it will be one of their best investments in the future security of the country for generations to come.
1. Holy Qur’an, Ch.67:V.3-5.