ʻAllāmah Anwar Shāh Kashmīrī on learning of English and secular sciences

By Mawlānā Dr. Yunus ʻUthmān

Foreword: The author, Mawlānā Dr. Yunus ʻUthmān, is a graduate of Dār al-Ulūm Karachi. He taught at at Dār al-Ulūm Newcastle (South Africa) for 12 years. During that time he also completed B.A and B.A (Hons) degrees (majoring in Arabic and Science of Religion) at the University of South Africa. In 1994, he was awarded an M.A degree in Islamic studies from the University of Durban-Westville. In 2002, he graduated with a D.Phil degree in Islamic studies at the same University. He continues to serve on various Islamic Trust Boards of a number of Muslim organisation and Islamic seminaries within South Africa. He is also an author of many articles and books. The following article is taken from his thesis, on the life and works of ʻAllāmah Anwar Shāh Kashmīrī, which was submitted in fulfillment of the D.Phil degree in 2001. We hope to publish more edited extracts from this thesis in the near future. This article also follows up on articles which we have published in the past concerning the teaching of secular education in 19th Century India (see “Related article(s)” below). Mawlānā Dr. Yunus ʻUthmān writes:

The influence of the western world was first felt in the Muslim world when the Europeans colonised their countries in the early 19th Century. Thus, prior to the arrival of the Colonialists, all aspects of Muslim life were governed by the Sharīʿah. The Colonialists subsequently imposed their own man-made laws upon the Muslims against their will.

In India, after the capitulation of the Dehli In 1857, the British imperialist power imposed secular education on the masses. The ‘ulamā’ migrated to the villages where they established their own Islamic institutions with the aim of safeguarding the Muslims from being influenced by western culture which could prove detrimental to the Islamic way of life. One of such institutions which exist to this day is Dār al-Ulūm Deoband. There were, however, certain Muslims who felt that it was important for them to master western education and foremost amongst them was Sir Sayyid Aḥmad Khān (1898) who was instrumental in establishing the famous Aligarh College based on the British model. On the other hand, Nadwat al-‘Ulamā’ in Lucknow was established in order to bridge the gap between the two extremes. In other words, certain secular subjects, including the teaching of English, were introduced in its curriculum.

In the debate on whether Muslims should acquire western education or not, Shāh āḥib (ʻAllāmah Anwar Shāh Kashmīrī), who was the product of Dār al-Ulūm Deoband, differed from the majority view of the ‘ulamā’, and exhorted his students to study the English language and other secular sciences. (Anwār al-Bārī, 1:247) He pointed out that in order to safeguard his literary interest in Arabic and the Persian language, he was reluctant to read and write in Urdu. He even wrote all his letters and notes in these two languages. However, he later on regretted that he did not master the Urdu language for in India it was important for one to master the Urdu language in order to defend and propagate Islam in that country. Thus, he was of the view that if any person had an interest in teaching and propagating Islam  beyond the geographical boundaries of India, then that person ought to study the English language, modern philosophy and secular research methodology. (Malfuẓāt Muḥaddith Kashmīrī, p.95) This accounts for his not criticising any educational institutions which incorporated secular sciences in its curriculum.

Osman, Yunoos (2001). Life and works of ʻAllāmah Muammad Anwar Shāh Kashmīrī. p. 156-158.


Related article(s):

Concerning the avoidance of “English Education” in 19th century Muslim India

al-Nānautawī: Why modern sciences were excluded from the syllabus of Dār al-‘Ulūm Deoband

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