A: There is more emphasis on memory in our system of education, say, for instance, it is considered to be really valuable to memorize the whole of the Quran. This rote memorization habit has trickled into our regular education system as well stifling all thought. I mean, it is all right to memorize Quran and Hadith, it is good, but now we have things like the printing presses [that weren’t there in the ancient times.] Understanding is now more important. So, we should try to emphasize understanding instead of rote memorizing. We need to change the methodology of education. Not necessarily create a rift between reason and religion but encourage critical thought.
Q: You suggest a change in education methodology that would lead to critical thinking but historically this happened only in the West and that too after questioning religious authority. What approach should Pakistani Education take in encouraging critical thinking?
A: I wouldn’t use the word “questioning”, but you know, this change of mindset, it usually starts from the top. This means that we need a critical mass of scholars who should address the most pressing issues of our nation. They should try to change the mindset of those in power. Ideas flow from top-to-bottom and the so-called ‘Social Engineering’ starts from bottom-to-top. Bottom-to-top is revolution. I encourage evolution, slow change, from top-to-bottom. We need not be afraid, we need to create ideas and positive paradigms through which our society could understand the West and adapt. Secondly, we should enter into a dialogue between Western Civilization and our civilization, not between religions. Dialogue is only possible when you admit the possibility of error in your own decisions. When one thinks oneself infallible, dialogue cannot happen. You have to start with an open mind. Understanding of other cultures and civilizations is very important if we want to change our mindset and educational traditions.