Maulana Wahiduddin Khan I Islam Today

According to La Rochefoucauld: “Mediocre spirits generally condemn everything that exceeds their small stature.” Perceiving this common human failing, a modern poet implores people: “Don’t criticize what you can’t understand.”

The trouble is that people tend to judge matters on how they affect their own selves. They are quick to support anything which improves their own position, or at least does not downgrade them in any way. But when something appears threatening to their own position, they oppose it, regardless of its intrinsic worth.

Take, for example, the case of the Arabic madrasahs (schools) functioning in the Indian sub-continent. Generally, they include a course in ancient Aristotelean logic in their syllabus. We say “logic”, for that is the name by which this science is known, but it would be more accurate to call it “illogic”. What is taught in the name of logic has nothing to do with true logic. It is not conducive to the logical presentation of Islam vis-à-vis modern education.

The administrative authorities of one such Arabic school decided unanimously to withdraw all textbooks on classical logic from their syllabus. A new course in philosophy was to be prepared, conforming to modern academic standards. Unfortunately, however, they were unable to implement this decision. Why? Because the professor of logic in that institution opposed it tooth and nail. As he was a senior teacher in the school, the administrators were unable to go against his wishes.

One does not have to look far to see the reason for this opposition. This professor only had knowledge of classical logic; he had no knowledge of modern philosophy. He feared that if classical logic were taken out of the syllabus, he himself would lose his status in the institu­tion. He would be left like a teacher who knew only French, trying to get his point across in a school where the medium of instruction was Arabic. In this case, it was very narrow-minded of him to allow his own feelings of professional insecurity stand in the way of moderni­zation.