Speech made by Lord Sheikh at the Saudi International Conference

I am very keen to promote the values of education.  I used to be a visiting lecturer and have written educational material.  I feel that education is the way forward and it is very important that we make every effort to educate our children.  To enable us to achieve this it is important that there is parental involvement and every parent must give encouragement and help to the children in order to further their education.  Unfortunately the performance of some Muslim children in United Kingdom is not adequate and I have travelled to various parts of the country to stress the importance of education.  I have also spoken in the House of Lords on this subject.

 

Some people say that Tony Blair was the first person to say Education, Education, Education.  This is not true; there was a Muslim leader in India called Sir Syed Ahmed Khan who talked about Education, Education, Education in the 1870’s.  Over a hundred and thirty years ago Sir Syed Ahmed Khan stressed the importance of education to the Muslims and he founded Aligarh University in India which is a premier university with very high standards.

 

I see that some of you have come here from Saudi Arabia and the Gulf countries.  It is important that we do not rely on the oil revenues but we need to put in resources and promote education at every level.  We must set up Schools, Colleges, Universities and Centres of Excellence.  All these institutions must be of high standards and their qualifications must be meaningful.  We need establish educational institutions of high calibre and perhaps set up links with top universities in the West.

 

I have visited Qatar twice over the last year and was most impressed by the activities and success of the Qatar Foundation.

 

I did state earlier on that my motto was Iqra which means read.  The total verse in the Holy Quran is as follows:

 

“Read in the name of your Lord who created.  Created man from a clot of blood.  Read! And your Lord is the most generous.   Who has taught by the pen.   Taught man what he did not know”

 

This verse clearly shows that Muslims believe Allah created humanity and that he commanded us to seek knowledge in order to become stronger in our faith.

 

Islam also affirms the right to education for all without gender discrimination. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) also encouraged the education of even the most marginalised communities including slave girls. He said:

 

“He who has a slave-girl and teaches her good manners and improves her education and then frees her from slavery and marries her, will get a double reward.”

 

Here the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) was promoting the education of women as well as trying to abolish slavery.

 

The holy prophet (peace be upon him) has also said the following:

“Seek knowledge even unto China”

“Acquire knowledge for he who acquires it performs an act of piety, he who speaks of knowledge praises God”

“The ink of the scholar is more precious than the blood of the martyr”

The importance of education for the betterment of society is also something that is highlighted by both the Qur’an and the sayings of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) who asserted that for a Muslim to fulfil their role to serve humanity, they must acquire knowledge for the common good.

 

For a better idea of the role of education in Islam we can look back at historic Islamic civilisations most notably in Spain. Islamic contributions to medieval Europe were numerous, affecting various areas such as art, architecture, medicine, agriculture, music, language, education, law and technology. This period is sometimes referred to as the “Islamic Golden Age” or the “Islamic Renaissance”.

 

From the 10th to the 13th Century, Europe absorbed knowledge from the Islamic civilisation. In the early 20th Century a large number of scholars recognised that the influence of the Muslim civilisation as a whole on medieval Europe was enormous in such fields as science, philosophy and literature. Contributions from the Islamic world have had a considerable effect on the development of Western civilisation and contributed to the achievements of the Renaissance.

 

During this period, the Islamic world developed its own sciences such as algebra, chemistry and geology which were later transmitted to the West.

 

I have visited the Museum of Islamic Art and in fact was invited to its opening by the Qatari government.  I was very pleased to note that some of the instruments used by the Muslims in Spain and other countries are displayed in the Museum.

 

We are proud of our past and we did indeed lead the world in the field of astronomy, science, mathematics and medical knowledge.  We cannot live in our past and it is therefore important that we continue with our educational knowledge and rise to a premium position.

If we as countries, people and parents make the efforts this can be achieved.

 

I would like to talk further about my Coat of Arms.  On my coat of Arms I have two doves as I want to give the message to the world that Islam is the religion of peace.  Because of shortage of time I cannot talk about it in greater details.

 

I am the Chairman of an Insurance Brokering organisation and I have set up a company which provides advisory and consultancy work on Islamic Finance and Insurance.  I have made several keynote speeches on this subject and we are going to discuss this fully tomorrow.

 

I would however like to say today.  The whole world is suffering from the financial crunch which has come about as a result of bad practises and lack of appropriate housekeeping.  The concept of prudence was thrown out of the window and there was greed and short-term bad practises.  The crunch has adversely affected the economies of many countries and people are in dire straits.  The scenario is totally undesirable.  If more institutions had followed Islamic values then perhaps the situation could have been alleviated.

 

Modern Islamic finance emerged in mid 1970’s but the growth has been very rapid since 1990’s.  The market is now worth 750 billion globally.  The annual growth of Islamic Finance exceeds 30% a year and it’s the world’s fastest growing financial sector.  There are now Islamic institutions in 47 countries.

 

Very briefly Islamic financial transactions are mutual arrangements and there is prohibition of gambling or speculation or uncertainty or payment of any interest.  These are called maysir, qimar, gharar and riba.  We will indeed discuss this more fully tomorrow.  

 

I would however end up with the words education, education, education.

 

Thank you

 

Updated: 03/08/2009 — 3:23 PM