Shibli stops over at Cairo after visiting Constantinople, Beirut, and Bait al Maqdis (Jerusalem), as part of his historic journey to Ottoman lands.

In earlier episodes, we discussed Shibli’s observations of the state of education in Constantinople, the premier institutions he visited there, and the numerous libraries and printing presses as well as the book shops in the city. Certain earlier episodes were dedicated to Shibli’s observations of the city of Constantinople, the manners and demeanour of the Turks and the exotic coffee shops which he was very fond of.

In this segment we portray Shibli’s assessment of the state of education in Cairo. We have skipped his mention of other aspects of his stay in Constantinople, to which we will return later. Shibli himself states that the primary  purpose of his journey was to examine the state of education and explore the libraries in the places he visited.

In this first episode on the state of education in Egypt, Shibli candidly notes that the scale and the magnificence of the educational institutions is in no way comparable to the educational institutions he found in Constantinople. However, he mentions that the reports issued periodically by the department of education in Egypt are more comprehensive and detailed, and hence, he says, he will be able to provide a more exhaustive account of the system of education as well as the current status of educational institutes in Egypt.
Like in Constantinople, Shibli visits many prominent educational institutions in Cairo; as well as meets with faculty and students and interviews highly placed authorities in the department of education.
He singles out the Dar Al-Uloom College in Cairo as being a fine blend of modern and classical education. In his opinion, this college met with his ideal of an institution that is worthy of being emulated all through the Muslim world. But, he regrets that the dress-code of the students in Dar Al-Uloom was very maulvi-ish, clearly indicating his approach that absorbed all that was good in modern society. He even attended a few classes in the Dar Al-Uloom which impressed him immensely. He sighs, “If only our ‘ulema in India could emulate this method of teaching”. While conceding that classical education has outlived its purpose, he asserts that there are many inherent advantages in it and these must be embraced along with modern education.
Notwithstanding this, the most significant comment Shibli makes in this episode is, “One who has been touched with classical education forever fears modern education even in spite of the fact that modern education is imparted in Arabic”.

This is episode two of the segment in which Shibli shares his experiences of the state of education in Egypt. In episode one, we portrayed his opinion on the system and state of education in Egypt based on his visits to many prominent educational institutions in Cairo; as well as his meetings with faculty and students and interviews with highly placed authorities in the department of education. The previous episode was largely focused on the Dar Al Uloom College which Shibli considers a model worthy of emulation. In this episode, Shibli shares his observations of the Madressah al Huqooq (Law College), the Madressah al Tibb (Medical School), the Madressah al Tarjumah (Faculty of Translation) and the Engineering College. He details the subjects taught in the above institutions at different levels. He is immensely delighted at the lecture on the principles of Ta’zirat which he attended in person at the Law College, remarking that the lecturer was very articulate and left a lasting impression on him. On the Medical College, he notes, in a positive tone, that all books on medicine taught in the college were translated from the French into Arabic. He adds that the Egyptian scholars, too, have written original works on medicine in Arabic. He makes a significant observation in this context, stating that those scholars in India who could not benefit from European research on medicine due to their lack of knowledge of English, can make use of the Arabic translations published in Egypt. But, laments Shibli, our community lacks the will to benefit from such works. He credits the College for Translation with many major translation works, which helped the spread of modern education in Egypt. On the Engineering College, he quotes the anguish of the present principal who felt that the change to English medium from French which was mandated by the educational authorities was not helpful

This is episode three of the segment in which Shibli shares his experiences of the state of education in Egypt. In this episode, Shibli shares his observations of the Madressat Sanayi (Industrial Training School), the General Schools and the Tajhiziyah Schools (Preparatory Schools). He details the subjects taught in the above institutions at different levels. He also discusses about the people sent to Europe for education and the experience of Egypt in this regard; noting that the younger the student, the more he is able to benefit from European education. He also mentions that since there was no provision in Europe to impart Arabic and Islamic education to these students, an Islamic scholar accompanied these students to teach them these subjects. Allama Shibli says that this was a successful experiment. In the next episode, Shibli shares his experiences of his month-long stay in Al-Azhar.

Shibli bares his heart in explaining the experiences he encountered in the famous seminary of Al-Azhar in Cairo. He woefully writes, “Nothing on my entire journey made me more certain of the misfortune of the Muslims than the conditions at Azhar. An academy in which the Muslims of every part of the world are gathered… the number of whose students is in excess of twelve thousand; what hope could one not have had from the education and training there? But, unfortunately, instead of benefitting lakhs of Muslims, it has already ruined them, and goes on doing so. Because of the method of training and social life there…ambition, lofty aspiration, passion, courage, in short, all noble characteristics are destroyed.”

In one place he writes, “Because I resided at Azhar, I often kept company with the students. I would see them engaged in extremely ordinary, trivial discussions unworthy of attention and feel regret. The result of this absurd method of education is that Azhar has not produced any valuable scholar or author.”

What is most depressing is Shibli’s following observation about the students of Azhar: “The state of the baseness and low-spiritedness of the students is such that when they buy a paisa’s worth of vegetables in the market, they make the vegetable-seller swear, ‘Biras Sayyidna al-Husain’, meaning, ‘Upon the head of Imam Husain, tell the right price!’ Can it be hoped that people trained in this way will increase the glory and majesty of Islam?”

These observations are similar to his narration of classical education in Constantinople.

The complete series published this far, consisting of 24 episodes, can be viewed from this link: