By Muhammadullah Khalili Qasmi
Education, in present age, being the most important and necessary thing for people, is considered to be a gift of this modern age whereas eventually it is only the Glorious Qur’an to which goes the credit of education’s foundation and its boundless advancement.
It is an established truth that Islam has attached much emphasis on education. It is only Islam, which occupies this distinguished position of being the messenger of knowledge and leader of an educational revolution. According to Islamic viewpoint, the humanity set out for its journey in the light of knowledge, not in the darkness of ignorance as many civilized people say that man is a developed form of animals. Other systems have put education in the category of necessities of life but Islam has regarded it the utmost necessity of human life.
There is neither a religion nor a civilization that has termed education as basic right of every individual in the society. Nations such as Greece and China have made extraordinary progress in the field of education and art but they also did not favour the education for all. Plato has also dreamt of democracy and equality, but he also could not go beyond education for some particular segments of the society. In India, which once was the center of education and art, a lower caste person was not even allowed to hear the Vedic scriptures. If sometimes a lower caste person happened to gain a hearing by steal he used to be put melted lead in his ears. As if it was a heinous crime for him to listen the Vedic verses. None can deny the glory of Nalanda and Taxila universities, but after all, the fact is that the common people were always deprived of education in Hindu periods. Education was only the monopoly of higher classes of the society.
When the sun of Islam was enlightening the world, Europe was passing through dark ages of history. The scientists, artists and men of learning were tortured and sometimes even they were torched to death. The Churches were rulers where life was a second name of wildness. Similarly, ignorance was prevailing all over Arabia. There was neither a school nor a college and a library. Not only that the entire tribes were illiterate but also some of them used to feel proud of being unlettered. Allama Bilazari has written that Quraish, the head of all tribes in Arabia, had only 17 persons who knew writing. Those who were assigned to write the revelation they also were 43 out of all Ansar and Muhajireen (the companions of the Prophet, sallallaahu alayhi wasallam). In this situation, imagine, whatever Islam has done is nothing short of a miracle.
In 570 A.D, when the sun of Islam rose from the horizon of Arabian Peninsula in its fullest blaze the entire world was shrouded by darkness and steeped in ignorance and long slumber. The first slogan that Islam chanted in this horrible atmosphere was about ‘education’. The earliest verses that revealed to the Prophet (peace be upon him) invited people to education:
“Read in the name of thy Lord and Cherisher who created. Created man out of a (mere clot of congealed blood. Read and thy Lord is Most Bountiful. He, Who taught (the use of) the pen. Taught man that which he knew not”.
These five verses of the holy Qur’an along with many others are considered to be fountain head of education in post-Islamic history. They created a remarkable eagerness towards education and filled the followers of Islam with a tremendous spirit that carved a new history.
“Education has always received great weight age in the Islam religion. The religion emerged in the barren Arabian lands that were both culturally and socially backward. Thus education was put forward as the lamp to illumine darkness. The main theological text is the Koran, where the word ‘Ilam’ is used, which means knowledge. It is the second largest word used in the Koran.” 
The Glorious Qur’an and Hadith encouraged this spirit and gave it a good push by repeated mentioning of education’s virtues and greatness like:
“Allah will raise up, to (suitable) ranks (and degrees), those of you believe and who have been granted knowledge. And Allah is well acquainted with all ye do”·
“Are those equal, those who know and those who do not know?” ·
“Ulama are the heirs of the prophets” ·
“An ‘Alim is the trustee of Allah on this earth” ·
One who covers a way in search of knowledge Allah will lead him to the paradise”
The Glorious Qur’an has laid much importance to ‘education’, that is why it regarded the education as the main purpose of the Prophet’s advent in this world. As it says at numerous places, such as in Sura Jumu’ah:
“It He Who has sent amongst the unlettered an apostle from among themselves to rehearse to them His signs, to sanctify them and to instruct them in scripture and wisdom, although they had been, before, in manifest error” 
This is the reason that the Prophet Muhammad (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) himself said, “I was sent down as a ‘teacher’. Once upon a time the Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) saw some of his companions sitting in to two circles. One circle was busy chanting the glory of Allah and the other was busy in learning and teaching. So the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: I was sent as teacher” and sat among them. 
The Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam), on one hand, described education as obligatory on every individual while on the other hand he asked each Muslim to enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong according to the instructions of the Qur’an:
“You are the best of the people evolved for mankind, enjoining what is right and forbidding what is wrong and believing in Allah” 
In this way he proclaimed that every believer should be a teacher of his brothers.
The above-mentioned verses of the holy Qur’an have laid down such a natural, easy and cheaper system that had made, unconsciously, the education free and compulsory. Every Muslim family turned in to a primary school and each person became its teacher. The first school of a child is a mother’s lap where it is inculcated manners, habits and mental approach. That is why one finds the companions of the Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) and their successors strived hard to get education, travelled over mountains and deserts and exposed them to countless hazards and hardships. Whenever they went engaged themselves in learning and teaching the people. They sat in a corner of a mosque or in a part of a house teaching wisdom and good behaviour. Due to these valuable efforts, in a short period of time the Arabs turned in to the most civilized nation, and wherever they went left their deep impressions on life, culture and language.
 Islami Nizami Zindagi 241
 Islami Nizami-e-Zindagi 240
 Sura Alaq 96/1,2,3,4,5
 Sura Mujadila 58/11
 Sura Zumur 39/9
 Abu dawud & Tirmizi, referred by Ihya-ul-uloom Urdu translation, 30
 Ihya-ul-Uloom 34, Ibn-e-Abdulbarr
 Muslim, Ihya-ul-Uloom 35
 The Quran, Sura Juma 66/2
 Ibn-e-Maja, Bab-u-Fazl-il-Ulama
 Sura Aal-e-Imran 3/110
[An extract from: Madrasa Education: Its Strength & Weakness by Muhammadullah Khalili Qasmi]