The story of Malala Yousafzai, an Afghan girl, who was shot in the head for speaking out for her right to education, is well known to us. Yet the suffering she had to go through did not deter her from her goal. She persevered, and eventually she got what was her right – and the right of every child in the world.
Her story is a powerful reminder, not only of the importance of education, but also what type of education we should provide.
A lack of education breeds misconceptions and misunderstanding. This in turn results in intolerance and disrespect for one another, which is arguably the root cause of most of the problems of the world today. But education is not just about receiving a piece of paper with grades printed upon them – rather, a truly educated person combines knowledge with virtue and morals.
As humans, we have made great advances in manipulating the resources of this planet, creating more wealth. And we seem to teach our children just that. Today’s graduates are more often than not multilingual – ready for a globalised world. They have numeracy skills, read quickly, speak lucidly and comprehend technical topics.
But beyond the ‘core’ subjects, the Three Rs, do our schools today teach about wisdom and morality? Whilst we must nurture the mind, we must also nurture character development – for life is more than just competing, making money and seeking fame.
Although Hussain lived 1400 years ago, he stood out as a visionary and his stance shows us the basis for good education. Hussain ibn Ali was a 7th century revolutionary leader who made the ultimate sacrifice for social justice in the face of corruption and tyranny. He gave everything he had, including his life, for the honour of those around him.
Be it as the teacher or pupil, education involves inquisitiveness, creating opportunities, humility and patience. Hussain accepted people of all types – God-fearing or not, male or female, old or young – into his group of followers. He took every opportunity, till the very end, to address the opposition to remind them of the unjust nature of their actions.
While for most, Hussain’s arguments made no difference, one out of the many, Hur ibn Yazid – a general from the army sent to intercept Hussain – began to realise the moral monstrosity of attacking a small group including women, and children.
This enlightenment pushed Hur to come to Hussain’s camp and express his regret. Tired, thirsty, and facing death, Hussain told Hur that his realisation was incredibly valuable and that it was not a coincidence that his mother named him Hur, which in Arabic means a “free man”.
Perhaps this is the most wonderfully uplifting aspect of Hussain’s view on education – there is no judgment, only facilitation. It does not matter if someone is too old, has a past full of ignorance, or helped to perpetuate ignorance – the moment they seek knowledge, it should be provided freely.
So let’s make the 21st century the one in which every boy and girl gets a good education. Where illiteracy is a thing of the past and behaviour is placed on a pedestal alongside grades.
If you see other people making mistakes, do not get angry, do not judge and do not stereotype them. Speak to them, reach out to them and share with them the knowledge you have. Remember that these people are not standing against you in a battlefield, as was the case with Hussain. Despite that, he never stopped reminding and educating his enemies of what was right.
We must not stop either.
Who is Hussain are fundraising £10,000 to support Room to Read, who provide an education for schoolgirls in the Third World. You can donate to our collection here: https://www.justgiving.com/Hussain-Inspires/