Academic Status of the Muslim World

King Saud University, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

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Some good news for the Muslim world in the academic front has been reported recently by international agencies. For instance, world ranking of top 500 universities for 2015 by Shanghai University shows nine universities from the Muslim world included in the list.

King Abdulaziz University is at the top (amongst Muslim countries) with ranking between151-200, followed by King Saud University (151-200), University of Malaya (301-400), University of Tehran (301-400), Cairo University (401-500), Istanbul University (401-500), King Abdullah University of Science and Technology(401-500), University of Science, Malaysia (401-500) and Sharif University of Science (401-500).

It may be recalled that all the major universities of the world like those of Cordova, Granada, and Cairo etc during the Middle Ages were from the Islamic World.

There is no doubt that Muslim world is taking necessary steps, largely because of economic strength of oil producing Muslim countries, to compete with the West for the eradication of poverty and illiteracy; still a lot is yet to be done.

"Seek Knowledge" is the Islamic slogan to remember for Muslims all over the world because it is an important and basic part of Quranic and Prophetic injunctions. Islamic scholar of repute, N. Hasan has rightly observed that "Diminishing Muslim vision of knowledge is singularly responsible for the decline of economic and political power of the Islamic civilization. We have failed now for centuries to become leaders of humanity”.

Mahathir Mohammad of Malaysia has also rightly advised Muslims "to give up their illogical beliefs and regressive thoughts and be prepared to face the challenges of the fast changing social order" (OIC Conference, Kuala Lumpur).

Time is ripe for the Islamic renaissance which has to be faster and quicker than the European (say Christian) Renaissance. Research Centers like famous Bait al-Hikmah at Baghdad (during Abbasids) have to be established in every big city of the Islamic world. The Islamic Society has to follow the policy of pluralism as enshrined in Quran which says "To You Your Religion and To Me Mine (Qur'an 109:1-6) and that "Let there be no compulsion in religion." (Quran 2:256). What Islamic Society urgently needs today is the emergence /revolution of modern science and technology in their territories/ranks and the scholars like those of Middle Ages namely Jabir bin Hayyan, Zakaria Razi, Qasim Zahrawi and Ghazali to lead this revolution.

Although literacy rate amongst Muslim male has risen to average of 70% but unfortunately it is only 49% amongst Muslim female. According to the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO), "Illiteracy among females poses a threat to the development and prosperity of the Muslim society". (Report, 2011).

Director General of ISESCO, Dr. Abdulaziz al-Tuwaijri said in a recent statement that 'Illiteracy still poses a real challenge to the Muslim communities and impedes Islamic world's advancement in all aspects'.

Salient features of the present academic status as reported by the world Agencies like IMF (2014), World Bank (2014), United Nations (2013), CIA World Factbook (2003-2014), Research and Scientific Development Reports by Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC), and Patent Technology Monitoring Team (Report 2014) are recorded below for the benefit of those who are working hard for the progress and development of Muslim Ummah, so as to regain the past glory.

In recent years literacy in Muslim countries has increased significantly although in scientific knowledge they still lag behind the West, also significantly. Muslim majority countries with more than 95% literacy are Albania, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Brunei, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Maldives, Palestine, Qatar, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan (99%). Countries with 90% to 95% literacy are Indonesia, Lebanon, Libya, Malaysia, Oman, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates.

Research publications (all sciences) during ten years of 1997 to 2007 from the Muslim world were about 3 lakh. Amongst the Muslim countries, Turkey with 88,438 publications was on the top followed by Egypt (26,276), Iran (25,400), Saudi Arabia (14,538), Malaysia (11,287), Morocco (9,979) and Pakistan (7,934).

In the top fifty countries for Human Development Index of 2014, Brunei at number 30 with the index of 0.852 is at the top amongst the Muslim countries followed by Qatar at 31 (0.851), UAE at 40 (0.827), Bahrain at 44 (0.815), and Kuwait at 46 (0.814). Three most populous Muslim countries Indonesia, Bangladesh and Pakistan are ranked, unfortunately, at 108, 142 and 146 respectively.

Patents: Number of patents registered indicates the intellectual and scientific capability of a country for development by their own talent. During the period of 2001 to 2014, the number of patents registered in U.S. by the Muslim world was only 5055 whereas Spain, where Muslims ruled for seven hundred years, had the credit of 6665 patents during the period mentioned above. During the same period Germany registered more than 90 thousands patents in the U.S.

Muslim countries have nine scientists, engineers and technicians per 1,000 populations as compared to 40 of the world average and 140 for 20 countries of Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) which include U.S., Germany, U.K., Switzerland, France and Turkey.

Out of about 500 Noble awardees from 1901 to 2013, only one is from Muslim world, namely Ahmed Zewail (Egyptian) who got Noble Award in 1999 for his chemistry research carried out at the California Institute of Technology. Harvard University alone has produced more than 40 laureates. According to a report by Islamic Research Foundation International, U.S., had there been a Noble Prize, of course under a different name, during Middle Ages, all the prizes would have gone to the Muslim scientists (Report 2013).

R & D Expenditure: Less than 0.5% of GDP in Islamic World. It is 3.0 per cent in the West. (Report 2004).

Prosperity is dependent on the population growth of a nation. In this context it may be noted that during the last twenty years Total Fertility Rates (TFR) have fallen throughout the world. Pew Research Center, U.S. has recently reported that average Total Fertility Rate for 49 Muslim Majority countries has also fallen from 4.3 children per women in 1990-1995 to an estimated 2.9 children in 2010-2015.


Dr. Mohammed Iqtedar Husain Farooqi, is a retired Deputy Director/Scientist Incharge, Phytochemistry Division, National Botanical Research Institute (Govt. of India), Member, U.P. Govt. Biodiversity Board, Lucknow.

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