Dr. Qidwai's lucid article presents some interesting ideas but misses a critical component and deserves to be challenged on at least one statement.
We simply cannot separate Sir Syed's accomplishments from his religious beliefs. Sir Syed was a thorough 'rationalist' and a voice of reason which enabled him to cross the hurdles of rigidity that had paralyzed the religious camp into inaction and backwardness. An interesting post on this network reveals that the clerics wanted Sir Syed 'beheaded' for apostasy, which mercifully could not be put into action because India was under British rule. I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that if Sir Syed were alive in the Pakistan of today, he would have been tried under the 'blasphemy' laws and killed in the jail by overzealous religious fanatics even before a sentence was given. Therefore, defense of orthodoxy on the one hand and advocacy of Sir Syed's broad hearted world view on the other, is like mixing oil with water and makes no sense at all. Granted Sir Syed was not our religious leader, but if we don't subscribe to his enlightened and 'rationalist' interpretation of Islam, which ought to be our goal if we stand any chance of survival in the scientifically and technologically advanced 21st century, any talk of revival of Sir Syed's mission for the 21st century is futile.
Next, I would like to comment on Dr. Qidwai's statement 'But, now the modern educational system operates with the false assumption of the superiority of Western civilisation and the inferiority of Muslim culture. Without seeking a precise definition of the words 'civilization' and 'culture', I feel absolutely no shame and awkwardness in admitting that I am in absolute and total awe of the enormous contributions of the West to human civilization. In contrast, Muslims have contributed absolutely nothing for at least the last five centuries towards the advancement of anything and it can be said without the risk of exaggerating that this is about the size of the gap that separates the west from the Muslim world. The examples of the great libraries of Baghdad that Dr. Qidwai cites pertain to the same distant period when the 'rationalists' held sway and which point of view is now anathema to our religious establishment. Even the advocates of 'practicing Islam in its most pristine form' and the savage suicide bombers bent on enforcing their mission of worldwide Caliphate through the spread of murder and mayhem use western inventions like the Internet and Video cameras for publicizing their horrific actions.
Quite clearly then, modern education and western education are almost synonymous whatever one thinks of the superiority of or lack thereof of western civilization. We really should not muddle up water by proposing something which is non-existent i.e. an Islamic modern education.
Ph.D Univ.Calif. Med.Center, S.F