Where do you stand?

A friend sent me the article above underlining perhaps one of the most pernicious diseases of the Muslim world – a lack of concern for knowledge. Reading it I thought I would share some reflections. In my world of leadership training and development, in the institutions where I studied and teach, we have some criteria to evaluate teachers and Board members. These are common to all global leadership training institutions. They also design their salary and compensation structures and their recruitment and career policy based on this. What that means in plain English is that if you don’t measure up on these parameters, you will be out of a job.

I am listing them below with a suggestion that those who run, fund or support Islamic or Muslim institutions, consider measuring themselves and their teachers, trustees or administrators on this standard and see if you can still retain your job.

It is not for nothing that the West has had the leadership of the world for the past at least three hundred years. It happens because of a ruthless focus on quality without any exceptions. The Golden Rule is that if you want it, you have to pay for it. 

So here goes:
1.     How many books did you read in the last three months? Twelve months?
2.     How many scholarly articles/papers did you write in the past twelve months?
3.     How many books did you write in your career? In the past three years?
4.     How many international conferences were you invited to speak at in the last twelve months?
5.     What consulting assignments did you accept in the past twelve months relating to your field of specialization? (At all the institutions I teach, 20% of the compensation is expected to come from independent consulting assignments for which time is provided by the institute. The professor is expected to give up to 15% of his earnings to the institute as royalty. The logic is that if people are willing to pay him for his knowledge then the institute is assured that his knowledge is current and valuable. If there are no consulting assignments in two consecutive years, then his employment comes up for review with a view to parting company. Logic: If nobody wants you, why should we?)
6.     Trustees/Board Members:  What do you know about the curriculum and teaching methodology of the institution that you are on the Board of or support in any way? (If you are not an expert in this, how do you think you can possibly add value to it, monitor its quality or ensure that it is being run satisfactorily? If you doubt me, ask how many of those who fund Madaaris know anything more about Saheeh Bukhari other than that it is a book of Hadith. Ask how many have been to a Madrassa themselves and how many are doing it out of a combination of a sense of guilt at their own distance from Islam and a desire to gain some Hasanaath?)
7.     If you didn’t answer any of the questions above satisfactorily, what moral justification do you have to remain on the board of that institution?

I do believe that it is high time Muslim organizations took stock of themselves and asked themselves some hard soul searching questions and stopped fooling themselves that they are anything but severely mediocre. Mediocrity gets only one kind of result. It is called failure.

Our current state globally for the past 200 years is living evidence that we are severely mediocre. We have reached the bottom of the pit and are digging. We seem to believe that building concrete structures amounts to quality of education. We see investments in infrastructure – that too not in any organized way but in buildings – and almost nothing in teacher quality. Teachers are paid a pittance and treated worse than servants. From this we expect to create global leaders and believe that if we use the terms, magically results will appear. I am amused time and again to see some lines from my various presentations stolen and painted on the walls of this or that trashy Muslim institution as if they were a magic spell to ward off the evil effects of poor quality which they know they have. Always gives me a good laugh.

The biggest proof of this is that in institution after institution owned and run by Muslims, it is common to see that not a single one of the trustees send their children to their own institution. I guess they know the true quality of their own institutions best. Who am I to argue?

My question however remains: What moral right then do they have to promote that institution or ask people to fund it?

Apart from everything else, we need to remember that one day we will be called to account before AllahY
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