The year 1911 is not a distant past in the history of the subcontinent; Sir Sultan Mahomed Shah, Aga Khan III, in his inaugural address to the Muslim Educational Conference, highlighted the need for a serviceable and extended system of education to raise Muslims of the subcontinent to their legitimate sphere of power, influence and usefulness. He said, “If our people take to science and scientific education in the right spirit, the industrial and economic future of our community will no longer be in doubt.”
An eminent Muslim leader, thinker and reformer of the 19th century, Aga Khan III was born in Karachi on the 2nd of November 1877. In his lifetime, he encompassed a multitude of roles, yet the guiding principle and motivating element was a humanistic concern for the betterment of the Muslims of the subcontinent. Having this particular characteristic served as the foundation of his social conscience, enthused by the needs of the rural masses.
For Aga Khan III, the advancement of science and technology was essential to growth and development. He preached the importance of science as much as he did for education, for integrating science into the educational system would improve the quality of life and socioeconomic development of Muslims. Sir Sultan Mahomed Shah emphasized that education should be upheld with religion, applied sciences, agriculture, medical technology and women’s education to provide Muslims with the skills, knowledge and views they required to meet the needs of modern times.
Islam, according to Sir Sultan Mahomed Shah, is the religion of nature, and therefore the study of science was a religious obligation for Muslims. Time and time again, he reminded Muslims of their glorious past when Islam was a leader in scientific discoveries and intellectual traditions. He stated, “Our social customs, our daily work, our constant efforts, must be tuned up, must be brought into line with the highest form of possible civilization. At its greatest period, Islam was at the head of science, was at the head of knowledge, was in the advanced line of political, philosophic and literary thought.”