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Full text of "The Egyptian Problem"

„                              EDUCATION                                   239                               III
languages.    In the case of the vast majority of students,                            'T
their minds never emerge from this atmosphere of paralys-                           /|
ing formaKsm.     It would be surprising if they did.    To                            ff
some, no doubt, Nature has given sufficient intellectual                            1
power and independence of character to break away from                            I
this barren scholasticism.   In former times such men                            *1
founded new schools of thought which were denounced                            If
by  the  orthodox  as   heresies  and placed beyond  the                             |5
pale of Islam.                                                                                                    fe
In more recent times a few, like the late Sheikh Mohamed                            fl
Abdu at El Azhar, have striven for a sufficient elasticity                             '/
at least of interpretation to reconcile the old dogmas                            ,';!
with the intellectual and social needs of the modem world.                            *'
Their influence has seemed at times to be considerable,                            *
but the promise of   any real reforming movement which it may have held out has hitherto been very imperfectly                            *n
fulfilled, perhaps because it is of the essence of Islam that                            ^
it should be incapable of fulfilment.   The best that can                            jt
be said for El Azhar is that the most distinguished of its                           T
students, besides being fine Arabic scholars, leave it with a genuine sense of the dignity and responsibility attaching to their learning, however narrow its limitations, which is reflected not merely in their grave deportment, but often in the sedate rectitude of their lives as good and earnest Mahomedans. More frequently, however, it is to be feared, the average El Azhar student carries away with him chiefly a religious arrogance which, rooted in the belief that the world belongs by rights to Islam, resents all forms of progress emanating from Western civilisation and readily translates itself into aggressive fanaticism.
A school of Kadis, or judges in the Courts administering the Sacred Law, was founded in Lord Cromer's time independently of El Azhar, but there is now a movement for reincorporation with it, and the lawyers who practise in those Courts as well as the whole staff of employes connected with them and with the Ministry of Wakf (Mahomedan Pious Foundations) are all drawn from El Azhar. Jt is El Azhar that provides throughout Egypt
\till less by remaining at their posts had  they