Inside Singapore’s oldest Islamic religious school, where they put faith in Apple iPads

Ilya Sholihyn:

About a thousand years ago, the Muslim world flourished with math, science, medicine, culture and economics.

It’s unrecognisable now, but Baghdad in the 8th to 13th centuries was an intellectual centre, a hub of learning that hosted the greatest collection of knowledge in a grand library known as the House of Wisdom. Muslim scholars gave the world devices that could read the stars, surgical instruments, and algebra, named after the Arabic word “al-jabr”, which translates to the “reunion of broken parts” in English.

But as religious conservatism and fundamentalism slowly took hold, the scientific method was tossed in the trunk, argues Pakistani nuclear physicist Pervez Amirali Hoodbhoy, while regular conflict in the Middle East didn’t exactly help push things forward.

Centuries later and over 7,000 kilometres away from the Middle East, an Islamic institution holds a sturdy belief that a conservative, religious education system doesn’t need to prohibit modern, cutting-edge technology. In fact, quite the opposite: Madrasah Alsagoff Al-Arabiah has fully embraced the cult of Apple — so much so that it has scored the official title of being an Apple Distinguished School. It’s a rare title attained by just 400 schools around the world, including Nanyang Girls’ High School and Singapore American School.