The Western vs the Islamic paradigm of education

14 Dec
(A reply to a brother’s query)
Assalamu Alaikum Brother,
Allah be keeping you in health. I am glad that you have asked questions. I have been having sessions with the mentioned group  for the last around one year and have discussed on nearly all the topics that you have raised questions on.
I have myself been involved in education for the last 25 years focusing on the problems of education. Allah gave me the opportunity to initiate two education research institutes way back in the nineties. That was a phase where I was investigating the issue of education for ummah. My conviction was that unless we have a proper system of tarbiyah (raring) specifically designed around ummah’s (Muslim nation’s) own objectives we cannot rise again; this seems quite obvious. So I launched myself into this project of evolving or rediscovering the required system. This further led me to pursue my doctoral research in education, as you know basically I am a mariner and have sailed for the last forty years. Alhamdulillah I have been encouraged by John Holt’s research to study/observe the child learning psychology for the last around 25 years. One of the focuses in my doctoral research was the educational philosophy of Iqbal, and the other part was about the conceptions & practices of Islamic educators at primary school level in Pakistan about Islamic education. I am also an ardent reader of Qur’an, and have tried to analyze how Qur’an is designed to effect it’s reader. I write all this to give you an Idea about my efforts for the purpose of developing education for ummah (Muslim nation).
Attending to your queries, first of all note that I quote western scholars just to indicate that many western intellectuals too are dissatisfied with the contemporary education, and not that I agree with all their ideas. A person with no idea of Tawheed can never be led to correct conclusions, never, I believe. How can s/he when they have not understood the very basics of all creation and its purpose. Please try to visualize that if a person takes out the Creator and His purpose of creation s/he has taken the wrong path. This I could understand from the very first surah (section) of Qur’an, which is most recited Surah. Please note that every system is based on some theories and the theories are based on certain assumptions. If the assumptions are wrong, the theory can never be right.
1)    Islam is a perfect and complete religion. Our success in a’akhira (the next life) depends upon our correct performance in this life, as such life is not abstention but fully involving in life activities here, as this is the only platform to perform. Iqbal is very clear on this.
2)    A Muslim carries an entirely different paradigm and requires a system of education which caters with the development of that paradigm. This a non-Muslim can never understand. As mentioned in Surah Kafiroon (section from Qur’an). West has a very different agenda for education as they do not have the same objective of life as we have. Values of life are linked with Taqwa (God consciousness) in Islam and not superficial beliefs or objectives, and Taqwa is related to God consciousness, which the contemporary system has nothing to do with.
3)    The methodology of contemporary education is programming as has been pointed out by western critiques to education. West cannot avoid this as they have defective objectives of life from the Creator’s perspective. When we focus on objectives that are against the Creator ordained ones, we go against nature, and for that, we require programming. Education is a natural phenomenon, and has to be most friendly with human learning faculties; surprisingly Ken Robinson has same conclusion. This is not happening presently.
4)    Many European countries have reached upon the conclusion that the structured education should not start before 7 yrs of age. Is this new to us? The prophet had said that we have to ask children for salah at the age of seven and fully implement it by the age of ten. This was the norm earlier . The basic years are important for developing correct logic framework, remaining close to nature. We do not see structured education prior to the contemporary education system, any time in human history.
5)    Education system is developed around a nation’s or ideological group’s endeavors of life and not around an alien nations endeavors. It is a very basic aspect to understand. West has a totally different paradigm of life which is quite contrary to ours. The whole education system has been designed by them accordingly.   
6)    Does Mr. Mursi talk on the structure of education from child psychology perspective? Surprisingly most of our intellectuals do not reflect upon education from this perspective. Now we see the west showing their worry in this regards and we seem sleeping and will only follow suit may be a decade later.
7)    Western intellectuals like Ken Robinson or John Holt cannot correctly interpret education as they do not seem interested in giving right role to the Creator which is the very basic of our beliefs.
8)    Maths and science fall well within the scope of deen, their being manifestations of the Creator himself and His laws. Not a single aspect of knowledge can be taken out of  the scope of deen. When we introduce the children to all the sciences through Qur’an we anchor them to Qur’an. Which is so important as we have lost this anchor. And we observe this phenomenon during the life of Holy Prophet and for a couple centuries after him. We see a common man anchored to Qur’an. The motivation that Qur’an provided to probe into the creation of the Creator gave a knowledge acquiring velocity to the Muslims in developing all fields of knowledge which is not witnessed in history. We are not motivated by Qur’an anymore and the western systems appeal to us. We are developing apologetic minds.
Brother I see education and knowledge from a totally different paradigm and by Allah’s grace I have resolved the numerous gaps and puzzles that this education system consists of. I have firm belief that basic tarbiyah (training) and education cannot be linked to money. Acquisition of knowledge has been made mandatory on every Muslim male and female and as such can never be linked to money. In the present structure of education, or ways of imparting education, a lot of money is involved.
The present structure of education is for programming human minds to the unnatural secular ideology. The Creator has fashioned a human self as an active learning and probing entity, as we observe in young children. We have to revisit the correct definition of knowledge and learning. Presently we look through the western lenses, which makes me recall a hadith (saying) of our prophet that states that a time will come when the Muslims will  be blindly following the other people of the book to the extent that if they enter lizard’s hole the Muslims too will.
Br. Abid

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