What commercial and cultural propaganda presents as beautiful is rooted in ugly paganism but most blind followers do not know.
By Khalid Baig
There is a group of practices that we can consider as the twin sister of bid'ah. Like bid'ah they flourish on the twin foundations of ignorance and outside influence. Like bid'ah they entail rituals. But unlike bid'ah the rituals have not been given an Islamic face. They are followed because they are considered an acceptable cultural practice or the hottest imported "in" thing.
Most of those who indulge in them do not know what they are doing. They are just blind followers of their equally blind cultural leaders. Little do they realize that what they consider as innocent fun may in fact be rooted in paganism. That the symbols they embrace may be symbols of unbelief. That the ideas they borrow may be products of superstition. That all of these may be a negation of what Islam stands for.
Christianity tried to stop the evil celebration of Lupercalia. Its only success was in changing the name from Lupercalia to St. Valentine's Day
Consider Valentine's Day, a day that after dying out a well deserved death in most of Europe (but surviving in Britain and United States) has suddenly started to emerge across a good swath of Muslim countries. Who was Valentine? Why is this day observed? Legends abound, as they do in all such cases, but this much is clear: Valentine's Day began as a pagan ritual started by Romans in the 4th century BCE to honor the god Lupercus. The main attraction of this ritual was a lottery held to distribute young women to young men for "entertainment and pleasure"--until the next year's lottery. Among other equally despicable practices associated with this day was the lashing of young women by two young men, clad only in a bit of goatskin and wielding goatskin thongs, who had been smeared with blood of sacrificial goats and dogs. A lash of the "sacred" thongs by these "holy men" was believed to make them better able to bear children.
As usual, Christianity tried, without success, to stop the evil celebration of Lupercalia. It first replaced the lottery of the names of women with a lottery of the names of the saints. The idea was that during the following year the young men would emulate the life of the saint whose name they had drawn. (The idea that you can preserve the appearance of a popular evil and yet somehow turn it to serve the purpose of virtue, has survived. Look at all those people who are still trying, helplessly, to use the formats of popular television entertainments to promote good. They might learn something from this bit of history. It failed miserably) Christianity ended up doing in Rome, and elsewhere, as the Romans did.
How can anyone in his right mind think that Islam would be indifferent to practices seeped in anti-Islamic ideas and beliefs?
The only success it had was in changing the name from Lupercalia to St. Valentine's Day. It was done in CE 496 by Pope Gelasius, in honor of some Saint Valentine. There are as many as 50 different Valentines in Christian legends. Two of them are more famous, although their lives and characters are also shrouded in mystery. According to one legend, and the one more in line with the true nature of this celebration, St. Valentine was a "lovers'" saint, who had himself fallen in love with his jailer's daughter.
Due to serious troubles that accompanied such lottery, French government banned the practice in 1776. In Italy, Austria, Hungry, and Germany also the ritual vanished over the years. Earlier, it had been banned in England during the 17th century when the Puritans were strong. However in 1660 Charles II revived it. From there it also reached the New World, where enterprising Yankees spotted a good means of making money. Esther A. Howland, who produced one of the first commercial American Valentine's Day cards called--- what else--- valentines, in the 1840s, sold $5,000 worth--when $5,000 was a lot of money--the first year. The valentine industry has been booming ever since.
It is the same story with Halloween, which has otherwise normal human beings dressing like ghosts and goblins in a reenactment of an ancient pagan ritual of demon worship. Five star hotels in Muslim countries arrange Halloween parties so the rich can celebrate the superstitions of a distant period of ignorance that at one time even included the shameful practice of human sacrifice. The pagan name for that event was Samhain (pronounced sow-en). Just as in case of Valentine's Day, Christianity changed its name, but not the pagan moorings.
Christmas is another story. Today Muslim shopkeepers sell and shoppers buy Christmas symbols in Islamabad or Dubai or Cairo. To engage in a known religious celebration of another religion is bad enough. What is worse is the fact that here is another pagan celebration (Saturnalia) that has been changed in name ---and in little else--- by Christianity.
During joys and sorrows, during celebrations and sufferings, we must follow the one straight path --- not many divergent paths.
Even the celebration considered most innocent might have pagan foundations. According to one account, in pagan cultures, people feared evil spirits - especially on their birthdays. It was a common belief that evil spirits were more dangerous to a person when he or she experienced a change in their daily life, such as turning a year older. So family and friends surrounded the person with laughter and joy on their birthdays in order to protect them from evil.
How can anyone in his right mind think that Islam would be indifferent to practices seeped in anti-Islamic ideas and beliefs? Islam came to destroy paganism in all its forms and it cannot tolerate any trace of it in the lives of its followers.
Further, Islam is very sensitive about maintaining its purity and the unique identity of its followers. Islamic laws and teachings go to extra lengths to ensure it. Salat is forbidden at the precise times of sunrise, transition, and sunset to eliminate the possibility of confusion with the practice of sun worship. To the voluntary recommended fast on the tenth of Muharram, Muslims are required to add another day (9th or 11th) to differentiate it from the then prevalent Jewish practice. Muslims are forbidden to emulate the appearance of non-Muslims.
A Muslim is a Muslim for life. During joys and sorrows, during celebrations and sufferings, we must follow the one straight path --- not many divergent paths. It is a great tragedy that under the constant barrage of commercial and cultural propaganda from the forces of globalization and the relentless media machine, Muslims have begun to embrace the Valentines, the Halloween ghost, and even the Santa Claus. Given our terrible and increasing surrender to paganism the only day we should be observing is a day of mourning. Better yet it should be a day of repentance that could liberate us from all these days. And all this daze.
Source: albalagh.net by Khalid Baig
The question of what makes a great teacher has been around for a long time. It’s an enquiry that poses many problems because there’s simply no set recipe for success, and different approaches work for different professionals and students.
The Sutton Trust has published a report that reviews the research into effective teaching, finding that popular practices, such as lavishing praise on students or allowing them to discover key things for themselves, actually have no grounding in research.
The author of the report, professor Robert Coe from Durham University, says this is a “starter kit” for thinking about what makes good teaching. So, what does the report recommend? Here are 10 salient points to take away:
The report, which looked at more than 200 pieces of research, found that there were six main elements to great teaching and one of the most important ones was subject knowledge. It may seem obvious, but the report found that the best teachers have a deep knowledge of their subject, and if that falls below a certain point it has a “significant impact” on students’ learning. Targeted help for teachers, giving them an understanding of particular areas where their knowledge is weak, could be effective.
The wrong kind of praise can be harmful for students, the report found. A number of studies conducted by education experts, including Carol Dweck professor of psychology at Stanford University and Auckland University professors John Hattie and Helen Timperley, have observed this.
Deborah Stipek, the dean of the Stanford Graduate School of Education, said that praise is meant to be encouraging but it can actually “convey a teacher’s low expectations”. Stipek said that if a pupil’s failure was met with sympathy rather than anger then they were more likely to think they had done badly due to a lack of ability.
The report adds the caveat that the findings are open to interpretation, however, as teachers can do things well or badly, and some methods are not appropriate in all circumstances.
The quality of teaching has a big impact on the achievement of students’ from poorer backgrounds, and effective questioning and assessment are at the heart of great teaching. This involves giving enough time for children to practise new skills and introducing learning progressively. Defining effective teaching isn’t easy, the report conceded, but research always returns to the fact that student progress is the yardstick by which teacher quality should be assessed.
The reasons why teachers do certain things in the classroom and what they hope to achieve has an effect on student progress. Mike Askew, the author of Effective Teachers of Numeracy, found that beliefs about the nature of maths and what it means to understand it, along with teachers’ ideas about how children learn and their role in that process, was an important factor in how effective they were.
Evidence to support this is not conclusive, however. A study by professor Steve Higgins of Durham University and the University of Newcastle upon Tyne’s David Moseley about teacher beliefs in ICT did not find a convincing relationships between beliefs and pupil progress.
This may also seem obvious, but the interactions teachers have with students has a big impact on learning – as well as the “classroom climate”. The report said that it was important to create a classroom environment that was “constantly demanding more” while affirming students’ self-worth. A student’s success should be atributed to effort rather than ability.
Interestingly, this wasn’t as significant as subject knowledge and classroom instruction as a factor contributing to teacher success. But classroom management – including how well a teacher makes use of lesson time, coordinates classroom resources and manages the behaviour of students – was noted as important.
Putting students in groups depending on their ability makes little difference to their learning. Although setting can in theory let teachers work at a pace that suits all pupils and tailor content, it can also create an exaggerated sense of all pupils being alike in the teacher’s mind. This can result in teachers not accomodating to the various different needs within one group and in some instances going too fast with high-ability groups and too slow with low ones.
A survey showed that more than 90% of teachers think individuals learn better when they get information in their preferred learning style. But despite the popularity of this approach psychological evidence shows that there is no evidence this actually works. You can read more about the evidence on learning styles here.
One finding that may surprise you is that approaches that appear to make learning harder in the short term can actually lead to students retaining more information in the long term. Elizabeth Ligon Bjork, professor at the University of Michigan and Robert Bjork, professor at the University of California, said that varying the type of tasks you ask pupils to do improves retention even though it makes learning harder initially.
A teacher’s professional behaviour, including supporting colleagues and talking with parents, also had a moderate impact on students’ learning. The report said that there may not be a direct link with these practices and student achievement, but to capture a broad definition of good teaching they should be included.
Source: theguradian.com by Sarah Marsh
How much? How often? How relevant?
Remember, this is a cumulative amount. If you are only one of five teachers assigning homework, you should adjust accordingly.
While an education reform policy debate becomes ever more furious around the country, teachers still have to teach every day. Here, from edutopia.org, are 25 great tips to help teachers keep their classrooms in control. The most brilliant teacher can’t help kids learn if he/she can’t manage the classroom.
Whether you’re a new or experienced teacher, strategies for effective classroom management are vital to keeping your class running smoothly and creating a positive learning environment. In this guide you’ll find the 25 best tips for classroom management contributed by the educators of Edutopia’s community.
Tip: Pick your rules wisely. More rules doesn’t always equate to better behavior.
“An environment that is dictated by too many rules is rigid, cold and likely to create an atmosphere of rebellion…Rules and routines are an excellent way to communicate your behavioral expectations, but not the way to completely ‘manage’ your classroom.” — Tracey Garrett, professor of teacher education, New Jersey
TAKE IT OUTSIDE
Tip: Avoid confronting misbehaving students in front of their classmates.
“Whenever I had confrontations in front of their peers, it often escalated….I began to ask the student to step out of the classroom to talk to me. I usually remained calm and reasoned, but firm in what behaviors I would and wouldn’t accept. 90% of the time, we’d return to the classroom, no one would lose face, and the situation would be resolved.” — Gary Latman, retired high school English teacher, Chicago
CHOOSE YOUR BATTLES
Tip: Don’t waste your energy reprimanding every small misbehavior.
“Pick your battles when it comes to student behavior issues…we waste precious energy and create more distraction when we jump on every single thing students do. Decide what your bottom line issues are…then be prepared to enforce them consistently every day of the year.” — Renee/TeachMoore, English teacher, Mississippi
Tip: Keep calm and carry on.
“When every other element is out of your control, you can still manage your reaction.” —Instructional Specialist, AutismClassroom.com
“Try not to yell. Once you yell, they have won. I get a much better response from students when I simply count backwards or just look at them.” — Margie, 3rd grade teacher, Rochester, N.Y.
Tip: Always have a plan in mind for handling misbehavior.
“Always having a plan. From small to large infractions, being consistent with your plan is imperative. The students will always want to test you, but if your reaction is always the same, the game is over quickly.” — Jo Ann Brass
CONNECT AND RECONNECT
Tip: Greet your students at the door.
“Greet every child at the door first thing in the morning or at the beginning of class to help reconnect and set the tone for your day or class.” —Janofmi, MEA National Board candidate support provider, Michigan
WEAR THEIR SHOES
Tip: Try to look at things from your students’ perspective and be empathetic.
“I strongly, firmly believe that if teachers do not wear our students’ shoes when necessary, we are not doing our job well. This is especially true when dealing with teenagers…we have to be extremely careful about what we say and how we say what we need to.” —Roselink, ESL Teacher, Madrid, Spain
GET TO KNOW THEM
Tip: Build rapport with your students and show them you care.
“Spend time participating in their extracurricular activities, attend sporting events, concerts, etc. to support them. [This] has definitely paid off because if I need to have a talk with a student in terms of their academics or behavior, I am able to accomplish so much more because I have developed a trusting and honest relationship with them.” — Emily
SLAY THE DRAGON
Tip: Confront issues head-on to find a solution.
“I noticed that students that are difficult are usually masking something else. I find out what it is by ‘Slaying the dragon.’ I try to become a friend to the student. I go to their games. Talk to them at lunch etc. I notice how they react to the learning process. If a child has difficulty reading or math we privately work on those issues before or after school.” — Tanya Shank
NO HARD FEELINGS
Tip: Don’t take it personally when a student lashes out. Treat each day as an opportunity to start fresh.
“I started my teaching career in an alternative school in a rough part of town. My mentor told me, ‘Don’t take it personally. The students want you to hurt as much as they are hurting.’ I have never forgotten that and each day, the slate is wiped clean and I harbor no grudges towards my students.” — Lisa Brown
Tip: Don’t be afraid to reach out to parents.
“They really are our allies. For every two phone calls that you have to make about a problem that you are dealing with in class, make one positive one to a parent just to say something nice about their child.” — Elizabeth Ramos, high school teacher, Chatsworth, Calif.
Tip: Ask students questions to help make them feel comfortable.
“…be friendly with students and make them comfortable. Communication is really very important to make them feel free with you. Engage them through discussions and asking them several questions, as this will boost up their confidence and interest level.” — Jessica, math teacher and tutor at 1to1tutor.org
Tip: Make your expectations clear from the get-go.
“Take the time to teach expectations, and reteach them as needed. This may feel like you are wasting time that could be spent on curriculum, but when you add up the time it would take to do a menial task throughout your semester or year, you are actually adding time spent on instruction.” — Carey Rebecca, high school A.P English teacher
Tip: Embrace the “Golden Rule” in your class(es).
“I only have one rule: Treat me with the same respect and dignity that you want me to treat you. I always remind them when something is not right: How would you like it if I did that to you? This diffuses so many situations and the other children also look to the offender and ask the same question.” — Lorraine
CONSISTENCY IS KEY
Tip: Be consistent in expectations and discipline.
“Consistent execution of the rules helps to maintain the respect fostered in the classroom. Once these rules are in place, I feel the most vital piece of classroom management is developing relationships of trust and equality. If this is the ultimate goal of a student-teacher relationship, real learning can take place.” — Jennifer Hendren
Tip: Learn to manage transitions smoothly to limit disruption.
“…learn how to manage transitions! Moving from the restroom back to the classroom, from a group discussion to independent work time, from reading to math…Each transition has to be broken down into steps and explicitly taught and monitored.” — Tom Stacho, trainer/consultant at BehaviorInSchools.com
SWITCH IT UP
Tip: Don’t get stuck in a singular mode of teaching.
“Frequently vary the delivery of your instruction. Often times we as teachers get caught up in doing things one way. We are as much creatures of habit as anyone. When things become boring and too predictable, discipline problems are undoubtedly going to become an issue.” — Joseph D
KEEP ‘EM BUSY
Tip: Get students engaged and involved in the lesson to prevent disruptions.
“If you have an engaging lesson, students are less likely to misbehave…There were times when my lessons were more listening to me talk, and other times when my lessons were full-blown hands-on. There were much fewer issues with student behavior when the students were so engaged!” — Simon
TIGHTEN IT UP
Tip: Tighten up time management and stay organized.
“…a lot of misbehavior in my class was the result of me neglecting key aspects of classroom management such as organization and time management. Once I tightened things up in those areas, teaching and learning time increased dramatically. And best of all, classroom culture improved too.” — David Ginsburg, instructional and leadership coach, Philadelphia
Tip: Be transparent in your objectives.
“To catch student attention, motivate them, and keep them focused the best practice is transparency! What are we learning today? Why are we learning that? What will we be able to do at the end of the lesson? How it will help you to improve?” — Clemence Rincé-Bonsergent, 6-12 French teacher, Telangana, India
Tip: Incentivize students to work together using rewards.
“…we quietly observe throughout the day adding & removing tally marks on the whiteboard for behavior by tables. The table with the most tally marks at the end of the week wins a prize. We take away tally marks from tables when they are too chatty or acting inappropriately. This helps a group effort and lets the students work as a team for positive behavior. They are accountable to each other, too.” — Kimberly R., 1st grade teacher, Georgia
LEAN ON ME
Tip: Don’t be afraid to ask others for help!
“…the biggest mistake [she] saw teachers make was not asking for help, or asking questions. They would struggle alone, not wanting to look like they didn’t know what they were doing…You can’t figure it out alone, and you need to find mentors and peers to help you along the way.” — Alice Mercer, elementary computer lab teacher, Sacramento, Calif.
MOOD IS CONTAGIOUS
Tip: Leave your baggage at the door.
“I believe 100% that the teacher’s attitude rubs off on their students each day. If you come into the classroom in the morning crabby…your students are going to pick up on it right away. As an educator, if we show our students we don’t want to be at school, then they lose interest a lot faster than they would on a day that we are excited and happy about being there.” — Lindsay, 1st grade teacher
SHOW THAT YOU CARE
Tip: Show your students that you care about their success.
“[This] has stuck with me for years: ‘They need to know that you care before they care what you know.’ Building a positive connection with kids and taking responsibility for how we choose to act in the classroom (bored, tired, engaged, excited, etc.) goes a long way in determining how successful (and enjoyable) the experience is.” — Bob Sullo, author and educational consultant, Sandwich, Mass.
This is an edited version of an article that was originally printed in the October 2010 print edition of Teacher.
Coming from a non-Islamic background, Andrew Turcinovich was a little apprehensive when he got a teaching job in an Islamic school. Here, he explains why he needn’t have been worried.
I’m no expert or scholar in cultural and religious matters; neither am I a Muslim, but I do teach in an Islamic school, where I work with extremely generous and kind-hearted staff and students, so it baffles me when I hear anti-Muslim sentiments being expressed.
Having lived abroad for nearly 14 years, both in Singapore and the United States, and having travelled the world countless times over as a professional tennis coach on the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) world tour, I’ve met numerous people and experienced numerous cultures. There’s a time to call it quits on the ATP world tour, though, and when my time came I completed a Masters in Teaching at the University of Melbourne, and was fortunate enough to begin my new teaching career at the beginning of this year at Ilim College – an independent Prep to Year 12 Islamic school in Melbourne with an enrolment of 1,000 or so students.
Coming from a non-Islamic background, I was both excited and frankly apprehensive about what this year had in store for me, not least because I was a ‘beginning’ teacher, and we can all remember that harrowing experience, but also because I was walking into a culture with which I was to an extent unfamiliar.
I needn’t have worried. I’ve been welcomed overwhelmingly by the entire staff at Ilim College. I’ve seen warmth, openness, real care and true collegiality – and no faculty rivalry or political in-fighting. The predominantly Muslim staff has accepted me from the get-go and I immediately felt that I was a part of the Ilim College ‘family.’ The focus at Ilim College is on academic excellence, and you see that in the day-today professionalism of the teaching staff, but there’s something even more distinctive than that: food.
Food is embedded in Islamic culture. How often do you walk into the staffroom kitchen early on a Monday morning, and see the table brimming with a kaleidoscope of the most wonderful assortments of foods and colours? At Ilim, plates are piled high with flat breads; dishes filled with fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, feta cheeses, olives, and bowls are filled with various dips. Teachers, me included, sit at the table, immersed in conversation, and eating. More than likely, a colleague will be cooking Kavarma – a Bulgarian stew using spiced beef or chicken – in a massive pot in the staff kitchen for all to enjoy at lunchtime.
This arrangement is not formalised or structured. Teachers bring along what they have and everybody shares. This notion of communal celebration and sharing, hospitality and kindness has made a big impression on me. The passionate discussions in the male staffroom is another aspect of the school which I’ve not experienced in other school forums. Topics such as religion and politics are not taboo, and I’ve been involved in many interesting and thought-provoking conversations.
Don’t think I’m going to gloss over the male staffroom I just mentioned: yes, we have male and female staffrooms. This separating of the sexes also applies to students on the school premises. Male and female students have generally assigned areas, which discourages intermingling during recess and lunch. That’s not to suggest that the genders don’t mix; they do.
In the staffroom, you’ll hear teachers from Turkish, Lebanese, Sudanese, Ghanaian, Croatian, Pakistani and a host of other backgrounds, speaking the language of their culture. The diversity of the teaching staff is a real strength of the school, as the teaching faculty has a broad range of teaching experience in many countries around the world, and many teachers hold masters and doctoral degrees. In fact, the staffroom sometimes reminds me of a mini United Nations.
Of course, the Islamic faith is a ubiquitous force that is the bedrock of the school culture. Teachers are engaged in prayer in the staffroom on a daily basis and demonstrate a profound dedication to their faith. They also demonstrate a profound respect for the beliefs of others. Daily prayers, attended by both students and teachers, are conducted in the school mosque.
Like all schools, there are students and staff who are more devoted to their faith, while others are less so. The teaching of the Qur’an is taught as a subject in its own right, and students must be able to recite verses of the Qur’an as part of their academic progress. On occasion, students are also given the opportunity to recite verses of the Qur’an at school assembly or on special occasions.
Calligraphy is another subject on offer at the school. I often find myself marvelling at the students’ mastery of the beautiful, though difficult, Arabic script proudly displayed around the school hallways. And English, maths, science, languages, health and physical education, information and communication technology, and so on? Yes, these are all part of the curriculum at Ilim College: it’s an Australian school.
As to the issue of Islamic dress, yes, female students and female staff are required to wear a head scarf. Being a new teacher at the school, the only issue I’ve had is that it was initially hard for me to identify my students, and there have been one or two minor incidents involving derogatory remarks to female students when on excursions, but that’s the exception. Most feedback from the community is very positive.
Ilim’s principal, Yusuf Kirca, sees the school’s role is to reach out to and integrate with the broader community, and staff and students are valued as productive citizens and members of their wider community. The school participates in a ‘mixed cultural program,’ which involves schools of other religious denominations, as well as state schools.
Schools like Ilim College are helping to enrich Australia and, with a little luck, helping to correct some of the misperceptions some people have about the Muslim community. Talk about Islamic schools and Muslim students, though, and chances are you’ll reinforce someone’s stereotype, somewhere, which is why I’d like to tell you my recent experience on yard duty.
I came across a female student, a Muslim student wearing a head scarf in an Islamic school. She was distraught, shaken and crying. Why? A teacher had confiscated her iPod.
This is an edited version of an article that was originally published in the October 2010 print edition of Teacher. The author biography remains unchanged and may not be accurate at this point in time.
Quick question: Who discovered America? The almost guaranteed answer: Why, Columbus, of course. The bright student may even know the famous story that Columbus thought he had reached India and therefore called the people he found Indians.
If providing sound knowledge and developing critical thinking capabilities are any goals of an education system, the answer highlights the miserable failure of the education system prevalent in the Muslim world today on both counts. For no one asks the obvious: How can anyone be credited with discovering a land that was already heavily populated? Columbus was the first European to discover America, not the first man. Hundreds of thousands of other men and women had reached there before him and had been living for centuries. The assertion about Columbus reveals a Euro-centric mindset but the bias goes undetected and unquestioned.
This is not the only questionable fact that our schools and colleges, and textbooks and teachers have been dispensing. In every field of study, they have been passing on "facts", ideas, values, assumptions, perspectives, explanations, "truths", and principles that are questionable, secular and anti-Islamic. All while sincerely believing that they are providing a great service by promoting education.
Education is a wonderful thing. But, what are we really teaching?
In science, we are teaching our students to look at the universe from the viewpoint of a person who does not know God. "And how many Signs in the heavens and the earth do they pass by? Yet they turn their faces away from them." [Yusuf, 12:105]. A proper study of science would make one appreciate both the Power, Majesty, and Grandeur of Allah’s creations and the humbleness and limitations of human knowledge and abilities. Today our science education, in its best form, gives exactly the opposite message. It also fails to enable students to separate scientist’s opinions from their facts. Let’s ask: In the wide Muslim world is there any, Islamic school teaching science whose graduates can challenge Darwin’s Theory of Evolution on scientific grounds? As we teach science, are we teaching our children to put science in its proper place, to know its limitations? Can they competently question the "technological imperative"?
A medical doctor would not be considered competent if he did not know the limitations of the medicines and procedures he used. An engineer would be considered unqualified if he did not know the limitations of his tools. Why then our teaching of science does not include a discussion of its limitations? Because for the secular mindset science is the ultimate tool, the supreme arbiter of Truth and Falsehood. Without even realizing it, we have accepted the proposition and our science education reflects that assumption.
The problem is not limited to science and technology. The best of our MBAs have learned that the goal of a business is to maximize profits, the goal of marketing is to create demand, and the proper way of making business decision is through cost-benefit analysis. All of these are as solid in their eyes and as questionable in reality as the assertion about Columbus. The best of our journalism graduates do not have a different model for journalism than the one presented by the West. They do not have their own definition of the news, their purpose for gathering it or their own moral standards that must regulate its dissemination. In economics we have been teaching that human beings are utility-maximizing animals governed by Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. In our teaching of history, we see random events without a moral calculus driving them. We do not see Allah’s laws that govern the rise and fall of nations. In psychology or sociology, medicine or engineering, civics or geography, it is the same story. In fact, our schools and colleges have been the main agency for secularization of Islamic societies. They have been effectively teaching that Islam is irrelevant to understanding this world or to solving its problems. Many of their graduates develop misunderstandings and doubts about their faith. But even when they are strong practicing Muslims, they have not been trained and educated to detect and challenge the secular dogmas that have been integrated into their curriculums.
This great tragedy is of a recent origin and a historical perspective may be helpful. For centuries our societies, culture, and education system were free of the secular/religious dichotomy. Our schools taught all subjects of importance using a naturally unified approach. As long as Muslims were the leaders in all the sciences (until the fifteenth century C.E) subjects like medicine, astronomy, and chemistry had not developed their secular biases.
The dichotomy started in the West during its "Renaissance" as it threw away its religious dogmas--which had become a burden--and found a speedy path to material progress using a-religious or secular approaches. The industrial revolution gave it momentum. Colonialism brought secular ideology and the religion of secular humanism to the Muslim lands.
At this time, Muslims were at a low point on several fronts. They had surrendered intellectual leadership to the West and had failed to keep pace with scientific developments there. They found themselves in a no-win situation. If they accepted and taught the Western sciences, they would also be teaching anti-Islamic dogmas. If they stayed isolated, they would be left behind in science and material progress.
In response, Muslims developed two approaches. Our Darul-ulooms preserved Islamic knowledge and values by hermetically sealing themselves against western influences. It is due to this effort that Islamic knowledge is alive and well today. (Where they were lax in this matter --- as in some Arab countries--- the result was a compromise in their Islamic character without any advantage in the quality of education.) However, they are not equipped to provide leadership in most other areas of the society. This role has gone to the graduates of the Western-style schools and colleges. Unfortunately, these schools and their curriculum nurture secular ways of looking at this world and solving its problems. The tensions created by the two diametrically opposed systems can be seen today in every Muslim country.
This dichotomy must end. We cannot move forward without revamping our education. We cannot fully establish Islam in our societies without producing educated citizens and leaders needed for an Islamic society. The time is now to develop Integrated Islamic curriculums and remove secular biases from all of our education. Merely establishing more schools is not the answer. Developing educational institutions that can teach every subject in the wholesome Islamic context is. It is a monumental task. But without it we’ll continue to spread ignorance in the name of education.
By: Khalid Baig
From the very earliest days of Islam, the issue of education has been at the forefront at the minds of the Muslims. The very first word of the Quran that was revealed to Prophet Muhammad ﷺ was, in fact, “Read”. Prophet Muhammad ﷺ once stated that “Seeking knowledge is mandatory for all Muslims.” With such a direct command to go out and seek knowledge, Muslims have placed huge emphasis on the educational system in order to fulfill this obligation placed on them by the Prophet ﷺ.
Throughout Islamic history, education was a point of pride and a field Muslims have always excelled in. Muslims built great libraries and learning centers in places such as Baghdad, Cordoba, and Cairo. They established the first primary schools for children and universities for continuing education. They advanced sciences by incredible leaps and bounds through such institutions, leading up to today’s modern world.
Today, education of children is not limited to the information and facts they are expected to learn. Rather, educators take into account the emotional, social, and physical well-being of the student in addition to the information they must master. Medieval Islamic education was no different. The 12th century Syrian physician al-Shayzari wrote extensively about the treatment of students. He noted that they should not be treated harshly, nor made to do busy work that doesn’t benefit them at all. The great Islamic scholar al-Ghazali also noted that “prevention of the child from playing games and constant insistence on learning deadens his heart, blunts his sharpness of wit and burdens his life. Thus, he looks for a ruse to escape his studies altogether.” Instead, he believed that educating students should be mixed with fun activities such as puppet theater, sports, and playing with toy animals.
Ibn Khaldun states in his Muqaddimah, “It should be known that instructing children in the Qur’an is a symbol of Islam. Muslims have, and practice, such instruction in all their cities, because it imbues hearts with a firm belief (in Islam) and its articles of faith, which are (derived) from the verses of the Qur’an and certain Prophetic traditions.”
The very first educational institutions of the Islamic world were quite informal. Mosques were used as a meeting place where people can gather around a learned scholar, attend his lectures, read books with him/her, and gain knowledge. Some of the greatest scholars of Islam learned in such a way, and taught their students this way as well. All four founders of the Muslim schools of law – Imams Abu Hanifa, Malik, Shafi’i, and Ibn Hanbal – gained their immense knowledge by sitting in gatherings with other scholars (usually in the mosques) to discuss and learn Islamic law.
Some schools throughout the Muslim world continue this tradition of informal education. At the three holiest sites of Islam – the Haram in Makkah, Masjid al-Nabawi in Madinah, and Masjid al-Aqsa in Jerusalem – scholars regularly sit and give lectures in the mosque that are open to anyone who would like to join and benefit from their knowledge. However, as time went on, Muslims began to build formal institutions dedicated to education.
Dating back to at least the 900s, young students were educated in a primary school called a maktab. Commonly, maktabs were attached to a mosque, where the resident scholars and imams would hold classes for children. These classes would cover topics such as basic Arabic reading and writing, arithmetic, and Islamic laws. Most of the local population was educated by such primary schools throughout their childhood. After completing the curriculum of the maktab, students could go on to their adult life and find an occupation, or move on to higher education in a madrasa, the Arabic world for “school”.
When a student completed their course of study, they would be granted an ijaza, or a license certifying that they have completed that program and are qualified to teach it as well. Ijazas could be given by an individual teacher who can personally attest to his/her student’s knowledge, or by an institution such as a madrasa, in recognition of a student finishing their course of study. Ijazas today can be most closely compared to diplomas granted from higher educational institutions.
Throughout Islamic history, educating women has been a high priority. Women were not seen as incapable of attaining knowledge nor of being able to teach others themselves. The precedent for this was set with Prophet Muhammad’s own wife, Aisha, who was one of the leading scholars of her time and was known as a teacher of many people in Madinah after the Prophet’s ﷺ death.
Later Islamic history also shows the influence of women. Women throughout the Muslim world were able to attend lectures in mosques, attend madrasas, and in many cases were teachers themselves. For example, the 12th century scholar Ibn ‘Asakir (most famous for his book on the history of Damascus, Tarikh Dimashq) traveled extensively in the search for knowledge and studied under 80 different female teachers.
Women also played a major role as supporters of education:
Unlike Europe during the Middle Ages (and even up until the 1800s and 1900s), women played a major role in Islamic education in the past 1400 years. Rather than being seen as second-class citizens, women played an active role in public life, particularly in the field of education.
The tradition of madrasas and other classical forms of Islamic education continues until today, although in a much more diminshed form. The defining factor for this was the encroachment of European powers on Muslim lands throughout the 1800s. In the Ottoman Empire, for example, French secularist advisors to the sultans advocated a complete reform of the educational system to remove religion from the curriculum and only teach secular sciences. Public schools thus began to teach a European curriculum based on European books in place of the traditional fields of knowledge that had been taught for hundreds of years. Although Islamic madrasas continued to exist, without government support they lost much of their relevance in the modern Muslim world.
Today, much of the former Ottoman Empire still runs education along European lines. For example, what you are allowed to major in at the university level depends on how you do on a certain standardized test at the end of your high school career. If you obtain the highest possible grades on the test, you can study sciences such as medicine or engineering. If one scores on the lower end of the spectrum, they are only allowed to study topics such as Islamic sciences and education.
Despite the new systems in place in much of the Muslim world, traditional education still survives. Universities such as al-Azhar, al-Karaouine, and Darul Uloom in Deoband, India continue to offer traditional curricula that bring together Islamic and secular sciences. Such an intellectual tradition rooted in the great institutions of the past that produced some of the greatest scholars of Islamic history and continues to spread the message and knowledge of Islam to the masses.
Ibn Khaldūn. The Muqaddimah, An Introduction To History. Bollingen, 1969. Print.
Lindsay, James E. Daily Life in the Medieval Islamic World. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, Inc., 2005. Print.
Morgan, M. Lost History. Washington D.C. : National Geographic Society, 2007. Print.