This is the sixth article in the Islamic Education Series.Click here to read part five.
The First World Conference on Muslim education was organised by King Abdullah Abdulaziz University, Saudi Arabia in 1977 and was held in Makkah. Muslim scholars from around the globe agreed on a definition for the aim of Islamic education as being, ‘The aim of education is the creation of the good and righteous man who worships Allah in the true sense of the term, builds up the structure of his earthly life according to the Sharia and employs it to subserve [sic] his faith.’
Ashraf and Husain deliverede a similar and more detailed description of the aims and objectives, in that ‘Education should aim at the balanced growth of total personality of Man through the training of Man’s sprit, intellect, the rational self, feelings and bodily senses. Education should therefore cater for the growth of man in all aspects: spiritual, intellectual, imaginative, physical, scientific, linguistic, both individually and collectively and motivate all these aspects towards goodness and the attainment of perfection. The ultimate aim of Muslim education lies in the realization of complete submission to Allah on the level of the individual, the community and humanity at large.’
What is being suggested here is a complete submission in all aspects of a Muslim, be it spiritual, intellectual, rational or physical etc in order to develop into a complete personality resulting in becoming a slave to the Almighty. This paradigm can also be witnessed in the Qur’an and the many sayings of the Prophet (peace be upon him) where a believing person is referred to as ‘abd (slave).
Education in Islam is regarded as a process that completely nurtures the individual as al-Attas confirms, ‘Education should aim at the balanced growth of the total personality of Man through the training of Man’s sprit, intellect, rational self, feelings and bodily senses…such that faith is infused into the whole of his personality.’
In Islamic theology, knowledge is gained in order to actualize and perfect all the dimensions of the human. The paradigm of perfection is the Prophet (peace be upon him), and thus the goal of Islamic education is for Muslims to live as he (peace be upon him) lived and to imitate him. Muslims are sanctioned to do this: ‘Indeed in the Messenger of Allah you have a good example to follow for him who hopes for (the Meeting with) Allah and the Last Day and remembers Allah much.’This suggests that the Qur’an and the Sunnah are the perennial sources of rulings regarding both spiritual and temporal life. Al-Saud also confirms this in his contribution to the 1977 Muslim educational conference that the Qur’an ‘…by consensus of Muslim opinion, in the past and present, the immutable source of the foundational tenets of Islam, of its principles, ethics and culture. … All the other facets of the curricula of that Islamic education are based upon the acknowledgement of the Qur’an as the core, pivot and gateway of learning.’
Cook (1999) goes a little deeper into the human character by specifying the ‘qalb (heart), which is the seat of the sprit and affection, conscience feelings, intuition.’ The concept of the ‘qalb’ is very significant within Islamic education, it could be said that it represents the metaphysical dimension of the human being. Al-Ghazali presents a detailed and comprehensive explanation of the human qalb,
When we speak of the heart, know that we mean the reality of man, which sometimes is called ruh (spirit) and sometimes the nafs (soul); we do not mean that piece of flesh which lies in the left side of the chest; that organ is not worthy, for the cattle posses it and so do the dead. It can be seen by the ordinary eyes, and whatever could be seen by the eyes belongs to this world, which is called the visible (shahadah) world. The reality of the heart is not of this world; it has come to this world as a stranger or passer-by, and that visible piece of meat is its vehicle and means, and all of the bodily features are its army, and it is the king of the whole body; the realization of God and the perception of His beauty is its function.
Islamic education is primarily viewed as divinely revealed and thus prepares individuals to be upright citizens on earth and to ultimately attain happiness in the life after death. All the definitions above indicate that God is the centre and focus of Islamic education; hence to be educated a Muslim means to be devoted to attaining the pleasure of God. This should result in pious actions that would enable the Muslim to draw closer to God. The only way this is achieved is according to the divine revelation, being the Book and the example left by the Prophet (peace be upon him). The one condition that this can be achieved by is knowledge, which is the first step towards God, and therefore the aim of education relayed by most Islamic educationalists can be no other than a religious aim.
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