When Islamic education is mentioned, one's mind usually tends to fly to Quran and Hadith classes; to madrassahs and Muslim schools, which, Alhumdulillah, are now becoming established within the Australian Muslim communities, and that is all very well. However, Islamic education should not be limited in content, or to these students and institutions alone.
Mankind is a totality of physical, psychological, intellectual and spiritual components, all of which are interdependent. Therefore, Islamic education, to maintain a healthy balance, must also comprise a totality. We could have no greater pattern than that of the Holy Prophet of Islam (s) whose life and teachings, inspired by the Creator of mankind, did, indeed, provide complete sustenance for those whose trust was in Allah (swt) Hence we find that people, while being educated in matters spiritual, were encouraged to take part in physical pursuits, including riding, and swimming, as well as being exhorted to pursue intellectual, or academic knowledge. It is of importance that Allah s.w.t. stated,
"..This day have I perfected your religion for you, completed My favour upon you and have chosen for you Islam as your religion."
While some may believe that Islamic teaching and influence during the earlier centuries were highly commendable, very few see that it is Islam which holds the key for the betterment of mankind now and in the future. To all too many it is considered outmoded and obsolete, dependent merely upon apologists to bolster its fading glory.
If, at times, it is reported that Islam does not encourage learning as seen in the Western context, then it may mean that
It does not do for the exponents of such to divorce themselves from the reality of today's problems. If all is so well, why is it that the balance has been lost to the point where suicide, drug addiction, mental illness and moral degradation are now thriving?
In truth much has changed in educational standards of the so-called great countries of the world. Even the word "education" whose origin is from the Latin, "duco ductus" meaning "to lead" with the accompanying prefix "e" meaning out of - thus "the act of leading out of" - is now being taught as coming from "educare" meaning "to bring up, to educate." Thus "leading out of" has now become "bringing up or educating." If one may say that in the original, leading out of ignorance, out of darkness, to a knowledge and light of learning, is education, then one may also see that Islam itself, in reality, is education.
Unfortunately, we Muslims ourselves are, so often at fault. To many Muslims, the concept of Islamic education in a religious or spiritual sense, is that it is only for the very young, the very pious, or perhaps the very learned. This may be because of lack of interest or understanding, to some, while others are beguiled by all things Western and regard their heritage as being substandard and obsolete. Sadly, however, it has become regarded in some quarters as being "against Islam" to want to study, to learn, to obtain Islamic knowledge, with the cry going up that we only have to be obedient to the teachings of the madhabs, we do not have to have actual understanding of why we are following, or for what purpose. In many other instances forged, altered, or cultural hadith; or hadith pertaining to other circumstances, are absorbed as being beyond questioning, beyond other than blind acceptance.
In this we transgress against our own souls, for how often has Allah (swt) mentioned those who reason, who are firmly grounded in knowledge, who look for the Signs, who are the possessors of understanding minds, men (and women) of understanding? The Holy Quran states,
"He granteth wisdom to whom He pleaseth; and he to whom wisdom is granted receiveth indeed a benefit overflowing, but none will grasp the Message but men of understanding."
One may well ask, "How does understanding, this important factor in the establishment of wisdom, come about without reasoning?"
If we are afraid to reason, to question, to seek understanding, asking the guidance of Allah, is it because we fear that we do not have truth?
Remember we are told,
"There is no compulsion in religion: Truth stands out clear from error.."
We should not, therefore, be afraid to examine, to reason, to learn, to become firmly rooted in Islamic knowledge and to ultimately worship Allah with our minds, our hearts, our souls as well as with our bodies. Insha'Allah we will, one day, see Islamic education at its best - free from deviation, free from false concepts and seeking the ultimate balance through the guidance of Allah (swt), again leading mankind out of darkness into the light of reason and commitment. "0, our Lord! Advance us in knowledge!"
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