“THE ‘ISLAMIC‘ IN ISLAMIC EDUCATION : ASSESSING THE DISCOURSE” A paper by Farid Panjwani of the Aga Khan University
Current Issues in Comparative Education, 7 (1) – article (December 15, 2004)
The paper is a critical observation on writings and discourse about Islam and education. It assesses the prevailing discussion that argues for an education derived from an exclusively ‘Islamic’ vision. The research questions stated in the abstract can be formulated as follows: 1) What is the ‘Islamic’ vision of education as deliberated in the discourse? 2) What is the conception of Islam used in the discourse? 3) What are the practical proposals for the implementation of such vision? In this paper, the author argues that, at all three levels, the discourse suffers from serious conceptual and empirical weaknesses. In the Introduction, the author begins with the historical context of writings and discourse on the idea of Islam, of which it has evolved in time. In contemporary writings, Islam has become an object of study or an idea to be put side by side with other ideas, thus creating title such as Islam and Science, Islam and Democracy, Islam and Education etc.
The author further mentions about the diversity of approaches on writings about Islam and education as well as the idea of Islamisation of knowledge by stating the works of scholars of various range.
In the first part of his paper, the author sets out his arguments by stating the widespread critique of western and western-based educational system in societies that have significant Muslim population and the need for an Islamic solution to the problems created by the system. The author criticises the approach taken by a number of Muslim scholars who interestingly offer criticism to the western system but at the same time relying on western sources. It is totally agreeable that all educational philosophers, be it Muslim or non-Muslim, are concerned about the contemporary social and educational conditions. The current discourse on Islam and education, however, does not take notice of this shared concern, thus widening the gap between Islam and the ‘West’. In as much as it is true that it is a matter of conviction that Islam is the divine solution of all problems of the humankind, we must also at the same time acknowledge the positive contributions of ‘man-made’ education systems.
In the second part of the paper, the author discusses the conception of Islam in “Islamic” education. He begins by looking back into the history of Muslim and the juxtaposition of their faith and worldly power. The notion that they are the best community as assured by the Quran was realised and confirmed for over a thousand year or so when Muslims were ruling a great empire. This had continued to be so until the beginning of the colonisation era in the nineteenth century. The start of colonial rule gave rise to the need for Muslims to defend their religion, in military, political and intellectual aspects.
The author boldly criticises Syed Amir Ali’s work The Spirit of Islam (1902) which attempts to take up the task of defending the Muslim faith and its traditions against the attacks of the colonisation. In his book, Syed Amir Ali claimed that Islam in its ideal form is compatible with the ideals of modernity, where Muslims at one time, did achieve a golden age . In his bold comments, the author states that Syed Amir Ali “had to draw upon ideals and history rather than reality and the present” and “sought to compensate for the decline of his own time by glorifying the past”. Syed Amir Ali is further criticised for taking the apologetic approach by giving an excuse that the Muslims are not following the true Islam or the spirit of Islam which had led them to this situation. Such approach has become widespread over time.
Other than this apologetic approach, the author points out another tendency of Muslims writers, i.e. sustaining the idealised...