Quarterly: Issue No 88
Shawwal 1439 – June 2018
EFFECTIVE ISLAMIC EDUCATION
Islamic society is founded on the principles of belief and righteous conduct. This connection between values and practice lies at the very heart of the Islamic way of life. To be a Muslim requires that one’s faith be reflected in one’s practice and daily moral conduct with other people. We have the beautiful teachings of the Noble Qur’an and Prophetic Sunnah, and we have many masaajid, Islamic schools and organizations. Yet many Muslims today do not live in accord with the principles and values of their faith.
What is the root of the problem? The problem lies in that Islamic religious instruction, in recent centuries, has been taught primarily as a body of information, rather than as a body of experiences. For many Muslim children today, Islam does not inspire them, and Islam seems meaningless and irrelevant to their personal lives and experiences.
The “Islamic values” education curriculum should focus on personality and character development of children, close attention to the real needs and concerns of students, and preparation of students with the critical thinking and problem-solving skills needed to function successfully as Muslims in a multi-cultural society. If we hope to succeed in our goal to raise our children Islamically, Muslim educators and parents need to develop a better understanding of how children grow and learn. We must understand the processes of moral development and the methods of effective teaching and learning. Our children will not become moral individuals simply because we want or tell them to do so. They will become moral individuals by cultivating their minds and hearts, and by having opportunities to actually see and apply Islamic values in practice. The pervasive influence of secular materialism and its value system seriously challenges religious-minded individuals and communities. To a large extent, the future will depend on how well we educate our children today and to what extent we are successful in transferring to them the sacred vision of life we have as Muslims. What is at stake is nothing less than the moral and spiritual survival of our children and our communities as Muslims. Without a proper understanding of the Islamic Value System, there is little hope that the true goals (maqaasid) of Islamic education can be achieved. Islamic schools have a crucial role to play in providing concrete solutions and programs that will foster this understanding among students and in promoting the role and responsibility of the family in the process of Islamic upbringing (tarbiyyah).
Fortunately, a sense of renewal is in the air today and enlightened Muslims are eager to find real solutions to the problems and challenges facing the Muslim, including re-examination of both how and what we teach our children about Islam. Muslim intellectual educators must restructure the Islamic Studies Curriculum - both with regards to what is taught and how it is taught - if our children are to develop the spiritual survival skills needed to survive as Muslims in the twenty-first century and beyond. Let us examine some outlines of a new vision of Islamic education which will be capable of producing Muslim youth with a level of understanding, commitment and social responsibility that will both motivate and enable them to serve Islam and humanity effectively, insha Allah. Islamic education must be able to produce Muslim youth that are able to identify, understand and then work cooperatively to solve the problems that face their community and the world in which they live and for which they are responsible. To us, this should be the most effective form of Islamic Da’wah.
This vision is not a "new vision" but rather a "renewed vision" of Islamic education. It is a call for the return to the classical traditional - though not conventional - vision of Islamic education. In the lifetime of our beloved Prophet (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam) Islamic education was both practical and very relevant. The Prophetic model of Islamic education drew its substance from the everyday experiences and day-to-day problems of the early Muslim Community. Although Islamic education will undoubtedly draw much of its content from the foundational disciplines of Islamic Studies (such as Aqeedah, Tafseer, Fiqh, etc.), it must be done in a way that links this content to the natural concerns of students as well as the larger issues facing the world in which they live. This is the challenge of modern-day Islamic education.
This vision of Islamic education makes a fundamental distinction between teaching about "Islam" and teaching about "being Muslim". As mentioned earlier, Muslim educators, for the most part, have been content to teach "facts about Islam," since this is an easier and less demanding approach. We have not met the challenge of developing a systematic program to teach our children about "being Muslim" - which requires a more subtle and profound understanding of both the nature of children and Islam itself. The goal of Islamic education is not to fill our children’s minds with information about Islam, but rather to teach them about being Muslims in the true sense of the word.
Islamic education, first and foremost, must focus on teaching values and emphasize issues of identity and self-esteem. It must address the real concerns of students and emphasize and provide for training in leadership. Also very important in the achievement of the goals of Islamic education, it is essential to gain the active involvement of parents. In developing our approach, we should not be shy to benefit from recent educational research worldwide. This research suggests that several factors are essential for effective teaching and learning to occur. These factors are summarized in the statement that teaching and learning are effective when they are meaningful, integrative, value-based, challenging and active. These factors should also apply to Islamic education as well; and Muslim educators must become better aware of the important role these factors play in effective learning. It is suggested that future programs in Islamic education should be evaluated in light of these basic factors that are discussed briefly below.
Effective Islamic teaching and learning must be meaningful. Students should feel that the content of their curriculum is worth learning, because it is meaningful and relevant to their lives. When learning is meaningful and relevant, students are intrinsically motivated to learn. Furthermore, students must be led to discover the larger connections between the knowledge and skills they are learning - rather than memorizing isolated bits of information. Especially as Muslims, our children must be trained to keep their eyes always on the whole picture, or a macro-view, whenever they study. This, in part, is the meaning of tawheed. Islamic teaching and learning must therefore focus on examining major themes and important topics, rather than superficial coverage of many different topics. This approach advocates that the Islamic Studies curriculum be structured coherently around the concept of powerful ideas.
Effective Islamic teaching and learning must also be integrated. It must encompass and engage the child as a whole, i.e. physically, spiritually, emotionally, socially and intellectually. In addition, Islamic teaching and learning should be integrative across a broad range of topics and in its treatment of these topics. It should be integrative across time and place as well as being integrative across the curriculum. It must integrate knowledge, beliefs and values with action and application. These integrative aspects of teaching and learning have the far-reaching potential of enhancing the power of Islamic studies.
Most important of all, effective Islamic teaching and learning must be value-based. By focusing on values and by considering the ethical dimensions of topics, Islamic education becomes a powerful vehicle for character and moral development, thus achieving its real purpose. Educators must realize that every aspect of the teaching-learning experience conveys values to students and provides opportunities for them to learn about values. From the selection of content, materials and activities, to the arrangement of the classroom, to class rules and management style, students must be exposed to values and implement these values. Teachers must therefore develop a better awareness of their own values and how those values influence their behaviour as role-models; and what students ultimately learn from these experiences about themselves, about others and about Islam.
Effective Islamic teaching and learning must also be challenging. Students must be challenged to thoughtfully examine the topics they are studying, to participate assertively in group discussions, to work productively in cooperative learning activities, and to come to grips with controversial issues. Such activities and experiences will help foster the skills needed to produce competent Muslims who are capable of presenting and defending their beliefs and principles effectively.
Finally, effective Islamic teaching and learning must be active. Islamic studies should demand a great deal from both the teacher and students. The teacher must be actively and genuinely engaged in the teaching process - making plans, choices and curriculum adjustments as needed. The effective teacher of Islamic education must be prepared to continuously update his or her knowledge base, adjust goals and content to students’ needs, take advantage of unfolding events and teachable moments, and to develop examples that relate directly to students. Moreover, learning must be active by emphasizing hands-on and minds-on activities that call for students to react to what they are learning and to use it in their lives in some meaningful way.
The above are some key factors for effective Islamic teaching and learning. This vision of effective Islamic teaching and learning is based on a dynamic rather than static view of Islam and Islamic education. This view is rooted in the belief that the mission of Islam is to positively affect and transform the world, and that the purpose of Islamic education is to prepare young men and women who are capable of carrying out this mission—emotionally, morally and intellectually.
May Allah grant us all the realization of the greater aims and objectives of Islamic education! Ameen!
Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) said: “If any one of you improve (follows strictly) his Islamic religion then his good deeds will be rewarded ten times to seven hundred times for each good deed and a bad deed will be recorded as it is.” (Sahih al-Bukhari, Vol. 1, Book 2, Hadith 35)
O Allah! Your Forgiveness is far greater than my sins and I have more hope in Your Mercy than in my own deeds.
Requesting your duas!
Abdul Haq Abdul Kadir