‘Ilm (knowledge) is at the heart of the Qur’an. It is the second most used word in the Qur’an. The ideal Muslim spends his life in the pursuit of ‘ilm, and indeed, pursuit of the fundamental Islamic knowledge is obligatory for every Muslim, whether male or female. The Prophet (s.a.w.) said:
طلب العلم فريضة على كل مسلم ومسلمة
“The pursuit of knowledge is an obligatory duty upon every Muslim and Muslimah.”
And the importance of knowledge is also referred to in Allah’s Words:
قل هل يستوي الذين يعلمون والذين لا يعلمون ؟
Say: Are those who know and those who do not know alike?
Knowledge is an ever-increasing bounty from Allah (s.w.t.), given by Him Alone. He says:
وقل رب زدني علما
And say: O my Lord! Increase me in knowledge.
Whatever one’s goal is, knowledge is necessary. The Prophet (s.a.w.) said:
من أراد الدنيا فعليه بالعلم، ومن أراد الآخرة فعليه بالعلم، ومن أرادهما فعليه بالعلم.
“Whoever desires the Dunya, then he must acquire knowledge; and whoever desires the Akhirah, then he must acquire knowledge; and whoever desires them both, then he must acquire knowledge.”
From the above ayat and ahadith it is clear as to what is the Islamic position regarding education. Islam is credited with bringing to the world a concept of knowledge, a system of education and a character-building life that the world has never seen before and has not surpassed today. Islam enjoins every Muslim to seek knowledge and convey it.
The seeking of knowledge is a faridah or obligation upon all Muslims. The Prophet (s.a.w.) and his Sahabah, upon settling in Al-Madinah, established the first Islamic school or madrasah in Al-Masjid an-Nabawi called As-Suffah. This school had a constant “enrolment” of about eighty students. Among the noted teachers at this school were Abu Hurayrah, Ibn Mas‘ud, Zaid ibn Thabit, and Ubayy ibn Ka‘b.
It was the usual practice of the Prophet (s.a.w.) to send teachers to the Muslim villages to teach the people the basic requirements of Islam and to educate them in the art of reading and writing. The Prophet (s.a.w.) sent seventy teachers to Bi’r Ma‘unah, sixty to Najran, seventy-five to Yemen, and six to the tribes of Qura and Azal. After Fath Makkah, Mu‘adh was ordered to stay and establish a Muslim school in Makkah. But the practice of sending out teachers was not confined only to the urban areas. Teachers were sent out to rural and isolated areas as well. The duties of a Muslim administrator included, among other things, the organisation and maintenance of educational institutions in the region.
When ‘Amr ibn Hazm was deputed as the governor of Yemen, he was given a written documant listing his duties. Fortunately, this document has been preserved and it gives us a clear idea of the duties of an Islamic administrator. He was ordered to instruct the Muslims in the branches of Islamic knowledge. In this written document, according to some historians, there is also an indication of the existence of secular subjects in the education system.
To ensure the proper functioning of these educational institutions, the Prophet (s.a.w.) also appointed inspection officers. According to the famous historian At-Tabari, Mu‘adh ibn Jabal was one of those appointed as inspectors for this purpose. He was a touring “inspector-general” of education.
The Prophet (s.a.w.) never missed any opportunity to promote education for the Ummah. The battle of Badr provides the best example. He (s.a.w.) ordered each captive capable of reading and writing to teach these things to ten Muslims in return for freedom. He always took personal interest in the education of the Muslim Ummah. As a result, in a very short time the entire situation changed. In a country where only a few years before, the number of people able to read and write could be counted on one’s fingers, a multitude of people quickly became well-versed in these fields. Succeeding generations followed in the footsteps of the Prophet (s.a.w.) and they very quickly became the teachers for the entire world. The contributions made by these early Muslims were such that the entire world benefited greatly from their learning, improving on old teachings, and putting forward many thousands of new theories. The Muslim scholars excelled in natural history, physics, geography, engineering, astronomy, and other sciences. In these subjects, there were great advances which gave birth to new discoveries and experiences. The Muslim scholars considered it their duty and responsibility to pass on these new discoveries and improved theories to the rest of the world.
For centuries after that, the universities and other institutions of Europe taught and propagated the teachings of Muslim scholars.
The Definition and Classification of Islamic Education
Islamic education is the study of literature derived from the Qur’an, Hadith, and the writings of the Islamic scholars. It is a system which transmits the revealed and acquired knowledge to the people in order to prepare them to perform their duties and discharge their responsibilities with the sole aims of achieving the Good-Pleasure of Allah and success in this life and the next.
From the Islamic perspective, knowledge can be divided into two categories:
1. Revealed knowledge, and
2. Acquired knowledge.
Revealed knowledge constitutes that knowledge which is imperative for the actualisation of our inherent nature (Fitrah), so that we may know ourselves and understand our relationship with Allah and the universe. Allah says:
سنريهم لآياتنا في الآفاق وفي أنفسهم حتى يتبين لهم أنه الحق
And We shall show them our signs in the horizons and in their own selves until it becomes clear to them that it (the Qur’an) is the Truth.
Acquired knowledge constitutes knowledge of the sciences, which is acquired through observation and research. It is discursive in nature and of pragmatic value. Revealed knowledge precedes acquired knowledge because acquired knowledge depends on revealed knowledge for its Islamic direction.
Revealed knowledge provides human beings with permanent, objective truths which are important for their guidance. The acquired knowledge provides the information necessary for daily practical use. Without the help of revealed knowledge, acquired knowledge cannot lead to a virtuous life, but instead it sows the seeds of corruption, confusion, materialism, and atheism.
The Educational Concept in Islam
The concept of education in Islam is based on certain principles. I will mention a few important ones here by way of example:
(One) Tawhid (Affirmation of the oneness and uniqueness of Allah’s
Divinity, Lordship, Names and Attributes). This principle is the
central principle of Islam and has moral consequences in the lives of
individuals and societies.
(Two) Freedom of thought within the boundaries of the Shari‘ah. Allah
forbids us in the Qur’an from blind-following and imitation of un-
Islamic ideas, habits, customs, and traditions. Allah (s.w.t.) says:
لهم قلوب لا يعقلون بها، ولهم أعين لا يبصرون بها، ولهم آذان لا يسمعون بها. أولئك كالأنعام، بل هم أضل: أولئك هم الغافلون
They have hearts wherewith they understand not, eyes wherewith they see not, and ears wherewith they hear not. They are like cattle; indeed, they are more misguided: it is they who are the heedless ones.
The Prophet (s.a.w.) rejected a suggested association between any natural phenomenon and an imaginary cause that is unconnected to it. When the Prophet’s son Ibrahim died, a solar eclipse occurred and the people thought that a miracle had happened, and that the sun had been eclipsed due to the child’s death. But the Prophet (s.a.w.) declared: “The sun and the moon are two of the Signs of Allah. They are not eclipsed by the death of anyone.”
(One) Practice of deeds according to one’s knowledge. Practice (a‘mal) is an
important foundation for Islamic knowledge. The Prophet (s.a.w.)
taught us to pray:
اللهم إني أعوذ بك من علم لا ينفع، وقلب لا يخشع، ودعوة لا يستجاب لها
“O Allah, I seek your refuge from knowledge that does not benefit from a heart that does not feel (Your) awe, and from a prayer that is not answered.”
Imam al-Ghazzali (r.a.) advised his students:
“O boy! Do not become bankrupt of works and actions. Be sure that knowledge alone is no support… If a man reads about a hundred thousand scientific subjects and learns them but does not act upon them, his knowledge is of no use to him. Its benefit lies only in its implementation.”
He further advised the teachers:
“I am sure that the one who acts as an educator should remove bad behaviour and replace it with good. Education resembles the work of a farmer who pulls up thorns and weeds between the plants to produce a larger and better crop. If you read and study, the knowledge that you acquire must reform your heart and purify your soul.”
(Two) The principle of justice. One must not obey any desire of his own
that leads him to ill-treat others. Any educational system which
impresses on the minds of children the values of Tawhid, A‘mal,
freedom of thought (within the established boundaries set by the
Qur’an and Sunnah), Justice and co-operation among the people is
called Islamic education.
Tarbiyah (proper training) is the main aim of education which uproots corrupt habits from the hearts of the people and implants good ones. It is difficult for man to rid himself of his bad habits if he is not firmly persuaded that they are harmful to him.
The Prophet (s.a.w.) said: “Order your children to perform Salah from the age of seven and punish them for not performing it after the age of ten.”
Even though we have been enjoined again and again, we Muslim heed little these instructions. We have ignored the vital function of tarbiyah in this society. Since we have failed to provide Islamic education, we leave the modern western secular educational system to play the main role of educating our Muslim children. The western educational system rejects the spiritual substance of people. It assumes that a human being is but a physical entity and a rational animal. It does not recognise the revealed sciences, indeed it rejects them, while affirming acquired knowledge as the only valid branch of knowledge to be pursued for the sake of satisfying worldly needs.
Western Secular Education and the Muslim School.
The modern educational system is mainly based on the western secular educational ideas. According to this system, every nation has its own beliefs, principles and philosophy which are the fruit of its historical heritage. A system which is appropriate for one society is not necessarily appropriate for another society.
As we have pointed out, the modern educational system rejects the reality of Divine Guidance. It relies only upon the power of human reason to guide it. Progress can only be seen in terms of this world which is dominated with the help of all the available technology for the sake of servicing the physical needs of people.
The negative secular influence of this system can be mitigated through the Islamisation of knowledge, and the harnessing of the revealed disciplines to overcome the problem of duality of education. As we have seen, it is not the Islamic legacy that needs to be made relevant to modern science, but it is the modern secular knowledge that needs to be made relevant to Islam. Similarly, we would like to make the knowledge that is derived from the Islamic legacy relevant to our contemporary needs. We can only achieve this integration when we have our own Muslim schools.
It is vitally important to establish Muslim schools with well constituted, competent school boards based on Ikhlas and following the Sunnah of the Prophet (s.a.w.), to impart high quality education, integrating the positive aspects of modern education with the Qur’anic instruction. In this way, we may In Sha’ Allah elevate the Muslims from their present humiliating and disgraceful position to one of honour, dignity and shining glory.
It is a proven fact that young Muslims who are exposed to the dominant secular system take various aspects of Islamic teachings less seriously than they ought to. There is no doubt that if a child is brought up in an Islamic school with his friends and peers following the Qur’an and the Sunnah, performing daily Salah in Jama‘ah, performing Salat al-Jumu‘ah at school, fasting during Ramadan, dressing Islamically, using the Halal canteen facilities, and living their life according to the precepts of Islam, they will become inwardly attached to Islam. Our greatest desire is to ensure that our generation is not de-Islamised by the secular system, or it will grow up ignorant of Islam.
At Muslim schools, children develop confidence, pride, and a sense of belonging in a comfortable environment. They are less likely to develop complexes of inferiority and instability in their personalities. At Muslim schools, great allowances can be made regarding scheduling of events and the daily timetable. Positive peer group pressure exists whereby younger children are often encouraged at a faster rate by their peers than by their parents.
The most urgent need of the Muslim community in Brisbane, the most important priority of the present time, is the establishment of an Islamic School. We must tackle the problem, explore ways, and means, and find the solution. Then and only then will we be able to regain our children’s lost minds and souls. We have lost too many already, and we are in grave danger of losing hundreds, if not thousands, more here in Brisbane. We must wake up now and change ourselves. Allah says:
إن الله لا يغير ما بقوم حتى يغير ما بأنفسهم
Indeed, Allah will never change the condition of a people until they change what is with themselves.
May Allah (s.a.w.) grant us the Tawfiq to make a conscious effort and work hard sincerely in this direction. Aameen.