Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Islamic Education: Problems & Development in Philippine Secular State

The Filipino citizens have to observe the Philippine laws and guidelines on education which are “secular and highly centralized in nature.”  The former implies that Philippines as a state proclaims the separation of religion and the state. The latter means that educational guidelines have been organized at the national level.
        The Philippine government has granted the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, (ARMM)  for the Muslim Filipinos with some degree of Islamic education.    The  large aspects are likely to be taught in its schools and universities in the region. But, they are being taught in the Islamic educational institutions in other Muslim countries.
        Muslim individuals and society should be benefited from the value of Islamic education.  This has been considered among the topics of discussion by  concerned ulama (learned Muslims) and Muslim professionals. Thus, educational seminars, conferences and fura and similar activities have been organized and undertaken for this purpose.  It is very unfortunate that  poor education and its undesirable effects continue to persist in Muslim Mindanao.
       In 1991, the average literacy rate of ARMM  at 74.22 and the National Capital Region at 93.5 by comparison shows how grave the problem is the two (2) systems of education operate in the area at deviating direction: the government secular-western schools and the madrasah school system..( Sovenier Book, Markazosshabab, 30th Anniversary,  2009)
        Thus, this paper is designed to show the Islamic Education in the Philippines.  Specifically, it briefly discusses the: meaning and nature of Islamic education, the Philippines as a secular state and the problems and development of Islamic  education in  the country.
II.  Meaning and Nature of Islamic Education
        As shown in figure 1 that Islamic education is the process of learning both the revealed and acquired knowledge. The former is  the one directly learned from the Qur’an as explained by the Prophet Muhammad in his ahadith (sayings) and Sunnah (tradition) The latter is the one learned from the different creatures of Allah on earth which are indeed the expression of His supremacy and omnipotent.  Its main objective is to teach and develop a God fearing (Taqwa) which is  an inner strongest faith of the Muslim believers.  This is noticeable when they  actually perform all the commandments of Allah as enshrined in the Qur’an and in the Hadith and Sunnah of the Prophet.
        The God fearing people (muttaqiin)  who  should serve as khalifah (vicegerent of Allah)  responsible to the goal which is to implement the rule of Allah on earth.  In order to come up with these objective and goal,  a teacher is not only a‘whisperer (mu’alim) of knowledge’ but also a trainer (murabbi) of souls and personalities’.

        Islamic education is indeed a process which is basically enshrined in the Qur’an where Allah says: “read! in the Name of your Lord who has Created (all that exist). He has created man from a clot (a piece of thick coagulated blood). Read! And your Lord is the Most  Generous. Who has taught (the writing) by the pen. He has taught man that which he knew not.”( Al-Qur’an, 96:1-5).
          The verse implies that Muslims should primary know Allah, the Creator, and to comprehend and appreciate His attributes. The used of “pen” also implies the process of human struggle in search for the revealed and acquired knowledge. It is only those learned among His slaves that fear Allah (35:28).  The importance of this was mentioned by Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. on many occasions.  Some of his sayings are; 1) ‘The acquisition of knowledge is a duty incumbent upon every Muslim, male and female”,  2) “Seek knowledge even unto China”, and 3) “Seek knowledge from the cradle to the grave.”
III. Philippine as Secular State        As shown in figure 2 that secularism has made Philippines as a secular and centralized state. As secular, it separates the religion and the state.  It treats all its citizens equal regardless of their religion. As centralized state, most of its vital programs, mainly on  education, are organized at the national level in order to develop the sense of nationhood.  It is only through educational
process that Philippine can reach to the level of “nation-state.”

The Philippine Constitution provides:
1) “Separation of the Church and State is inviolable.”( Constitution, Art 2, Sec. 6) 
2) “No law shall be made respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting  the free exercise thereof.”(Ibid.,  Art. 3, Section 5);
3) “No public money or property shall be appropriated, applied,  paid, or employed, directly or indirectly, for the use, benefit, or support of any church, denomination  sectarian institution, system or religion, or of any priest, preacher, ministers, or other religious teacher, or dignitary as such, except when such priest, preacher, minister, or dignitary is assigned to the Armed  Forces, or to any penal institution, or government orphanage..” (Ibid., Art 6, Sec 29(2).
        It appears that this division was designed merely to determine the boundaries between the two institutions.  The State prohibits from interfering directly or indirectly in purely religious matters whereas the church is barred from meddling or  taking part in  purely temporal affairs of the state. (Cruz, 1991:169-170).  This religious attitude does not imply the defiance of the importance of religion in the national life. 
         It appears further that the spirit and soul belong to church and his body or physical being
belong to the state. This means that man is placing his destiny for two separate authorities.  His moral and spiritual being is under the church and his physical and material being is under the state. (Alonto, 2002:3)   
        So, while it is allowed to teach various principles and beliefs for academic purposes, it is against the Philippine law and Islam to impose a particular religion to any  citizen  or to  compel or force a person  to  go away from his religion against his will.  Islam teaches “no compulsion of religion.”
        The DECS-ARMM therefore follows the dictates of the DECS national in pursuit of education.
IV. Problems of Islamic Education 
        As shown in figure 3 that the problem is obviously seen by the interaction between the development of Islamic education and the government western   oriented education.  If  we look at the teaching of education in madrasah, it is more confined on religious knowledge and in public or private government school, it is secular in nature. But of course they have similarities in the teaching of history, geography,  mathematics,  molding of the youth,  good moral  character, 
        The differences between the Muslim Filipino culture and the government school system are observable.  It is seen that there are other general reasons why government school continue to receive some degree of negative attitude from the Muslims, to wit:
1. Lack of typical Islamic cultural elements in the curriculum. As a substitute, the curriculum shows the presence of Christian elements.
2. Prescribed books offend Moro deep feelings.  Some history books refer them as “bandits”, and “pirates” and show pictures of swine.
        These  unacceptable elements in Muslim education that offend Muslim awareness can be removed by revising the curriculum of schools, incorporating Islamic elements.
        Other factors affecting the development of Islamic education in the country are the:
        1)  Limited financial support from the community and charitable institutions,
        2)  Insufficient textbooks and other reading materials,
        3)  Lack of school facilities,
        4)  Improvised buildings,
        5)  Poor  administration, and
        6)  Unqualified teachers.
        On the other hand, the government highly centralized educational system is explained by the fact that  the Department of Education, Culture and Sports and the Commission on Higher Education of ARMM are in charge of the two levels of education: primary, elementary and secondary education and Higher Education, respectively. They are  autonomous in word from the Central Government but its policies and  functions  are limited by the laws allowed  by  the   Philippine secular constitution.
         In effect,  the following are hereby observed:
        1) Madrasah quality and kind of education is inadequate leaving much to be desired.. (Mapupuno, 1991:26)
        2) In 1991, the average literacy rate of ARMM  at 74.22 and the National Capital  Region     
At 94 percent by comparison shows how grave the problem is the two  (2) systems of     education operate in the area.(Sovenir Book, 2009)
         3)  Educated Moros (Muslim Filipinos) had not adopted the social   and household practices taught in school.  The reason  was that the children learned in  school  methods or social practices incompatible with their customs. (Malcons, 1951:53)
         4)  Madrasah graduates of secondary curriculum (Thanawi) could not proficiently use the  Arabic language, much less understand it, and that their training in these Islamic schools  hardly benefited them in practical ways. They could not make use of their training to get employed other than becoming ulama themselves. Neither did their credentials suffice to allow them admission to Middle Eastern Universities. Madrasah education only serves to fulfill the need for inward development of the Muslim Filipino youth, moulding his  life morally, spiritually, and psychologically.” (Hasoubah, p. 1)
V. Development of Islamic Education
        This part discusses the development of Islamic education in the country.  Figure 4 shows that Islamization is the background factor influencing: 1) The institution of madrasah; 2) The government responses to the Moro struggle (i.e., teaching of Arabic language, accreditation of madrasah into the Philippine educational system, teaching of Islam as subject and degree program); and 3)  The grant of  ARMM.   The latter also influences the formers.
        A. Institution of Madrasah.
        Islamization  process has been done since the start of the 13th century, by way of Sumatra and possibly Borneo. (Siddique, 1975:143)  The proximity of Mindanao to mainland Asia and Sumatra helped much in the early spread of Islam in the country. Records show that the first Arab Muslim to arrive in Sulu was Tuan Mash’aik. (Rodriguez, 1993)
         It was the coming of Makhdum Karim, the Arab missionary, that signaled the beginning of Islamization in the country.  Makhdum who built the first mosque in Tubig Indangan, Simunul,
Tawi-tawi in the year 1380 and with it, the first madrasah was founded. ( Saleeby 1908 and Sarangani 1974)
        The Madrasah Islamiyyah Kamilol Islam under the management of Kamilol Islam Society was organized in 1938 in Lanao. It was headed by Sheikh Mohammad Saddiq, also known as Guro sa Marawi.( Kadil, 1998:69). From that, madrasah has been established in different parts of  the country.
        In 1948, Congressman Manalao Mindalano performed pilgrimage in Mecca and  visited  Cairo. He requested Al-Azhar University to send missionaries (ulama) to teach in the country. 
The request was granted by Sheikh ul-Azhar. (Kadil, 1998:68).
        In 1950, two (2) Al-Azhar missionaries arrived namely: Abdulgani Sindag, an Indonesian,and Mohammad Taha Omar. They started their own madrasah, first in Malabang,  Lanao . In 1954, the Kamilol Islam Society was revitalized and set the task of reopening a madrasah that was incorporated into the Kamilol Islam Institute.  The following year, a government-recognized school with Arabic and English departments thought out by Atty Domocao Alonto was inaugurated with Imam Iljas Ismael, an Indonesian, as its first Director. (Kadil, 1948: 99)
         The visit of an Indian alim  Maulana Abdul Aleem Siddique Al Qadri strengthened the kamilol group.  His visit stimulated the Muslim Association of the Philippines and the establishment of madaris in the provinces. (Kadil).  The said Association held Muslim conventions indifferent areas attended by foreign Muslim dignitaries. This contributed much to the understanding of Islam which led among Muslim Filipinos to study with scholarship grants in different Islamic educational centers in the Middles East. After finishing their studies, some become teachers in various schools and madaris in  the country.
        B. Government Responses
        Islamization also influences the Moro (Muslim Filipino) struggle for self-determination which invited the government to offer more programs, including the need to upgrade the Muslim educational condition as herein briefly presented:
        1) Letter of Instruction 71-A was issued by former President Ferdinand E. Marcos on April 28,1973  allowing the use of Arabic as medium of instruction and its teaching in areas predominantly populated by Muslims.
        2) Department Orders no. 25 series of 1980 provides  Arabic as a learning area in the curriculum of both public elementary and high schools in regions 9 and 12 in Mindanao.
        3) LOI 1221 was also issued by Pres. Marcos on March 31,1982  for the development of the madrasah system and to strengthen the teaching of Arabic language which was considered vital to the educational program in Mindanao.
        3) MECS Order No. 24, series of 1982 was issued by the then Ministry of Education,Culture and Sports which includes the formulation of Guidelines and Standards for the Recognition and Operation of madaris. 
        4) In the same year, the Education Act of 1982  or Batas Pambansa  232 was enacted and states: “The State shall promote the right of the national cultural  communities in the exercise of their right to develop themselves within the context of their cultures, customs, traditions, interest,  beliefs and recognizes education as an instrument for their maximum participation in national development and in ensuring their involvement in achieving national unity.” This Act motivated
        5)  Madrasah administrators to initiate for the integration of madrasah  into the educational
system. Even the New Elementary School Curriculum (NESC) has been revised to include Arabic as a learning area. (Rodrifguez, 1993).
        6) Under the Presidential Decree 290, there was the mass production of instructional materials in selected public elementary schools in the regions.  Instructional materials are those printed and distributed through the Department of Education and Culture’s Reconstruction and Development (DEC-RAD) program for Muslim Mindanao.
        7)  Republic Act  6734 which created the ARMM provided that the madrasah educational system shall be recognized, strengthened and developed.  A Bureau of madaris Office was created in the region as well as the Office of Under-Secretary of Education at the national level to look into the needs of the madrasah schools.   
8) Republic Act 9054 , an Act expanding the ARMM and specifically provides the development of the spiritual, intellectual, social, cultural, scientific and physical    aspects  of the people of the region to make them God-fearing, productive, patriotic citizens, and conscious of their Filipino and Islamic values and cultural heritage.
        In view of the government educational responses,  seminars and conferences have been conducted in order to make education in the area more responsive to the educational aspiration of the Muslim Filipinos.
         On  May 24-26, 1982,  the First Policy Conference on Madrasah was held in Zamboanga City, Philippines. It was recommended that the madrasah should be a component of the Philippine educational system.   
        On January 19-25, 1991, an international conference-workshop was organized  by the ARMM in cooperation with the Muslim World League in Cotabato City.  This was for the Islamization  of Syllabi of madaris in the country. (Tamano, 1991:14)
        Many madaris have been established in other parts of the country.  Government recognized schools and universities both public and private have been established and operated with Arabic and Islamic subjects and others have been offering Islamic studies degree programs.
        Talks and conferences among madaris operators were held in an attempt to strengthen their curricular offerings.  Resolutions asking government authority to include more Arabic and Islamic values in government recognized public and private school curricula were discussed and recommended at various fora.
         In the country today, three (3) modes of  Islamic teachings: 1) Teaching of Islam in madrasah, 2) Teaching of Islam as a subjects in some government recognized private and public schools, and 3) Teaching of Islam as a degree program in higher educational institutions (i..e., University of the Philippines, Mindanao State University, University of Southern Mindanao, Jamiatu Muslim Mindanao, Jamiatul Philippine Al-Islamia, Lake Lanao College, etc.).
VI.   Conclusion and Recommendation
 A. Conclusion
        In view of the above, this paper concludes that the:
        1) Islamic education is the process of learning both the revealed and acquired knowledge.
The objective is to strengthen the fear in Allah and the goal is to institute and implement His rule  on earth. The process is based on the five verses of surah  al-alak of the Qur’an.
        2) Secularism has made Philippine educational system secular and highly centralized state. The principle of division of the religion and state was designed to determine the boundaries between the two institutions. The nature of centralism has been observed in order to ensure the people’s sense of nationhood.
        3) The  problem of Islamic education is obviously seen by the interaction between the development of Islamic education and western secular oriented education. The former has been taught in madrasah which is more confined on purely religious knowledge. The latter has been introduced in the government recognized public and private educational institutions.
        The different teaching modes and venues of Islamic knowledge provide disparity of learning as well as the nature of  understanding of the educational strategies for Muslim society.
       4) The factors influencing the development of Islamic education in the country are the: a) Islamization and the institution of madrasah, and  b) government educational responses to the Moro struggle for self-determination.
        B. Recommendation  
        In order to have greater understanding of Islamic education,  the following are hereby recommended:
1) The assigned Muslim faculty in various schools and universities in the country where there are number of Muslim students should use on hand Islamic books as  reference materials. Qualified Muslim Filipinos who have strong knowledge in Islamic education should  behired as faculty to teach in schools and universities where there are considerable number  of Muslim students.
2) Muslim Filipinos should be granted meaningful autonomy or free associated state with independent legislative body.  This body shall legislate laws in order to formulate and establish more relevant educational system for the Muslim  Filipinos.
Alonto, Ahmad E. Islamic Education: Is it Possible in the Philippine Education System?
        A Paper read during the First Bangsamoro Conference on  Islamic   Education,
        Estosan Garden Hotel, Cotabato City, Jan. 8-10,2002.
Ali, Anshary P. The Evolution of Islamic Law in the Philippines: History, Texts and
        Analysis. General Santos City: Mindanao State University, 2009.
Boransing, Manaros. “Oplan Bangsa Pilipino: A Reporet on the First Policy Conference
        on Madrasah, Western Mindanao University, Zamboanga City, May 24-26,1982.
Cruz, Isagani A. Constitutional Law. Quezon City: Central Law Book  Publishing Co.,
Ahmad Mohammad H. Hasoubah, Teaching Arabic as a Second Language in the Southern
         Philippines,  University Research Center, Mindanao State University, Marawi City.
Jeremy Henzell-Thomas. Excellence in Islamic Education: Key Issues for the Present
        Times, 2005.
Mapupuno, Khalil Oga. “State Assistance to the Madrasah: Need and Constitutionality.”
        Mindanao Islamic  Journal. Vol. 3 No. 1, 1991 
The Noble  Qur’an,  Translated in the English Language, University of Madinah,
        Kingdom of  Saudi  Arabia.
Mastura, Michael, “Assessing Madrasah as an Educational Institution: Implication for the
        Ummah. Manila: Ministry of Muslim Affairs, 1980.
Pandapatan, Tamano. “Factors Related to Muslim Students’ Decision to Enroll in
        Madrasah and Other Schools, “Unpublished Doctoral Dissertation, University of the
        Philippines, Quezon City, 1982.
Rodriguez, Lolita D. A Madrasah General Education Program for Muslim Mindanao.
        Iligan City: Ivory  Printing Presss, 1992

Improving Ghana’s Islamic Schools

In Ghana, many parents choose Islamic schools to ensure that their children receive a religious as well as academic education. However, many of these schools lag behind their counterparts in the secular system.
EDC has recently prepared a report for USAID Ghana and the Ghanaian government as they look to improve Islamic education across the country. The report describes the diversity of Islamic schools in Ghana and offers recommendations for how to strengthen the Islamic education sector.
“We were commissioned to do a descriptive study to see what’s out there,” saysEDC’s Helen Boyle. “We wanted to learn about the types of Islamic schools in Ghana, how they’re organized, what they teach, how they may relate to the public school system, and the quality of education. A lot of these schools are resource-lean operations, very community-based, and informal.”
In partnership with the Northern Ghana Network for Development, Boyle conducted a study using focus groups, questionnaires, interviews, and classroom observations in Islamic schools throughout the country. Parents, teachers, school directors, principals, and ministry of education officials all contributed to the survey results. Boyle then prepared a report describing the challenges faced by the schools, with recommendations on ways to strengthen them.
“Many of these schools started out with a curriculum that was purely religious and have now broadened their curriculum to include secular subjects like English, math, science, and social studies. As they’ve expanded, they’ve had to balance between their religious identity and subjects that provide broader educational and job opportunities, but they need help with this transition,” she says.
Recommendations include improving quality by providing teacher training, certification, and learning materials; improving infrastructure; and broadening the curriculum. The study also recommends that secondary schools be expanded and developed to increase opportunities for children who have completed primary school.
For many students in Ghana, stronger Islamic schools translate to greater access to education. Many Islamic schools are located in Ghana’s remotest areas, providing education for many who would otherwise need to travel long distances to class. Boyle stresses that for girls, the availability of Islamic over secular schooling is critical.
“For children of conservative parents who want to pursue Islamic education—especially parents who don’t want their daughters mixing with boys—if there isn’t an Islamic junior secondary school available, they may simply not continue in school,” she says.
A stronger Islamic education sector will also serve to correct historical educational inequity in Ghana. As much of the formal public schooling in Ghana was a result of the work of missionaries and of colonization, it was often associated with Christianity. Many of Ghana’s Muslims—out of concern that their children would be separated from their faith—chose not to enroll them in secular schools. Later, they realized their children were at an economic and political disadvantage without the necessary skills to succeed.
Says Boyle, “Stronger Islamic schools will benefit the many Muslims in Ghana. The people we talked to really felt that education was the way forward for Ghanaian Muslims: learning how to speak, read, and write in English; to function in the larger society; to do business; and to run for office. People were uniformly positive about the notion of integrating. They considered it the best of both worlds.”

Report of the WF Islamic Education Madrasah Retreat

A Madrasah Retreat was organised and hosted by The World Federation’s Islamic Education department on 3 – 6 February 2011 in Dubai.

The Retreat was attended by 82 participants from 25 localities throughout the world.

The Retreat addressed core issues in the area of Madrasah and produced an Action Plan for The World Federation to take forward. The Action Plan comprises five strategic priorities:
• Continuous Assessment and Evaluation
• Teacher Training
• Curriculum Development
• Organisational Structures
• Learning Resources
A number of Madaris and individuals volunteered to assist The World Federation in the delivery of the action plan.
BackgroundThe World Federation is committed to keeping Tableegh and the Islamic Religious Education of our younger generation as its focus and priority. In order to advance a structured and global approach to understanding and meeting the needs of Madrasah, The World Federation embarked upon holding the first global Madrasah Retreat in the history of the community.
Theme, Aims, and ObjectivesThe Madrasah Retreat was organised and structured to meet the following theme, aim, and objectives:
Retreat Theme: Shaping the Institution of Madrasah to Deliver Islamic Knowledge, Spirituality, and Morality to our Future Generations.
Retreat Aim: To achieve consensus and agree the direction of travel to enhance the institution of Madrasah across the world.

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Islamic education in Bangladesh and its genealogical relation to Deobandian School of Thought

The central objective of the research is to understand the diversified systems of Islamic education in Bangladesh based on the case of a local district town—Brahmanbaria. This study also investigates how and in what extent the system of Islamic education is influenced by the Deobandian School of Thought—Ahle Sunnat wal Jammaat—promoted and maintained by a nineteenth century school of Islamic education—Deoband which was established in the Province of Uttar Pradesh in India. This study presumes that Deoband had and has a profound influence on the genre of Islamic education in South Asian countries including Bangladesh.
For such inquests in the context of Bangladesh the fieldwork of the study has been conducted in the east-central district town of Brahmanbaria. In addition with primary field-research done in Brahmanbaria town some other fieldworks have also been conducted in some government and non-government offices and organizations concerned for Islamic education in Bangladesh. Methodologically the study depends on ethnographic field-method employing several data collection procedures such as open-ended interviews, participant observation, key-cultural conversation and textual method. The entire period of the fieldwork was nearly for one and half month, from February 13 to March 27, 2007.
Primarily, the findings of the fieldwork suggest that there are two kinds of madrasas, schools for imparting Islamic education, in Bangladesh: Ali’a and Quawmi or Kharizi’a madrasa. The first type of madrasa is being accommodated in government’s mainstream system of education and managed, operated and funded by government while the Quawmi madrasa functions independently and managed by public charity, religious alms and by endowments. According to Bangladesh Madrasa Education Board, the institution that is responsible for supervising and controlling the Ali’a madrasas in all over the country, established in 1978, the number of Ali’a madrasas is 15,941 in 2006. On the other hand, regarding the number of Quawmi madrasas Bangladesh government has no data available at its hand. In Brahmanbaria district town (that is called Upazilla, a sub-district administrative tier of government) there are 17 Ali’a madrasas while the number of Quawmi madrasas is higher than that. There is a private board of Quawmi madrasa namely edara-e talimi’a functioning under a big Quawmi madrasa—Jamia Islamia Yunusia Madrasa at the center place of Brahmanbaria district town. A number of 69 Quawmi madrasas from all over Bangladesh are affiliated with the private board of which 29 madrasas are located in Brahmanbaria town area. Moreover, there are some other madrasas, which are functioning independently beyond the private board of Quawmi madrasa in Brahmanbaria. The number of such Quawmi madrasas could not be confirmed because of unavailable sources of information. But according to some personal contact with the teachers of madrasas the number of such madrasas could range from 50 to 70 in Brahmanbaria district town and its contiguous areas i.e. Upazilla.
Though the nature of madrasa education in South Asia is diversified in nature in terms of their different schools of thought and of their different sectarian split such as Deobandian, Ahl-i-Hadith, Barelwi, Jamaate Islami and the Shias but the Quawmi madrasas in Brahmanbaria are predominantly Deobandian in nature. During the fieldwork not a single madrasa was found that is morally and principally maintain other school of thought except Deobandian tradition. Like Deoband Madrasa these Quawmi madrasas maintain the principal Islamic thought—Ahle sunnat wal jammaat, which is based on the Koran, the tradition of the Prophet and on the Hanafi madhhab, Islamic school. The influence of Deobandian thought on such madrasas is manifested through their curriculum and in other Islamic activities. Like Deoband these madrasas prioritize on teaching the Koran and its exegesis; fiqh—Islamic law and jurisprudence; and hadith, the tradition of the Prophet. For instance, it was found that the curriculum of Jamia Islamia Yunusia Madrasa is almost identical with the curriculum of Deoband Madrasa. It is said that Jamia Islamia Yunusia Madrasa is the oldest madrasa in Brahmanbaria established in 1914 by a Deobandian follower in the then who came from India namely Mawlana Abu Taher Muhammad Yunus, after whom the Madrasa was named. Then Yunusia Madrasa was headed by another Deobandian—Fakhre Bangal Allama Tazul Islam, who followed by Deobandian graduate Mawlana Sirajul Islam and at present continued by another Deobandian alim, Islamic learned person—Mufti Nurullah. Though currently there is no direct relation with Deoband Madrasa Yunusia Madrasa is still maintaining the tradition of Deobandian school of thought and the graduates of the Madrasa are spreading in different parts of Bangladesh some of whom launch new Quawmi madrasa based on Deobandian principal—Ahle sunnat wal jammaat.
On the contrary, in this research it was found that the Ali’a madrasas in Bangladesh are less influenced by Deobandian school of thought since it is a hybrid system of education comprising both modern and Islamic education. Interestingly enough, the Deobandian follower i.e. graduates of Quawmi madrasas consider Ali’a madrasa’s system of Islamic education as “corrupted” version, as I was told by an interviewee, of Islam since its schooling was first patronized by the British colonizer (the first Ali’a madrasa was established in Calcutta by the British government in 1780) and since it reduces the “important” content of Islamic education. But socially the graduates of Ali'a madrasas are more privileged as compared to the graduates of Quawmi madrasa because the certification of two major degrees—Dakhil, secondary level; and Alim, higher secondary level—are recognized by government system of education. According to an officer of Madrasa Education Board, government is taking necessary steps for recognizing other two major degrees—Fazil, bachelor level; and Kamil, Master level—of Ali’a madrasa. Government is also planning to establish a separate Quwami Madrasa Board responsible for supervising all such madrasas. If it is implemented the principal degree of Quawmi madrasaDaora hadith, expertise on the tradition of the Prophet would be equivalent to Master level of education. Long before such plan a non-government Quawmi Madrasa Board named by Befaqul Madaris has been functioning independently. The Secretary General of the Board, Mawlana Abdul Jabbar expressed that at present there are two hundred Quawmi madrasas affiliated with the Board from all over the country, all of which Deobandian in nature. According to him if government formally recognize the Quawmi system of education they would not prefer to change their principal nature and its curriculum. Thus, how the system of Quawmi madrasa education will be accommodated in the modern education system is a question of further research.

The Philosophy of Islamic Education: Classical Views and M. Fethullah Gülen's Perspectives

Islam is frequently characterized as a "religion of the Book," the Book in question being the Qur'an, the central revealed scripture of Islam. The first word said to have been uttered by the angel Gabriel in roughly 610 CE which initiated the series of divine revelations to the Prophet Muhammad was Iqra'! ("Recite" or "read). The full verse (96:1) commands "Read in the name of your Lord Who has created [all things]." The act of reading or reciting, in relation to Islam's holy book and in general, thus took on an exceptionally sacrosanct quality within Islamic tradition and practice as did the acquisition of particularly religious knowledge by extension. "Are those who know and those who do not know to be reckoned the same?" asks the Qur'an (39:9). The Qur'an depicts knowledge as a great bounty from God granted to His prophets and their followers through time (2:151-52; 4:113; 5:110;12:22; 28:14, etc.).
Believers also took to heart the Prophet's counsel, "Seek knowledge even unto China," which sacralized the journey, often perilous, undertaken to supplement and complete one's education, an endeavor known in Arabic as rihlat talab al-'ilm ("journey in the search for knowledge"). The "seeker of knowledge" (Ar. talib al-'ilm) remains until today the term used for a student, normally in its abbreviated form (talib [masc.]/ taliba [fem.]) for all levels of education. Another equally well-known statement of the Prophet exhorts, "The pursuit of knowledge is incumbent on every Muslim, male or female," a statement that has made the acquisition of at least rudimentary knowledge of religion and its duties mandatory for the Muslim individual, irrespective of gender. "The scholars are the heirs of the prophets" is another important hadith invoked as proof-text to underscore the extraordinary importance of learning and its dissemination in the shaping of communal life and as a basic, integral part of an individual's religious growth. Sanctioned by both the word of God and the words of His prophet (the latter recorded in what is known in Arabic as hadith, lit. "speech"), the pursuit of knowledge (Ar. 'ilm) is regarded as a religious obligation on a par with prayer, charity, etc. It is customary to find these sacred proof-texts extolling the merits of 'ilm assembled and recorded in many treatises on learning and education in both the pre-modern and modern periods in order to exhort the believer to embark on the noble pursuit of knowledge.[1]
In this article, I will first provide a brief survey of classical Islamic education and its institutions, formal and informal, as well as identify its underlying principles and rationale. I will then discuss some of the key features of Gülen's perspectives on what constitutes ideal Islamic education. The strong correspondences between the classical views and Gülen's perspectives will be indicated, establishing thereby a continuity and innovative engagement on the latter's part with the classical heritage.
Classical Centers of Education
The earliest venue of education was the mosque, the place of formal worship in Islam. During the Prophet Muhammad's time, his mosque in Medina served both as the locus of private and public worship and for informal instruction of the believers in the religious law and related matters. The mosque continued to play these multiple roles throughout the first three centuries of Islam (seventh through the ninth centuries of the Christian or the Common era). Typically, instruction in the religious and legal sciences would be offered by a religious scholar to students who sat with him (and, less frequently, with her) in teaching circles (Ar. halqa, majlis), either inside the mosque or outside in its courtyard. By the tenth century, a new feature, the hostel (khan) was increasingly being established next to "teaching mosques" in Iraq and the eastern provinces of the Islamic world which allowed students and teachers from far-flung areas to reside near these places of instruction. The emergence of the mosque-khan complex at this time is a consequence of the lengthier and more intensive period of study required to qualify as a religious scholar. Religious learning had expanded by this time and study of the religious law (Ar. al-Shari'a) became more detailed and sophisticated, reflected in the establishment of the four prominent Sunni schools of law (Ar. madhahib; sing. madhhab) by the tenth century.
In the tenth and eleventh centuries of the Common Era, another important institution developed and proliferated known as the madrasa, literally meaning in Arabic "a place of study."
The madrasa was a logical development of the mosque-khan complex, being both a teaching and residential institution. In addition to the impetus of the greater systematization of knowledge, particularly of the legal sciences, which led to the emergence of the madrasa, the development of this institution has also been attributed in part to a reassertion of Sunni Muslim identity in the wake of the collapse of the various Shi'i dynasties that had ruled much of the Islamic world in the tenth and eleventh centuries. In the tenth century, a Shi'i dynasty called the Buwayhids (or Buyids) established their control over 'Abbasid Iraq and Iran, with the Sunni 'Abbasid caliph remaining as the nominal ruler. The Buwayhids retained their control until the eleventh century when they were beaten back by the Sunni Saljuqs, a Turkic-speaking people from Central Asia . In 969 CE, another Shi'i dynasty from North Africa later called the Fatimids gained power in Cairo, Egypt and ruled the Sunni population until 1171 when they were defeated by the Saljuqs as well. One of the Fatimids' enduring intellectual legacies was the establishment of the oldest continuing university in the world - the al-Azhar mosque-madrasa complex in Cairo -- in 972 CE to propagate Fatimid-Shi'i doctrine and learning. With the fall of the Fatimids, there was subsequently a concerted Sunni effort to roll back the Shi 'i influence of the past two centuries. The madrasa became in many ways the locus classicus for waging this campaign of religious and intellectual reclamation. This is dramatically reflected in the transformation of al-Azhar into the foremost Sunni center of higher learning in the twelfth century, a position it enjoys until today.
Perhaps the most prominent name associated with the spread of madrasas particularly in Iraq was Nizam al-Mulk (d. 1092), the redoubtable Saljuq vizier (Ar. wazir, a "minister"). His name is associated with the famous Nizamiyya academy in Baghdad, which boasted the presence of famous scholars like Abu Hamid al-Ghazali (d. 1111). In the twelfth century, the Zengid ruler Nur al-Din ibn Zangi and the famous Ayyubid ruler Salah al-Din ibn Ayyub (known as Saladin in the West) were prominent patrons of madrasas in Syria and Egypt. Henceforth, the madrasa became the principal venue and vehicle for the transmission of religious education in the major urban centers of the Islamic world, such as Baghdad, Cairo, Damascus, and Jerusalem. It was the institution of higher learning comparable to a modern college of which it was its precursor, as will be further discussed below.
Other Venues of Education
In addition to mosques, mosque-khans, and madrasas, other institutions developed over time which played important, supplementary roles in the dissemination of learning. One of the most significant institutions of this type was the burgeoning libraries from the ninth century on. The larger mosques often had libraries attached to them containing books on religious topics. Other semi-public libraries would additionally have books on logic, philosophy, music, astronomy, geometry, medicine, astronomy, and alchemy. The first academy in the Islamic world, known in Arabic as bayt al-hikma (lit. "House of Wisdom"), was built by the 'Abbasid caliph al-Ma'mun (813-33), which had a library and an astronomical observatory attached to it. In this academy, many Arab Christian scholars under their Muslim Abbasid patrons translated significant classical Greek works first into their native Syriac and then into Arabic. Works of Euclid, Galen, Plato etc. were thus made accessible to the following generations of primarily Arabic speaking scholars, influencing the development of a humanistic tradition. Sometimes wealthy private individuals endowed a library in their residences, such as 'Ali b. Yahya (d. 888). The library known as khizanat al-hikma (Ar. "Treasury of Wisdom") allowed students to study all branches of learning without fee in it; it was particularly renowned for astronomy. Other specialized institutions of learning were dar al-qur'an (lit: "house of the Qur'an"), which specialized in the study of the Qur'an and its sciences; dar al-hadith,(lit. " house of the Prophet's statements"), which concentrated on the study of the sunna, the sayings and customs of the Prophet Muhammad; dar al-'ilm ("house of rational sciences"), which was concerned with the philosophical and natural sciences, and madrasat al-tibb ("schools of medicine"), which were dedicated to the medical sciences. Three more terms - ribat, khanqa, and zawiya - referred to Sufi lodges and conventicles where the traditional sciences were pursued. Medical instruction also took place primarily in hospitals (maristan / bimaristan) which served as schools of medicine, and also in mosques and the madrasas. At all times, informal and formal instruction was offered by men and women in their own homes or in the private homes of scholars and wealthy individuals. In most areas of the medieval Islamic world, such modes of private education was more the norm than formal, collective education in a madrasa.[2]
Organization and Curricula of Madrasas: the Parameters of Religious Education
Religious education was based upon what is termed in Arabic al-'ulum al-naqliyya (lit: the "transmitted sciences"), which consists primarily of the Qur'anic sciences, the hadith sciences, and jurisprudence (Ar. fiqh). In addition to the "transmitted" or religious sciences were al-'ulum al-'aqliyya ("the rational sciences"), which included logic, philosophy, mathematics, and the natural sciences. The rational sciences were also termed the "foreign sciences" or "sciences of the ancients" pointing to their largely classical Greek provenance.
In the pre-'Abbasid period, madrasas, like the "teaching" mosques before, were primarily devoted to religious learning based on the study of the transmitted sciences (study of the Qur'an, hadith, and the religious law), supplemented by the ancillary sciences of grammar and literature. George Makdisi, who has done pioneering work on Islamic education and demonstrated the influence of the madrasa on the development of the medieval European college, has given us a comprehensive idea of medieval curricula of study and the organizations of learning.[3] As far as the traditional or religious sciences were concerned, it was customary for the student to learn in sequence: the Qur'an, hadith, Qur'anic sciences which included exegesis, variant readings of the text, and hadith sciences, which involved the study of the biographies of the hadith transmitters. The student would then proceed to study two "foundational sciences:" usul al-din, referring to the principles or sources of religion, and usul al-fiqh, the sources, principles, and methodology of jurisprudence. The student would additionally learn the law of the madhhab (school of law) he[4] was affiliated with, the points of difference (Ar. khilaf) within the same madhhab and between the four schools of law, and dialectic (Ar. jadal), also called disputation (Ar. munazara).[5] Following dialectic came the study of adab or belles-lettres, including poetry, prosody, and grammar. These subjects in essence constituted the curriculum and meant to be sequentially studied as indicated here - at least as preferred by the educational theorists. In reality, however, the method and course of study tended to be informal and unstructured and were often dependent on the proclivities of the teachers and sometimes of the students. Thus a typical day of instruction for the famous jurist Muhammad b. Idris al-Shafi'i (d. 820) would involve teaching a course on Qur'an before any other topic in the day, then one each on hadith and disputation in that order, followed by a late morning course on the classical language, grammar, prosody, and poetry until about noon.[6]
In his famous Prolegomena written in the fourteenth century, Ibn Khaldun lists a similar curriculum for the religious sciences, with an emphasis on the Qur'an and its sciences, hadith and its sciences, including the study of specific hadith terminology, jurisprudence (fiqh) with an emphasis on the complex law of inheritance and the sources of jurisprudence but with the addition of theology (al-kalam), Sufism (Islamic mysticism; called in Arabic al-tasawwuf), and the science of the interpretation of dreams or visions (ta'bir al-ruya).[7]
The madrasa was typically funded by a waqf, a charitable foundation or trust, a form of institutional organization that was borrowed by the West from the Islamic world towards the end of the eleventh century.[8] Waqf rendered a person's property safe from confiscation by the state by freezing it as a public asset but which could be passed on to the founder's descendants. Wealthy men and women thus served as benefactors of madrasas, which were sometimes named after them or their families, out of both pious interest and pragmatic concerns. Many had a genuine interest in furthering public education and women played a prominent role in this particular charitable activity. For example, a renowned madrasa was endowed in the fourteenth century by Barakat, the mother of the Mamluk Sultan al-Ashraf Shaban, which became known as Athe madrasa of the mother of al-Ashraf Shaban.[9] Another woman named Alif (Ulaf?), a member of the distinguished scholarly Bulqini family also from the Mamluk period, created endowments to support Quran reciters in her grandfathers madrasa.[10]
Methodology of Instruction and Learning
The method of teaching was by lecturing and dictation; for legal studies, munazara or disputation was important as well. The student was expected to memorize, first of all, the Qur'an and then as many hadiths possible. The teacher, commonly called a shaykh, would repeat the hadiths three times so as to allow the student to remember it. In the case of hadith, dictation (imla') was particularly important since the text had to be precisely established. Problems of jurisprudence were also dictated as were linguistic and literary subjects. In relation to the Qur'an and hadith, learning by heart (talqin) was the principal method of acquiring knowledge and a retentive memory was, therefore, greatly prized. But, at the same time, the importance of understanding was emphasized and the students were expected to reflect on what they had learned. The saying "learning is a city, one of whose gates is memory and the other understanding" captures this two-pronged approach to learning well. The Arabic term used for "understanding" is diraya and is distinct from, although related to, the activity of memorization and transmission of particularly hadiths, a process known in Arabic as riwaya. Diraya was decisively the higher "gate" of learning since it referred to the individual's ability to comprehend the contents of hadith, not merely passively memorize and transmit it, and use them to expound upon the religious law. The related term for jurisprudence fiqh means essentially "understanding" as well and reflects the importance attached to active comprehension of and engagement with one's subjects in the educational system.[11]
In the study of law, the scholastic method of disputation (munazara) prevailed, a pedagogical method that originated quite early in the Islamic milieu. It is known that the 'Abbasid caliph Harun al-Rashid encouraged the holding of disputations at his court. The famous jurist Malik b. Anas used to deputize his student 'Uthman b. 'Isa b. Kinana (d. 797) to engage another well-known jurist Abu Yusuf in munazara. Al-Husayn b. Isma'il (d. 942), a hadith scholar and jurisconsult (mufti) who was the judge of the Iraqi town of Kufa for sixty years, held regular sessions of legal disputations at his home during his period of judgeship, often attended by other prominent jurisconsults. Other examples of regular disputation sessions abound in the legal literature. These sessions tended to be very popular and often attracted large audiences, frequently running from sunset to midnight.[12]
The method of disputation required that the disputant have a) a comprehensive knowledge of khilaf, which referred to the divergent legal opinions of jurisconsults; b) a thorough acquaintance with jadal or dialectic; and acquire skill through practice in c) munazara. Law students had to have memorized a thorough list as possible of the disputed matters of law and know the answers for them. By virtue of their skill in disputation the students earned their licence or certificate, known in Arabic as ijaza, to teach law and issue legal opinions.[13]
The "rational" or "ancient" sciences
The so-called "rational sciences" (al-'ulum al-'aqliyya) or "the sciences of the ancient" (al-'ulum al-awa'il) usually consisted of seven main components: 1) logic (al-mantiq) which was the foundation of all others; 2) al-arithmatiqi, arithmetic, including accounting (hisab); 3) al-handasa, geometry; 4) al-hay'a, astronomy; 5) al-musiki, music, which dealt with the theory of tones and their definition by number, etc.; 6) al-tabi'iyyat ("the natural sciences"), which was concerned with the theory of bodies at rest and in motion - human, animal, plant, mineral and heavenly, important subdivisions of which were medicine (al-tibb) and agriculture (al-falaha); and, finally, 7) 'ilm al-ilahiyyat, metaphysics.[14]
As early as the middle of the 8th century during the Abbasid period, strong interest began developing in the learning of the ancient world, particularly its Greek sources, but also to a lesser extent in its Persian and Indian ones as well. The intellectual awakening that this interest spawned has rendered this age especially illustrious in the annals of Islamic and world history. Due to the political and territorial expansion of Islam beyond the original Arabian peninsula, Muslims became the heir of the older and more cultured people whom they conquered or encountered. In Syria and Iraq, they adapted themselves to the already existing Aramaic civilization which had been influenced by the later Greek civilization in Syria and by the Persian civilization in Iraq. In three-quarters of a century after the establishment of Baghdad, the Arabic-reading world was in possession of the chief philosophical works of Aristotle, of the leading Neo-Platonic commentators, and of most of the medical writings of Galen, as well as of Persian and Indian scientific works. In only a few decades Arab scholars would assimilate what had taken the Greeks centuries to develop.
India acted as an early source of inspiration, especially in the wisdom literature and mathematics. About 771 CE, an Indian traveller introduced into Baghdad a treatise on astronomy which by order of the caliph al-Mansur was translated by Muhammad al-Fazari (d. between 796-806). Al-Fazari subsequently became the first astronomer in Islam. The stars had of course interested the Arabs since pre-Islamic times, but no scientific study of them was undertaken until this time. Islam had a particular interest in the study of astronomy as a means for fixing the direction of prayer towards the Ka`ba. The famous mathematician al-Khwarizmi (d. 850) based his widely known astronomical tables (Ar. zij) on al-Fazari's work. From al-Khwarizmi's name we get the word "algorithm." Other astronomical works were translated in this period from Persian into Arabic, especially during the time of Harun al-Rashid. In the field of literature and the arts, the Persian contribution was the strongest.
In 765, the Caliph al-Mansur, afflicted with a stomach disease which had baffled his physicians, sent for Jurjis ibn Bakhtishu', a Nestorian Christian physician from Iraq who served as the dean of the hospital at Jundishapur (Gondishapur) in Persia. In the ancient world, Jundishapur was noted for its academy of medicine and philosophy said to have been founded about 555 by the great Persian king Anushirwan. When the school of Alexandria was closed during the Christian period, many of its scholars are said to have fled to the school at Jundishapur. The science of the institution was based on the ancient Greek tradition, but the language of instruction was Aramaic. Jurjis soon won the confidence of the caliph and became the court physician while retaining his Christian faith. It is reported that on being invited by the caliph to embrace Islam, he retorted that he preferred the company of his fathers, regardless of whether they were in heaven or in hell.[15] He appears not to have suffered any ill consequences on account of his candor. In Baghdad, Ibn Bakhtishu` became the founder of a brilliant family dynasty of medical practitioners which for six or seven generations, that is covering a period of two centuries and a half, exercised an almost continuous monopoly over the court medical practice. Jurjis' son Bakhtishu' (d. 801) and his grandson Jibril (Gabriel) served as court physicians to Harun al-Rashid.[16]
At the time of the Arab conquest of the Fertile Crescent, the intellectual legacy of Greece was unquestionably the most precious treasure at hand. Under the two Abbasid caliphs al-Mahdi and his son Harun al-Rashid in particular, the Muslim army won decisive victories over the Byzantine enemy forces. The young Harun actually led his father's campaign against the Byzantines; in 782, the Arab army reached the Bosphorus, at the very doors of Constantinople itself. The Byzantine queen-regent at that time, Irene (who held the regency in the name of her son Constantine VI) was forced to sue for peace and conclude a treaty with the Muslims. The various Abbasid military excursions into the land of the Byzantines or as the Arab chroniclers say, the land of the Romans, resulted in the introduction, among other objects of booty, of Greek manuscripts. Al-Ma'mun is said to have sent his ambassadors as far as Constantinople, to the Byzantine Emperor Leo the Armenian himself, in search of Greek manuscripts. Al-Mansur is requested and received a number of books, including Euclid, from the Byzantine emperor. The Arab Muslims were not able to read the Greek originals; therefore they had to depend on translations made by their subjects who did know Greek: Nestorian Christians. The Nestorians first translated the Greek works into Syriac and then from Syriac into Arabic.
One of the most important achievements of al-Ma'mun's rule is his establishment of the previously mentioned Bayt al-Hikma (the House of Wisdom) in 830. This House of Wisdom was a combination library, an academy, and a translation bureau. One historian has described the Bayt al-Hikma as the most important educational institution since the foundation of the Alexandrian Museum in the first half of the third century B.C. Under al-Ma'mun, the Bayt al-Hikma became the center of translation activity. This era of avid translation would last through the early tenth century.[17]
Before the age of translation was brought to an end, practically all the works of Aristotle that had survived to that day, had been translated into Arabic. Two Muslim chroniclers tell us that no less than a hundred works of Aristotle, whom the Muslims called "the philosopher of the Greeks," had been translated. Some of these works attributed to Aristotle, however, are now known to be forgeries. This intellectual floruit in the Islamic world was taking place while Europe was almost totally ignorant of Greek thought and science. Its later rediscovery of it was through the Arabic translations which in turn would spur the Western Renaissance. One modern historian has remarked, "While al-Rashid and al-Ma'mun were delving into Greek and Pesian philosophy, their contemporaries in the West, Charlemagne and his lords, were reportedly dabbling in the art of writing their names."[18] Aristotle's works on logic and particularly two of his works, Rhetoric and Poetics, became, along with the study of Arabic grammar, the basis of humanistic studies (Ar. adab) in Islam. As these works available in translation progressively took intellectual circles by storm, the Islamic world, like Patristic Christianity before it, had to grapple with "the problem of how to assimilate the 'pagan' knowledge of the Greeks to a conception of the world that included God as its creator."[19] The tension between the two led to a creative accommodation and synthesis as well as to a festering uneasiness and outright hostility in the medieval world, a range of responses that in some measure still influences modern discourses on the nature and parameters of education in Islamic societies.
In the early 'Abbasid period, the rational sciences were taught in special institutions called dar al-'ilm (lit. "house of knowledge") which flourished until about the middle of the eleventh century when they began to cede ground to the madrasa. Like the madrasa, the dar al-'ilm was also often a waqf institution, established by a private Muslim individual using his or her private property for a public charitable purpose. In addition to these institutions, the rational sciences were typically taught in private homes and in other non-institutional locations. Because of the largely non-institutional nature of this kind of education, it has been assumed by some historians that instruction in the rational sciences considerably declined and then well-nigh disappeared after the twelfth century, just as Europe was beginning to experience a surge in learning inspired by its contacts with the Islamic world. It appears that these historians had been looking for 'ilm in all the wrong places because once the madrasa with its mandated curriculum of religious sciences became the predominant institution of formal learning, the rational subjects were taught primarily in informal study circles in private homes, libraries, and in the dar al-'ilm institutions until they faded away. Since most modern scholars have tended to focus on the madrasa as the locus classicus of Islamic education, non-formal and non-institutionalized modes of learning tended to be downplayed.
Recent research based on unpublished manuscripts, charitable foundation deed documents, and biographical works on scholars yields a revised picture. In favorable circumstances, the rational sciences continued to be taught and studied openly even in madrasas, sometimes even in mosques, and certainly in informal study-circles and libraries. This was a natural consequence of the fact that the broadly educated person who had acquired mastery in several fields, including the Hellenistic subjects, remained the ideal throughout the pre-modern period, in contradistinction to our era of specialization. Thus biographical dictionaries from the Mamluk period (1256-1571) refer to shaykhs (professors and learned notables) in Damascus who had achieved enviable mastery (Ar. riyasa, imama) in a number of subjects, including theology, belles lettres, medicine, mathematics, natural science, and the Hellenistic sciences. A Hanafi jurist is described in one biographical entry as having taught logic and scholastic dialectic in the Umayyad mosque in Damascus during the Mamluk period.[20] In a mosque or madrasa environment, the studying and teaching of Hellenic philosophy could be the most problematic, since some of its postulations were at variance with monotheistic doctrines such as the existence of an omnipotent, personal, and providential God, the finiteness of the world, and bodily resurrection. Thus a philosopher who had studied with the well-known theologian Fakhr al-Din al-Razi (d. 1209) was accused by some of his colleagues of corrupting his students at the madrasa where he lived and taught. The rational sciences along with the Islamic sciences could always be taught discreetly by professors who had a partiality for both types of learning under a neutral or concealing umbrella rubric like hadith. Even in unfavorable political circumstances, such as during the reign of the twelfth century Ayyubid rulers al-Mu'azzam and al-Ashraf who tried to forbid the teaching of philosophy, the teaching of the Hellenistic sciences continued unabated.[21] George Makdisi, who still remains after his death the preeminent scholar on Islamic education, has pointed to the fact that the "ancient sciences" remained accessible and avidly pursued through the High Middle Ages, even by "conventional" scholars such as the Shafi'i jurisconsult Sayf al-Din al-Amidi (d. 1234). In regard to these sciences, he remarked that "Not only was access easy, it was in turn concealed, condoned, allowed, encouraged, held in honour, according to different regions and periods, in spite of the traditionalist opposition, the periodic prohibitions, and autos-da-fé."[22]
Humanistic studies (Adab)
Another very important part of education in the Islamic milieu was the humanistic sciences, termed in Arabic adab, which was based primarily upon the study of literature (poetry, belles-lettres, prosody) and the linguistic sciences (grammar, syntax, philology). In addition to religious or sacred literature, "profane" or secular literature was also being produced since the Umayyad period (661-750). In the field of literature and the arts, the Persian contribution was the strongest. The earliest literary prose work in Arabic that has come down to us is Kalila wa-Dimna, a translation of a wisdom tale from Pahlavi (Middle Persian), which in turn was a translation from the Sanskrit. The original work was brought to Persia from India, together with the game of chess, during the reign of the Persian King Anusharwan (531-78) and would become hugely popular in world literature upon its translation into various languages. The book Kalila and Dimna was part of the burgeoning mirrors-of-princes literature and thus intended to instruct princes in the art of administration by means of animal fables. It was rendered into Arabic by Ibn al-Muqaffa', a Persian Zoroastrian convert to Islam, whose life spanned the late Umayyad and 'Abbasid periods. Ibn al-Muqaffa' was a member of the powerful, highly educated secretarial class which was largely responsible for the emergence and development of adab. As Islamic realms expanded and a sophisticated, complex bureaucracy evolved, the epistolary (prose-essay) genre arose which eventually would spawn a rich secular, administrative literature. Many from among this class of royal secretaries and courtiers continued to provide adaptations and translations of Indian-Persian wisdom literature for the entertainment and edification of the upper class. Among the translated works were ancient histories and legends, fables and proverbs - almost anything that appealed to the literary sophisticate and social dilettante. Poetry had dipped in popularity in the early Islamic period but began to enjoy a resurgence in the eighth century. Pre-Islamic poetry in fact was minutely studied by Muslim philologists and religious scholars because of the proximity of its language to that of the Qur'an and thus it's beneficial role in elucidating abstruse words or locutions in the sacred text.
As a consequence of these intellectual and cultural trends, a specifically Islamic humanism emerged based on the concept of adab, which according to probably the most famous belle-lettrist in Arabic literature, Amr b. Bahr al-Jahiz (d. 869), may be defined as "1) the total educational system of 2) a cultured Muslim who 3) took the whole world for his object of curiosity and knowledge."[23] Adab, according to the first part of this definition, is the equivalent of the Greek notion of paideia, according to which a holistic education contributes to the moral development of the individual. One can even speak of a multiplicity of humanistic trends (humanisms) in this period of extraordinary intellectual and cultural floruit, including philosophical, religious, and legalistic humanism.[24] As our sources show, adab in the broad sense of humanistic studies became an integral part of the curriculum in mosques, madrasas, and libraries. The sciences of the Arabic language ('ulum al-'Arabiyya) were necessary ancillaries to the religious sciences from the very beginning. According to the well-known philologist al-Anbari (d. 1181), a full range of offerings in the Arabic sciences would include grammar, lexicology, morphology, metrics, rhyme, prosody, history of the Arab tribes, Arab genealogy, as well as the science of dialectic for grammar and the science of grammatical theory and methodology.[25] Secular, belle-lettristic works were sometimes taught even in mosques; the biographer al-Safadi mentions that a shaykh taught al-Hariri's famous Maqamat and other adab works in the Umayyad mosque.[26] Being a polymath was a matter of pride and scholars won renown for their breadth of learning in various religious and secular subjects rather than for a narrow specialization. Thus the elder Subki, father of the famous biographer and chronicler Taj al-Din Subki, is described by his son as not atypically having mastery over jurisprudence, hadith, Qur'anic exegesis and recitation, didactic and speculative theology, grammar and syntax, lexicography, belles-lettres and ethics, medicine, scholastic dialectic, khilaf (points of difference among the law schools, logic, poetry, heresiography, arithmetic, law, and astronomy.[27] Physicians were also commonly learned in adab and the legal sciences just as many jurists were also learned in medicine.[28]
Role of Women Scholars
The master narrative on Islamic education in both Islamic (Arabic, Persian, Urdu, etc.) and Western languages has traditionally minimized the role of women in scholarship, creating the impression that their influence has been slight. Yet, not-as-frequently consulted sources like biographical dictionaries establish that women's contribution particularly in the transmission of hadith and in other areas of religious scholarship has been considerable and recognized as such by their contemporaries. For example, 'A'isha, the Prophet's widow, was a prolific transmitter of hadith; a significant number of her reports have been recorded by al-Bukhari (d. 870), author of the most authoritative Sunni hadith compilation. She was also renowned for her exegesis of the Qur'an and was consulted widely by the closest associates of the Prophet on account of her knowledge of the religious law.[29]
During the later period, we have evidence of impressive scholarship evinced by women as recorded in biographical dictionaries, such as the one composed by Muhammad b. 'Abd al-Rahman al-Sakhawi (d. 1497).[30] An overwhelming number of the 1,075 women referred to in al-Sakhawi's chapter on women are distinguished for their exemplary religious piety and for their excellence in and dedication to religious scholarship. The general picture that emerges is of women who were active in both receiving and imparting religious knowledge, particularly in the transmission of hadith. The notion of sexually segregated space that we take for granted as a defining feature of medieval Muslim society is challenged by what these biographical accounts have to tell us about the formal and informal settings in which women scholars conducted their activity. Women are depicted as freely studying with men and other women; after becoming credentialed as teachers, they would go on to teach both men and women. The settings include the madrasa, informal study circles (halaqas) and private homes. Two of the most important madrasas mentioned by name are the Zahiriyya and the Salihiyya in Cairo, Egypt where some of these women received their education and later taught.[31] Our protagonists are mostly women from elite backgrounds; almost without exception, they are described as being of noble birth, and/or from families which were already distinguished for a tradition of learning, and for producing religious and legal scholars. The male relatives of these women appear to have been quite encouraging of the desire of these women to acquire advanced religious instruction. Clearly, these women were empowered by their specific social and familial circumstances which appear not to have recognized a gender barrier in the acquisition and dissemination of religious scholarship.
These women scholars, like their male counterparts, spent years in scholarly apprenticeship, making the usual rounds of academic circles, choosing to study closely with particular, renowned teachers, and finally earning the coveted ijaza, the teaching certificate which permitted them to instruct others. Like their male colleagues, they clearly worked hard to make their entré into the world of formal religious training. The actual academic training of the best of these women scholars appear to match that of the best male scholars in rigor and thoroughness, a fact that was acknowledged in their own time, given the amount of academic recognition that came their way as a result. This is reflected primarily in the number and quality of the students they supervised, which included al-Sakhawi himself, and prior to him, his own teacher, the famous Ibn Hajar, for example. Some women traveled quite far and wide in their scholarly quest. For example, Fatima bt. Muhammad b. >Abd al-Hadi obtained her teaching certificates in Damascus, Egypt, Aleppo, Hama, Homs and other places, studying with renowned scholars like the famous hadith scholar Muhammad Ibn >Asakir, among others.[32] Rabi, daughter of the celebrated Ibn Hajar mentioned above, received teaching certificates from a large number of Egyptian and Syrian scholars. Her rihlat talab al-ilm (Atravel in the pursuit of knowledge@) began at the age of four when her father took her to Mecca to listen to al-Zayn al-Maraghi.[33]
A key descriptive term used for some of these distinguished women scholars is ra'isa (literally, "a female leader") and the more elevated form kathirat al-ri'asa ("having plenitude of leadership"). These terms are particularly significant since they connote exceptional mastery in the scholar's field(s) of expertise and her authority. One scholar, Halima bt. Ahmad b. Muhammad, who is described as possessing kathirat al-riyasa or "plenitude of leadership," is clearly deserving of this accolade. She is described as having being subjected to a rigorous examination before being granted her certificate to teach by her board of examiners which was constituted by a number of the most distinguished scholars of the day. After her certification, prominent scholars audited her transmission of hadith.[34]
Participation of Religious Minorities
The participation of religious minorities, mainly Christians and Jews, in the intellectual and academic life in Islamic societies is well-documented in various sources. We have already referred to the enormous contributions of Jacobite and Nestorian Christians to the efflorescence of Islamic civilization starting in the 8th century through their translation activities funded by their Muslim patrons. Inter-faith dialogue and dialectics were sometimes conducted at the caliphal court to promote a critical understanding of the other's religion. For example, the Abbasid caliph al-Mahdi (d. 785) convened formal discussions on theological matters with the Catholicos Timothy, leader of the Nestorian church in Iraq in the eighth century.
Biographical sources in particular are a valuable repository of information about inter-religious scholarly exchanges and collaboration taking place in study-circles and other venues. One source mentions that a certain Muslim scholar learned in grammar and the rational sciences held study sessions in his house attended not only by Muslims but also by Jews, Christians, "heretics," and Samaritans,[35] while another shaykh, 'Izz al-Din al-Hasan al-Irbili (d. 1262) is said to have read rational sciences and philosophy with fellow-Muslims, the "People of the Book," and philosphers.[36] Other such examples occur in valuable biographical works of the period. Lessons in non-Muslim scriptures were also sometimes given by Muslim scholars. According to one source, a professor in Damascus convened study-circles on the New Testament which were attended by Christians, and held others on the Old Testament attended by Jews.[37] The celebrated Jewish philosopher Moses Maimonides, called in Arabic Musa ibn Maymun, served as Saladdin's court physician and wrote most of his philosophical treatises in Arabic. Highly respected for his scholarship, he moved easily in learned Muslim and Jewish circles. When he died in 1204, his death was officially mourned by Jews and Muslims alike for three days in Cairo where he was born. In Persia, the Syrian Jacobite Catholicos Abu al-Faraj Ibn al-'Ibri (d. 1286) lectured in the thirteenth century at the famous Il-Khanid observatory and library of Maragha on Euclid and Ptolemy.[38] This kind of ecumenical scholarly collegiality was a major ingredient in the formidable edifice of learning in the medieval Muslim world.
M. Fethullah Gülen's Views on Education
Our survey to date established the general receptivity of early Muslims to knowledge, religious and secular, regardless of its provenance, as long as the acquisition of such knowledge did not contribute to moral turpitude and did not violate Islamic norms of decency. As we discussed earlier, Greek, Persian, Indian, and Syriac learning was selectively synthesized with Islamic scholarship and values which enriched the religious sciences and fostered the cultivation of the natural sciences, philosophy, belles-lettres, and mathematics, among other disciplines. We have recorded instances of Muslims, Christians, Jews, and "heretics" (as called by some of the sources) studying with and learning from one another in a common educational enterprise. Education, in many ways, was a great equalizer. Therefore, as we have seen, women often had the opportunity to excel in the study and teaching of the religious sciences, whose names and accomplishments are gratefully recorded in their works by their male students and colleagues. As noted before, local rulers, notables, and the state sometimes tried to impose restrictions on the curricula of madrasas but many scholars simply ignored them or found creative ways to circumvent them.
Education served its best purpose when it fostered honest, intellectual inquiry based on critical study of texts and dialectal (and, ideally, also respectful) engagement with one's peers. Scholarly disagreement was welcomed and, as we saw, even publicly staged, in legal and intellectual circles. A statement attributed to the Prophet states, "There is mercy in the differences of my community." This hadith embodies a deep-seated awareness that the hermeneutics of reading scripture - or any other text - yields a multiplicity of equally valid readings at any given time or place. Re-emphasis upon scriptural and classical Islamic values of tolerance for a diversity of opinions and of reasoned dissent and receptivity towards the participation of religious minorities and women in public and intellectual life are in accord with the orientation of liberal educational systems.
Upon careful study, Fethullah Gülen's philosophy of a wholistic educational system which promotes spiritual enrichment and critical thinking for men and women, Muslim and non-Muslim, appears to be very closely derived from and highly compatible with the classical philosophy of Islamic education which prevailed in the early pre-modern era. As we have already affirmed, the foundational texts of Islam emphasize the acquisition and dissemination of learning as a fundamental religious duty. Thus the Qur'an (3:79) states, "Be you masters in that you teach the Scripture and in that you yourselves study [it]." Fethullah Gülen's passionate commitment to learning as a means of training both the body and the soul to do the will of God in this world is well-documented and along the lines of classical Muslim pedagogical principles based on the Qur'an and sunna. Gülen thus remarks in one of his works, "We are creatures composed of not only a body or mind or feelings or spirit; rather, we are harmonious compositions of all these elements."[39] Proper training of all these aspects of the human condition in concert promote the wholistic development of the individual - spiritually, morally, rationally, and psychologically.
In his pedagogical views, Gülen does not set up a misleading demarcation between an assumed hermetically sealed religious sphere and a secular sphere. As is well-known, he realized the importance of mastering the physical sciences and rightly emphasized that there was no cognitive disjunction between spiritual truth and scientific inquiry, and thus no dissonance between Islamic principles and scientific methodologies. Like al-Ma'arri, he bemoaned the artificial rupture effected by some between faith and reason and saw that as a violation of Islam's true purpose in bringing about a synthesis between the two. In a recent study of the Gülen movement, a young biology teacher from the movement was quoted as saying, "For a Muslim, studying or learning science is equivalent to worship. The same is true for teaching science."[40] This statement encapsulates Gülen's personal reverence for the sciences and its centrality to a wholistic educational program which blends faith and science. The Qur'an after all exhorts humans to "reflect on the creation of the heavens and Earth (3:190), which Gülen understands as an invitation to discover the Divine mysteries in the book of the universe and through every new discovery that deepens and unfolds the true believer, to live a life full of spiritual pleasure along a way of light extending from belief to knowledge of God and therefrom to love of God; and then to progress to the Hereafter and God's pleasure and approval - this is the way to become a perfect, universal human being. [41]
Studying God's creation is thus a natural consequence of an individual's faith in and love for Him, leading to deeper knowledge of matters of the mind and the spirit and ultimately to "annihilation in and subsistence with God."[42] Expressed in Sufi terms, this last quoted phrase underscores the desirability of rooting one's scientific learning in the higher purpose of serving the Almighty (hizmet) and not for material gain or worldly glory. Hizmet, service to God through one's work, particularly teaching, is a central crucial tenet of Gülen's educational philosophy and has been taken to be indicative of "worldly asceticism" on his part.[43]
It should be noted, however, that teachers in Gülen schools in a highly secular country such as Turkey and outside of Turkey do not currently overtly proclaim their adherence to Islam nor teach the sciences from a religious perspective, since both might invite the disapproval of the authorities. Gülen suggests instead that it is enough to be a faithful Muslim while imparting secular knowledge because "knowledge itself becomes an Islamic value when it is imparted by teachers with Islamic values and who can show students how to employ knowledge in the right and beneficial Islamic way."[44] In a similar vein, Gülen emphasizes the importance of temsil for his followers in general: to represent the best of Islam through their personal behavior and interactions with others.[45] Exemplary, loving conduct towards others is the best witness one can provide for one's moral integrity and fidelity to God.
In addition to the sciences, Gülen also lays emphasis on a humanistic approach to education, which reflects earlier pattersn of classical education in the Islamic world. Such a broad-based humanistic approach, according to Gülen, would include the inculcation of religious, ethical and traditional cultural values,[46] values which in their application are universal and broadly humanitarian. One should also not be severed from the history of one's community, whether as individuals or as nations, because a highly developed historical consciousness lends valuable contextualized perspective on one's contemporary life. Gülen comments, Improving a community is possible by elevating the coming generations to the rank of humanity, not by obliterating the bad ones. Unless the seeds of religion, traditional values, and historical consciousness germinate throughout the country, new bad elements will inevitably grow up in the place of every bad element that has been eradicated.[47]
Gülen evinced much admiration for the Ottoman empire and the values of the high civilization it had spawned, for which he was sometimes labeled a "reactionary" (irticaci) by those unsympathetic to him and his cause.
The Role of Women and Religious Minorities
The Gülen movement supports increased educational and work opportunities for women. Many women work particularly as educators in schools and universities, and sometimes as administrators in certain areas. Women's access to religious education in particular was never disputed in the medieval period and during some eras led to a remarkable floruit in women's scholarship, as we have previously remarked.[48] The Gülen schools continue this venerable tradition in the contemporary period.
With regard to religious minorities, Gülen, like his mentor Said Nursi before him, was a firm believer in dialogue and the establishment of cordial, tolerant relations with them. On account of such tolerant proclivities, fostered in fact by a strong Islamic identity on the part of the teachers, Gülen schools have been successful in putting down roots in various milieux, in and outside of Turkey. In return, they have been welcomed in places as diverse as Albania and Russia. Gülen often quotes Mevlana Rumi's comment to the effect that the individual should be "like a pair of compasses, with one end in the necessary place, the center, and with the other one in the 72 nations [millet]," referring to the different millets or religious communities which co-existed peacefully under the Ottomans.[49] Gülen schools, whose curricula are not specifically religious, are open to students of any faith background. Such a spirit of tolerance and inclusiveness reflects the spirit which characterized the madrasas and informal learning circles of the medieval period, which, as we indicated before, welcomed the active participation of religious minorities in their intellectual life. The inter-faith academic milieu provided valuable opportunities for dialogue and friendly debate in medieval learning circles, as it does now. Inter-faith dialogue in fact remains a priority for Gülen and his followers today, as evinced in the following statement made by Gülen, Interfaith dialogue is a must today, and the first step in establishing it is forgetting the past, ignoring polemical arguments, and giving precedence to common points, which far outnumber polemical ones.[50]
Emphasis on shared universal values provide the point of departure for inter-faith educational and dialogic activities.
The spread and success of the Gülen schools within and outside Turkey testifies to the efficacy of his educational philosophy which lays equal stress on the inculcation of Islamic ethical values and a sound training in the secular sciences. Gülen's emphasis on reason wedded to faith is perfectly in accord with the spirit of the golden age of Islamic civilization with its flourishing culture and learning as well as with the spirit of our own age, as we have established. Madrasa reform in the wake of September 11 in particular is currently receiving serious attention in a number of Muslim countries and its implementation has begun in earnest in several of them.[51] In this context, the Gülen schools and their philosophy of education deserve closer attention since they are worthy of emulation in the contemporary period.