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Islamic Education

Y Waghid, Stellenbosch University, Matieland, South Africa

ã 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

therefore do not follow your low desires, lest you deviate;

and if you swerve or turn aside, then surely Allah is aware
Adl – Universal justice which implies the of what you do’’ (The Women, 4: 135). Now considering
achievement of justice for every person irrespective that the Qurān is one of the primary sources of a philoso-
of religion, culture, identity and socio-political phy of Islamic education – another being the Sunnah or
affiliation. life experiences of the Prophet Muhammad (May Allah’s
Ummah – Communal engagement, generally in peace and blessings be upon him), and the Qurān clearly
reference to the unity and connectedness of Muslims emphasizes the importance of achieving justice for all, it
all over the world. would be plausible to claim that the rationale of Islamic
shūrā – Public deliberation which creates space for education is the achievement of ‘adl (justice) in relations
people to engage with each other on the grounds of among people. What the aforementioned verses also fore-
respect for diversity of opinions. ground is an understanding that justice is not the domain
Jihād – Just striving, including the recognition of the or proprietorship of individuals, but that justice is done to
rights of others which is more fundamentally others and in relation with others. These others, of course,
associated with intellectual exertion rather than the might not necessarily be of the same religious, cultural,
exercise of physical and emotional violence. linguistic, ethnic, political, cultural, or social milieu of the
Ta’lı̄m – Socialization of Muslims learners into an individual or group enacting justice. Simply stated, justice
inherited body of Islamic concepts and practices. is not reserved for a particular group, but rather for all
Tarbiyyah – Individuation of learners into discourse people wherever they might live. In this sense, justice is
of reflection and critique. universal or global.
Ta’lı̄m – Virtuous action mostly related to the The question arises: What does it mean to be treated
achievement of social activism in communities. justly? First, universal justice is conceptually linked to being
nonoffensive, nonsubversive, and decent toward others.
If so, then one should treat others with dignity and respect
without inflicting physical and emotional harm on others.
In an educative perspective, this makes sense because
Islamic Philosophy of Education and learning and teaching cannot take place without people
Universal Justice (learners and educators) being made to feel that they
deserve one another’s respect as dignified persons. Second,
The Qurān is replete with verses (āyāt) which emphasize being just requires of one not to act unequally (perhaps
the significance of achieving justice for all human beings through bigotry and resentment). In other words, people
wherever they might be. The most famous of these verses should be treated equally and not as some strangers in an
is the one which is recited every Friday when the imām unfair manner: specifically, think of the challenges that
(congregational leader) renders the compulsory khutbah educators in universities face not to treat students from
(sermon): ‘‘Surely Allah enjoins the doing of justice and immigrant communities, for instance, as if they do not
the doing of good (to others) and the giving to the kindred. deserve our equal and symmetrical attention. Third, justice
And He forbids indecency and evil and rebellion; He is linked to recognizing the rights of others (and not just
admonishes you that you may be mindful’’ (The Bee, being consumed with one’s own rights) and that their
16: 90). Again, in another verse: ‘‘O you who believe! (others’) rights should be assured: think of the rights that
Be upright for Allah, bearers of witness with justice, and students from all communities have to higher education and
let not hatred of people incite you to act inequitably; act how university educators should go about ensuring that this
equitably, that is nearer to piety, and be careful of (your right to education is secured. This brings us to a discussion
duty to) Allah; surely Allah is Aware of what you do’’ (The of how treating others with decency (civility), equality, and
Dinner Table, 5: 8). Likewise, it is stated in the Qurān: the recognition and assurance of others’ rights can possibly
‘‘O you who believe! Be maintainers of justice, bearers be achieved through the acts of ummah (communal engage-
of witness for Allah’s sake, though it may be against your ment), shūrā (public deliberation), and jihād (just striving,
own selves or (your) parents or near relatives; if he [she] be which includes the recognition of the rights of others) – all
rich or poor, Allah is nearer to them both in compassion; considered by the Qurān as acts of justice.

70 Philosophy of Education – Philosophical Perspective

Cultivating Acts of Justice because they would be for the advancement of humanity.
Following such an understanding of ummah (communal
First, the Qurān (The Chambers, 49: 13) states the follow- engagement), one can claim that Islamic education aims to
ing: ‘‘O humankind! Surely we have created you of a male establish opportunities whereby people engage with one
and a female and made you tribes and families [commu- another and, in so doing, they share commonalities and
nities] that you may know each other; surely the most differences in the interest of advancing human relations.
honorable of you with Allah is the one most careful of his In this way, they would act justly because participants of a
[her] duty; surely Allah is Knowing, Aware.’’ The point global community remain respectful toward one another
about this verse is that people ought to be recognized as despite their differences and disagreements.
not only having commonalities and differences, but they In other words, ummah (communal engagement) de-
should also actually share these on the grounds of acting mands that individuals actively engage with the unending
responsibly (with duty, that is to say, with justice). There- struggle and responsibility for the improvement of the
fore, the idea of community is aimed at getting people to economic, social, and political aspects of life (Alibasic,
share with others what they have in common and what 1999: 234). In this sense, ummah is concerned with a long-
they disagree about; that is, it is a matter of getting to term and inconclusive commitment to the improvement of
know one another. In another Qurānic verse it is stated: human conditions. Such a community is concerned to
‘‘And people are naught but a [global] community, so they maintain the freedom and duty of criticism and monitoring
disagree; and had not a word already gone forth from of government, to accept criticism in good spirit, to facilitate
your Lord, the matter would have certainly been decided peaceful change, and to remain united through consensus
between them in respect of that which they disagree’’ and disagreement (Alibasic, 1999: 237, 240, 242, and 292) – a
( Jonah, 10: 19). Therefore, although people are different, clear indication of such a community’s obligation to be
the sense of community which ought to exist among them critical, to develop self-critical attitudes, and to live peace-
is one whereby they share commonalities and disagree- fully. In addition, communal engagement or ummah is also
ments. However, the fact that humanity is considered as a concerned with a plurality of human ideas and not denying
global community (ummah) means that people need to the rights of others (Alibasic, 1999: 249 and 271) – thus
learn to live with the otherness of others, whose ways of indicating its recognition of difference.
being may be deeply threatening to our own (Benhabib, Second, the Qurān not only encourages people to act
2002: 130). Moreover, through the idea of ummah (com- justly as a global community, but also suggests a way of
munity), people endeavor to find a civil space whereby shūrā (public deliberation) as to how people ought to
they can enact what they have in common and at the same engage. What does the Qurān say about shūrā (public
time make public their competing narratives and signifi- deliberation)? In fact, an entire chapter (sūrah) of the
cations. In this way, people might develop a real opportu- Qurān is devoted to a discussion of shūrā (public deliber-
nity to coexist. Again, in this way, they would not only ation). The core verse which relates specifically to shūrā
establish a community of conversation and interdepen- (public deliberation) is as follows: ‘‘And those who
dence (i.e., they share commonalities), but also one of respond to their Lord and keep up prayer, and their rule
disagreement (i.e., they do not share commonalities) with- is to take counsel [shūrā] among themselves and spend out
out holding in disrespect others’ life-worlds (Benhabib, what we have given them’’ (Counsel, 42: 38). The value
2002: 35 and 41). In other words, when people are engaged attached to shūrā (public deliberation) is so profound that
in a community underpinned by interdependence and Allah connects the practice to prayer (salāh) and alms-
disagreement, they engage in an educative process with giving (zakāh). Throughout the chapter, Allah speaks
a collective identity – they share commonalities. Besides, about the importance of engaging others justly (Counsel,
educating people to become members of a global com- 42: 15), that is, with patience, forgiveness, and courage
munity involves creating civil spaces where they can learn (Counsel, 42: 43). These constitute virtues of public delib-
to share commonalities and respect the differences of eration which would hopefully encourage and persuade
others. Only then, people would be acting justly. In this people to act justly. In the first instance, public deliberation
regard the Qurān states: ‘‘You are the best of peoples cannot happen without the patience of listening to the
raised up for the benefit of humanity; you enjoin what is viewpoints of others, albeit that they may be in conflict
right and forbid the wrong and believe in Allah; and if the with one’s own. The point is that public deliberation cannot
followers of the Book had believed, it would have been happen unless we listen attentively to others’ justifications
better for them; of them (some) are believers and most are and, in turn, give to others an account of our own justifica-
transgressors’’ (The Family of Imrān, 3: 110). In essence, tions. Only then we can justifiably talk about deliberation.
when the Qurān advises people to work as a global commu- Moreover, in the second instance, the Qurān also states:
nity (ummah), it in fact does so on the grounds that people ‘‘Call [engage others] to the way of your Lord with wisdom
ought to engage communally with one another’s differences and goodly exhortation, and have disputations with them
and commonalities. If they do so, their actions would be just, in the best manner; surely your Lord best knows those
Islamic Education 71

who go astray from his path, and He knows best those who others) considered as one of the most often misrepre-
follow the right way’’ (The Bee, 16: 125). Whereas public sented concepts and which can be considered as a consti-
deliberation ought to involve different and contending tutive feature of a philosophy of Islamic education. Why?
parties listening to one another’s views, it also needs to The Qurān equates jihād with seeking closeness to Allah
invoke disputations. This means that people should also as stated in The Dinner Table (5: 35) as follows: ‘‘O you
have the courage to take one another’s views into some who believe! Be careful of (your duty to) Allah and seek
kind of systematic controversy. In others words, we should means of nearness to Him and strive hard in His way that
not be concerned merely with listening to what others you may be successful.’’ Moreover, the Qurān links jihād
have to say and then agree with them, but also to treat to working collectively with others in the path of virtuos-
one another’s truth claims critically without, of course, ity: ‘‘And We have revealed to you the Book with the
exceeding the limits (The Elevated Places, 7: 55). In this truth, verifying what is before it of the Book and a guardian
sense, exceeding the limits refers to insulting and demean- over it, therefore judge between them by what Allah has
ing people. However, it does not mean that one cannot revealed, and do not follow their low desires (to turn away)
fervently disagree with another person’s view. In this sense, from the truth that has come to you; for every one of you did
disputations do not only have to be feeble; rather, argu- We appoint a law and a way, and if Allah had pleased
ments can be articulated ardently without alienating He would have made you (all) a single people, but that
others, more specifically without excluding them from He might try you in what He gave you, therefore strive with
public deliberation. For this reason, the author is some- one another to hasten to virtuous deeds; to Allah is your
what hesitant to equate courage in public deliberation with return, of all (of you), so He will let you know that in which
belligerence, as proposed by Eamon Callan. For Callan, you differed’’ (The Dinner Table, 5: 48). If people are
people in deliberation disturb doubts about the correct- encouraged to strive collaboratively to attain justice, then
ness of their moral beliefs or about the importance of the they have to recognize one another’s rights and actually do
differences between what they and others believe (a matter something about ensuring that their rights are honored.
of arousing distress) accompanied by a rough process of Recognizing and honoring one another’s rights is important
struggle and ethical confrontation – that is, belligerence in ensuring that people are treated equally, decently, and
(Callan, 1997: 211). If this happens, belligerence and dis- respectfully. Therefore, the Qurān proclaims that people
tress give way eventually to moments of ethical concilia- should be educated about their rights, whether civil, politi-
tion, when the truth and error in rival positions have been cal, or social: ‘‘O people! be careful of (your duty to) your
made clear and a fitting synthesis of factional viewpoints is Lord, Who created you from a single being and created its
achieved (Callan, 1997: 212). The problem with Callan’s mate of the same (kind) and spread from these two, many
view is that he assumes that all people are necessarily men and women; and be careful of (your duty to) Allah, by
confrontational, which might lead to excluding others from Whom you demand one of another (your rights), and (to)
the deliberation who might not be confrontational. One the ties of relationship; surely Allah ever watches over you’’
can also arrive at defensible justifications without engaging (Women, 4: 1). In essence, just striving ( jihād) is aimed at
belligerently with someone else. drawing nearer to a higher good, developing one’s capacities
However, in the third instance, what is more crucial for to be morally upright, and respecting the rights of others.
the public deliberation to be ongoing is the virtue of Thus far, we have discussed how the idea of universal
forgiveness. When people deliberate, they do not have to justice, the rationale of a philosophy of Islamic education,
argue for a specific point of view after others’ views have can be achieved through actions such as ummah (commu-
proven to be more plausible then theirs. The virtue of nal engagement), shūrā (public deliberation), and jihād
forgiveness can mean that a previously held view can be (just striving which includes the recognition of the rights
dismissed if implausible, and that the proponent of such a of others). We now move on to how these acts of justice
view should not be considered as intellectually slow, but are linked to various conceptions of Islamic education,
rather be freed from being associated with an indefensible namely, ta’lı̄m (socialization), tarbiyyah (individuation), and
viewpoint. This also implies that people should not ridi- ta’dı̄b (good action).
cule others for a previously held indefensible view. In The
Chambers (49: 11) the Qurān states: ‘‘O you who believe!
let not (one) people laugh at (another) people perchance Conceptualizations of Islamic Education
they may be better than they, nor let women (laugh) at
(other) women, perchance they may be better than they; Thus far, we have discussed how universal justice consti-
and do not find fault with your own people nor call one tutes a philosophy of Islamic education. In turn, we have
another by nicknames; evil is a bad name after faith, and explored three different ways in which universal justice
whoever does not turn, these it is that are the unjust.’’ can be achieved, namely, through the acts of ummah (com-
Third, this brings us to a discussion of jihād (just munal engagement), shūrā (public deliberation), and jihād
striving, including the recognition of the rights of the (just striving, including the recognition of the rights of
72 Philosophy of Education – Philosophical Perspective

others). We now examine how these acts of justice guide uncritical toward such knowledge), tarbiyyah (individua-
particular conceptions of Islamic education, namely, ta’lı̄m tion) specifically invites Muslims to be critical of their
(socialization), tarbiyyah (individuation), and ta’dı̄b (good learning. In the first instance, the word rabb (literally
action), with reference to their implications for teaching lord, which the author has adapted to educator) occurs
and learning. approximately more than 1000 times in the Qurān in
First, Islamic education is couched as ta’lı̄m (socializa- relation to the provision of mercy, guidance, evidence,
tion) as illustrated by the following verses in the Qurān: and clear proofs. Of concern to the author is the use of
‘‘And He taught (állama) Adam all the names, then pre- rabb in relation to proofs (bayyināt). In The Cattle (6: 57) it
sented them to the angels; then He said: Tell me the is said: ‘‘Say: Surely I have manifest proof from my Lord
names of those if you are right’’ (The Cow, 2: 31); ‘‘They and you call it a lie; I have not with me that which you
said: Glory be to Thee! We have no knowledge but that would hasten; the judgment is only Allah’s; He relates the
which Thou hast taught us; surely Thou art the Knowing, truth and He is the best of deciders’’; then, again in The
the Wise’’ (The Cow, 2: 32); and ‘‘Taught man [women] Cattle (6: 104): ‘‘Indeed there have come to you clear
what he [she] knew not’’ (The Clot, 96: 5). These verses proofs from your Lord; whoever will therefore see, it is
foreground a particular conception of education (ta’lı̄m) for his own soul and whoever will be blind, it shall be
whereby people learn through being socialized into an against himself and I am not a keeper over you.’’ Likewise,
inherited body of knowledge. That is, learning takes place in The Cattle (6: 157) ‘‘Or lest you should say: If the Book
when people are taught what they perhaps do not know. had been revealed to us, we would certainly have been
Certainly for Muslims, this means being taught how to better guided than they, so indeed there has come to you
adhere to their faith, especially those principles associated clear proof from your Lord, and guidance and mercy. Who
with being a good person. For instance, being socialized then is more unjust than he who rejects Allah’s commu-
means being taught what it means to believe in Allah, His nications and turns away from them? We will reward those
Angels, His Revealed Books, His Prophets, The Last Day who turn away from Our communications with an evil
of Judgment, and the separation between good and evil. chastisement because they turned away.’’ In a specific
Likewise, being taught about Islam involves what it means verse in The Cow (2: 111), Allah (as The Educator) invites
to serve Allah, perform prayer, execute fasting, provide people to evaluate His Guidance and that they respond
alms to the poor and destitute, and set out on a pilgrim- critically with proof of their justifications: ‘‘And they say:
age once in a lifetime, if Muslims have the means to do so. None shall enter the garden (or paradise) except he who is
Socialization is also associated with learning the Qurān a Jew or a Christian. These are their vain desires. Say:
(including its memorization or passages from it), the Bring your proof if you are truthful.’’ The main point
Hadı̄th (sayings related to the life experiences of Prophet about this verse is that people are invited to come up
Muhammad), the Sı̄ra (the Prophet’s life history and those with their own proofs or justifications, which suggests
of his companions), the Islamic sciences such as Shari’ah that a situation or argument can be taken into controversy.
(law), Fiqh (jurisprudence), and Tawhı̄d (science of inter- Simply stated, the notion of tarbiyyah creates scope for
pretation). Now the problem with ta’lı̄m (socialization), at critical evaluations and interpretations based on sound
least so it seems, is that this form of education has often reasons for disagreement. The upshot of this view of
been associated with uncritical exegeses of what medieval Islamic education is that people can question and under-
scholars have said about Islamic knowledge. For instance, mine a particular point of view, which suggests that they
some Muslims in the Islamic world often confine their ought to reflect about the knowledge they receive and
engagement (i.e., their sense of ummah) with the primary construct – a matter of becoming critical. Therefore, tar-
sources of Islam to the exegeses of past medieval scholars, biyyah (individuation) can be considered as another phase
which in many cases results in a stultification of knowl- in Islamic learning, that is, once people have acquired
edge and understanding. It is for this reason that claims knowledge and they are informed they can then begin to
are often made that Islamic education merely advances challenge and question prevailing understandings. No
doctrinaire learning. This claim is supported by Bagheri wonder the Qurān invites people to contemplate and
and Khosravi (2006: 100), who argue that Islamic educa- deliberate about educational matters. Somewhere else,
tion has been used throughout the Muslim world to the author has specifically discussed how actions such as
indoctrinate learners. In the author’s view, this limited tafukkur (contemplation), tadabbur (critical reflection), fahm
view of Islamic education is not commensurate with (rational understanding), and aql (intellectual inquiry)
the notion of ummah (communal engagement), whereby underscore the practice of deliberation (Waghid 1996b).
Muslims also need to be taught a form of education which Third, with reference to my previous work (Waghid,
invokes criticality. Hence, we now introduce a discussion 1996a) on the matter and in particular the seminal
of tarbiyyah (individuation). thoughts of Muhhamad Naquib al-Attas, another form
Second, whereas ta’lı̄m (socialization) aims to introduce of Islamic education is under included in the term ta’dı̄b
people to an inherited body of knowledge (without being (good action) (al-Attas, 1991: 23). For al-Attas, Islamic
Islamic Education 73

education is guided by adab or the appropriate use of tarbiyyah (individuation), and ta’dı̄b (good action), should
knowledge (‘ilm), reason (nutq), intellect (‘aql ), and heart be seen as complementary actions of the mind in the
(qalb) – more specifically one’s physical, intellectual, and pursuit of achieving justice for every person wherever he
spiritual capacities – to perform acts (‘amal ) of justice or she might be. In turn, we have also shown how practices
(‘adl ). This view of ta’dı̄b (good action) is in line with the such as ummah (communal engagement), shūrā (public
rationale of Islamic education discussed earlier, namely deliberation), and jihād (just striving, including the recog-
that of producing a just person: ‘‘The just man [women] is nition of the rights of others) can contribute toward
he [she] who effects such adab unto his [her] self, resulting achieving universal justice, considered as the rationale of
in his [her] being a good man [woman]’’ (al-Attas, 1991: Islamic education.
24). We concur with this approach to Islamic education on
the grounds that one cannot just acquire knowledge of the
Islamic sciences and then begin to critically analyze and
respond to particular issues on the assumption that one’s Bibliography
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can be made possible through a just striving which takes into
account the rights of others and that others’ rights ought to Al-Attas, M. N. (ed.) (1979). Aims and Objectives of Islamic Education.
Seven Oaks: Hodder and Stoughton.
be assured. Here, we specifically use jihād as referring to just Ashraf, A. F. (ed.) (1985). New Horizons in Muslim Education.
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