Islamic Education: Concept

In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful

We thank and praise Allah SWT, the Compassionate, the Wise. We bear witness that there is no one worthy of worship except Allah — Who has made the heavens and the earth our classroom so that we may know Allah’s creation and serve Allah with understanding.

We bear witness that our Nabi Muhammad SAWS is the true Messenger of Allah, who emphasised our need to gain true knowledge of life to live a life in complete submission the Allah SWT. O Allah, shower Thy choicest blessings on him, his friends and relatives — all those, who, sought to improve their understanding of Islam so that they might teach their progeny and keep the Deen alive among the Ummah. Allah SWT enjoins us in the Holy Qur’an:

“Proclaim ! (or Read !) in the name of thy Lord and Cherisher, Who created; Created man out of a (mere) clot of congealed blood: Proclaim! And thy Lord is most Bountiful, He Who taught (the use of) the Pen, Taught man that which he knew not.” (Q. XCVI 1 – 5)

My dear Brothers and Sisters

When we hear this First Revelation, the first words revealed by Allah SWT…..Iqraa! Read ! we marvel at the greatness of Allah’s Divine Wisdom. Of the infinite number of messages Allah could have given to Mankind (for we have so many needs and so many weaknesses), Allah Who knows all Man’s secrets, and his most intimate needs, chose learning, gaining knowledge or seeking and providing education as the First Message to mankind. It was revealed in the time of the Jaahiliyah and money or power in the hands of the Jaahil would be self-destructive. Hence Allah did not say in His First Message: “Go out and get rich!” or “Go out and destroy the enemies of Islam!” They could not handle power, or for that matter their own desires.

Like food or sleep we have a basic need to know. True knowledge, or knowledge of Allah, gives us the strong motive, the dryfkrag to believe and to live correctly. Remove our understanding from our belief and we have blind faith or dogmas which can evaporate and disappear as easily as a drop of water on a hot sunny day. On the other hand, without Faith, we cannot gain true knowledge. Knowledge and Faith complement each other. Thus Allah SWT reminds us:

“And those who are firmly grounded in knowledge say: “We believe in the Book; the whole of it is from our Lord:” and none will grasp the Message except men of understanding.” (Q.III: 7)

Education or the process of seeking knowledge or sharing it with others is part of life itself. We cannot live properly without learning HOW to live ? Just as we cannot talk or walk without having been taught by our parents how to do so. Remove it and we stop living, but we merely survive. This need our Nabi Muhammad SAWS emphasised in numerous Aghadeeth.

In one ghadeeth narrated by Abu Huraira, the Messenger of Allah SAWS said: ” When a man dies, all his actions are cut off from him except three: (1) an ever-recurring charity (sodiqati-jaariyah); (2) knowledge from which benefit is derived, and (3) a virtuous son praying for him.” (Muslim)

There are still so many diverse attitudes among us concerning the kind of knowledge with which we need to equip ourselves: there are those who strongly believe that the only true knowledge is knowledge of the Deen which is being taught in the traditional schools (madaris); then there are some who strive as a matter of religious duty to provide their children with a good education which they see as having passed matric or higher in order to obtain a good job. Both are sincere in wanting to see their children successful in life: one, spiritually and the other one materially. But, unfortunately, both ascribe a somewhat limited goal to education.

How do we, as Muslims see education ? What are its goals ? What kind of knowledge should we seek? What is our role as parents ? To help our parents and students gain a clearer understanding of their role in the educational experience, we hope, Insha-Allah, to focus on this form of ‘Ibaadah for the next few Khutbahs . At the offset it must be said that no single person knows all the answers and I would welcome some of your ideas, particularly those of our students — whether they attend an Usuluddien college or university.

Let us consider the first question: What do we understand by Islamic Education ? This will depend on how we interpret the concept ‘Ibadah: does ‘ibaadah refer to purely spiritual acts such as salaah or fasting or does it encompass every form of life-activity of a Muslim (acting within the Shariah)? If we adopt the comprehensive meaning, then a person’s work is part of his ‘ibaadah and consequently learning to do the job, part of his Islamic education. When a doctor treats a patient, is he performing an act of ‘ibaadah ? If so, can his education be something foreign to Islam ?

The Qur’an is very clear on man’s need for a broad-based education. Consider the following verses:

“And He taught Adam the nature of all things…” (Q. II: 30)

Not all knowledge comes from man. There are things which Allah places in our hearts if we sincerely strive in His Path. In the following verse Allah SWT directs our attention to creation and urges us to study the sense of harmony:

“Seest thou not that Allah sends down rain from the sky ? With it we then bring out produce of various colours. And in the mountains are tracts white and red, of various shades and colour, and black intense in hue. And so amongst men and crawling creatures and cattle, are they of various colours. Those truly fear Allah, among His servants, who have knowledge : for Allah is Exalted in Might, Oft-forgiving.” (Q. XXXV: 27 – 28)

When Allah describes the beautiful colours of the things growing and the red and white tracts on the rocks, a student will naturally suggest the mineral content of the rock: the red is possibly laterite and the white tracts, veins of marble or quartz. The way Allah SWT in His Infinite Wisdom presents this “lesson” to mankind is being used by all teachers throughout the world today. Maulana Ansari maintains that Allah asks people to use REASON when interpreting physical, social and other phenomena, in the Qur’an no fewer than 48 times. In order to do so (that is, to reason) we must have some basic knowledge about the matter.

Brothers and Sisters, consider the implications of this saying of our Nabi Muhammad SAWS:

“Educate your children; they must live in a time different from yours.”

Our Nabi makes it quite clear that children must be educated to LIVE. Secondly, they must live in the future. Education must, therefore anticipate the future. Can you and I honestly say that our schools are preparing our children for the future ? Our Nabi further suggests that we must be taught what we need to know. This question we hope, Insha-Allah, to discuss later.

Living within the Shariah means that we must have a good knowledge of the Shariah. Since we, as Muslims LIVE the Shariah, don’t you think that all knowledge must be seen in the light of Deen and the Shariah? in the light of Taugheed ? Our Deen becomes a sieve through which all knowledge must pass before it is taught to a child. I cannot see the Great Trek passing through that sieve! Islamic education, therefore, does not accept a difference between what is religious and what is secular, but what is good and bad. If you like, then all knowledge is religious, is sacred. Education is truly an act of ‘Ibaadah.

Before we can even consider what kind of knowledge we and our children must learn to live a balanced life, we must ask ourselves the question: What do we ultimately hope to achieve through our education?

To become a doctor or an Imam are short-term goals. We can also say to become an independent adult; to make correct decisions in life, and so on. Allah SWT makes it clear in the Holy Qur’an why He has created us. How often do we not read this verse in our Salaah:

“Verily my prayers, and my spirit of sacrifice and my life and my death are all for Allah, Lord of the Worlds.”

In another ayat Allah says:

“I have only created Jinns and men, that they may serve ME.” (Q. L1: 56)

Our purpose on earth is to serve Allah with our different strengths and aptitudes He has given us. As His Vicegerent on earth we have to help our fellowmen in need, care for Allah’s creation: the plants and animals, the institutions of the ummah like the masaajids, madaris, hospitals and homes and so on. It stands to reason that all our learning must be directed at Allah, not for self-aggrandizement, not for our personal pride or social status, not to amass money, but to serve Allah and His creation. When the medical student studies the human body as part of Allah’s creation, he does not only see an intricate network of arteries or nerves, but he sees and marvels at the Supreme Wisdom of the Creator of that body. And so, at every new step that he learns, he becomes inspired to serve the Creator. The little boy in class, who can suddenly do a sum when he had been struggling so long to master it, must also realise that understanding didn’t just occur by accident. The bricklayer, the tailor, the nurse alike can gain divine inspiration in their work if it is directed at serving Allah. Serve Allah with love and complete submission and we will, Insha-Allah move closer to Him. Education is the process of growing closer to Allah. Our Nabi Muhammad SAWS once said:

“Should the day come wherein I increase not in knowledge wherewith to draw nearer to Allah, let the dawn of the day be accursed.”

The next question which we shall discuss in our next Khutbah concerns the kind of knowledge we need to attain and the effectiveness of our secular schools as media of Islamic Education.

May Allah SWT, the Merciful, the Wise, guide our little children and, especially those who will be starting school for the first time this year;

Open their little hearts and minds to the learning material and grant them the perseverance to master it.

help them to discriminate between truth and falsehood and let the truth become part of their growing personalities;

protect them and their older brothers and sisters from the false values of secularism;

strengthen them in Eemaan so that their knowledge becomes meaningful and an effective tool rather than useless adornments;

O Allah, place wisdom and tolerance in the minds and hearts of our teachers, help them to accept our children with love and understanding.

O Allah accept our ‘ibaadah as parents, teachers and pupils and make us ever-mindful of our Deen and Shariah.

Ameen! Aqeemus salaah!

* This khutbah was delivered at Cape Town, South Africa