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The Influence of the World Conferences on Muslim Education

Introduction

            The much-cherished flavor of true Islamic education which produced men of great intellectual personalities had for long been soured by quite a number of internal and external polluting forces. The colonization of the Muslim world by the western imperialists worsened the situation with the imposition of an alien system of education properly financed and monitored by the colonialists. The resultant effect of this is the gradual reduction of Islamic education to mere private affair with no financial assistance from the public fund. The menacing effect of this is felt when considering the pathetic conditions of the products of the system of education during their studentship days and after their graduation. The situation was so bad that they resorted to street begging before they could keep the body and soul together. After graduation, they became only functional at socio-religious gatherings and were unable to compete favorably in the labor market with the products of the western school system. Where considered for any gainful employment, they were mostly found in such low-paying and non-prestigious cadres as security men, night guard, gardeners or cleaners.

With the adoption of the alien system of education by the Muslim world, Muslims became exposed to two parallel and contradictory systems of education namely the traditional Muslim system and the imported European system of education. This resulted in what Kasule referred to as “divided loyalties, confusion in the minds of students and intellectual schizophrenia of the ummah’s educated elites.” Apart from this, the philosophical foundation upon which the western system of education is built is grossly inimical to the teaching of Islam. Among its inhibitive features that make it incompatible with the teaching of Islam are, the relegation of God to the lowest ebb in its curriculum, excessive materialism, over dependence on contradictory philosophies, a culture of skepticism, absolute dependence on techniques, and tight compartmentalization of disciplines among others.

Unsatisfied with the nature of education Muslims were being exposed to their emerged agitations here and there calling for a complete overhauling of the body of knowledge in its entirety. Initially personal efforts were made by scholars and educators like Rashid Rida (d. 1935CE), Jamaluddin Afghani (d. 1897CE), and Sayyid Qutb (d. 1966CE), and some others. Scholars like Sayyid Abul-‘Ala Mawdudi (d. 1979CE), Hassan al-Banna (d. 1949CE), and Allama Muhammad Iqbal also made remarkable contributions towards having comprehensive and dynamic concept of Islamization of education in their speeches and writings. The inclusion of Islamic Studies into the western school curricula as well as adjustment of the curriculum of the traditional Muslim schools to incorporate some western disciplines could be said to be one of the consequences of the numerous agitations. However, when it was obvious that the crises of Muslim education was far beyond this, Muslim scholars went back to the drawing board  in 1977 when the First World Conference on Muslim Education was held with a view to addressing globally the multifarious problems facing the education of the ummah. Between then and 1996, six of such conferences were organized and held in some countries. It is thus our aim to study the outcome of these conferences with a view to see how far the recommendations so far made at the conferences are being implemented in Nigeria and what should be the future direction of the program of Islamization of knowledge which culminated in the conferences in the country.

A Synopsis of the Conferences

First World Conference 1977

The First World Conference on Muslim Education was held at Makkah between 31 March and 8 April 1977 (12-20 Rabi’ al-Thani 1397), with the theme: “Basis for an Islamic Education System.” King Abdul-Aziz University and the Government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia organized the conference. Among the members of the organizing committee of the conference were Professor Syed Ali Ashraf, Dr. Abdullah Mohammed Zaid and Dr. G.N. Saqeb. About three hundred and fifty Muslim scholars from various parts of the world and from different areas of disciplines and specializations attended the conference. Generally speaking, the conference unanimously observed that:

The existing conditions in present day educational institutions in most Muslim countries do not  truly reflect the Islamic ideal, and these institutions do not play their rightful role in the education of the younger generation in Islamic faith, thought and conduct, and there exists at present a regrettable dichotomy in education in the Muslim world; one system namely, religious education being completely divorced from the secular sciences, and secular education being equally divorced from religion, although such compartmentalization was contrary to the true Islamic concept of education and made it impossible for the products of either system to represent Islam as a comprehensive and integrated vision of life.

In compliance with the theme of the conference, different sub-committees were set up to design the aims and objectives of education in Islam and in relation to different disciplines. To bail out education from its basic predicament, the need to reframe the objective of education was emphasized. For instance, the aim of education in relation to natural sciences and as reported by the committee on Natural Sciences (including applied sciences and technology) was “to motivate the human intellect to ponder on the universe; to understand the nature of things and beings that are comprehensible; to discover Allah’s laws of nature and use them beneficially, and thus enable man to be the vicegerent of Allah on earth.” King Abdul-Aziz University, Jeddah, published the proceedings of the conference in six volumes in 1979.

Second World Conference 1980

The Second World Conference on Muslim Education was jointly organized by Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad, Pakistan and King Abdul-Aziz University, Saudi Arabia. It was held at Islamabad, Pakistan between 15th and 20th of March 1980 (1400A.H). The main task of the conference was to design curricula for different ladders of education with the view of bridging the gap between secular and madrasah systems of education. Participants at the conference jointly agreed with the classification of knowledge into perennial and acquired sciences. Perennial knowledge includes Qur’an. Hadith, Qur’anic Arabic, Sirah. Usulul-Fiqh and such ancillary subjects like Islamic culture, Comparative Religion and Islamic Metaphysics. Acquired knowledge has to do with all branches of knowledge categorized as Humanities, Social Sciences, Natural, Applied and Practical Sciences. However, there was the need to integrate the two branches of knowledge through a curriculum.

At the conference, the recommended curriculum for different strata of education was designed. The curriculum for different age groups in primary education includes the teaching of the reading and meaning of some selected suwar through translation in the national language; Diniyat (including Tawhid and Fiqh), history, Narratives and poems, Geography, Mathematics, Arabic, Nature Study and Elementary Science. At the secondary school level, the recommended compulsory subjects include Islamic Studies (including .Qur’anic recitation, memorization and interpretation; Hadith, Sirah and History of Islam); Arabic, Mathematics, one of the natural sciences, Geography History and Civics. At the university level, it was recommended that Islamic education be made compulsory for all students and should consist of two courses, one Arabic language and the other, either Islamic Culture and Civilization, or History of Islamic Thought and Ideas, in addition to two other courses from acquired knowledge which could be Islamic philosophy of science and learning and either Islamic Arts and Architectures or any other one subject from History, Economics or Sociology to be taught from the Islamic perspective.

In order to facilitate and encourage the integration of science and technology with Islam, the conference set-up a committee on science, shari’ah and education. The committee recommended among other things that, institutions, departments and centers be set-up for studies, research and publications on Islamic ethics and values in science and technology, and Islamic philosophy, sociology and history of science and technology for development. In non-Muslim or Muslim minority countries or educational institutions where optimum conditions are not present, the committee suggested the adoption of substitute, adjunct, source or relational strategies for introducing Islamic ideology, ethics and values in science and technology curricula.6. The substitute method is an approach where courses offered, for example, by the Department of Islamic Studies, is substituted in lieu of the courses in the social sciences required to be studied in the secularized departments. This method can be adopted after necessary permission must have been sought from the appropriate authorities or educational institution concerned. The adjunct approach is a system whereby courses or supplementary readings from the Islamic viewpoint are introduced to add to courses in existing secular curricula. The source approach is the system of making references to the Qur’an during the course of teaching science and technology, while the relational approach is a method of relating scientific and technological concepts and principles to the Qur’an and sunnah.

Third World Conference 1981

A year after the Second World Conference on Muslim Education, the third of its nature came up at Dhaka, Bangladesh between 5th and 11th of March 1981. It was co-organized by the Institute of Islamic Education and Research, Bangladesh, and King Abdul-Aziz University, Saudi Arabia. The conference which was a follow up of the recommendations of the previous ones was aimed at getting textbooks written on the basis of the curricula designed in the last conference. At the conference, the need to source information towards development of textbooks in various fields of disciplines and at various ladders of education was stressed. The World Centre for Muslim Education was said to have been shouldered with the responsibility of coordinating, publishing and disseminating through translations into major languages of the Muslim world, such textbooks. As part of the measures to source information, university libraries were implored to establish centers of information, documentation and data retrieval pertaining to every subject treated from the Islamic viewpoint. It was also recommended that centers of translation be established to translate into and from Arabic, English, French and other national languages. Universities were equally implored to borrow a leaf from King Abdul-Aziz University, Jeddah which established the International Center for Research in Islamic Economics and which is championing the course of developing textbooks in Islamic Economics. The conference also recommended that specialized compendia be prepared on every subject based on the Qur’an, the sunnah and history of Islamic ideas drawn from the writings of all the great Muslim scholars of the last fourteen centuries.

As part of the measures to set the ball rolling on the preparation of Islamically based textbooks on various subjects, identification of Islamic topics, theories, terms or concepts from the existing textbooks were made, while preparation of supplementary texts for teachers to replace un-Islamic elements as well as writing of revised or new texts from the tested supplementary texts were suggested. In addition to this, publication of occasional papers, monograph series, professional journals, bulletins and newsletters as well as organization of seminars, conferences, workshops, in-service training and continuing education activities were some of the strategies suggested for the development of Islamic textbooks.

Fourth World Conference 1982

In 1982, the Fourth World Conference on Muslim Education was held at Jakarta, Indonesia. The conference was themed “Islamic Methods of Teaching.” The conference noted with dismay that the teaching methodology which was highly rooted in Islamic teachings, had been totally re-colored to non-portrayal of Islam and thus recommended the revision of teacher education courses and an Islamic pattern in training teachers.

Fifth World Conference 1987

The Fifth World Conference on Muslim Education was held in Cairo, Egypt, in March 1987. The conference came long after the one held at Jakarta in 1982, and the reason for this interregnum is yet to be identified. However, participants in the conference were drawn from both Muslim majority and Muslim minority countries. Selections were made from different continents – Indonesia from the East, England from Europe, Bangladesh and Pakistan from South Asia, Turkey and the Gulf area from the Middle East, United States of America from the Americas and Nigeria from Africa. Sheikh Ahmad Lemu and Hajiya Aisha Lemu were Nigerian delegates at the conference.

Sixth World Conference 1996

The Sixth World Conference on Muslim Education took place at Islamic College, Cape Town, South Africa between 20th and 25th of September 1996. The conference was unique in the sense that it was more of an international workshop than a conference. At the plenary sessions of the conference, lead-in-papers were presented by Professor Mahmoud Rashdan, Dr. Omar Kasule and Muhamad Akram. There were also paper presentations by international delegates.

At the practical workshop sessions of the conference, scholars were divided into twelve groups based on their field of specializations to discuss how syllabuses and lesson plans of such subjects as Arabic, Islamic Studies, Biology, Mathematics, Arts and Crafts, English, History, Geography, Science, commercial subjects, physical science and other junior primary subjects could be Islamized. At each session, each subject was tabled before the scholars for proper evaluation while the recommendations of the various subject-groups were forwarded to the Review Committee for proper scrutiny, criticism, correction, evaluation and comments before the final approval.

In order to ensure a success of the conference, experienced Muslim teachers were drawn from various Muslim private and public schools in South Africa to attend the conference in addition to other numerous delegates from countries like United Kingdom, United States of America, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, India, Jordan, Mauritius, Malaysia and Uganda. According to the organizer of the conference, Maulana Ali Adam, the aim of the conference was “to produce approved blueprints for twelve core school subjects for both primary and secondary schools.” “We want practical result – the teacher in the class-room has needs and we must deliver the goods”, emphasized Maulana Ali Adam.

To conclude this aspect, it is observed that there have been periods of interregnum on the world conference, because, since 1996 when the last one was held, none has been organized at global level. However, the conferences’ objectives have not been jeopardized, as they served as important landmarks in the history of Islamic education and thought throughout the world. The conferences strengthened the International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT), a body established in 1981 for the purpose of championing the course of Islamization of Knowledge undertaking. The IIIT has equally organized some international conferences on Islamization of knowledge to complement the achievements of the world conferences.

Courtesy: Adebayo, R. I. (Ph.D.) published in Islamic Studies in Contemporary Nigeria, Problems & Prospects; Edited by L.M. Adetona, 2007. Pp 1 – 34

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