Sunday, December 14, 2008

Pushing the Ulama in the Philippines further

A step towards the migration of intellect towards higher understanding.

It is a grim realization that the ulama in the Philippines as a whole has not yet matured and reached its full potential. The label “Warasatul al-Anbiya” cannot be still appended to them.

One may see that even in the worldview that as a general concept, a lot of them hasn't come up to their counterpart from the other parts of world. At present, when one looks at the curriculum being used to train Ulama in the country we see a wide disparity. Indeed from how we look at it since the collective culture of the Muslims in this country hasn't evolved or matured, as a result even the religious institutions did not progress a bit further, with a few exceptions of certain Muslim intellectual and religious personalities; but as a whole the Philippine Muslim religious institutions need more than a face lift but an overhaul.

One may like to look at the curricular content in the educational institutions used to train Imam's and the religious. A simple survey would show that when we would try to match the curricular standard with he modern educational institutions training their Christian counterparts in the Philippines, they would lag really fa r behind. One couldn't even find equivalency between the madrasah's and the regular public educational system.

This is quite alarming, add to this, Filipino scholars sent abroad to study Islamic studies come hope ill-equipped and ill trained, due to several circumstances. Most of the Filipino Muslim's best minds have taken the path of secular knowledge like engineering, medicine and other fields, and normally those who have lesser educational opportunities due to various circumstances like not being able to pass the collegiate entrance exam, dismal academic ratings in public school system, financial incapacity to pursue further studies, one or several of these and other factors push these students to “study in Madrassah” not as an option but the only choice to gain an education and gain social acceptability in their conmmunities. Others who may be able to go abroad to continue their Religious studies abroad come home ill-prepared due to the fact that they were not fully trained in Arabic before leaving and specializing only in Arabic language and not in other fields only delimits them the capacity of becoming translators. And being unprepared intellectually to read the Islamic classics in Fiqh, Shari'ah and other Islamic fields also leads them further to translate and teach concepts even not within their reach or breadth of understanding. This has far-reaching consequences. Add t this the literalist-narrow-mindedness of Salafi ideology has led other Filipino Muslims to the Pitfalls of Radicalist fundamentalism.

With these things in mind, one may be induced to think, “could there be a probable solution, comprehensive so that to otherwise mitigate if not eradicate the problem?”.

Although indeed due to the perceived Government bias against Muslims due to the Mindanao conflict reservations of government intervention would be highly doubted and the fear of politicized intervention thus losing track of the original objective; still it is the best objective although to be done in another manner.

One of the things we have done was comparative analysis of the curricular content of Southeast Asian, Egyptian, Syrian Iranian and Western Islamic religious educational models and try adapting selective characteristics of these systems. When we were given an opportunity to design the Commission on Higher Education's BS Islamic Studies curriculum, we included these important facets thus , ensuring that even following the minimum standards set by CHED in BS Islamic Studies education, we can at least raise the quality of Islamic scholarship in the country.
In the case of Malaysia and Singapore, both countries allowed the profligation of Sufi-oriented Islam in their countries as well as allowing the proliferation of the Islamic classics and Islamic Philosophy. Even though the government takes an indirect hand in this matter, but allowing Sufi Islam to profligate is a good idea.

I would like to emphasize on record that despite the comments on the evolution of the Amercican Muslim movement, I personally believe that even their experiences are worth studying and emulating (except of course the theological evolution before the Honorable Late Warith Deen Muhammad took over the American Muslim religious institutions).

Perhaps by trying to do this, we can push the Ulama a step further in professionalizing themselves as we face more challenges.
More to come later.

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