Thursday, October 29, 2009

Should Islamic Pluralism be used as a basis for Educational Philosophy?

Should Islamic Pluralism be used as a basis for Educational Philosophy?

A question for Muslim Educators

by Yusuf Roque Morales

School Administrator

Asian Academy of Business and Computers

Bismillah Hirahman Niraheem

Iqra Bismirabbika Ladhi Khalaq

Alladhi alamal bil Qalam

Iqra'a wa rabbukal Akrm

Allamal Insana ma lam ya'alam

Indeed as the first words from the Holy Quran was Iqra'ah , roughly translated as read or recite. a manifestation to instruct or teach.

The Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) has said , “Al-Ulama al-warasatul al-Anbiya'ah (the learned are the successors of the prophets.”

What could be deduced from the Holy Prophet's words is that indeed the learned, the ones who teach, has a divine task of passing knowledge, whether this may be secular, religious or technical, and as such are facing a divine mandate to perform.

However in the myriad of conflicting ideological paradoxes, where notions of self-righteousness, highly opinionated views and perceptions as well as propaganda-infused material has been used in teaching there has been a strong need to follow an educational philosophy that would allow Muslim educators to use all the tools of pedagogy, as well as various paradigms in education in order to fully maximize their teaching as well as ensure that their students achieve their full potential.

Sayyiddna Ali (karamallahu wajhah), the fourth Khulafa al-Rashidoon has said, “do not raise your children the way you were raised, as they live in a different world today”. And as such, points out that indeed teachers must find new ways that may not contradict Islamic Education but in fact enhances it. It is here where Islamic Pluralism finds an impetus to guide Muslim teachers.

The `fact' of pluralism in Educational Philosophy is no surprise. Yet, if educational Philosophy is representing and explaining the basis of teaching pedagogy and Philosophical foundations, why is there such a diversity of representations and explanations ? In this article let us consider the Islamic philosophical basis of Islamic pluralism that will explain the existence of both competitive and compatible alternatives.Let us see an integrative approach for understanding Islamic pluralism by adopting it in Education. The challenge is to explain "how can a diverse, well confirmed, but irreducible set of theories be used collectively to achieve a more complete understanding than any of the theories taken in isolation?" Let us consider the reasons for reductionism and defend an alternative based on the integration of compatible, not competitive, explanations.

As an educator, one must learn to integrate concepts as well as identify ideas that although intrinsically coming from other belief systems but are productive and be assimilated into both the pedagogy and methodology of education. When one looks at the myriad of opportunities available for the Muslim educator to access knowledge, it would seem unfair for the Muslim teacher not to acknowledge these sources disregard the authors or advocates of these principles or concepts that he may have come across. Indeed by acknowledging the source of his teaching methodologies and pedagogies can he further enhance them

We must always remember that in education there are always multiple methods and methodologies that can be used to harness and develop a more detailed and insightful understanding of what it means to learn.

Integration of commonly shared values and the philosopy of integration in Education which is in reality a manifestation of Islamic Pluralism has advatages that outweigh the disadvantages. And as such schools are the most logical and effective treatment for students better perception and respect for “the other people”.

There is always the fear among us to tread on uncertain ground, to touch the sacred and the profane as well as the fault marks in one's faith both as a person as well as an educator. It is this that points out that we as educators must be grounded in Islamic Pluralism as a basis of our educational Philosophy.

What then is Islamic Pluralism?

Islamic Pluralism is defined as the concept of maintaining peaceful relations between different religions manifested in various ways:

  • Islamic Pluralism may describe Islam's worldview that it is not only one's religion as the sole and exclusive source of truth, and recognizes that some level of truth and values exist in at least some other religions.

  • Islamic Pluralism is now being used as a basis of Interfaith dialogue and at a minimum, this leads to promotion of unity,cooperation and improved understanding between different denominations or religions.1

It is the non-institutional character of Pluralism that has attracted a substantive majority of the worlds population because it manifests the universal social dimension of ones personal and private life in order to project them to the world2. As a result in furthers inter-human understanding that goes beyond a level of exclusivity and intolerance for others.

What must also be understand, is that Pluralism as a concept has gradually been accepted and accepted in the educational pedagogy of the west. And as such, it s only a matter of time that this Philosophy permeate all others. But worthy of note is that Islamic pluralism as a concept has long existed before any of todays Giants and scholars of education ever exdisted or even spoke of Pluralism and as such, it is our intellectual heritage that as educators, we take this and imbibe into our educational philosophy.

When this is translated into action by educators, this would translate into a mutliplicity of learning and experiences for his students considering the diversity of cultures, belief systems, values as well as technological advances that continually push the world to become a more globalized community.

Kallen (1957) defines Pluralism from a cultural persepective to be both “a working hypothesis” and an ideal affirming the primacy of differences as well the right to differences. Kallen's guiding metaphor for pluralism was that each group or unit is an orchestra and that each of the individual components contributing its own unique tone and timbre.3

Efforts allowing students to cross ideological, cultural and personal barriers are the best ways to create a process of integration and conscientization, and that these elements would allow a person to be more conscientious of what others feel and think and adopt a more “open approach” to other peoples beliefs and perceptions with a tone of respect rather than disgust.

This approach and philosophy can be best described in the words of Wilber and the Integrationist (pluralist) movement:

To integrate and to bring together, to join and to link, to embrace not in the sense of uniformity, and not in the sense of ironing out all the wonderful differences,”4

Then how to we translate Islamic pluralism as an Educational Philosophy?

In a way this means that we learn to see and research and combine concepts as well as dilineate other concepts that must be taught although, we may personally have biases against these concepts but in a way, we teach them in the best manner possible allowing our students to explore the various mazes of human knowledge, understanding and Philosophy, guided by the Islamic Philosophical bases in our faith, we show them the sources of knowledge, the processes of gaining knowledge as well as the methods of gaining knowledge.

Remember that even the universal message of the Qur'an reaveals that without subordination to a limited historical concept, that revelation theirein respects pluralism as given and even nescessary, requiring Muslims to continually negotiate, transform and emphasize the fundamental unity of mankind in its origins, and that human diversity is indispensable for human development and progress.

Developing Islamic Pluralism as an educational Philosophy to be used by our educators will in a way boil down to students. In the end it will allow educators formulate their own methods in teaching, allowing them to reflect on questions as to what they want to create inquiry or interest. Would they want to let students develop a genuine interest in understanding of the interior meaning the process of making;or generate interest in what is happening;Or generate interest for the students to examine these issues or create interest to make others study;or generate interest in learning about an individual's beliefs, actions or focusing on more complex interactions in meaning or making in systems. By reflections in these questions,Educators can help students develop skills in the process of inquiry in order to contribute to the furthering of knowledge as well as the development of a well-educated individual.

On a final note, I would like to sum it up in the following concepts:

  1. Truth and knowledge is a universal legacy, and as the Prophet has said, "All beneficial knowledge is the lost property of believers"; it is also our sacred duty to impart this beneficial knowledge if not enhance it.

  2. Islamic Pluralism in a way is a suitable basis for enhancing Educational Philosophy as it allows the process of recognition, conscientization, integration and fusion of productive concepts into teaching pedagogy fr the productive use of mankind

  3. Truth, knowledge, wisdom and illumination is the universal property of mankind, and as scholars,in the true meaning of heirs to the Prophets, we must impart these to the world.

And as such, Indeed Islamic Pluralism as an Educational Philosophy is more than attuned to todays educational situation, it is one of the best models in Educational Philosophy.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Who speaks for us Muslims

Who speaks for Islam Today?

Ever since the tragic events of 9/11, There has been a deluge of voices claiming to speak with authority over issues claiming to speak with authority about Islam have become increasingly dstressing. There are relatively few contemporary topics that are as controversial than that of how to interpret Islamic practices and beliefs.

And as such, the interpretation of Islam in the West as well as in the Muslim world has become much of a cottage industry.. Indeed as one sees the ranks of those who interpret they are really diverse, among them are counter-terrorism experts, policymakers and journalists, as well as religious studies academics, political scientists, Muslim ulama (Islamic legal scholars), Muslim feminists in the West, people who as leaders speak on behalf of various religious groups. The public's Interest on how Islam is being understood and practiced as a result experienced a dramatic increase in the recent years, and because of the blurring, its not always clear whom should we listen when its comes down to our “deen” listen to amongst the din.

A survey of language used in prominent North American and European newspapers and magazines reveals an extensive list of labels categorising Muslims based on their postures toward Western culture and politics as well as towards one another. Journalists, editors, and academics alike are inquisitive about the extent to which conservative Muslims can be integrated within mainstream Western culture (e.g. “For Conservative Muslims, Goal of Isolation a Challenge” or “Progressive Muslims Challenge Tradition”), and the extent to which they can be dissuaded from adopting radical stances vis-à-vis current political issues (e.g. “The Quest for a Moderate Islam,” “Muslim Refusenik Incites Furor with Critique of Faith” or “Islamic Extremists: How Do They Conjure Up Support”).

Among non-Muslims as well as among Muslims, it seems that everyone has become a stakeholder in the future of Islam, with everyone attempting to label groups with different perspectives: conservative Muslims compete with progressive Muslims for airtime, traditionalist Muslims denounce self-hating Muslims and Islamophobes alike. Meanwhile, moderate Muslims challenge militant Muslims, putative Muslim refuseniks denounce Muslim extremists, and would-be reformists repudiate apologists who refuse to embrace the need for change.

Everyone, it seems, has a party line about who the good Muslims and bad Muslims are. Sadly, many of the dichotomies distort as much as they reveal, and use simple labels based on superficial preconceptions and over-simplifications.

At a time of heightened insecurities and acute perceptions of threat, everyone has arrived at the conclusion that their identity and values are under attack, hence the tendency to represent the stakes as absolute: for example as a struggle to save the “real” Islam, defined in either staunchly traditional or authoritatively progressive terms.

Funny as it is. Everywhere in the world, there is a perception that many Muslims who feel abused by the West often fall short of their own proclaimed values, including justice. And it is true: some Muslim activists who thrive on denunciation of Western wrongs are culpable in the silencing of other Muslim voices and inclined towards genuinely immoderate views and behavior. But one can see a similar dynamic among those Westerners who allow themselves to become entrapped by fear of the Muslim “other”.

What happened to the idea that dissent can be patriotic, or that a plurality of views can be a blessing? We seem to be losing the capacity for a commonsensical moral honesty that places principles above fear, opportunism and cultural or party politics.

While these sorts of contradictions weigh upon us heavily in a time of increased tensions, diagnosing the malady is the first step toward a cure. To avoid becoming extremists ourselves in the very process of arguing against the extremism of others, we need to develop better habits of listening and of dialogue.

Listening alone is not a path to harmony, as the substantive differences among the many parties who are in some way “concerned about Islam” are real and enduring. Yet cultivating an ability to listen has become more critical than ever, and remains the most vital means of building trust.

Only high-quality and sincere listening can enable us to hear unstated concerns and articulate the fears, anxieties and negative experiences that underpin much political and religious stridency. To overcome the West’s anxiety about Islam and reduce the volatility of debate among Muslims, we have no choice but to return to the basics of human psychology and communication, and to relearn the arts of civility: which starts not with labelling, but with listening and relating.

And therein lies the need to have an open ear in listening to others.

And perhaps consider adopting Islamic Pluralism as a way of life.

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