14 Jan 2011

Steps Toward the Islamization of Knowledge

By Dr. Rosnani Hashim

A. Setting the Agenda

The first major step toward the Islamization of the curriculum is ensuring that the sources of educational purposes are drawn from the Islamic worldview, whether they be about the nature of the learner, the nature of the knowledge or the subject specialization, or contemporary life itself. The Holy Qur'an and the Sunnah of the Prophet should be the primary references in understanding the nature of the learner and knowledge, and results of empirical research - especially on the psychology of learning and the learner, which have been published and documented - should act as a complement.

The next step is the formulation of a clear philosophy of education based on the Islamic worldview. It is crucial to act as the educational guide for the state, school leaders, teachers, parents, and students.

Clear goals and objectives of education must be spelled out. They act as the "true North" of an educational compass and are vital in ensuring that the whole educational enterprise progresses toward achieving its intended goal and not wander about in search of direction. The concepts of `abd and khalifah have to be translated into operational terms. Those involved in drawing out policy and drafting the curriculum must be made aware of these important concepts. This does not mean that the curriculum of Islamic education is meant exclusively for Muslims, but due to the universality of Islam, Islamic education is applicable to and can accommodate all of mankind.

In this respect, the First World Muslim Conference on Muslim Education should be commended for coming up with a clear statement of an Islamic educational philosophy which aims:

at the balanced growth of the total personality of Man through the training of Man's spirit, intellect, rational self, feelings and bodily senses. The training imparted to a Muslim must be such that faith is infused into the whole of his personality and creates in him an emotional attachment to Islam and enables him to follow the Qur'an and the Sunnah and be governed by the Islamic system of values willingly and joyfully so that he may proceed to the realization of his status as the vicegerent of Allah to whom Allah has promised the authority of the universe.[1]

The third step is that the university or school curriculum should reflect the educational philosophy and, in fact, be the mechanism for achieving its goal. In particular, the hierarchy of knowledge (between fard 'ayn and fard kifayah) should be preserved in the curriculum. The revealed knowledge as core should permeate all subject matters or all faculties in the Muslim university. Therefore, a few courses from the revealed sciences have to be made into graduation requirements for all students, regardless of their specialization. The approach to teaching these sciences in the university definitely ought to be different from that of the schools, especially since university students are now more mature and capable of thinking and reflecting. Similarly, a few courses from the acquired sciences such as the natural sciences, the social sciences, and humanities must be required of our students, especially those specializing in the revealed sciences. A more integrated curriculum, but still possessing a core, should be adopted by schools and universities so that the problem of educational dualism is gradually eliminated. An integrated curriculum enables students to specialize in any of the revealed or acquired sciences from within the same school system. An effort ought to be made to introduce the Arabic language much earlier in the formal curriculum, especially since this is the universal language of Muslims and the language in which their knowledge is embedded.

B. Content and method

Knowledge, subject matters, or courses offered in the curriculum must be free from secular and Westernized elements that are alien to Islam. These elements - dualism, humanism, secularism, and tragedy - which are peculiarly Western and anti Islamic, must be isolated from our curriculum, then replaced with the Islamic worldview of tawhid (Oness of Allah). The curriculum should reinforce the following Islamic concepts:

1. The Islamic view of the Creator (tawhid, iman or faith, and God's attributes);

2. The creation of man and his purpose, namely, to worship Allah, to be His khalifah, to promote good and forbid evil, and to spread the message of Islam;

3. Man's relationship with the Creator, that is, his consciousness of Allah, accountability to Allah, to do good deeds, to worship and supplicate;

4. Man's relationship with others, which is to establish justice, to have respect for life, property, and dignity, to develop sound akhlaq (character traits), and to show religious tolerance;

5. Man's relationship with the environment which emphasizes his role as God's vicegerent, to work with harmony with all of Allah's creations, and to recognize or discover Allah through his creation;

6. Self-development, which provides room for self reformation and learning from past mistakes;

7. Man's destination, that is, to promote accountability by evaluating our role, understanding the Last Day and the Hereafter and their implications; and

8. Development of an Islamic ethos so as to create an environment conducive to Islamic practice.[2]

Therefore, it is obligatory for Muslim teachers to instill the Islamic concepts mentioned earlier in Muslim students, regardless of the subject matter they are teaching.

Inculcating these concepts and values indirectly through the subject matter, especially for the exact sciences such as mathematics or accounting, is not easy.[3] Therefore, teachers should inculcate them directly and through wisdom, especially when warranted by the classroom situation. This task should not be left to the teachers of Islamic revealed sciences alone.

Educational administrators and teachers should provide appropriate learning experiences, especially for moral and spiritual development.

New methods of instruction must be explored, and teachers or lecturers should be creative and innovative. The teaching of religious sciences must not be too dependent on traditional methods, such as memorization of classical texts, although certain fundamental knowledge needs to be memorized. Students must be exposed to the process of learning, including the scientific method and problem solving, and not just the product. Therefore, they need to be led to critical and sound thinking as called upon by Allah in the Qur'an. A balance must be struck between student centered and subject centered approaches. In this regard, an approach to teacher education that is consistent with the educational philosophy should be developed. The teacher education program pre-service and in-service - should also emphasize teacher personality development, in particular, the moral and spiritual, which have been nearly neglected. Teachers are the most crucial element in bringing changes in education, and they ought to know and be able to see the new direction. Pre-service teacher education programs seem to emphasize thinking skills and information technology but downplay the importance of foundations of education and personality development, especially moral and spiritual.[4]

C. Educational Evaluation

Evaluation is a powerful device for clarifying educational objectives. It is a process for finding out how far the learning experiences as developed and organized are actually producing the desired results and the process of evaluation will involve identifying the strengths and weaknesses of the plan.[5]

"Evaluation is the process for determining the degree to which changes in behavior are actually taking place."[6] Therefore it is important to dispel the notion that evaluation is synonymous with giving the "paper and pencil" test. Evaluation is also a powerful motivating force for learning. Students are influenced in their learning, and teachers are influenced in their teaching by the kind of evaluation expected.

Consequently, unless the evaluation procedure closely parallels the educational objectives of the curriculum, the evaluation procedure may become the focus of the students' attention and even of the teachers' attention rather than the curriculum objectives set up.[7]

This is true, especially with respect to moral and spiritual objectives. We should expect some changes in students' behavior since these are the objectives but, unfortunately, students will often score highly on paper and pencil tests but not exhibit the expected moral behavior. Thus the curriculum ought to be revised with respect to the learning experiences offered to them, the instructional method, and the kind of evaluation administered.

Dr. Rosnani Hashim Associate Professor in the Department of Education at the International Islamic University, Malaysia.

[1] S. M. Naquib alAttas (ed), Aims and Objectives of Islamic Education (Jeddah: King Abdulaziz University, 1979), 158-9. Italics added.

[2] I am indebted to the person who prepared and distributed this list during the Sixth World Conference on Islamic Education in Capetown, South Africa, 19-25 September 1996.

[3] See Rosnani Hashim, "Penyerapan Nilai Murni dalam KBSM" (The Inculcation of Moral Values in the Integrated Curriculum for Secondary Schools [KBSM]), paper presented at the National Seminar on Evaluation of the KBSM, Aminuddin Baki Institute, Layang Layang, Malaysia, 1997.

[4] The IIUM teacher education program does pay particular attention to these two domains of teachers' personality through formal halaqah (circles) and ibadah (worship) camp programs. In a halaqah, students are arranged in groups of 10 and each group meets weekly for at least an hour as scheduled in their class timetable to discuss selected topics of the 'ilm alShari'ah (science of Islamic law) of and group counseling. In the ibadah camp, which normally lasts for three days, students listen to talks, participate in workshops, perform congregational prayers, recite wird ma'thurat (daily session of frequently recited prayers) and the Qur'an and perform qiyam al-layl (night stand up prayer) together. See Rosnani Hashim, The Relevance and Effectiveness of the IIUM Diploma in Education Programme as Perceived by Student Teachers in the 1994/95 Session, unpublished research report. See also M. Sahari Nordin and Rosnani Hashim, "Non-formal Curriculum Programme in IIUM Diploma in Education Programme," paper presented at National Seminar on Teacher Education, Faculty of Education, University Putra Malaysia, 1997.

[5] Tyler, 103.

[6] Ibid., 106.

[7] Ibid., 124.

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