An Islamic Perspective towards Philosophy of Education

Introduction

Philosophy is the study of realities, pursuit of wisdom, and commentary on general principles of life. It is concerned with a search of eternal truth, both conceptual as well as practical. It has five areas of search – Epistemology, Metaphysics, Aesthetics, Ethics and History. The instrument used by philosophy to unearth realities or to discover truth is logic, both inductive as well deductive. Educational philosophy is a branch of general philosophy, it gains strength from epistemology. It formulates the aims and objectives or contents of education that, in turn, influence the whole learning environment, society, and future generations.

Philosophy of education is based on general principles of psychology, sociology, politics, economics, history, science, and religion. Education is dualistic phenomenon; it is static as well as dynamic. The major portion is dynamic or provisional and adjusts with the change and growth in knowledge, social structure, and civilization, while the minor but vital portion is static or eternal. We proposed that the contents of education are eternal while the application and explanation of these contents, a major portion, is dynamic. We assumed multi-disciplinary approach towards contents of education. The analysis accommodates the needs of individuals, society, and time and encompasses the cultural, social, and vocational aims of education.

Education may be formal as well as informal. The formal education is given in schools or colleges or universities, on the other hand informal education is obtained and absorbed from society and environment. Education, formal & informal, is developed and internalized in one’s personality through reflection and experience. It means all of us are learners during our lifetime. However, we are going to analyze the philosophy (aims & objectives) of formal education. Moreover, education has three levels – primary, secondary, and higher. Primary education deals with infants of 3 to 11 years old, secondary education covers teenagers of 12 to 18 years, and higher education shapes young learners of above 18 years. A distinctive approach is required for each level of education.

The contents of education vary from community to community. A secular society would have a different approach towards contents as compare to some ideological society. Moreover, the explanation or implementation of contents would be different in different societies. Our analysis is ideological and dominantly based on Islamic view towards education.

Terminology

The term “education” has been derived from the Latin words Educare, Educatum, or Educere. Educatum and educare mean to train and to nourish, while educere mean to lead out. The former implies that education is something external; to be imposed or put in from outside, it means the external environment plays a decisive role in learning process. The latter indicate growth from within; it means internal potentialities of an individual are decisive in learning process, the external environment has secondary role in educational process. Naturalists / Psychologists gave more importance to internal dispositions of learning process while the social philosophers put major stress on external demands of educational process. We assumed a mixed and balanced approach towards role and importance of internal-external environment of learning process.

Definition

Aristotle defined education as process necessary for the creation of a sound mind in a sound body, according to him, the aim & objective of education is to create good and virtuous citizens. Ibne Khaldun, in fourteenth century, expresses the view that education consists off intellectual, social, and moral training through which hidden potentialities are developed, traits of character are built and culture of the people is conveyed to the coming generations. Dewey, in twentieth century, defined education in these words: “Education is a process of living through a continuous reconstruction of experiences. It is development of all those capacities in the individual that will enable him to control his environment and fulfill his possibilities.” We may define education as, Education is the mean whereby adults pass on and inculcates to children their knowledge, thought-pattern, and behavior pattern and develop their genetic potential to manage existing and future challenges.

Aims & Objectives – Islamic View

Islam is Divine religion. It is based on revealed book, Quran, and prophetic commentary, Hadith. The foremost responsibility and ultimate purpose of prophets and Revealed Books are to educate the mankind for better, happy, and purposeful life. They specify the purpose of life, outline the procedure to actualize it, and present a practical example of purposeful life. Thus, the aims and objectives of education or contents of education can be understood from the last Revealed Book, Al-Quran. We quote a verse of Al-Quran,

Undoubtedly Allah did confer a great favor on the Muslims when He raised an Apostle from among themselves, who recites to them the Revelations of Allah, and causeth them to grow, and teacheth them the Scripture and Wisdom whereas they were in manifest error before.” (Al-Quran)

The verse identifies aims and objectives of education. These are:

  • Faith Plantation
  • Knowledge Advancement
  • Wisdom Enhancement
  • Manner Development

A. FAITH

The word faith has various meanings and uses, however, the central meaning is similar to “conviction”, “belief”, “trust” or “confidence”, but unlike these terms, “faith” tends to imply a submissive and transpersonal relationship with God or with someone having superior powers. Faith is founded on certain beliefs; beliefs’ indispensability to faith is just like seeds’ inevitability to plants. A belief system has certain perceptual ingredients with practical implications. A living faith must fulfill two conditions, the necessary condition is logical reasoning and sufficient condition is practical fruits for believers / mankind. A living faith gives stability to the believer, creates dynamism in one’s personality, brings fruits in one’s life, promotes cohesiveness among the believers, and assigns a specific shape to a group with peculiar traits.

We mention a few verses of the Holy Quran to outline and explain the basic elements of Islamic Faith.

A Glorious Book this! Which has nothing of doubt in it; it is guidance for the God-conscious who fear Allah. Those who believe in the Unseen and establish prayer and spend in Our way out of what We have provided them. And those who believe in that which has been sent down to you (O My Apostle) and in that which was sent down before you, and they also have faith in the August Day of Judgment. They are the ones who are rightly guided, and verily it is they who are successful in both the worlds.” (Al-Quran)

The first thing that the Quran does it removes the element of doubt, which is the foremost requisite of modern philosophy by introducing the faith as a fundamental factor behind reality. Doubt is a negative factor that hinders the exact understanding of reality; curiosity is far better alternate to doubt for knowledge development or to unearth realities. The faith concomitantly presupposes some obligatory beliefs – Unity of God, Unseen System (Angels, Heaven, Hell, etc.), Revealed Books, Institution of Prophets, Day of Judgment, Fate, and Life after Death. In addition, it imposes some obligations on believers – Kalimah (a confession of faith), prayer, fasting, alms giving, and pilgrimage. It is noteworthy that the idea of Unity of God must create the belief of mankind’s unity.

The Islamic approach towards faith is that it is revealed, explained, and planted through reverent personalities, i.e., prophets; a faith based on personal reasoning is not acceptable in Islam, the finality of prophets’ wording about faith elements is also essential. In addition, a loving and trustful posture towards prophets is fundamental for complete faith, without it faith is incomplete or objectionable. The very foundation of faith is thus love and submission to a reverent personality or a prophet. Simply, faith can be defined as accepting something true which has been told by someone who is believed to be trustworthy / praiseworthy.

The object behind development of faith is to make stable and balance psycho-spiritual formation of human personality. The prophets are sent as practical role modals and revealed books are accompanied as permanent working manual for guideline. The ultimate aim of developing faith elements is to equip the individual with necessary working tools to manage and tackle the conceptual or practical issues of life, either, big or small, simple or complex, independent or interlinked, a few or many, with fortitude and firmness. Thus, determination is necessary outcome of faith, no determination, than no faith.

Islam vehemently put forward two aspects of faith – human and transcendental. The human aspects propose the concept of unity of mankind, while the transcendental aspects propose the idea of Unity of God. Faith is incomplete if one aspect is ignored or not forcefully defined. In addition, the ignorance of one aspect makes the human personality lopsided and unstable. The repercussions of wrong belief about unity of mankind and Unity of God are manifold and penetrating to each and every aspect of human society. It can lead the nations into some kind of continuous strife and belligerent attitude towards each other. Moreover, the effects of wrong belief go beyond the present generations’ outlook and disturb the peace and tranquility of future generations, as well.

B. KNOWLEDGE

It is the understanding of the factual/declarative, procedural and conceptual aspects of something that a person acquires through education, observation and experience. Acquisition of knowledge is basic demand of human nature. It plays vital role in growth and development of a person or a nation.

1. Bases of Human Knowledge: -Let us quote some verses of the Quran on the subject:

And recall when your Lord said to the angels: “I am going to appoint a vice-regent in the earth.” They said: “Will You set in the earth such as will make mischief and cause bloodshed, whereas we celebrate Your praise and glorify You.” Allah said:” Surely I know that which you know not.”And Allah taught Adam the names of all things. Then He set them before the angels saying: “Tell Me the names of these if you are really truthful (in your opinion)” They said: “Glory to You! We have no knowledge what You have taught us. In truth, You alone are the All-Knowing, the All-Wise.”

Allah said:’ O Adam! Tell them the names of these things.” Then Adam had told the angels the names of those things, Allah said: “Did I not tell you that I know full well all the hidden mysteries of the heavens and the earth and I know whatever you disclose and whatever you have been concealing?

The verses manifest that the human nature has been made inherently fit and capable of receptivity and absorption of Divine Knowledge. Moreover, Adam’s knowledge has ability to conceptualize the things in nature. Thirdly, man has ability to develop language because Adam assigned names to items without prior formal training. These verses also show that the first man of the earth came down fully abreast of scientific knowledge, in full monopoly to develop it for natural conquest. According to Quran, than the program of human activity should proceed hand in hand with the divine cooperation and blessing, before the plan was being carried on unilaterally in which God has no vice-regent. The verses also indicate that a man has free will to choose right or wrong path of life. There is no external compulsion on his free choice. The verses also indicate that the mankind has strong tendency towards injustice and strife, however, it can be managed through human knowledge and is restrained by the Will of God.

2. Types of knowledge: -Knowledge can be classified into following groups:

  • Natural Sciences: -Natural sciences deals with inanimate objects of universe. The major branches are physics, chemistry, and astronomy.
  • Biological Sciences: -Biological Sciences deals with animate objects of universe. The major branches are zoology, botany, and psychology.
  • Social Sciences: -Social Sciences deals with collective life and relationship between individual and society. The major branches are sociology, political science, and economics.
  • Professional Sciences: -Professional Sciences deals with professions of individuals necessary for human survival / quality of life. The major branches are medicine, engineering, and commerce.

Islam accepts the scientific classification of knowledge, however, it proposed a broader taxonomy of knowledge for mankind:-

First, Absolute verses Dubious Knowledge. The absolute knowledge is based on some scientific facts or given through some reverent personality (i.e., prophets) in a shape of Revealed Book (e.g., Quran). The dubious knowledge is based on subjective analysis (e.g., the theory of psycho-analysis proposed by Freud.). Second, Fruitful verses Fruitless Knowledge. The fruitful knowledge gives benefit to mankind (e.g., natural sciences, biological sciences, social sciences, and, professional sciences.) while the fruitless knowledge is of no use for mankind (e.g., occult sciences).

3. Aspects of Knowledge: -A peace of knowledge can be broken into three categories or has three aspects – Declarative, Procedural & Conceptual.

  • Declarative Knowledge: -It is knowledge about something, e.g., structure of body, structure of computer, format of earth, and parts of speech. It deals with WHAT type of questions.
  • Procedural Knowledge: -It is knowledge about the procedures and sequences. It narrates and explains procedures & sequences of any compiled information or data, that is, it deals with HOW & WHEN type of questions. For example, HOW computer is manufactured or used, WHEN computer is ready to use or sale.
  • Conceptual Knowledge: -It is knowledge of concepts working behind the declarative and procedural knowledge. It is abstract aspect of knowledge. In conceptual knowledge, the relationship among concepts is also discussed. It deals with WHY type of questions. For example, the mathematical concepts and their relationship with each other that provide basis to the working of computer hardware or software.

C. WISDOM

Knowledge enables us to understand the realties of things (i.e., Divine Scheme of Creation, Natural System of Growth, natural forces, and history) and wisdom equip us with abilities to utilize the realities for the benefit of self and others. According to Islam, wisdom is higher level attribute, it comes after knowledge. Wisdom is bestowed when will of man is replaced by Will of God and human understanding is fully exploited, thus, wisdom is based on knowledge and intellect. Let us quote a verse to make it clear:

“He bestows wisdom upon whom He will, and whosoever is granted wisdom he is indeed granted abundant good and none accepts admonition except men of understanding.”

(Al-Quran)

Islam proposed two diagonally opposites aspects of wisdom – Divine Wisdom and devil wisdom. The Divine Wisdom is based on right faith and fruitful knowledge and produce good results for self and mankind, materially as well as spiritually, while the devil wisdom is based on wrong faith and fruitless knowledge and leads the mankind towards only worldly or material benefits, completely ignoring the benefits of others and spiritual benefits. The devil wisdom guides for self benefits at the cost of others, however, the devil / worldly wisdom is short-lived and weak, ultimately fails to materialize her lopsided designs.

Character-Sketch of a Wise Person

Wisdom is personalized, established, and manifested through struggle. A person fully involved in chores of life would qualify for wisdom. Seclusion or solitude is very negation of wisdom, while the participation is very basis of wisdom. A wise person pursue his goals/responds the problems of life with certain characteristics. These characteristics are essential working tools of a wise individual that give him/her edges over non-wise. The prominent attributes of a wise person are – Effective Communication, Enthusiasm, Discipline or Rigor, Decision Power, Sense of Responsibility, Moderate Behavior, Self-Confidence or High Morale or Courage, and Appropriate Appearance.

D. BEST MANNERS

Manners are countless, structurally, and diverse, practically. However, the essence of good manners is constant for all and sundry, it is humility. Humility is unique positive attribute of human personality; it is an attribute as well as essence of every positive attribute. Absence of humility makes the existence of all manners a soul-less ritual unable to produce fruitful results for self and others. A proud person is ill-mannered and creates problems for self and others.

Manners have two aspects – inner and outer. Inwardly, manners are shaped by dynamic organization of all the perceptions, intentions, and emotions of an individual and the behavior that results from the organization of these aspects, while, outwardly; they are shaped by social acceptance of behavior. Simply,conformity to some rationally defined and morally established interactive standards is considered best manners. Manners are developed under the guidance of intellect, knowledge, wisdom, social norms, and religion. They are time-honored phenomena. The reasonably/indisputably evolved set of manners creates order, consistency and continuity in one’s life and gives beautiful look to an individual or society. Manners are forerunner of culture and give longevity to civilizations. A society of ill-mannered persons will not be able to survive, at least with respect and recognition.

Bases of Best Manners

Man is combination of three basic realities, i.e., body, mind, and soul. Body has certain physical needs for survival or continuation of life such as food, water, and sleep, mind has some instinctual desires for interactive life such as parental instinct, gregarious instinct, learning instinct, and sex instinct, and soul has some ingrained urges towards moral excellence. Body needs are fulfilled by physical powers, psychological instincts are satisfied by mind powers such as will-power, decision-power, and emotional-power, soul urges are calmed by spiritual powers such as insight and intuition. A sustained manifestation of countless human efforts to satisfy body needs, psychological instincts, and soul urges shapes human personality. In addition, physical balance or health depends on diet, leisure time, proper sleep, and constructive physical activities. Mind normality or peace of mind hinges on positive approach towards intentions, perceptions and emotions. Soul is satisfied by rationally-intuitively defined belief system. A balanced approach towards physical health, mental satisfaction, and spiritual contentment give shape to mannered personality. Moreover, a mannered life is formed and improved through several group interactions such as social relations, economic dealings, political contacts, and customary connections.

Concluding Remarks

The aforementioned elaboration about contents of education – faith, knowledge, wisdom & personality traits or manners – manifests that educational institutions should have a comprehensive approach towards learning. They plant FAITH, give KNOWLEDGE, equip with WISDOM and develop PERSONALITY / MANNERS to face existing and upcoming challenges of life. Each aspect has its own importance and indispensability, one cannot be left at the expense of other, and all is needed. It is noteworthy that only a content-based educational system can produce fruits for society, coming generations and concerned individuals. On the bases of whole analysis, we propose two sample Mission Statements of educational institutions.

  • We strive to develop among our students Individuality with Humanity, Independence with Inter-dependence, and Science with Technology.
  • We strive to develop among our students Personality with Patriotism, Faith with Manners, and Knowledge with Wisdom.