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Islam's Crushing Embrace of Education

Reader comment on item: Islam's Surprising Impact on Daily Life

Submitted by Renox (United States), Dec 11, 2021 at 23:02

Seek Ye Knowledge Even in distant China (Hadith)

The casual foreign observer of contemporary Islamic societies is often struck by an apparent sincere interest and commitment by both the private and public sectors towards education. Hardly a day goes by without an article on education appearing on the front pages of local newspapers; hardly a month does not herald the formal inauguration of some splendid new structure dedicated to knowledge and learning.

No one can question the great intellectual achievements realized under the aegis of Islam during its "days of glory" (750-1200 AD+-). The great translation movement (early Abbasid period) wherein 1000 years of the Greek classics became the foundation of Islamic philosophical and scientific discussion and discovery, were preserved and became transformational not only for Islam but also for the nascent Western scholarly traditions.

As a consequence, one might go so far as to state that without Islam, there would be no Western philosophy, at least not as we know it. Equally, one might say that without Greece, Islam might have developed in many different ways so as to be unrecognizable to us today. There are reasons the wily Muslim philosophers gave Aristotle the sobriquet "The First Teacher".

In modern times, and to be fair, primary and secondary educational practices in Islamic Arab countries tend to mirror what happens in Europe and the Americas – basic subjects in reading, writing and math are taught along with some science and language arts. English is now nearly universally made available and in some programs at least a couple of years studying English is compulsory. In the Francophile north African countries, of course - Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco - French takes pride of place over English even to this day, I believe.

We must also acknowledge that in most secondary programs, the teaching of Islam is also mandatory. But an emphasis on religion is not all that rare in the many US systems associated with formal religious orders. To sum up, it can be said that generally speaking, in basic subjects studied, pre-college education programs in both the West and the Middle East are on a par.

Once a student enters the college level and beyond, however, the differences widen in both practice and scope.....and in character. STEM subjects can be as advanced and rigorous as any found on US campuses but what is missing is the sense or idea of enquiry so necessary for advancement in any field. Critiquing is not encouraged for fear that learned critical thinking skills could be transferred to other domains, such as religious beliefs (or sitting government systems).

We must always remember that to a mature, committed Muslim, regardless of status, social standing or educational background, the apex of human experience has already passed. It occurred with the appearance of the Prophet Muhammed and the revelation of the Koran. Everything since then has been a slide downward or at least a holding pattern......a waiting for the day of Resurrection. In this sense, education, whether past, present or future is superfluous. Anything and everything of importance has already been explained or foretold.

Education and knowledge, while sanctioned by Islam and encouraged by the state, are simply hand-maidens to religious belief and experience. In the West, education writ large, is fundamentally a distancing from the past and embracing the future. Islam ultimately embraces the past and education is a search for origins; and fulfillment of the Prophet's message. Any study, discussion or analysis addressing the Islamic world has to keep these fundamentals front and center.


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