What is Education

How can we define education? In effect, the term is so vast that it includes many disciplines and it embraces every stage of life. With Kant, we can say that education is an activity specific to humans and only humans are concerned about educational issues. Humans are the only living pedagogical beings. From this observation, we can deduce that education is the gift (burden?) that the Almighty offered to his creature. Education becomes therefore a priority for the believer in order to bring about change in our hearts for a society that is more just, for a better exercise of the Califate.

Education covers issues relating to parenting and those relating to instruction. It is thus a unified whole that, to conserve a certain coherence, should be thought of in a global way rather than by categories. The overall approach, from our point of view, conforms more closely to Islamic requirements. In effect, doesn’t Islam, through the Koran, invite us to connect the world order, its rules and its operation with our experiences, our feelings and our epochs? Since the All-Merciful gave to humans the management of the Earth (Sürah Al Baqarah, verse no. 30), it is essential for humans to educate themselves in order to carry out this mission. What kind of educational plan can accomplish this mission?

To respond to this question, we should ask ourselves about the end aims of an Islamic society. We understand by Islamic, not the community of Muslims, but all the ethical principles of universal value offered by our scriptures. Isn’t Islam a mercy for the Universe? An Islamic society must be just and must maintain harmony, the equilibrium of the world. We indicate here only the cardinal points as a more detailed map would require the development of long arguments and a departure from our main theme. Education is the main lever for obtaining justice and equilibrium. In effect, the family constitutes the stem-cell of the society and school is the embryonic form of it. If one of these two elements is organized in a tyrannical and/or unbalanced way, we cannot achieve harmony in society. Let us illustrate this assumption with two examples taken from the field of parenting and from instruction.

First example:

What do Germany, Japan and Rwanda have in common? In principle, nothing. These countries belong to completely different geographical, cultural and anthropological areas. However, each of these countries experienced a policy leading to genocidal practices. An analysis of the family systems of these countries, led by Emmanuel Todd, demographer, anthropologist and sociologist, reveals that these three countries are organized around the same family model. This is the stem family with an elder dominating the siblings. This family disharmony makes it easier to believe in inequality among people. Of course, we are in the field of macro-sociology. We can thus see that family model scan have an effect on social organization.

Second example:

Objectively, social beings are always collectively more efficient through cooperation than through solitary competition. However in France and not only there, the school system aims at solitary competition through marks and grades…This early learning of competition breaks the cooperative willingness of children. This leads to the emergence of a very individualistic society. The lack of pedagogical meaning to the learning environment thus has an effect on society.

These two examples demonstrate that education is constituted from the form of society. We should thus pay the greatest attention to it. Care in education should make it possible to reform the individual, then by ricochet reform of the system. Didn’t the Almighty tell us in the Holy Koran that He would not change the conditions of people as long as people have not changed what is in their hearts? (Sürah 13, verse 11). When a system inverses the natural values of society, we should provide the tools necessary for the emancipation of the greatest number in order to restore these values. We understand by natural values not a cultural organization or a body of moral standards, but precisely the foundations of Islamic ethics, universally accepted. Please excuse the Islamic ethics pleonasm to designate universal ethics; perhaps this redundancy will clarify our purposes?

It is certain that knowledge is the source of emancipation. Aren’t there signs for those who reason? The exhortations to acquire knowledge together with reflection are numerous in our scriptures. Education must therefore offer signs to those who reason, to those gifted with intelligence. It should not be destined to be a tool for imitation just as taqlid is negative for fiqh, blind conformity is educational suicide. This contrast between educational conformity and innovation crosses our Muslim heritage as it irrigates occidental philosophy. Thus Maria Montessori and Imam Ali echo each other across fourteen centuries: “Do not raise your children through the prism of your times, they were conceived for a different epoch.” It is for us to remember that only change is constant: isn’t that the challenge of education?


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