Islamic Response to
Secular Educational System
By Br. Khalid El-Gharib
The West has claimed that for centuries
its scientific and technological progress was a direct result of
isolating religion from the practical affairs of societies by the
secular ideology of separating the Church from the State. The rise
of secularism meant that religious teachings in the social and political
systems were replaced with man-made legislation. This perception
that views religion as impractical and full of contradictions was
due to the historical brutality possessed by the Church against
scientists and philosophers.
This article addresses the reasons
that brought about secular educational systems in the West and will
refute the generalisations made by the West to include Islam as
a religion of rituals and spirituality that does not manifest itself
in the temporal affairs. This article is dedicated to Muslim University
students to enlighten their Islamic worldview on the western secular
The Evolution of Secularism
Special Character of Orthodox Christian
Revelation and its Consequences
The special character of Christian
revelation is transforming the exclusive worship of the One and
Only Lord of the Universe (Allah) into the idea of Trinity, in shifting
the emphasis from the message of God revealed through the person
of Jesus to the Incarnation of God Himself in the person of Jesus
has succeeded only in confusing the realms of the Supernatural and
Natural, of the Divine and Human, the Infinite and Finite. It has,
therefore, laid itself open to numerous intellectual attacks from
which it has still not succeeded in extricating itself.1
Descartes2 , one of
the pathfinders of modern philosophy, intended to attain knowledge,
including that of God, by reason alone contradicting his Christian
faith that must be accepted and believed against reason.
Reason Versus Christian Theology
3 during the Dark and Middle Ages
The Christian Dogma, defining itself
in the form of Trinity and Incarnation, in the doctrine of Original
Sin and Vicarious Atonement (Salvation) was constantly being challenged
by intellectuals and defended by the Church through executions and
persecution. The scholastic Middle Ages had been confronted with
the problem of reconciling religion and faith, reason and revelation.
But since Christian theology was particularly unresponsive to intellectual
queries, St. Peter Damian "deprecated the application of reason
to theology" .4 Therefore, the concern of
uniting faith and reason had to rest finally by separating the domains
of philosophy and religion, of faith and reason.
It is this shift of focus in the intellectual
horizon of Europe that is of tremendous significance. If the Middle
Ages had been characterised by a concern for the Supernatural and
the Divine, the Renaissance preoccupied itself with Nature and Humanism.
If the Middle Ages had been identified with the authority of the
Church, the Renaissance projects itself through its concern for
the secular which affirmed the value of experiment.
Therefore, the work of scientists and
the contribution of philosophers, were together producing the intellectual
climate that was gradually leading towards Naturalism, Atheism and
Scientific Exploration and the Growth
With the passage of time, further scientific
discoveries were made that were at odds with the teachings of the
Church. To preserve its authority, the Church took some harsh steps
against the emergence of new ideas. Many scientists were branded
as heretics, infidels and satans. The famous astronomer, Galileo
(1564-1642) observed and studied different aspects of the universe.
His conclusions supported the system of Copernicus (who pointed
out that the Earth revolves around the Sun)5. Galileo
was tried by the Inquisition and was subjected to an indefinite
period of imprisonment for daring to hold scientific beliefs in
contradiction with the views of the Church.
The Renaissance and the Reformation,
Reactions against the domination of Orthodox Christianity
The response to the oppression of the
Church from the people, especially the scientists, thinkers and
the philosophers such as Voltaire and Rousseau, was equally strong.
They began to highlight the contradictions of the Church and called
for nothing less than the separation of the Church and the State.
Desperate measures were taken by the Church to deflect the criticism,
frustration and anger that was vented by the people. These measures
fell to halt the winds of change that had galvanised the masses.
The Church realised that it could no longer stay in charge of the
State without reforming itself. Thus, a period of reformation commenced.
However, the Reformation did not guarantee any bright future for
the Church as the struggle became intensified between the 16th and
The eventual outcome of the struggle
for power between the Church and the thinkers and philosophers was
the separation of the Church and the State. This solution limited
the authority of the Church to preserving the morals in society,
and left the administering of the worldly affairs to the State.
The separation was completed by the 18th century, and formed the
basis o f capitalism, marking the beginning of the enlightenment
period that sparked the industrial revolution in Europe.
The inevitable outcome of separating
the Church from the State was the application of secular schools
of thought in politics, economics, sociology and cultural affairs.
But the most serious victim of secularism were the educational systems
since they are directly responsible for the intellectual quality
of human beings. While people in secular societies are being educated,
they are also being morally and ethically degenerated. The education
of an immoral human being gives him or her the tools to be more
wicked and destructive in this world.
The Islamic World View
Islam as an Ideology
The role of Muslims in the advancement
in the fields of sciences and humanities is directly related to
the driving force of Islam. It is this Islamic ideology that deserves
the credit and not the individual Muslims. Unlike Christianity,
Judaism, and other religions, Islam is not merely a religion but
rather a unique and comprehensive ideology that guides the life
of the human being. The Islamic ideology, by the definition of an
ideology, consists of both the idea and the method to implement
the idea as a practical manifestation in reality.
The Islamic idea itself is composed
of two essential components; the creed or doctrine (Aqeedah) and
a system of rules and regulation founded on this doctrine (Shari'ah).
The Islamic Aqeedah provides the correct and comprehensive answers
to the fundamental questions regarding humanity' s existence and
that of the universe. It addresses the issue of the human being's
purpose in life, and links it with what proceeds life and what will
come after it, thereby providing the basis for the Islamic system
to properly organise human affairs.6
The Islamic Shari'ah provides a comprehensive
law governing the affairs of human beings. It correctly establishes:
, the relationship between the human being and his Creator, the personal
affairs of individuals, and the various relationships (social, political,
, cconomic, and international) that exist in society.
The Islamic methodology provides the
means to apply the idea (the creed and systems) to practice.
Unlike Secularism, Capitalism and Communism,
Islam is built on the correct worldview that is compatible with
the human being. Islam does not ignore human beings' instincts or
desires, but organises them in the proper context, including the
desire to acquire knowledge. The implementation of the Islamic system
is neither confined to time or place no r dependent upon science
and technology, and must occupy our instincts, needs and natural
Islam invites and directs humans
to study reality
Islam has made it obligatory on all
believers to acquire knowledge for themselves. In the very first
verse of the Qur'an revealed to him, the Prophet (s.a.w) was instructed
"Read! In the
Name of your Lord, Who has created (all that exists). Has created
man from clot (a piece of thick coagulated blood). Read! And your
Lord is the Most Generous. Who has taught (the writing) by the pen.
Has taught man that which he knew not. " [Qur'an 96:1-5].
The importance of reading, writing
and acquiring knowledge has been explained in this verse in a most
forceful and direct manner. Since it is obligatory for every believer
to obey Allah' s commandments, it was therefore announced by the
Prophet (s.a.w) that learning and searching after knowledge was
a sacred duty of every Muslim.
The Qur'an appeals constantly to reason
and experiment which is a blessing indispensable to arrive at proper
"Say: 'Are those
who know equal to those who know not?' It is only men of understanding
who will remember (ie. get a lesson from Allah's Signs and Verses)"
The Qur'an also directs man to study
the physical world in order to understand the reality and to appreciate
more the greatness of the Creator. Although Islam points to the
physical world to make people think, it encourages people to discover
more laws. The Qur' an is fundamentally a book of guidance and a
code of life for mankind to enable it to differentiate between the
right and the wrong.
The Islamic Perspective of Scientific
"And Allah has
brought you out from the wombs of your mothers while you know nothing.
And He gave you hearing, sight, and hearts (intelligence and affections)
that you might give thanks (to Allah) " [Qur'an 16:78].
Allah (swt) reminds the human being
that he is born into this world without any knowledge of the existence,
but He has equipped this human with the tools -the five human senses-
that he needs to explore the might of the creation in order that
h e/she may give thanks to the Creator. The Creator, Allah (swt),
has taught man since his presence on earth, "And he taught
Adam all the names (of everything)" [Qur'an 2:31], through
the agency of wahi (revelation). The last revelation that is composed
of the Qur'an and the Sunnah, does not establish itself in its followers
by blind faith or imitation, but rather by an invitation to the
human being to think deeply about his existence and his surroundings.
Islamic methodology calls human beings
to ponder upon the profound nature of this universe and observe
its many phenomena that establish a definitive proof for the existence
of One Creator. We are constantly discovering more and more laws
that make up this order. The motives and objectives of all civilisations
(and the resulting urban growth world-wide) is firstly, to discover
and research the resources in the universe and aspects of matter
and energy that are useful to man. This is asserted in the Glorious
"Do they not
look in the dominion of the heavens and the earth and all the things
that Allah has created?" [Qur'an7:185].
The second step is then to utilise
these discoveries rationally for the benefit of man. Again, this
is a direct command from Allah (swt):
" See you not
(O men) that Allah has subjected for you whatsoever is in the heavens
and whatsoever in the earth?" [Qur'an 31:20].
For the Muslim, these processes are
an act of worship that have to be guided by revelation in order
to understand the reality of nature and the limitations of the human
being. On the other hand, the non-Muslims seek their guidance from
man-mad e laws that mechanistically and absurdly view the creation
as a self-operated system.
Guidelines Towards an Islamic Educational
By observing the physical world and
the laws of nature, the Islamic thought, that is derived from the
Qur'an and Sunnah, presents the philosophy which explains Allah's
Might and Wisdom. These observations should not remain at the boundaries
of the material world, but should conclude that this unintelligible
universe could not have possibly come to existence by itself nor
by a chance or accident, and hence should provide reflections about
the attributes of the Creator. Such attributes define the Creator
as a Deity above His creation, neither matter or energy can shape
His identity, nor can space or time encompass His eternal existence,
confirming the Qur'anic verse :
"There is nothing
like unto Him, and He is the All-Hearer, the All-Seer" [Qur'an
The Islamic educational system does
not acquire conceptions about life, death and the Universe from
the materialistic and secular world, and must purify its curriculum
from any materialistic ideas that contradict basic facts in Islam.
How ever, the Islamic educational system should utilise the expertise
and experience of the material systems in the fields of applied
sciences and industry and reconstruct their data on the basis of
The achievements and contribution of
early Muslim scholars which have been completely neglected and overlooked
in the Western books on the history of sciences, should be unveiled
and incorporated into the curriculum's of the Islamic educational
system. Since the Islamic civilisation was the longest in the history
of humanity, scientific and humanitarian branches of knowledge flourished
under its rule, and Muslim scholars led the world in the fields
of astronomy, mathematics, medicine, agriculture and sociology,
to name a few. The unveiling of this heritage which paved the way
for the emergence of the modern sciences will dignify the sense
of originality and belonging in the Muslim youth.
The miraculous scientific notions in
the Holy Qur'an must also be revealed to prove to people that the
Qur'an contains basic scientific facts and laws of the universe
that were unknown at the time of revelation and for centuries afterwards.
These scientific notions are material proof to people of all creeds
and tongues that the Holy Qur'an is the Word of Allah and that Muhammad
(saws) is His final prophet.
The Islamic educational systems should
emphasise the importance of acquainting a thorough knowledge of
Arabic, the language of the Qur'an. Arabic is not only necessary
to fully comprehend Islam, it is a requirement to perceive the Qur'anic
world view. It is also important to encourage proficiency in the
language of the community in order to effectively convey the message
Specific Advice for University Students
The Muslim student when seeking knowledge
and education must consolidate his/her faith by purifying his/her
intention, since sincerity is the foundation upon which every work
is established. The Prophet (saws) said: "Actions are but
by intention and every man shall have but that which he intended"
[al-Bukhari and Muslim]. Hence, the Muslim should pursue education
for the pleasure of Allah (swt) and not for material or social gain.
There is no question that seeking knowledge
and education at universities is necessary for Muslims to meet the
formidable challenges of the massive poverty and illiteracy, which
they face. However, those Muslims who suffer from the lack of belonging
and understanding of Islam, will graduate with a degree of secular
mentality that centralises this world. Allah (swt) declares:
for the quick-passing (transitory enjoyment of this world), We readily
grant him what We will for whom We like. Then, afterwards, We have
appointed for him Hell, he will burn therein disgraced and rejected"
Therefore, it is crucial that students
at universities do not compromise their Islamic education with the
excuse of their studies. They should also be cautious of teachings
that challenge the code of belief (Aqeedah) and law (Shari'ah) of
Islam and adopt the criteria that would enable them to distinguish
these secular thoughts and ideas from their field of interest. Seeking
a profession that provides halal income sources is also the priority
of the Muslim.
The Muslim student should develop a
professional attitude towards his/her education and cherish their
work and career prospects. The Prophet (saws) said: "Allah
likes it when the one amongst you perfects his works" [sound
hadith, reported by Bayhaqi in Shoua'bul Iman]. This prophetic guidance
clearly directs the believer to perform tasks to the best of his/her
capabilities. Hence, excelling in the field of study should be the
aim of every Muslim student. However, the Muslim student should
not have ambitions that selfishly neglect his/her obligations towards
his/her Muslim society and Ummah . In fact, his/her prime ambition
should be gaining the necessary expertise and experience to participate
in the reconstruction of the Islamic State. It is essential that
Muslim students evolve this Islamic state of mind, otherwise the
Islamic hope will remain a dream.
The Muslim Students' Associations and
Societies on the campus of the university provide the religious
and social requirements for all Muslim students. The Prophet (saws)
said: "A believer to another believer is like a building
whose different parts enforce each other". The Prophet
then clasped his hands with the fingers interlaced [al-Bukhari].
Therefore, it is strongly recommended that the Muslim student cooperate
and take advantages of all the facilities and resources accessible
to him/her. He/she should also be motivated to participate in the
organisation of functions and activities of their association, to
train him/herself to become dynamic Islamic workers, and also, to
mature the brotherhood atmosphere between colleagues.
Adherence to strict moral codes and
upright ethics is a fundamental component of the Muslim character.
The Muslim student must exhibit a respectable behaviour on and off
campus, and qualities such as beneficence, forgiveness, honesty
and kind speech should manifest in his/her actions. The Prophet
(saws) said: "I have been sent only for the purpose of perfecting
good morals" [Al-Muwatta'].
It is historically evident that many
intellectual Muslims were able to integrate the sciences of religion
with other branches of knowledge. The simple reason for that, is
because worldly sciences in the Islamic Khilafah found the correct
environment and methodology to cultivate and improve the quality
of life. Today, worldly science s are exploited to produce a mechanistic
and a materialistic human being without the aspect of humanity,
that sees no error in transgressing its limits and in violating
We have long been awaiting a promising
young generation that can raise themselves above dunya. A lot of
hope is rested upon the shoulders of this expected generation whose
mission in this world should be the establishment of Allah's prerequisites
for victory and success in this world and in the Hereafter.
"Allah has promised
those among you who believe, and do righteous good deeds, that He
will certainly grant them succession to (the present rulers) in
the earth, as He granted it to those before them, and that He will
grant them the authority to practice their religion, that which
he has chosen for them (i.e. Islam). And He will surely give
them in exchange a safe security after their fear (provided) they
(believers) worship Me and do not associate anything (in worship)
with Me. But whoever disbelieved after this, they are the Fasiqun
(rebellious, disobedient to Allah)" [Qur'an 24:55]
- Contemporary Atheistic Materialism
-A Reaction To Orthodox Christianity, p15.
- Rene` Descartes (1596-1650), French
mathematician, scientist, and philosopher who has been called
the father of modern philosophy. For a full biography, see The
New Encyclopedia Britannica, Macropaedia: Cartesianism, Descartes.
- Theology is the study of God, His
attributes and His relations with man and the universe
- Columbia Encyclopedia, under Peter
Damian, Saint, p1527.
- Islam and Science, p4
- Islam and Science, p7-8
- Contemporary Atheistic Materialism
-A Reaction To Orthodox Christianity, Prof. Jaliluddin Ahmad Khan,
- Islam and Science, S. Ahmed, A.Abdul
Muntaqim and A. Siddiq, Islamic Cultural Workshop.
- Muslim Contribution to Science,
Dr. M. Mirza and M. I. Siddiqi, Kazi Publications.
- The New Encyclopedia Britannica,