Are we still Muslims or have we returned to Jahiliyah?
It seems that when Islam came to us, we were wrenched from the world of Jahiliyah and pummeled into the world of enlightenment in a short span of 30 years. An enlightenment that allowed a desert people to overshadow the two superpowers of the time and inherit civilization. We left the world of objects, materials, idols behind and learned to worship the Eternal.
Our minds were captivated by the ideals emanating from the Creator. We saw in the Prophet (peace be upon him) the perfect ideal to strive towards. Our minds were filled with these ideas and we had long left the dismal world of objects such as the pagan Arabs lived for - well-bred horses, women, cattle, silk, armor and weaponry and more. We had left the world of our lives revolving around specific people - chiefs, tribes, families, mistresses, titles, social acceptance.
Yet today, we are once more captivated by the world of objects and have forgotten our enlightenment. Instead of worshiping Him who is Perfect, who is Eternal, who is All Powerful, Most Gracious, Most Merciful, we live in a world where we objectify the world around us. What do we do?
We spend a third of our lives studying. Not to explore the creation of Allah, but for more mundane ends of material well-being; building careers. This meaningless education serves two purposes:
1. Wastes valuable time and money so that at the end of our education we are desperate to recoup the time and resource deficit incurred and thus put ourselves at the mercy of employment.
2. The education serves to brainwash us to sit quietly in cages and take orders, both without complaint and asking why? Why do I need to know these facts?
Thus primed, for the next third portion of our lives we serve our material overlords, in gilded cuffs and golden cages. Somewhere down this line we lose our innocence, our spirit and our soul. And by the time we reach our final third portion of the cup of life, for those of us who have not gone insane, we enter the arena to a game we have already lost. For an arm broken can be mended, but a spirit broken is far harder to remedy. In our twilight, we may return to our prayers, but those are but prayers of our own funeral. We may attempt social good but the plant that is already dead cannot be revived with water.
Only if we could have trusted our own souls, our instincts, our minds. Was it not that we universally did not like school? Did we not distrust the doctrine and dogma of the mullahs? If we instead could have touched upon our yearning for the living Islam, the ideal that our hearts call to strive towards. The life that is an adventure and not a career or a tour. The learning as a means to an end of striving in that very adventure, not a meaningless list of facts and tests the purpose of which is not understandable.
Then will our revolutions bring real change rather than endless cycles of clouds but no rain. Repeated reruns of betrayal and tyranny. Then will our prayers come alive with purpose and our masjids be transformed into meeting places of revolutionaries and adventurers.
Then will the world again tremble at our feet and the tyrants, oppressors and usurers find no place on Allah's Earth to hide from those who worship the Eternal and strive towards the perfect ideal, rather than worship the world and the objects that it constitutes. And then will we have returned back to Islam and forsaken again the world of Jahiliyah.
The Muslim World Today
There are three kinds of education that are being handed out to Muslims today. One created for the elite involving foreign-language, often English or French. This system is based on a Western education model. The education lacks any real substance in Islam, but instead replaces this with a history, philosophy and social science that propagate a world-view centered on the ascendancy of Western civilization. Evolution is taught as fact, served with fanciful diagrams of half man and half animals. And the conspicuous absence of Allah imprints an implicit denial. The education provides a secular view of the world and the subservience and abject inferiority of our own civilization.
From being dressed in Western attire in a young age, our children are/have been brainwashed into accepting an alien culture and serve to be transformed into an elite that neither understands nor respects its culture and roots and instead is in awe of the Western civilization. These elite then serve as the agents of the foreign power in keeping control over the country, a new and sophisticated form of vassalage, yet vassalage to the same or greater degree than ever before.
The second form of education is the diametric opposite – madrasah education given to the lower classes where the Quran is recited and memorized but without comprehension, reflection and analysis. People still are devoted to the Quran, but their love of the book is not one of reflection and understanding, but of formalistic and ritualistic reading, learning by heart and a complicated science of pronunciation. What is produced are people who can recite, memorize and obey commands, but neither understand Islam, their active role in Islam, or their position in the greater scheme of things.
The third form of education is government sourced and involves a blend of rote learning similar to the madrasahs, but just enough practical curriculum to be able to function in various jobs and roles that any state and economy inevitably needs. These typically serve the middle classes.
Our education system is broken and astoundingly there is no Muslim government that is willing to fix it. How can we create an improved state of affairs when the fundamental building block of the system - the Muslim Individual - is not educated, aware and enlightened but brainwashed to believe their inferiority? As with any system: garbage in, garbage out.
The Great Mistake
Our present education crisis did not start now; our particular garbage has taken considerable time to rot and perhaps coincides with our decline. Brother Mahathir Muhamad points out in his blog CheDet that in the 15th century we decided to separate worldly knowledge from religious knowledge and focus on the latter. It was this that he attributes as a key element to our downfall.
Perhaps the issue started even earlier when the Asharite School started using reason and logic only defensively and Imam Ghazali debated those influenced by Greek philosophers. However, the victory seemed one not only against the philosophers but against the use of reason and logic itself. Thus, the doors of ijtihad were closed and Muslims moved increasingly to mysticism and fatalism to relate to the world around them.
Logic was carted off to be used only defensively in support of established theology. Ibn Khaldun in Al Muqadimah sheds much light upon the use of logic by what he describes as “recent scholars”:
“In time, the science of logic spread in Islam. People studied it. They made a distinction between it and the philosophical sciences, in that logic was merely a norm and yardstick for arguments and served to probe the arguments of the (philosophical sciences) as well as (those of) all other (disciplines).
“(Scholars) studied the basic premises the earlier theologians had established. They refuted most of them with the help of arguments leading them to (a different opinion). Many of these were derived from philosophical discussions of physics and metaphysics. When they probed them with the yardstick of logic, it showed that they were applicable only to those (other disciplines and not to theology, but) they did not believe that if the argument were wrong, the thing proven (by the arguments) was also wrong. This approach differed in its technical terminology from the older one. It was called “the school of recent scholars”. Their approach often included refutation of the philosophers where the (opinions of the) latter differed from the articles of faith, because, in most respects, there is a relationship between the opinions of the innovators and the opinions of the philosophers.
“The first (scholar) to write in accordance with the new theological approach was al-Ghazzali. He was followed by the imam Ibn al-Khatib. A large number of scholars followed in their steps and adhered to their tradition.
“The later scholars were very intent upon meddling with philosophical works. The subjects of the two disciplines (theology and philosophy) were thus confused by them. They thought that there was one and the same (subject) in both disciplines, because the problems of each discipline were similar.
“The theologians most often deduced the existence and attributes of the Creator from the existing things and their conditions. As a rule, this was their line of argument. The physical bodies form part of the existing things, and they are the subject of the philosophical study of physics. However, the philosophical study of them differes from the theological. The philosophers study bodies in so far as they move or are stationary. The theologians, on the other hand, study them in so far as they serve as an argument for the Maker.
[Notice the defensive and static worldview that causes fundamental problems. The battle of the theologians and philosophers muddled knowledge with their false arguments. The theological study of metaphysics is wrong in using the study of logic and existentia in serving as argument for Him rather than as material for searching for Him.]
“In the same way, the philosophical study of metaphysics studies existence as such and what it requires for its essence. The theological study (of metaphysics) on the other hand, is concerned with the existentia, in so far as they serve as argument for Him who causes existence.
“In general, to the theologians, the object of theology is (to find out) how the articles of faith which the religious law has laid down as correct, can be proven with the help of logical arguments, so that innovations may be repulsed and doubts and misgivings concerning the articles of faith be removed.
“If one considers how this discipline originated and how scholarly discussion was incorporated within it step by step, and how, during that process, scholars always assumed the correctness of the articles of faith and paraded proofs and arguments (in their defence), one will realize that the character of the subject of this discipline is as we have established it, and one will realize that (the discipline) cannot go beyond it. “However, the two approaches have been mixed up by recent scholars. The problems of theology have been confused with those of philosophy. This has gone so far that the one discipline is no longer distinguishable from the other.”
Further along in his book, he confirms that this mixing of the two is fatally wrong and a mistake:
“The only thing that caused the theologians to use rational arguments was the discussions of heretics who opposed the early Muslim articles of faith with speculative innovations. Thus, they had to refute these heretics with the same kind of arguments. This situation called for using speculative arguments and checking on the early Muslim articles of faith with these arguments.
“The verification or rejection of physical and metaphysical problems, on the other hand, is not part of the subject of speculative theology and does not belong to the same kind of speculations as those of the theologians. This may be known, so that one may be able to distinguish between the two disciplines, as they have been confused in the works of recent scholars. The truth is that they are different from each other in their respective subjects and problems. This situation called for using speculative arguments and checking on the early Muslim articles of faith with these arguments.
“The verification or rejection of physical and metaphysical problems, on the other hand, is not part of the subject of speculative theology and does not belong to the same kind of speculations as those of the theologians. This should be known, so that one may be able to distinguish between the two disciplines, as they have been confused in the works of recent scholars. The truth is that they are different from each other in their respective subjects and problems.
“The confusion arose from the sameness of the topics discussed. The argumentation of the theologians thus came to look as though it were inaugurating a search for faith through (rational) evidence. This is not so. (Speculative theology) merely wants to refute heretics.”
Thus, we have established beyond a shadow of a doubt that logic was pushed aside by the political success of the theologians and used defensively, with philosophy itself removed to a portion merely of speculative theology.
The consequence of this was manifold, and like a dynamo through history, knocked down many pillars. Firstly, education increasingly discounted the teaching of logic, and subjects such as mathematics that develop that critical element of the brain. Instead, we started to focus on memorization. Secondly, our valuation of knowledge changed and this caused what we earlier described from Dr. Mahathir Muhamad as the separation of knowledge. With the end to ijtihad and an education that eliminated from the bud the intellectual capacity of the Ummah, the Muslim mind was chained, collared and imprisoned.
Mysticism aided this process, and it is interesting that it was also Al Ghazali who instituted the legitimacy of this practice. It was as if the traditional theologians and the mystics worked as a tag team to create a new artificial consensus. Describing the Sufi practice, Ibn Khaldun notes:
“The Sufis are very much concerned with achieving this great joy through having the soul achieve that kind of perception. They attempt to kill the bodily powers and perceptions through exercise, and even the thinking power of the brain. In this way, the soul is to achieve the perception that comes to it from its own essence, when all the disturbances and hindrances caused by the body are removed. (The Sufis) thus achieve inexpressible joy and pleasure.”
“The arguments and proofs belong in the category of corporeal perceptions, because they are produced by the powers of the brain, which are imagination, thinking, and memory. The first thing we are concerned with when we want to attain this kind of perception is to kill all these powers of the brain, because they object to such (perception) and work against it.”
Centuries later, from the intellectual stupor of the Ummah, we can only guess that these great geniuses succeeded! Dissent was seen as an enemy, and the intellect was seen as the cause of the dissent. What better way than to create zombies to hold the Ummah in a perpetual state of conformity, and keep the world in a perpetual static relic of the past? But the rest of the world moved on unfortunately for the Ummah. No words can describe the pain this author felt when he came to these conclusions.
Social-psychological diseases often manifest themselves in very peculiar ways. Confucianism erred towards perfectionism and, over the centuries showed itself in the degenerate form of Chinese foot binding; it was believed that women having small feet was a desirable quality and Chinese families started putting children into small wooden shoes that they would be forced to wear. It was said that every small feet required a bucket of tears. Thus a philosophical-theological error manifested itself in a ghastly manner that was clearly visible to the Chinese. For Muslims however, we cannot see the damage we are doing to our children, yet it is far more profound than the foot of those poor Chinese girls; for a brain is far more part of being human than a foot could ever be.
There is in fact one case where the full manifestation of this stranglehold on the intellect became clearly visible; in Pakistan there is a Sufi shrine where people go to pray for various desirables to the dead “saint”. In one such shrine, known as Dawlay Shah, people sometimes go to ask for children, in case they have fertility problems. Perhaps they have not heard about fertility clinics. If the couple then have children, they are supposed to give their first born to the shrine. The child’s head is supposedly put inside a metal helmet-like enclosure and the child grows up with a small brain. Such small-brained individuals are then used to serve the shrine, begging and doing other income-generating activities. They are then known as Dawlay Shah dey Chuhay or Dawlay Shah’s rats.
How else did this great blunder come about? Malek Bennabi in his book The Question of Ideas in the Muslim World points out that the impetus to the mysticism mentioned above came from a Muslim society that reacted to an increasingly materialist order within itself by an increasing indulgence in the rejection of the material. One pole of extremism attracted the other, and destroyed the middle way. The subordination of reason and logic and the mysticism that thus established a foothold has had cascading consequences upon our society. The separation of knowledge as we described is essentially the same as secularism, whose very core is the separation of “religious” and “secular” knowledge. Long before the bayonets of the British showed up, we stabbed ourselves with our own Damascus blades.
Muslim society has been trapped between the two poles of materialism and mysticism ever since. Today we can see the results before us; on the other hand, the materialism now in hyper-drive via its Western variety has led to the increasing destruction of the moral fabric of society leading to a world were objects have overwhelmed humanity. This world is the anti-thesis of the push to mysticism. One pole attracts the other, polarizing the Ummah. Yet, Islam is the Middle Way!
Worldviews and Education
Our education has to be based on our worldview. Bennabi explains that our core beliefs are fundamentally different from the West’s in the following illustrations:
1. Man either looks at his feet or at the stars
2. Objects and forms, techniques and aesthetics, versus truth and virtue
3. Industrial time versus extemporized time
4. Positivism and dialectic materialism versus morality and revealed knowledge
The question that comes to mind is, given the completely different core viewpoints of the two worlds, can we attempt to Islamize Western knowledge in the manner we are attempting at present? As an example, consider the subject of Economics where the dominance of Economic theory in the West aligns with the dominance of the material; the very term “Econom(y)ics” resides in the material. Simply attaching “Islamic” to form a “new” “Islamic Economics” seems dishonest to our true principles, to our very different core principles.
It seems that the very aspect of Islamizing knowledge today does not reach out and spring forth from our core, but attempts to fit our principles into a Western worldview.
A respected author at an Islamic university wrote a book using such complex terms that the students (at least those for whom reading it is compulsory) are dumbfounded at what it means. A choice of wonderfully complex terms are put together in such a vague manner that you are left wondering what the author is saying, but give the benefit of the doubt that it must be truly profound. On the other hand, perhaps Bennabi’s words were apt for this:
Islamic thought sinks to mysticism, to vagueness and fuzziness, into imprecision and into mimesis and craze vis-à-vis the Western “thing”!
We must ask ourselves what we are trying to achieve, or who we are trying to impress with this approach to writing. And in the sixth chapter of his same book, Bennabi describes the issue of a lack of ideas or dead ideas leaving empty brains, helpless tongues and infantilism. He quotes Nicholas Boileau, a French literary critic from the 17th century thus:
That which is properly thought out is said clearly,
And the words to express it come forth easily.
Taking the concept of Islamization of Knowledge as illustrated by “Islamic Economics” – where the attempt to keep the Western Neoliberal framework and simply attempt to replace “Un-Islamic elements” – the very idea is perhaps fundamentally flawed in creating an Islamic revival. The learned scholars react by stating that we cannot go back and start from scratch. But such scholars miss the point that there is a big area between the dressing up of Western sciences to meet the Islamic hijab code on the one hand, and “starting from scratch” on the other.
A Muslim Worldview of Acquiring Knowledge
But, what is the nature of knowledge and why is it important to us? Even before we can touch upon the question of Islamic Economics and Islamizing knowledge, we have to first identify the nature of the relationship between Islam, Muslims and knowledge because it appears as if we understand knowledge in a vacuum. It seems as if it was something merely necessary for the survival of the material world. Our universities churn out degree holders to feed our economies in the hope of competing with the West. We then Islamize our text to make them more palatable and to claim an Islamic revival.
Yet, this reaches out to a mimic of the West seeking its core in the material. Our focus on the reason, purpose and relationship of knowledge to us has to be fundamentally different. It has to reach out to our core – our religious and spiritual innards.
There may be many different means by which we can develop this connection. It is up to our intellectual endeavour to take up this challenge. This challenge has been taken up by the IIIT and the Islamization of Knowledge (IOK) movement. Thus far however, the IOK movement has failed with the Faruqi and Attas paradigms. Furthermore, the Faruqi and Attas paradigms are well-entrenched and unlikely to be superseded easily, creating yet another problem. As Bennabi notes, dead ideas lead to deadly ideas.
The IOK movement would have avoided the pitfalls had it discovered Allama Iqbal’s and Malek Bennabi’s work. However, they appear to have been too busy with plagiarism and appropriating each other’s (and other’s) work and making tall claims about how they were the first people to discover these problems with Western knowledge.
Returning to the question of rebuilding a meaningful connection between seeking knowledge and Islam, the connection is expressed in the following section based on this author’s understanding. It is noted that these are but merely two ways of many to think about the issue. The first paradigm outlined below is similar to that given in Allama Iqbal’s Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam.
A First Paradigm:
The story begins (and Allah knows best) when Adam was created and Allah (swt) taught him the “names of things” or “nature of things”. And Adam was asked to tell the angels their “names” or “natures”. And this was seen as the triumph of man and convinced all but Satan. All were told to bow to man – what an ultimate honour to be bowed to by Allah’s creation!
At first glance it seems confusing. What is this term “names of things” or “nature of things” and why was it so special? For many people this would just be something they will not understand or contemplate over. Was it that the angels did not understand and simply start bowing to anyone that can take their name or show their nature? Moreover, what is the point being made by the Quran? Perhaps there is some real meaning in this.
However, it may be that for a student of psychology this bit of information may prove to be of interest. Consider the fact that studies of the human mind have shown that the mind has an amazing ability that other beings known to man do not have – the ability to classify things – both material and non-material (i.e. ideas). This ability to classify and organizing information is not shared with other creatures. If one reads about the philosophy and epistemology of science, we find that this quality of classifying and organizing data and thereby investigating their natures is perhaps the key factor to what science essentially is. In fact, it is what science is built upon; it’s very fundamental building structure.
The reason a university has so many departments each focusing on a specific set of subjects, and within them sections focused on even more specific, and within them sub-sections and professors who specialize in even smaller focuses is because the information has been classified into these various branches, sub-branches, sub-sub-branches and so forth. This makes the investigation of the nature of things possible at a level unforeseen otherwise. So, what this author is crawling towards is that the event when Adam was created and thereafter was taught the names of things was not a meaningless event, but a very meaningful one and one that guides us as human beings to who we are, what we are, and our purpose. And Allah knows best.
To clarify, our purpose is to worship Allah (swt) as we all know. But does worship mean going to the masjid and banging our head to the floor a couple of times while thinking about our daily activities and then being on our way? As always, when in doubt, investigate the Quran. The Quran constantly, and repeatedly talks about reflecting, thinking, contemplating about the world Allah (swt) has created around us. One random example of many:
And all things We have created by pairs, that haply ye may reflect. (51:49, Al-Quran, Pickthall)
The second element that comes to our notice is that the Quran talks about the natural world (botany, zoology, evolution, etc), about the stars, planets, the beginning of the universe (Astronomy, Astrophysics), the mountains (Geology and Geography), and more. Again, it simultaneously (and repeatedly) tells us to think, reflect, and contemplate. Islam goes so far as to challenge man to find a fault or prove the Quran wrong.
Allah knows best, but the purpose of this can perhaps be best understood in the following manner:
Imagine that I make an acquaintance. I can say hello, ask his name and meet the individual repeatedly. But after a million hellos, I may not truly know him any better than the first day I met him. If I really want to know the individual in question, I could perhaps take another approach. If the acquaintance was a painter, I could go down to look at his painting and attempt to understand him through his works. My mind may wonder: what does my friend paint about – women, cars, landscapes or science fiction? What choice of colours does he use? Is he a cubist? What size are his paintings? What’s so great about his work? What’s not that great?
On the other hand, if the acquaintance was an engineer and had built a bridge, I could go down take a look at the bridge, see what it’s like – is it mechanically efficient? Aesthetic? Both? Is it sporting a postmodern looking? Or does it look like it’s out of the 18th century? What choice of materials did my friend use? By noting the works of my acquaintance, I could get to know him in a more meaningful way than having spent years saying hello and goodbye. Perhaps even more than if I chatted with him about the weather, the news, politics, religion, philosophy and had tea with him every weekend.
In a similar vein, if we wish to know our Creator, one critical method could be to contemplate, reflect, and think about His amazing creation (and Allah knows best). But to effectively do so, we need to understand the nature of the things around us. We need to have some idea of art to understand a painter and some idea of the engineering of bridges to appreciate our engineer friend who built one.
This brings us back to the parable of Adam. To really understand the nature (or names) of things, we need to be able to classify them and study them in depth; to be investigators, scientists, thinkers, theorists. We note that only humans have this ability to classify and organize data, that is to name them, and this is closely connected to understanding their natures. Because once you can classify data, you can begin to investigate the relationships between multiple classifications. This mental process may seem natural to us, but in fact is unique to humanity.
So a Muslim, who actually reads the Quran with understanding and contemplation, not mindless babbling while rocking left, right, forward and backwards, will inevitably become an investigator, a researcher, a thinker, a philosopher, a scientist. What is more, this is closely linked with tauheed and tasawuf.
Tauheed is often described as the understanding of the Oneness of Allah and knowing his attributes. Only by being an investigator, scientist, thinker, can we get a deeper understanding of the Oneness of Allah, which is constantly expressed in the creation. Otherwise, repeating the Names of Allah will neither yield a deeper understanding of those Names nor will it be sufficient in itself to attempt to understand our Creator with the full force of the resources and capabilities available at our disposal. Thus, our scientific endeavour is central to the goal of reaching a more meaningful and deeper understanding of tauheed.
However, charting the destination is different from walking the destination. When we begin our investigations, we quickly find that our mind gets involved with the specific and forgets the whole. If we take the example of the bridge used earlier, we start admiring the bridge, the materials, and the architecture and forget about the engineer who was the original purpose of our investigation, and who we had hoped to better appreciate. This is where the role of tasawuf begins; the constant remembrance of Allah; in our case, specifically during our investigation. Without this, we lose the purpose of our investigations and are lost again into the world of objects and people.
Thus, tauheed, scientific inquiry and tasawuf (or dhikr) are inextricably linked. None can bloom in their essence in isolation but are joined like a jugular vein to the other. In the great contemporary battle between the Wahabis / Salafis who nominally uphold tauheed and Sufis who nominally uphold tasawuf, both sides have missed the essential symbiosis of the three concepts. If anything, all sides consider the investigation of “secular” knowledge as beyond their realms and subject matter.
A Second Paradigm:
Another possible paradigm on how Muslims can relate themselves to knowledge is from the perspective of jihad. It is imperative for the Muslim world to overcome the external threat in order to revive and defend ourselves. Acquiring the necessary knowledge, technology and industrial capacity thus becomes a part of jihad.
Using this knowledge of the world, we can overcome our enemies or at least defend more effectively against them. It is this approach that allowed Pakistani scientists to overcome sanctions and a lack of a technological and industrial base, and build a highly competent nuclear industry at break-neck speed.
Moving Our Children to the World of Ideas
Bennabi describes the great crisis of civilization as the cultivation of humanity moving from the world of people and objects to the world of ideas. He describes the critical age when our children begin to enter this world of ideas as starting from seven to eight years, as supported by cognitive development theorists such as Piaget and Case. We are doing the greatest harm to our children when we are forcing them to block out the development of the thinking process and instead make them memorize endless texts, whether in our religious schools or our secular ones. We may be producing zombies.
It may be that we are forcing our children into boxes out of which they cannot grow, as we earlier noted with the example of Chinese foot binding. Our situation may be worse for we cannot observe by sight the damage that we are doing to our children.
Pity the child whose mind is being raped by being forced to memorize endless text she does not understand. Who is banished from asking questions. Who is taught to detest what was to be loved. And who will face this whether in a madrasa or in the average school. If she is “lucky”, and her parents are wealthy enough to send her to an elite Western school, she would be robbed of her Islam in all but name. This is what they and you, reader, yes you, are responsible for doing to our children. I detest it with all my heart. If Allah ever gave me the strength, I would punish those responsible with the most severe punishment. May all those responsible or tacitly responsible through their silence go into the deepest pits of Hell.
Severity to our children and strictness in instruction not only alienates them but zaps them from their spirit and energy, that vital power that can make them individuals that can change the world. Ibn Khaldun notes:
“Severe punishment in the course of instruction does harm to the student, especially to little children, because it belongs among (the things that make for a) bad habit. Students, slaves, and servants who are brought up with injustice and (tyrannical) force are overcome by it. It makes them feel oppressed and causes them to lose their energy. It makes them lazy and induces them to lie and be insincere. That is, their outward behavior differs from what they are thinking, because they are afraid that they will have to suffer tyrannical treatment (if they tell the truth). Thus, they are taught deceit and trickery. This becomes their custom and character. They lose the quality that goes with social and political organization and makes people human, namely, (the desire to) protect and defend themselves and their homes, and they become dependent on others. Indeed, their souls become too indolent to (attempt to) acquire the virtues and good character qualities. Thus, they fall short of their potentialities and do not reach the limit of their humanity. As a result, they revert to the stage of "the lowest of the low.
“That is what happened to every nation that fell under the yoke of tyranny and learned through it the meaning of injustice. One may check this by (observing) any person who is not in control of his own affairs and has no authority on his side to guarantee his (safety). One will thus be able to infer (from the observable facts) that things are (as I have stated). One may look at the Jews and the bad character they have acquired, such that they are described in every region and period as having the quality of khurj, which, according to well-known technical terminology, means "insincerity and trickery." The reason is what we have (just) said.”
“When laws are (enforced) by means of punishment, they completely destroy fortitude, because the use of punishment against someone who cannot defend himself generates in that person a feeling of humiliation that, no doubt, must break his fortitude.
When laws are (intended to serve the purpose of) education and instruction and are applied from childhood on, they have to some degree the same effect, because people then grow up in fear and docility and consequently do not rely on their own fortitude...”
But Islamic religious education originally did not have this impact. In this regard, Ibn Khaldun notes that:
“It is no argument that the men around Muhammad observed the religious laws, and yet did not experience any diminution of their fortitude, but possessed the greatest possible fortitude. When the Muslims got their religion from Muhammad, the restraining influence came from themselves, as a result of the encouragement and discouragement he gave them in the Quran. It was not a result of technical instruction or scientific education. They laws were the laws and percepts of the religion that they received orally and which their firmly rooted belief in the truth of the articles of faith caused them to observe. Their fortitude remained unabated, and it was not corded by education or authority. Umar said, “Those who are not (disciplined) by the religious law are not educated by God.” Umar’s desire was that everyone should have his restraining influence in himself. His certainty was that Muhammad knew best what is good for mankind.”
An Islamic education must be built, an education on the basis of which we can construct sound citizens. Such an education can be seen in the various Islamic school systems established throughout the world including by Yusuf Islam, whose highly successful chain of Islamic schools in the United Kingdom has been a model of excellence. We have men like him and others such as Hamza Yusuf, Nouman Ali Khan, and innumerable others waiting in the wings for an opportunity. An opportunity that is only possible if an Islamic state is established.
An Islamic state would need to bring Muslim educators world over together and let them build what they have successfully built without the resources of a state and in a hostile environment. We do not need to reinvent the wheel, this task before us, although of the greatest importance, is not beyond the capabilities already present today.
Whether or not we can change the worldview of our adult populations, we need to ensure that the Chinese foot binding equivalent of brain damage on our children does not continue. We need to ensure that children at the age of 7-11 are given proper schooling where they are encouraged to think, reason and understand the Quran and not blindly memorized in a language they do not understand. Thus, the Quran has to be taught and read in a proper manner starting from this age group, enabling future generations to not only understand and appreciate the Quran, but in a stroke, Islamize their worldview and paradigm including how they think about their future educational endeavors.
Ibn Khaldun notes:
“In his Rihlah, Judge Abu Bakr b. al-'Arabi made a remarkable statement about instruction, which retains (the best of) the old, and presents (some good) new features. He placed instruction in Arabic and poetry ahead of all the other sciences, as in the Spanish method, since, he said, "poetry is the archive of the Arabs. Poetry and Arabic philology should be taught first because of the (existing) corruption of the language. From there, the (student) should go on to arithmetic and study it assiduously, until he knows its basic norms. He should then go on to the study of the Qur'an, because with his (previous) preparation, it will be easy for him." (Ibn al-'Arabi) continued: "How thoughtless are our compatriots in that they teach children the Qur'an when they are first starting out. They read things they do not understand and work hard at something that is not as important for them as other matters." He concluded: "The student should study successively the principles of Islam, the principles of jurisprudence, disputation, and then the Prophetic traditions and the sciences connected with them." He also forbade teaching two disciplines at the same time, save to the student with a good mind and sufficient energy.”