The One Thing Muslims Can Profitably Learn from the West: Quoting Muhammad Asad

A striking quote of the German thinker Muhammad Asad I compiled from my notes:

“What the world of Islam urgently needs today is not a new philosophical outlook, but only an up-to-date scientific and technical education and mental equipment. If I were to make proposals to an ideal Educational Board governed by Islamic considerations alone, I would urge that of all the intellectual achievements of the West only natural sciences (with the aforementioned reservations) and mathematics should be taught in Muslim schools, while the tuition of European philosophy, literature, and history should lose the position of primacy which it holds in today’s curricula.

Our attitude towards European philosophy should be obvious from what I have said above. And as for European literature, it should certainly not be overlooked – but it should be relegated to its proper philological and historical position. The way in which is it taught at present in many Muslim countries is frankly biased. The boundless exaggeration of Western values and concepts naturally induces young and unripe minds to imbibe wholeheartedly the spirit of Western civilization before its negative aspects can be sufficiently appreciated.”

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Essential Reading Material on the Dars Nizami in Urdu

1. Deeni Madaris: This is a collection of articles from conferences held in the past eighty years in India and delivered by both our ulama and educationalists. Very beneficial in learning the opinions of our elders on education. I mentioned this previously in a post but in passing.

2. Aap Beeti: Especially the second volume. Contains gems on learning and the ways of the elders.

3. Tuhfatul ‘Ulama by Hakim al-Ummat

4. Deeni Madaris Mein Ta’leem: Published by the Institute of Policy Studies Islamabad

5. Hamara Ta’leemi Nisab Kiya Ho? by Shaykh Salman Husayni Nadwi

6. Deeni Madaris Ki Mithali Khidmat: Mawlana Zahid Rashidi

8. A book on ta’lim by Allamah Yusuf Binnori. The name escapes me.

9. Hamara Taleemi Nisab: Mufti Taqi Usmani

10. Darse Nizami Kese Pharaya Jay: Mufti Taqi Usmani

Notes and Thoughts from George Makdisi’s “The Rise of Colleges”

1. Regular sessions of legal disputation can greatly enhance a student’s understanding of disputed legal issues as well as train him in the art of sound legal disputation. Furthermore, it exposes the student to the evidences and principles of rival schools of law. Lastly, it inculcates a higher level of respect and tolerance for opposing ideas, under the condition that the disputation not become a conflict of course. Because disputation can often lead to quarrels, it must be proven that participants are of cool temper and honest endeavor of the truth.

In the past, disputations were regular parts of a scholar’s schedule. Disputations (or debates) were sometimes even performed ceremonially, on occasions of state, or during the period of condolence following the funeral of a master-jurist, three sessions of disputation taking place usually on three consecutive days. Sessions often ran from sunset to midnight. Continue reading

Presentation Notes: Full-Time Islamic Schooling in the West: Problems and Solutions

I was looking through my old files and stumbled upon the rough notes from my presentation on full-time Islamic schools in the West at the first Foundation of Islamic Knowledge and Research (FIKR) symposium in 2009. The presentation concentrated on a survey of Islamic schools in the West. It did not seek to formulate any solid opinions on these schools, their philosophies, or their systems of education.

General Information:

  • In 1989, ISNA published an obscure booklet titled In-Depth Study of Full-Time Islamic Schools in North America: Results and Data Analysis. In it, the number of full-time schools was established at approximately 50. No detailed study was carried out afterwards until recently, by the Islamic Schools’ League of America.
  • Today, there are more than 235 full-time Islamic schools in the US and US Virgin Islands alone. (2004-05)
  • Estimates of 400-500 are exaggerated or based on faulty research (doubled names, changed addresses, etc…)

Continue reading

Notes: Evolution of the Masjid-College to the Madrasah

In George Makdisi’s The Rise of Colleges, Makdisi details in the beginning of the book how the original style of teaching from the time of the Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) evolved due to numerous factors into first a masjid/khan combination (khans being dormitories/guesthouses that housed both students who studied in the adjacent masjid and travelers) and then into full-scale madrasahs/colleges that both provided a classroom setting as well as housing.

What caused this progression from the masjid to the madrasah? Makdisi suggests that the most plausible reason is the development of the waqf system, which allowed the madrasah to support the finances of the students.

The fact that madrasahs didn’t develop until the fifth century suggests that the endowment system for centers of learning didn’t solidify until this time as well. What begs attention here is that since madrasahs evolved due to the availability of financial resources (besides the obvious independence from masjid governance), it would seem very much in line with our original educational methodology to revert to the masjid-college or masjid/khan system due to our present-day financial restrictions.

See pg. 9-34, Makdisi, George. The Rise of Colleges.