An ethical exposition of Muslim education can help address many contemporary ills and global challenges such as social and societal conflicts, discrimination, exclusion and marginalisation, violence and the humiliation and dehumanisation of people.
This is one of the key messages of a new book by Dr Nuraan Davids and Prof Yusef Waghid of the Department of Education Policy Studies in the Faculty of Education at Stellenbosch University.
Their book Ethical Dimensions of Muslim Education was published recently by Palgrave MacMillan. Comprising 12 chapters, it focuses on three main themes namely Ethics, Islam and education; Participants in Muslim education; and Instances of ethical dimensions.
The authors say they drew on the Quran for their primary arguments because every aspect of human conduct, endeavour, strength and vulnerability finds articulation in its verses, expositions, parables and stories.
“The book shows how salient aspects such as democratic citizenship, globalisation, cosmopolitanism, injustices and exclusion can be dealt with from a Muslim education perspective,” says Davids.
She points out that one of the main reasons for writing Ethical Dimensions of Muslim Education was because of their growing concern about particular interpretations, justifications and manifestations of Muslims and Muslim education that constitute fundamental fractures and contradictions to their own understanding of Islam, and what it seeks to achieve.
According to the authors, the scope of the book has largely been defined and shaped by the contemporary context of unease and mistrust in which Islam and Muslims currently find themselves.
In this regard they highlight the association of Islam with, among other descriptions, backwardness, intolerance, violence and terrorism – as dramatically supported by the destruction of the New York twin towers (11 September 2001); London’s tube bombings (7 July 2005); Paris’s Charlie Hebdo killings as a consequence of some people’s dissatisfaction with satire against the Prophet Muhammad (7 January 2015), as well as Boko Haram and ISIL or ISIS.
The authors say the book aims to satisfy two points of contestation: the growing climate of Islamophobia in liberal democracies; and the seemingly misaligned interpretation of the Qurān, which continues to shroud Islam as a religion of intolerance and backwardness.
“It confronts the reader with explications of Muslim education that are incongruent with violence, abuse, terrorism and bigotry”.
“It also helps to answer questions such as what Islam is and does; what it advocates and cultivates through its foundational sources; how it conceives of, and delineates between that which is right and just, and that which is not, and what constitutes an ethical framework of Islam.”
Apart from its focus on Muslim education, the book also considers conceptions of philosophical engagement, which addresses ethical conduct, ways of doing and being, beyond that which might be considered as specific to a religious belief or tradition.
The authors say the book is addressed at both a scholarly and wider audience across different communities because it offers opportunities for critical engagement not only with the foundational source of Islam, but for contemplation on how ethical conduct might address contemporary dystopias.
“It envisages bridging the erroneous theoretical and practical divide in and about understandings of Muslim education vis-à-vis ethical dilemmas in the contemporary world.”