Foundations of Secular Educational SystemJan 2nd, 2013 | By Hassan Habib | Category: Latest, Pakistan, Religion, Social
“Allah is the Protecting Friend of those who believe. He bringeth them out of darkness into light. As for those who disbelieve, their patrons are false deities. They bring them out of light into darkness. Such are rightful owners of the Fire. They will abide therein. 2:257
Are we conscious of what we take from the modern-secular thought and its educational system, and what we reject? In fact, are we rejecting anything harmful? Are we deciding hard what is useful for us and what is unacceptable from Islamic point of view? Do we fully know what we’re up against? Not so much.
Our universities and intelligentsia model itself on the contents of western educational system, and are heavily influenced by it. What then are the major components of western, modern educational system which contrast with Islamic worldview? What are its philosophical and practical bases? This is the first article which encompasses the influences on modern education and its origins. In further articles, we’ll try to come up with some rationale on which to build the structure of modern education which keeps human nature intact with its ethics and preserves the teachings and injunctions of Allah Almighty. We invite you to participate in that and broaden our mutual understanding from Islamic point of view.
Setting the Context: Roots of Modern Education
The loss of God is death, is desolation, hunger, separation. All the tragedy of man is in one word, ‘godlessness’ – (Metropolitan Anthony of Sourzah)
Contemporary education, or modern literacy, has harmed, as well as benefited human race. To understand the long lasting effects of modern education we have to go back in history towards its inception. From there we believe we can conceive the idea of what contemporary endeavor of modern education is. For now it is enough to say that it has given us war, bloodshed, imperialism, disbelief in unseen higher order realities, exploitation, slavery to created things, nationalism and list goes on. It has divested the superior human values from us and has turned human society into an individualistic and hedonistic one; where men are involved in performing feats of personal gratification in which there is no room for love and care due to their shear selflessness. Selfishness is at the heart of economics, for instance. It has so far given two major wars or world wars in the human history. This cannot be said the age of enlightenment, rather a dark age to many. It is a delusion of evolution without any direction. No doubt that science and education of people have given us some wondrous inventions and have laid the foundations of various subjects, but these were supposed to make human life easier and were to make them civilized. Ironically, repercussions have been disastrous.
Understanding the context (or the times) is imperative here. We have our differences with Hinduism, but we ought to call to ‘a common word’. Similarities can be startling, like the following predictions of The Vishnu Purana, “a Hindu text dating back nearly two millennia,” which describe the Dark Age or Kali Yuga:
“Riches and piety will diminish daily, until the world will be completely corrupted. In those days it will be wealth that confers distinction, passion will be the sole reason for union between the sexes, lies will be the only method of success in business, and women will be the objects merely of sensual gratification. The earth will be valued only for its mineral treasures, dishonesty will be the universal means of subsistence, a simple ablution will be regarded as sufficient purification…The observances of castes, laws, and institutions will no longer be in force in the Dark Age, and the ceremonies prescribed by the Vedas will be neglected. Women will obey only their whims and will be infatuated with pleasure…men of all kinds will presumptuously regard themselves as equals of Brahmins…The Vaishyas will abandon agriculture and commerce and will earn their living by servitude or by the exercise of mechanical professions…The dominant caste will be that of the Shudras…” (The last point may raise eyebrows. Interestingly, Prophet also indicated that lowly people will be happy people in final days, like these modern singers and movie stars, as per Hamza Yusuf.)
Let us delve into the influences and foundations that modern curricula’s globally have in common, in East and West.
Industrialization & Progressivism
The modern age of industrialization initiated by the Great Britain was founded on the sentiments of increasing productivity. On these grounds it can be said that it was related to greed present in human nature. It cannot also be simply linked to increase in population, but more or less it can be related to greed or avarice, and subjugation of extremely poor people who were used as ‘grist in the mill’ of industrialism. (Also because at that time Malthus’ theory argued that “poverty is caused by excessive breeding of the poor,” a factually wrong and disproven dogma still held by anti-poor elites. Hence poor had to be left at the mercy of wolves or corporate elites.) With this radical change there came a rush of inventions and products that changed the face of human society forever.
Previously wars were fought between groups for land, ownership and money. This has not changed yet, only the form has changed (in these supposedly extremely ‘civilized’ times). Groups now are nations & corporations led by war mongering political establishments and Opera going executives. They wage wars on other groups (weaker the better) for their own sake of safety, protection and survival. Their excuse: “we’re here to civilize savages and bring the Light of Democracy.” (Ironically, Donald Rumsfeld categorically said that ‘an Islamic state is not an option for Iraq’ even if people want it!)
Today, the businesses are running on Machiavellian thought, Adam Smith’s principle of pursuit of self-interest and totalitarianism without any bounds and without any absolute set of ethics. Very recently around 20 banks in UK and Europe joined hands to loot and fool the world by fixing certain trading rates (or Libor) that affect all financial transactions, for instance.
All that boils down into the domination of a system based on money and power. Globally, this is translating into the rise of the American Corporate Imperialism, as exposed in Confessions of an Economic Hitman. Capitalism whose decline has just been started in Wall Street outlines a system in which the whole of economy stands on the greed of humans for power and outward beauty. Economics, when stripped off from ethics, results in the bigotry of unequal distribution of wealth and immorality. One of us vividly remembers his economics professor forbidding use of any moral arguments against narcotic drugs; so he had to argue “rationally” in favor of legalizing drugs according to economic analysis!
Industrialism and capitalism is the soul for today’s educational system. (Remember what’s the bottom-line? Dollars & prestige.) The degrees which are now offered are only to sustain this system and to make it robust. The curricula have failed to give people any higher aim of living. Those who aspire for greater good are themselves restrained to a small local level, and have up till now failed to achieve any milestone in bringing a halt to the devastation borne by a vast majority of people around the globe. But quality will prevail over quantity, Allah willing.
Capitalistic ideas must be taken critically and attacked from various angles. We tend to naively believe that this is the end-result of human effort in economic sphere. Surely anyone familiar with economic research at the forefront knows that dogmas of neo-classical economics or capitalism are being challenged bottom-up.
While nineteenth century materialism closed the mind of man to what is above him, twentieth century psychology opened it to what is below him
The ‘eclipse of human soul and intellect’ by secular thought has brought disastrous consequences not just at pure intellectual level, but at societal and practical level as well. The change agents have been ‘false prophets of modernity’ (i.e., modern philosophers and theorists). At intellectual level, they’ve lost the traditional, religious view of nature and knowledge, and created false alternatives – the cause of mass misguidance. Not only that, these handful of men have produced this ‘Dark Age’, a material civilization, in which both human actions and intellectual efforts are profane and cut off from Divine guidance. At practical level, though they have discovered in their way great deal of facts about human mind and body, but still paved way to moral degradation, materialism and suffocation of public morality. (We hope to give historical and evidential bases to these ‘bold claims’ of major religious thinkers in future, Allah willing.)
At political level, we have seen destruction by and self-abdication of great many political minds and men: thanks to Machiavelli’s work, The Prince. In his over-rated book, he suggests that for rulers, ethical norms do not matter. In fact, being truthful and honest is inefficient. His dajjalic policies are just another case of modern man’s declaration of independence from heaven. Similar strains on ideologies and humans actions are attributed to Sigmund Freud. These mistaken ideas have in fact formed the basis of human nature, society, economy and government, with harmful consequences for societies and even for individuals who practice it.
Ideas of Darwin and Karl Marx are the nails in the coffin of education. Karl Marx perpetuating Darwin’s theory of evolution into historical materialism (as he was took Darwin’s book as building block for his own theory) suggests in Marx’s Critique of Political Economy that:
“… in every historical epoch the prevailing economic system by which the necessities of life are produced determines the form of societal organization and the political and intellectual history of the epoch; and that the history of society is a history of struggles between exploiting and exploited, that is, between ruling and oppressed, social classes.”
On his funeral, F. Engel summed up Marx’s grand theory about human life on earth:
“Just as Darwin discovered the law of development of organic nature, so Marx discovered the law of development of human history: the simple fact, hitherto concealed by an overgrowth of ideology, that mankind must first of all eat, drink, have shelter and clothing, before it can pursue politics, science, art, religion, etc; that therefore the production of the immediate material means, and consequently the degree of economic development attained by a given people or during a given epoch, form the foundation upon which the state institutions, the legal conceptions, art, and even the ideas on religion, of the people concerned have been evolved, and in the light of which they must, therefore be explained, instead of vice versa, as had hitherto been the case.”
According to him, the structure of society including politics, religion, arts, and philosophy is founded on the basis of economic conditions of prevailing era alone. Economics explains everything in Marxian worldview. Religion and ethical systems are either products of economic realities, or merely tools used to justify a given economic system. Moreover, if a system is exploitative, religion will be used as opium to cancel out resentments of the masses. (Actually, “opium is the religion of masses.”) People often read and are influenced with these writings without being critical, just as Ilich Lenin was influenced and brought up the revolution in Russia.
The curriculum of today take these adulterations as credible and as “scientific facts,” mal-nourishing young minds philosophically. In reality these ideas have exploited the darker sides of human conscience & mind, bringing forth those attitudes which were once considered taboo. “With the sword of furqan,” says one Islamic thinker, “Muslim minds should destroy the idols of western ideologies.”
Revolutions and Wars
“Wars and revolutions and battles are due simply and solely to the body and its desires. All wars are undertaken for the acquisition of wealth; and the reason why we have to acquire wealth is the body, because we are slaves in its service” – Socrate
The unrests and revolutions that came in past few centuries have also framed the worldview of education and its outcomes. The French revolution attributes a significant place for wiping out feudalism and is credited with giving birth to liberalism. People overthrow the government of King, the oppressor, to free themselves. This idea found in this revolution gained strength later on and reached in its purest form in the Human Rights Charter.
A sceptic might object: how can this be freedom that a mob can overthrow a king and then take control of everything for themselves? Instead of one king, a state is created for few to rule. They maintain the cycle though: they print the currency, impose taxes, compel everybody to work for material gain, start a competition in the society, bring women out just to boost economy, make children learn things that are not going to matter to them except for increasing taxes and wealth of only a bunch of people. All it does is to make the suffering swallowable for sensitive minds.
This revolution preceded by the American Revolution instills a spirit of absolutist liberty in the approach of institutions of teaching and learning. It also contributes the idea of democracy in the western world and it was through this revolution that basis of modern political thought is inspired. Political theorists and students now advance their thought after considering the universality of the ideas of democracy and capitalism, without analyzing critical the implications of these systems and without challenging its naive assertions.
Similarly, the Russian Revolution and Marxism have brought with it a completely different mindset and values. When these values were first implemented after the revolution, ferocious was the attempt to impose these ideas to the whole world. Nazi Nationalism was another despicable event that took place and failed. Now the world is left with a single dominion of Capitalism awaited to be replaced with something more ideal.
These revolutions have then helped fringe these (and other) concepts of liberalism.
20th century World Wars can safely be attributed to Nationalism (and other psychological diseases and delusions). Education served the warfare. Many of the subjects and fields of study were developed owing to the demands of warfare like Operations Management, Supply Chain Management, and Resource Planning etc. Even the invention of internet is accredited to the needs of military communication after World War II (and to some pure mathematical pursuits too, we must mention).
The overall focus of the education in previous two centuries hasn’t been on the moral grounds, because if it was so people would be enjoying a more safer, indiscriminate and peaceful planet. These so-called “management” and “engineering” fields are nothing but the tools to keep the “system” running and to spread the void between rich and the poor, powerful and the oppressed, from one perspective.
A conscious citizen knows that industrial-military-complex is at the heart of American economy. Those who set up wars, sell weapons and then blame others for mischief are equally responsible and real barbarians.
A brief survey of modern thought and its educational system will show that it’s based on overturning principles, notes Hamza Yusuf, an American convert and preacher. Whereas, he further said, in Islamic educational system, you cannot question those principles. Prof. S. H. Nasr notes that in old days, when Islamic Tradition was fully intact, the intellectual environment was like a sea in which all kinds of fish would swim, with all kinds of colors and shades; but none would question existence of water. No one would doubt unity of God, for instance, but have very sharp differences at the same time. Secular, positivist, modern education attempts murdering this holistic and sacred understanding of knowledge and instruction.
Today, ulema are anathematized for having deep theological differences (when in fact those differences lead to greater synthesis, as per M Iqbal); whereas, the very modernists would dare disagreeing with Quran, and whole of the Orthodoxy developed and perfected by the best generations of Muslims – progressive-academics like Amina Wadud for instance.
Logical Positivism in Social Sciences: Rejection of the Unseen
No understanding of western social sciences (hence its educational system) is complete without delving deep into logical positivism. Western social sciences are based on logical positivism, which rejects belief in and study of the Unseen. An implication of rejection or indifference to the existence of God.
It only studies what can be seen and observed, while rejecting underlying realities like courage, love, goodness, etc. For instance, we cannot see gravity. Hence, we won’t talk about gravity, but we’ll only study its effects. Equations describing its effects will be studied only. (However, physicists don’t bow to positivism much and always talk about such unobservable things as gravity, strings, etc.) Similarly, in psychology, many things are unobservable, unconscious for example. Behaviorists reacted to this invocation of unseen concepts and called for rejecting the study of such areas in psychology. Not many heeds their call anymore.
Unfortunately, despite having failed, logical positivism continues to stick (like a sticky tape) and be taught in many areas. This is evident from its two basic dogmas, which have also taken disbelievers away from light and into darkness:
“S1: Unobservable entities cannot be invoked as explanatory factors. Social science, like the physical sciences, must be built around quantifiable and measurable concepts.
S2. Morals, values, ideals are unobservable and hence unscientific. Activism, or efforts to create a better society are not part of scientific activity. Social scientists must act as neutral, detached observers seeking to describe laws of motion for human and social activities.” (Source, please read the paper for a detailed description, history and criticism of logical positivism.)
One can appreciate that these misunderstandings are opposite to Islamic understanding of knowledge and method of inquiry. Islam on the contrary is for those who believe in the Unseen, and that invoking unobservables is necessary and only rational to be objective in social sciences.
Media: The Mind Control Machinery
Brainwashing and conditioning doesn’t end with classroom sessions in the afternoon. The very potent one begins afterwards. It can be said that today many are reading, writing, learning, understanding, persevering, and moving forward only for the sake of money and lifestyle. Not for the sake of Allah, which has severe consequences, as evident from pupils’ boredom with the education. Media, advertising and our education reinforces these “ideals.” But the fall is much grave and deeper. The subtleties of men now rest in the hands of some ignorant celebrities and movie stars, or a bunch of business giants who’re controlling and influencing a major portion of the population. These corporations are centralized and concentrated. A few many firms own large, diverse businesses like magazines, gaming, newspapers, etc. They won’t let research published against them spread so easy.
With its unprecedented influence, media is termed as the fourth pillar of the state and is the most influential tool rampant in the circles of life of contemporary global culture. The “culture” is nothing but the monoculture imported from America (like McDonalds, etc.). It frowns upon facial hairs, turbans, sandy terrains, and everything more natural. At deeper levels, it’s contemptuous towards various manifestations of traditional civilization, especially the latter’s anti-absolute-freedom-to-do stance.
It’s a mind control machine that ‘manufactures consent’, to put it mildly. But it is much more than that, and impacts deeply spiritual state of those who’re exposed to it without caution. Our national identity, and moral growth of individuals is at stake due to this media because it has torn apart the garment of modesty from people’s eyes and it has once again took humanity to those primitive times when there was degradation of feminine gender and immodesty it faced. In Islam, bashfulness is the essence. In modernity, it is a meaningless commodity that doesn’t help.
An education that only makes us honest, efficient, hardworking and loyal to the system can be very deluding. If the system negates the many clear-cut commands of Allah, honesty, efficiency and hard work won’t do any good to the individual and society. This, to us, is the case with education in Pakistan.
Many things must have been left while writing this as this is no short topic it requires deliberate working and understanding of human conscience and zeitgeist of time in order to identify its fallacies. This article is just an effort to compile the thoughts into an organized form to better understand the problem at hand and to convey it to others. We welcome you to amend, add and expand the scope, contents and depth.
The Islamic concept of educational system is based on the spiritual and moral grounds and implies a set of principles which are completely different and in fact in conflict with the contemporary world view of education. The modern education has moved on after renouncing the existence of any other world other than what they perceive and feel, this attitude has casted a curse on society which has sabotaged its moral values. Dignity, courage, austerity, justice, freedom, wisdom, virtuousness, integrity, and absolute sincerity are absent from today’s learned and literate man. Because if it were a part of the education or if education would have taught these moralities; there must have been less suffering by human race.
“To learn is to understand and to understand we need free thought and for free thought we need not to be slaves”
خرد کو غلامی سے آ زاد کر
The above article has been co-authored by Muhammad Umer Toor with Hassan Habib