The Right to Education; a Path to Understanding Islam.


All praises and adoration be to Allah, The Lord who had made knowledge a discriminable factor among men. May His Benedictions on the Prophet and all those who follow his footstep till the day of Requital. Allah say: “…Say: Are those who know equal to those who know not?” (Az-Zumar: 9). This verse and its likes that are numerous in the Glorious Book of Allah have pointed the magnitude of education in Islam. The obligation of which is spelt out in the texts of the Kitab and Sunnah, hence the right to Education that its plinth in the sharia of Islam.

A small school-going boy if asked; what are your rights? Would conveniently mention the right to education before counting up to three of his rights. The right to education is a universal entitlement to Education. This is globally recognized as a human right, thus different nations have interpreted and spelt it out in various ways according to their constitution. Wikipedia states that, has contained in the International  Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the right to education includes  the right to free, compulsory primary education for all, an obligation to develop secondary education accessible to all, in particular by the progressive introduction of free secondary education, as well as an obligation to develop equitable access to higher education, ideally by the progressive introduction of free higher education.

Education” being a polysemous word, is vital to recognizing what is meant by education when stating that it’s a human right. In this sense, Education is being narrowed down by international human rights materials to the formal institutional instructions which in this part of the world is dubbed the “western education”. This piece however not only focus on the delineation or the trend of this form of education, but also on what it has to do with Islam and Muslims.

The tentacle of the western education has covered all parts of the universe, including the Islamic world. The western education is put on view as an instrument of liberation, consciousness of unity and harmony, a means to scientific and technological improvement. In short, western education depicts all goodness one needs to be a good citizen of planet earth. In this case, this form of education worth thumbing up for, since it is declared to have the power of making the slave live like the master, and could make the young exhibit the ability of the old.

In the perspective of a quite large number of Muslims, the dividend of embracing the western education is in sharp contract with what it claims to represent. The inception of the western education into an Islamic society obviously marks the gradual disappearance of the Islamic learning heritage in such society. The great focus once given to studying of the Quran would instead be diverted to science and English language skills.  In what may seem to be promotion of the idea of saying no to western education, it is worthy of note however that many Muslim and non-Muslim authors share the view that the western education has posed to be an impediment to the understanding and propagation of Islam. This is evident in the popular pronouncement that the Whiteman have calculatingly designed the western education curriculum at the detriment of the propagation of Islam. An in-depth study of the negative effects of this form of education on Islam and Muslims across the globe, will indeed make certain this fact. Today, it could be comfortably said that this adverse effect has not spared Muslims in any part of the world, the east, the west, the centre and the two hemispheres. The quest for formal education has given hero welcome to the western life, the system pictures the Islamic culture has archaic, thus Muslim youths now think they need to be westernized before they could be seen as educated.

In Nigeria, the western education has been on warpath with learning, teaching as well as practice of Islam consequent to its introduction by not just the Whiteman but Christian missionaries from the west in the 19th century. It’s indubitable that the purpose of bringing the style of education then was to convert Nigerians to Christianity as the curriculum content then was the 4R’s viz. reading, arithmetic, writing and religion. Religion in this case being the Christian theology. The product of this system were catechist who equals as teacher to take up a new generation through the same system. This trend continued till the then colonial government assumed the responsibility of providing education but his actually did not help matter because it nevertheless provide religion equity, especially in the southwestern region where it has gotten wide tolerance. The encounter lingered into the decade of independence, at this time the education has become so much important that many Muslim children who wanted to enroll into schools have to bear a biblical name along his/her tribal name, for instance “Adetunji Abdullah” turn “Adetunji James”. Other children who could not give in for the challenges have to opt for apprenticeship instead of getting an otherwise big job with the colonial master with their certificate. A great reform emerged in the educational system with the free and compulsory education policy by the western regional government, this obliged education on all children, Muslim and Non-Muslim alike.

Even though Nigeria cannot boast of free and compulsory education today, a large percentage of children enroll in school at least up to the primary level. Therefore everyone gets the taste of the “right to education”, however the case of education of the Muslim children is a revised version of that of the pre-independence period. Muslim children in Nigeria, just like their counterparts in some other countries have gone so wild in abandoning the principles of the religion in the name of education. They no longer observe solat as its time does not match with their “leisure”, the Quran are being ‘shelved’ on the account of its conflict with the limited time for studies, at the same time the ignorant Muslim youth debates principles of the religion, courtesy of what he’s been thought in school. Morality has gone down the drain as the Muslims now take pleasure in evils perpetuated by their unbelieving role models. All these are the crimes of western education, but one may wonder why it is still been given a great reception among Muslims in all parts of the world.

As the question why the Muslims did not resist this form of education runs in the mind, it’s safe to revisit the principle of jurisprudence of choosing the act with the lesser evil when dealing with two evils.  The benefits of western education may be seen in the light of civilization and technological advancement but it is undoubtedly not limited to these. The western education, a purported enemy of Islamic culture could as well be instrumental to the promotion of Islamic tenets and principles. In fact, in Nigeria today, many Muslim students gets to know Islam better in the university days.  The formal education is characterized by different qualities which when adequately employed would not only help in preserving the deen of a Muslim but also help in helping others by means of da’wah. Such qualities include research, empirical sense, linguistic proficiency and information and communication technology, which offers the neoteric methodologies in schools. It will therefore be daring to look at this qualities and their positive effects on Islamic understanding and propagation.

Allah say: O you assembly of jinns and the Men! If you can penetrate the regions of the Heavens and the rotatory earth then do pass through. You will not be able to penetrate except by means of authority (Power or knowledge) Quran 55:33. Nevertheless being a major component off the formal education, research has always been a component of Islam, through constant research a Muslim students throws out dogmatism has oppose his non-schooling counterparts, who could by the virtues of being a good follower of a cleric take the most genuine falsehood. In the formal education system, the quest of scriptural evidence is more pronounce but this is not to mean that the research does not end up a paradox of the whole situation when a student reads off bound going as far as denouncing some principles of Islam. This is mostly not avoidable when such students is not working under tutelage.

It is sufficient for a Muslim to accept the verses of the Quran and the traditions of the Prophet at face value but such may not be expected of an unbeliever, who never believed in them. In the case of such, empiricism could be a fine means of Dawah, a similitude of various verses which call on the unbelievers to see, observe and understand. Experiment, a principal instrument of science can indeed be a good means of da’wah when the western education independently proofs the genuineness of a verse like: “Then We made the Nutfah into a clot (a piece of thick coagulated blood), then We made the clot into a little lump of flesh, then We made out of that little lump of flesh bones, then We clothed the bones with flesh, and then We brought it forth as another creation”(Muminun:14), this among others as a matter of fact go a long way to not serve as a means of propagation but also a means of reaffirming the faith of weary Muslims.  Linguistic proficiency on the other hand is the most important thing one possesses just after the knowledge of content to be able to be teach people the religion. This assertion is not conjured up but in similar with the saying of Allah “And We sent not a Messenger except with the language of his people, in order that he might make (the Message) clear for them…” (Ibrahim: 14). In reality, man gets carried away by the use of language and would thus, prefer the well-presented rubbish to the poorly conveyed truth.

In recent time, the educational system has taken a new look with the introduction of computer devises into teaching, learning and academic evaluation in schools, as well everything about the curriculum has been coated with ICT. With this development, students and products of the formal education system have been able to fuse the learning and propagation of the Islam into this system. Today, a very large Islamic libraries could exist in a microchip just as millions of Islamic materials viz. video, audio, dwell in the air, thanks to the internet. The available of Islamic learning centers including universities online is highly commendable. All these and lots more are products of the projected obstruction of the understanding of Islam.

In view of these, it’s worth saying that western education is a beast that should be tamed. It could devour the society if it’s allowed to exhibit its negatives and its advantages are not well explored. It should also be noted that the victims of the ills of western education are might just have left themselves to be controlled by the knowledge they acquire in school rather than putting the knowledge they acquire under lock and key of the Islamic law. Hence, to curtain the malevolence of the formal education, stakeholders including the parents, Muslim leaders, teachers and the students have to put certain things into consideration.

The students on their own part have to seriously stand by their identity has Muslims anywhere, anytime even if such identity is abhor by their colleagues or teachers. The parents on this note should give the best support needed to their children who are willing to practice the religion, at the same time command their offspring on being firm on the deen despite all hurdles they may come their way. The prophet said: …Surely, every one of you is a shepherd and responsible for his flock.”(Agreed upon). Islamic knowledge is equally a very important tool and since it is a right itself and this is in agreement with the Hadith; “Seeking knowledge is compulsory to all Muslims” (Ibn Maajah), definitely a ground Islamic knowledge will curb the evils of the western education. Creation and significant improvement in the standard of Islamic schools will not only provide formal education in a virtuous environment but will produce students who will serve as models for their colleagues in the secular schools.

As much as government policies may hinder the recommendations to which our attention has been drawn, it is of utmost importance that the Muslim leaders stand against such, make their voice heard and be firm on protecting the rights of the Muslims. Surely if all these are done, the right to education will lead to the path of understanding Islam.

By: Siddiq Oyelami

Published in Al Irshad (3rd Edition)

Jumadal Awwal 1436 A.H


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