Madrassah: Islamic institution of education — V

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Dr M Athar Khan

IT is no exaggeration that no institution of education in the world is comparable with Madrassah in its curriculum, structure, nature, scope and functions, which in general constitute an institution of education anywhere in the world. To begin with let us take curriculum, which is basic to all institutions and aspects of education. As we know of it today the word curriculum has its origin in the Latin word currere, which in English language means race-course. In education it is prescriptive of all the activities that take place in and out of school for achieving the goal or goals of education. Arabic translation of the word curriculum is al’manahij al-darasiyah, which is compound of two words Manahij and Darasiyah. The two words derive their meanings and concepts from their different meanings in Arabic language and their usages in the Qur’an. The word al’manahij is plural of an-nahaja or al-minhaj. In literal sense it means ‘the clear and right path or way (of doing things)’, which is nearly the same as the Latin currere except that the former is broader in its connotation as it adds the words ‘clear’ and ‘right’ to it. The word ‘clear’ specifies that both teacher and student must be clear about what, why and how of the teaching and learning activities. Whereas, the word ‘right’ makes it imperative to use only ‘right’ means and methods in and for teaching and learning.
The other word -Darasiyah refers to acquisition of Ilm, as it has been discussed earlier in different contexts. The term Darasiyah, has its root in the Arabic word da’ra’sa’, which denotes incessant and enduring struggle for something. For example in reference to a book, it implies reading and repeating it again and again until it is committed to memory. The Qur’anic verses Al-Imran:79 and Al-Anam:154 imply reading with deliberate concentration so that meanings, concepts and essence of what one reads, are fully understood and absorbed, and the learner (the student) is able to look into what lies below the surface of what he reads and gets the knowledge beyond what is contained in the book. It also needs to be clarified that teaching and learning activities also include listening to the teacher’s lectures, observation and explorations etc: the concept of darasiyah is applicable to them as well.
Basic elements of curriculum include goal and objectives of education and curriculum; content; principles and methods of instruction and evaluation of teaching and learning activities. Al’manahij al-darasiyah however, is broader in its meaning and scope includes organizational aspects of teaching and learning also. Besides, elements of curriculum have their own meanings and scope in al’manahij al-darasiyah. Together the concepts of Iq’ra, Ilm, Ibaadah and Kasab being elemental to the institution of education in Islam, define meanings and nature of all aspects of Madrassah education: they also specify functions and determine criteria for their performance. Accordingly there are the following elements, each of which has its own meaning and significance in al’manahij al-darasiyah. Goal of Al-Manahij al-Darasiyah (Curriculum): Goals of education in Islam, which provide bases for goal or goals of Al-Manahij al-Darasiyah are derivatives of the Qur’anic accounts of man, Ilm and purpose of creation of man. Goal of Al-Manahij al-Darasiyah is to maximize development of capabilities of man through education and training for performing Ibaadah (purpose of creation) and establishing Salaah, whereby to enable him to fulfill his mission of Khalifah (vicegerency) on earth.
Content: In reference to Al-Manahij al-Darasiyah content is used as synonym of Ilm, which denotes both knowledge and practical application of what is taught and learned in the Madrassah.
Knowledge part of content in Al-Manahij al-Darasiyah refers to the integrated whole of all fields of knowledge in a hierarchical order and in ways that provide a base for the next level field of knowledge, which in turn adds to and expands its own base field knowledge on the one hand and on the other provides ground for the next level knowledge as it is presented in the fig.1 above, which depicts the logical and hierarchical development, expansion and mutually inclusiveness of all kinds and categories of Ilm. The knowledge part of the content denotes the knowledge of the categories and the kinds of Ilm that comprise language, Ilm-e-Deen (theology—i.e. theory and practice of Islam), social, mathematical and natural sciences. Together, they contribute to increasing and expanding Ilm in its wholeness as they are all mutually inclusive and interdependent.
Integration of basic fields of knowledge and disciplines, which had been the distinguishing feature and tradition of the Madrassah, constitutes an important element of Al-Manahij al-Darasiyah. It provides a broad base for education and serves to simultaneously develop in the student abilities and insights into different fields of knowledge, which in turn provide the student an inter-disciplinary base for studies, research and creative work in all academic and professional area of specialization. Each one of the most of the great Muslim scholars, scientists, inventors of the past who were the products of the Madrassah system and philosophy of education of their times are well known for their works and achievements in more than one disciplines at the same time. Bu Ali Ibn Sina (Avicenna) well known as an all time and all of a great Physician, Scientist, Philosopher, Mathematician and an Astronomer is only one of innumerable such Muslim scholars.—To be continued
—The writer is Prof & Advisor to the VC, Sarhad University, Peshawar.