Ayatollahzadeh, Mahboobeh, Islamic Horizons
Well-designed Islamic studies curricula should inspire students to search for the truth and follow its demands.
Religious education, a type of spiritual education, seeks to impart a particular religion to students. The indicators of spirituality are transcendence and a high level of awareness. Transcendence is defined as one's ability to rise above the natural and mundane world, relate to a Divine Being, and commit to values beyond the secular-material world. This should lead to a profound and heightened state of consciousness, as well as an increased level of mystery and value sensing. Thus religious educators, in their capacity as instructors, are tasked with facilitating their students' awakening to a sense of spirituality and the need to search for the truth and then follow its demands.
Spiritual education occurs in any environment or activity that promotes the development and nurturing of spirituality. Specifically, this involves both the capability and the disposition to rise above our mundane concerns so that we can, among other things, pursue self-transcending goals, acquire a sense of meaning and purpose in life, persevere and be resilient in the face of hardship, strive for virtuosity, be open to new and unexpected relationships, and be able to feel curiosity, wonder, and awe. In other words, it seeks to change people by affecting what they are and may become, not just their knowledge; to develop human sensibility and feeling; to inspire a personal search for truth and meaning; and to nurture a particular religion's beliefs, values, behaviors, and practices.
The goal of all Islamic studies curricula is not just to educate students, but to engender in them a true religious and spiritual awakening; to familiarize them with Islamic beliefs and practices; to instill a desire to adopt such practices; and, most importantly, to build their character, develop their Islamic personality, and establish their Islamic identity. This latter objective cannot be fulfilled by a few hours of Islamic studies classes each week. Rather, Islamic attitudes and beliefs have to be infused into an Islamic school's every activity if the ultimate goals are ensuring an emotional attachment to Islam; a full understanding of its core beliefs, values, and practices; and a sincere desire to follow the Qur'an and Sunnah.
To be successful, an Islamic studies curriculum must be formulated with the following points in mind:
Faith in and knowledge about Islam. Each person involved in developing an Islamic studies curriculum should have a comprehensive knowledge of Islam, the Qur'an and its various interpretations, and the Sunnah. The curriculum should be based on a broad range of original, authentic sources.
Knowledge about the learner. Since the curriculum is designed for students, their intellectual and emotional characteristics must be taken into account. In other words, its concepts, language, and design should be age-appropriate.
Knowledge about learning and development. The learning process should be considered from a developmental perspective so that it will be dynamic and its components can change according to the students' mental development. Given that children pass through several cognitive, personality, and moral development stages, at each stage their cognitive processes demand appropriate tools and materials for learning. A content-focused curriculum that ignores this fact will be, at best, no more than a tool for meaningless memorization.
If the proposed Islamic education program is to be successful, it must tap into the children's cognition, emotions, and morality. Therefore, before designing the curriculum, educators should familiarize themselves with current theories of cognitive, personality, and moral development. Currently, only three theories are concerned with a person's various developmental stages: Piaget's theory of cognitive development, Erikson's theory of personality development, and Kohlberg's theory of moral development. …