Non-Western Educational Traditions: Indigenous Approaches to Educational Thought and Practice

By Timothy Reagan | Go to book overview

9
“No Gift Is Better than Education”:
The Islamic Educational Enterprise

The twenty-first century will be the century of Islam. Muslim civilization will be central to understanding where we will be moving in the future. Consider the facts: a population of 1.3 billion and growing; 55 statesand one of them nuclear; about 25 million living permanently in the West and many of them now making an impact on social, political, and economic life; and a religion that comes with commitment and passion. … Understanding Islam is therefore imperative to anyone wanting to make sense of living in the twenty-first century…. Islam has much to contribute to this century. Islam's ideas of justice, compassion, and tolerance can contribute to a world desperately in need of these. It is here where Islam joins with those who desire a world based on these rules. However, for this vision to be fulfilled, Muslims and non-Muslims must work together in a spirit of mutual understanding. The first step is to begin to understand Islam.

—Ahmed (2002, pp. 1, 4)

When the first edition of Non- Western Educational Traditions was being written in the mid-1990s, I noted that “it is, in an important sense, inappropriate for a book concerned with non-Western educational traditions to include a chapter on Islam and the Islamic educational heritage. ” I observed that, after all, Islam is one of the world's three great monotheistic religions, along with Judaism and Christianity, and approximately one-fifth of the world's population is Muslim. 1 More important, I suggested that Islam as a religion is not independent of the religions of the West in the same way as Buddhism and Hinduism. Rather, I pointed out that Islam is part of what can be termed the Judeo-Christian-Islamic tradition, sharing with Judaism and Christianity many core beliefs, ideas, and values. 2 To be sure, the idea that all three religions are part of a single, unified tradition is for some people a problematic one, because just as they share many elements, so too do they disagree about key issues. 3 Nevertheless, historically the three faiths are closely related in

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