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Book Review: Focus on reforms in Islamic education

29th Jan 2016
Book Review: Focus on reforms in Islamic education

Reforms in Islamic Education: International Perspectives. Edited by Charlene Tan. London: Bloomsbury Academic Pp248. PB. 2015. £24.99.

The First World Conference on Muslim Education took place in Makkah from March 31 to April, 8, 1977 under the auspices of the King Abd al-Aziz University to discuss and explore ways and means of tackling the problems facing the Muslim world at the time from an educational perspective.

Most of the papers and essays presented at the conference was subsequently edited by Dr Syed Ali Ashraf (d 1998) and was published in 7 volumes by Hodder and Stoughton in 1979 as ‘Islamic Education Series’.

In his introduction to the volume titled Crisis in Muslim Education, which he co-authored with Dr Syed Sajjad Husain (d 1995), Ali Ashraf defined Islamic Education as an ‘education which trains the sensibility of pupils in such a manner that in their attitude to life, their actions, decisions and approach to all kinds of knowledge, they are governed by the spiritual and deeply felt ethical values of Islam.

They are trained, and mentally so disciplined, that they want to acquire knowledge not merely to satisfy an intellectual curiosity or just for material worldly benefit, but to develop as rational, righteous beings and bring about the spiritual, moral and physical welfare of their families, their people and mankind. This attitude derives from a deep faith in God…’ (p1).

More than three decades later, in April 2011, the Centre for Islamic Studies at Cambridge University organised a conference to discuss Islamic education and, the book under review, consists of some of the papers presented at this international conference. In her introduction to this volume, Charlene Tan, the Editor states, ‘Muslims have always placed a high premium on education. Islamic education through the teaching and learning of the Qur’an can be traced back to the Prophet Muhammad’s time…Education conceived of in Islamic terms seeks to provide a sense of spirituality derived from one’s own Islamic traditions, while at the same time empowering students to reflect, inquire and collaborate with others.’ (p1)

Consisting of an introduction and 12 chapters divided into three parts, in this book the contributors provide an informative survey of history, aims and models, and curriculum and pedagogy of Islamic education as it is currently practised across the Muslim world and Europe focusing particularly on Egypt, Morocco, Indonesia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Turkey, Iran, Malaysia, Britain and Sweden.

Whilst the 1977 conference on Islamic education explored predominantly theoretical issues facing Muslim societies at the time and how to respond to the challenges of secularisation of education to protect Islamic values and ethos, the proceedings of the Cambridge conference provides an up-to-date survey of policy-making and practice of reforms in Islamic education, capturing the breadth and diversity of opinion in many parts of the Muslim world and elsewhere.

In other words, all the essays ‘affirm the need to understand and critique reforms in Islamic educational institutions within broad historical, political and socio-cultural contexts. By exploring the cooperation, negotiations, tensions, contestations and resistance between Muslims and non-Muslims, and among Muslims, in relation to the reforms, this volume attests to the complex, diverse and dynamic nature of Islamic education across space and time.’ (p12)

This book also provides a very different perspective on the history, aims and objectives, and philosophy of Islamic education than the one we get from non-Muslim sources. It is a welcome addition to the literature on the subject at a time when there is growing interest on Islamic education both in the Muslim world and elsewhere. Recommended reading for academics, teachers, policy-makers, faith and community leaders, and especially the head-teachers of Islamic schools in this country.

Muhammad Khan, is author of The Muslim 100 (2008) and The Muslim Heritage of Bengal (2013).


One Response to “Book Review: Focus on reforms in Islamic education”

Quran internet radioOctober 21, 2016

This is a great help for those who seek education. May our Lord Almighty ALLAH bless you all who brought this wonderful page and may he bless us (education seekers) too.


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