An Islamic Curriculum in English
Teaching Should be Centred Around the Child, his Needs and Temprament
Guiding for the Future
By A Staff Writer
WRITING for children is no child's play. It is acknowledged to be the most difficult genre of writing. One is required to keep aside his or her scholarship, keep a tight leash over vocabulary, break complex thoughts into simple facts and place them in intelligible sequence.
But that is not all. Presenting Islam to the kids in English, or for that matter in any European language, poses problems of a new kind. Arabic terms and sounds are not easy to transfer. If you transliterate i.e., write the Arabic words in English alphabets, the reader stumbles frequently, not knowing the precise end of syllables. And if translation is attempted, it leaves much to be desired. Because the English words fail to accommodate the soul of Arabic terms.
But come what may, the Muslims have to adopt English. Its universal appeal and use apart, English has become the medium of quality education in wide swathes of Muslim lands. In fact, the intellectual output in English is more than in all other languages put together. Moreover, the vast concentration of Muslim migrants in the developed West is urging a switchover from Arabic to English as a medium of intellectual consensus in the Islamic world.
This might be a long preface to the work being done by Chicago based couple Dr. Abidullah Ghazi and his wife Dr. Tasneema Khatoon Ghazi. But few can imagine what formidable problems such a project can bristle with. A lot many efforts were made in this direction. But all that they produced were a few books, not a curriculum. The Ghazi couple did just that and it required a life time's effort, and came out with a comprehensive, systematic and integrated syllabus, all brought out by the Iqra International Education Foundation at Chicago (USA). Invested with love, vision and meticulous planning, the couple and their colleagues have so far produced over 125 books, combining textbooks, workbooks, lesson plans and enrichment literature. This curriculum has been adopted and recognised in nearly 40 coutries of the world and fits into any category of teaching, be it moral instruction classes in regular schools summer courses or sunday religious schools.
Ghazi couple spoke to Islamic Voice recently during their visit to Bangalore:
Teaching Should be Centred Around the Child, his Needs and Temprament
Dr. Abidullah Ghazi hails from Deoband in Uttar Pradesh. Holding a Doctorate in comparative religion from Harvard University, he and wife Dr. Tasneema Khatoon Ghazi, (a doctorate in child psychology), have been pursuing the goal of an ideal Islamic curriculum in English with a passionate zeal. During his recent visit to Bangalore he spoke to Maqbool Ahmed Siraj. Excerpts
Q: Why a new Islamic curriculum?
A: I read the Quran at the Darul Uloom, Deoband in Uttar Pradesh. I perceived that students were beaten up thoroughly while learning the Quran. The very thought of classes made them tremble with fears. I studied at Universities at Aligarh, London and Harvard. When I was a student at the Harvard, I had 3 1/2 year old kid. She used to say that she could go to school on her own as she was grown up. I juxtaposed this with a scene from African madrassa on TV where the children were being beaten. We both discussed the contrast and concluded that education in the West was centred around the child while in the Islamic world, it was centred around the book. So the Western curriculum takes in its stride everything that makes the child learn, develop curiosity and expect more and more of knowledge. These may be in the form of illustrations, charts maps and music.
I thought why Islam cannot be taught like that. On the initiation of our colleagues, I began preparing some books and a curriculum. Later we shifted to Gary in Indiana state, 40 kms from Chicago. In 1976, I met Rabita chief Dr. Abdullah Omar Naseef and Dr. Zainul Abedin of Insitute of Muslim Minority Affairs. They encouraged me to take up this venture. The first book to come out was Our Prophet, an assignment from King Abdul Aziz University, Jeddah at Dr. Naseef’s behest.
But books were not enough. What was required was a curriculum. We studied the religious curriculum of Christians and Jews. The Jews teach the Old Testament on four levels. We estimated that we would need nearly 150 books to teach the Quran, Hadith, Fiqh, Sociology, moral sciences etc.
Q: But you were working in the USA. What objective did you set before yourself?
A: We were clear that the children must be taught the universal values of Islam and that our primary target were children who were growing up in a secular and plural country.
We developed systematic curriculum lesson by lesson for 40 minute period. Reason and rational informed its very foundation. Tasneema scrutinised the vocabulary which was to be graded as per the child’s comprehension level at a particular age.
Q: Project for the future?
A: We are now preparing the enrichment literature which is known as non-detailed literature in India.
We are also preparing lessons for teachers and we will put them on the Internet. We will develop a whole system of examination, certification etc. and ultimately make it an Open University. Our emphasis is on quality production of books.
Q: Pictures in Islamic books are resented by the ulema. How do you cope with modern needs for pictures and opposition from the traditional class?
A: We have minimised the use of pictures. Often need for pictures in books narrating Prophet’s stories has been fulfilled with silhouettes.
Q: Maslak too poses problems particularly in cosmopolitan crowds of Muslims in India or the US?
A: We do not go into polemics. We have avoided sectarian differences at the lower level. Later all different mazahib (schools of opinion) have been put side by side.
Q: No general agreement is found on certain geographical maps. How an international syllabus should look at it?
A: This is a sensitive question. In a series of books on Muslim social studies there have been questions over Palestine and Israel maps. Jews get exercised and unleash charges of anti-semitism. There cannot be any universal agreement on maps.
CIGI is traning the Kerala Muslim youth to set higher goals in their lives
By A Staff Writer
ASK an average Keralite Muslim what he would like to do for livelihood. Chances are that the answer will be either of the two: petty business or a job in the Gulf. Petty businesses yield low incomes. Unless the businessman is educated, the business cannot be made to grow. And jobs in the Gulf are becoming fewer and fewer. Plus they cause social dislocation.
Few Muslims prefer Government jobs or positions in corporate sector. This was affecting the Muslim society in two ways. Less participation in government jobs meant that the community was unable to assert. Secondly, since it had put itself away from the competition oriented pursuits, higher education was not attracting students.
A group of concerned Muslim who identified this problem, found that Muslims (23% of population) had lesser participation in Kerala government than the scheduled castes (SC) who make up only 10 per cent. (see Chart No.1 and 2). Ironically, Muslims had 12% reservation in the state government jobs and educational institutions. But they were not claiming their quota.
Discussions revealed that the community youth needed career guidance, planning coaching and training. Led by a former scientist of the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) Dr. K. M. Abubaker, a body named Centre for Information and Guidance, India (CIGI) was formed. The CIGI decided to focus on localities of Muslims and the Backward Classes. Career guidance was an urban concept. CIGI wanted to take it to students in villages. Teachers and Government officers sympathetic to the cause were taken as counsellors. Nearly 120 persons enlisted their support.
A special camp was organised at Kalpeta in Wayanad district and all socio-cultural, religious bodies were invited. In a campaign called “Exam Sure Hit”, 300 schools with BC concentration were selected and workshops were conducted. In another campaign nicknamed “Career Mission 2000”, 500 workshops were conducted during the last year. In yet another programme, named “Winscan”, 500 best students are being selected after SSLC in order to be trained for various disciplines, courses and sectors.
The CIGI has, in a short span of 6 years, reached more than 32000 students, either in person or through letters or telephones, held over 22,000 guidance classes, and about 4000 career exhibition. In a uinque programme it regularly holds interactions with students at orphanages and sponsors some orphans for higher studies. It also liaises with Hamdard Study Circle in Delhi, Crescent Guidance Centre at Chennai and the Aligarh Muslim University for coaching of students for UPSC competitive examinations.
CIGI has set its sight higher. It is working on contacts with various institutes, universities and ministries to scour opportunities for the youth and the educated.
CIGI can be contacted at: B-51, Vrindavan Colony, Chevayur, Calicut-673017. Ph: 0495-356059.