Saturday, December 4, 2010

Western-Educated Muslim Modernists, Orientalists, Politicized Islam & Women's Education

Nimat Hafez Barazangi, Donald Malcolm Reid, Syed Rizwan Zamir, Dietrich Reetz, Joseph S. Szyliowicz, Akbar S. Ahmed, Anis Ahmad

Nasr (1982)  criticizes Muhammad Iqbal (1877–1938) and other “modernist” Islamists for understanding “Greek philosophy through the eyes of its modern Western interpreters” and, hence, separating Islam from philosophy. For Rahman (“Islam: An Overview,” in The Encyclopedia of Religion, vol. 7, edited by Mircea Eliade, 318–322, New York), Iqbal was a “neofundamentalist” who was reacting to modernism but also “importantly influenced by modernism.” Iqbal (1962) himself asserts that the Qurān is a book that emphasizes “deed” rather than “idea.” Barazangi (2004) asserts that Iqbal's contention is significant to the understanding of the Islamic educational process and its transformation. However, she warns, a Muslim's deed that is habitual without basic knowledge of the Islamic principles imposes certain cultural-laden practice as the norm for Islamic behavior.
To educate in Islam, Iqbal states, means to create a living experience on which religious faith ultimately rests. For Rahman (1982), it means Islamic intellectualism. Though Nasr believes that the Islamic theory of education can be reconstructed within Qur'ānic philosophy, Iqbal emphasizes that the birth of Islam is the birth of inductive intellect, wherein “to achieve full self-consciousness, man must finally be thrown back on his own resources.” For Barazangi, it means autonomous identification with and internalization of the Qur'ān without intermediary interpretation.
These diverse views suggest that Muslims, particularly in the past two centuries, not only neglected philosophy, as Nasr suggests, but, as Ismā'īl Rājī al-Fārūqī (1981) points out, also lost Islam's connection to its pedagogical function and its methods of observation and experimentation. As centers of higher religious learning began formal transmission of “book knowledge” and inculcation in particular interpretations, a dichotomy arose between philosophy, or the ideal, and pedagogy, or the practice. Encouraged by skepticism in modern Western philosophy, this dichotomy widened. The transformation of Islamic thought from the building of rules for public life to a distinct political or juridical affiliation, beginning in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, has affected the nature of the Islamic education process negatively, despite many attempts to revive it.
Western-educated Muslim modernists in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, not aware that the underlying philosophy of Western education differed from that of Islam, were satisfied with teaching courses on religion in the traditional style and neglected to restructure the traditional system. Meanwhile, “traditionalists” emphasized the primacy of Islamic doctrine over falsafah(philosophy), creating, in Husaini's words, a schism between the traditionalists and the modernists and destroying the integrated educational system. Western-educated thinkers who reaffirm the validity of traditional practices (also known as “neotraditionalists”) interpret the philosophy of Abū āmid al-Ghazālī (1058–1111) as the “finally established” Islamic educational theory and hold an absolutist perspective on Islamic education. This perspective, discussed elsewhere by this author (1998, 2004), results, unknowingly, in dichotomies between the Islamic worldview and its pedagogical process and between educating males and females.
The assaults on Islamic culture as an “oppressor of women” by European Crusaders, Orientalists, and colonial governments, combined with their differentiation between private and public domains, caused premodern Muslim leaders to lose sight of the essence of Islamic education, particularly its informal sector, and take extreme attitudes at the expense of a revival of traditional Islam. In the Indian subcontinent, for example, most girls attending Qur'ānic kuttāb not only are denied the opportunity to continue their religious education once they reach puberty but are rarely instructed by their families, as was the practice among learned Muslim families before British colonization and interaction with Western educational practices. Movements to revive traditional Islam that were predominantly led by males, beginning with those of the eighteenth-century Wahhābī puritan movement, also propagated the view that women need a different type of education because their primary concern is the home. Despite their enrollment in kuttābs in earlier times, for example, Saudi girls were not allowed to enroll in religious institutions of higher learning such as Umm al-Qurā in Mecca until 1970 and 1971, when only eighty women as compared to more than two thousand men were admitted (Saad al-Salem, 1981). “Reformists” such as the Egyptian Muammad ʿAbduh (1845–1905) emphasized Islamic ideals of womenʾs higher status in Islam and the obligation of both men and women to seek knowledge; yet, in practice, they did not recognize womenʾs right to access a thorough knowledge of the Qurʿān as a key to Islamic intellectual development.
Revivalists, such as Sayyid Qub (1906–1966) and Sayyid Abū al-Aʿlā Mawdūdī (1903–1979), though attempting to restore Islamic education in post–World War II nation-states, used the traditional rationale about women's education and asserted that womenʾs “natural” disposition is to transmit culture to the next generation (both boys and girls); but they did not restructure the traditional practices of teaching Islam to allow for this transmission. The primary objectives of womenʾs education in Muammad Qub's (1961–1981) curriculum were to prepare them for the biological and emotional aspects of their roles as mothers and housewives. Such objectives further confused and marginalized womenʾs education in Islam. Neotraditionalists are reemphasizing these objectives in the face of globalization but are failing to listen to the voices of emancipated women from within Islam.
The post-1969 “Islamization” movements have leaned toward a politicized Islam and have had implications for women's Islamic and religious education. Contrary to the Islamizationists’ intellectual tradition, which culminated in Ismā'īl Rājī al-Fārūqī's (1921–1986) concept of the “Islamization of Knowledge,” proponents of these movements emphasized morality, which overshadowed their presumed goal: to restructure the secular system of higher learning in order to address the religious and cultural needs of Muslim societies as part of the new development strategies. The Indonesian and Malay development policies of involving all segments of the population in education and training, reported by Ahmat and Siddique (1987), seem to be a first step toward recognizing women's role in social development. Emphasis on morality, however, particularly when women became part of the Malay madrasahs of the 1970s and 1980s, led religious education to take the form of moral dogma. The Indonesian pesantren system, which was established in rural areas in the early nineteenth century and spread to urban development in the 1970s and 1980s, maintained an integrated system, and Indonesian women, unlike those in any other Muslim country, occupy a full range of religious-leadership roles. Armijo (2007) also suggests that in “southwest China, Muslim women generally take part in communal prayer in mosques,” while “in central China, there is a centuries-old tradition of women having their own separate mosques.” Armijo adds, “not only is there a long history of women imams in this region … women have active involvement in both Islamic education and religious leadership.” The mosque must be understood as a “multi-purpose building: a place for worship, for political gatherings, for negotiations and judgment, for personal prayer and for religious instruction and study” (Küng, 2007), in order to appreciate its importance for women's Islamic identity development, let alone for the children's Islamic character building.
Neo-traditionalists have attempted to “liberate Islam from Western cultural colonialism” in the 1980s and have given women's education the form sometimes called “reversed feminism,” emphasizing segregated education for different but unequal roles. This trend is flourishing in North American and Western European countries, where Muslim males are demanding single-sex schools and, in their private “Islamic/Muslim” schools, are segregating children from the first grade onward. Curricula in these schools are the same as that in public schools except that courses on religion and Arabic language are included (Barazangi, 1998). The same movement of segregating education took strong hold in Pakistan and Afghanistan in the late twentieth century to the point of barring women from any educational institution.

No comments: