22 October 2011

Norms and Allegiances in Muslim Education

Even the most casual observers of current events will notice a tension between Western civilization and Islam. This tension is often made explicit in Western public discourse about "Islamic fundamentalism" and the "clash of civilizations." Similarly, Muslim public discourse often focuses on the Zionist occupation of Palestine and the destruction of places like Bosnia and Iraq. But careful observers will soon realize that this tension contains within it an odd, and often unnoticed, paradox. While most Muslims are quick to denounce instances of Western aggression and political double-dealing, the more subtle cultural legacies of colonization and imperialism receive less attention. This is apparent when one takes the time to look at various forms of institutionalized colonization, such as education.

While Western education is extroverted, introducing the norms of modernity to all of its subjects and engaging the worldviews of those subjects, Muslim education is introverted, introducing Islam and its relevance in private life but without engaging many of the normative assumptions and associations of Western modernity. Thus, Muslims learn Islamic values in a sort of isolation, detaching themselves in many ways from the social, political, and economic machinations of the Western neo-colonial agenda, and yet pledging allegiance to Western science and other aspects of modernity as universal steps forward for humankind. Any struggle within this framework becomes more about control of the normative trappings of modernity and less about evaluating and re-assessing any allegiances to modernity. Both educational systems are normalizing Western modernity, while compartmentalizing Islam as a cultural and religious artifact and presuming that it has nothing important to say about many aspects of modernity. Each party has embraced the other's assumptions, creating the illusion that there are dichotomous struggles between "tradition and modernity," "Islam and the West," "belief and disbelief," and a host of other binaries and alterities. The purpose of this essay is to engage this paradoxical tension, by looking at the allegiances to Western modernity in contemporary Muslim educational settings, and then considering how some oft-neglected aspects of the Islamic tradition might inform a critique of Western modernity and its normative modes of education.

Contested Educations in Modern Muslim Turkey
In Fall 1998, the Turkish government attempted to implement a series of new policies and restructuring programs aimed at Muslims in Turkish schools and universities. While Muslim women are forbidden to wear Islamic modest dress, or hijab, in several Turkish universities, new policies were set to extend that ban nationwide. In addition, semi-autonomous religious schools came under tighter government control, in a wide ranging program designed to prevent practicing Muslims, women in particular, from achieving the high level of success they are known for in Turkey's educational system. Those university rectors not in support of the proposed measures were reportedly terminated from their positions. The move would have broadened an earlier policy, enforced since the 1980s, in which Muslim women were banned from wearing hijab in Istanbul University and at Dijla University in Diyarbakir, Eastern Turkey. After weeks of protest and lawsuits, a Turkish court ruled some of the proposals unconstitutional, but implementing the ruling is more precarious and the future of Muslim education remains uncertain.[1]

Education has been contested territory for most of modern Turkish history. After the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, General Mustafa Kemal (a.k.a. "Ataturk") implemented a series of official policies to curb Islam and steer Turkey toward Western secularism and modernity. The polices included changing the Turkish alphabet from Arabic to Roman script, thus severing the 600 year heritage of Ottoman Islamic literary history, and banning most forms of Muslim public practice, especially those involving dress codes and those which used Arabic. Upon Ataturk's death in 1938, the Turkish military became the enforcer of secular modernism in Turkey. Although the Ottoman sultans were the first to introduce Western education into the Empire, under Kemalism state schools and universities were pressed into service to teach secular and Western knowledges, strictly forbidding or severely circumscribing most vestiges of Turkey's Islamic heritage and its knowledge base. There have been several waves of Islamic resurgence since then, most notably during the presidency of Adnan Menderes in the 1950s, when the Arabic call to prayer and other aspects of Muslim public life were restored, but secular educational policies have remained stringent.[2]

During the 1960s, the government attempted to monitor a growing Islamic movement by opening a network of state sponsored Muslim schools, the Imam Hatip Lisesi system, which would teach officially sanctioned forms of Islamic theology and jurisprudence to a new generation of Turkish Muslims. At the height of the Cold War, and perhaps in a bid join NATO, the government also supported Muslim schools against leftist nationalism and communism. Since then, however, the Imam Hatip schools have expanded to provide a wide-ranging curriculum in a seven year, post-primary program of study that includes Arabic language and secular Western subjects. In the 1980s, Turkish Muslim scholar and author Fethullah Gulen returned from exile abroad and established a charitable foundation. The Fethullah Gulen Hoja Foundation soon opened a series of private Islamic schools, universities, and student hostels which have attracted an increasing number of Muslim students away from state secular schooling, but which have also gained a reputation for political quietism. The Fethullah Gulen and Imam Hatip schools both provide separate facilities for male and female students, allow Islamic ritual practice, and encourage female students to wear hijab and men to wear beards. They provide a supportive environment in which to study toward university degrees, offering instruction in Islamic beliefs and practices along side of a relatively standard curriculum similar to those found in most Turkish public schools, emphasizing Western knowledges. In recent years, graduates of Imam Hatip and Fethullah Gulen schools have become top performing candidates competing for Turkish university degrees.

Despite the academic successes of their students, Imam Hatip schools will face some hard decisions as a result of new government policies that are restructuring the time frame of compulsory schooling. In place of the usual five years of compulsory public primary schooling, after which students could opt to attend the seven year secondary program in Imam Hatip schools instead of public secondary schools, the government will now require eight years of compulsory primary schooling for all students in the Turkish public school system. Because the schools are government run, and their teachers and administrators officially appointed, Muslim parents and teachers who wish to provide any sort of an Islamic education for their children will struggle for a say in restructuring. The lengthened time frame for compulsory primary schooling means that Imam Hatip schools will have to reduce course offerings and limit their curriculum to three or four years, since few students will be able to study for seven years in secondary school after eight years of primary schooling. As a result, it will be virtually impossible for Imam Hatip schools to maintain their delicate balance between Islamic studies and secular Western academic subjects in such a short period of time. They will have to reduce the curriculum to its barest essentials, most likely focusing on the private aspects of Islamic practice in order to maintain their identity and credibility as Islamic schools. The measure will reduce the possibility of students continuing on to higher education, which requires a rigorously secular secondary preparation.

Since education is one of the few roads leading to jobs in the public sphere, where secular modernism is also strictly enforced, the new policies may further force Islam into the private sphere. Government supported or otherwise, there is a general tendency in Turkish Muslim education to study Islam in what amounts to oppositional isolation, while normalizing many Western knowledges publicly. This normalization involves validating and extending the assumptions and techniques of Western modernity, especially with respect to science, politics, and economics, but also includes applying to Islam the secular epistemological and hermeneutic methodologies of Western rationalism. The latter tendency is evident, for example, in a recent book comparing Islamic and Kantian ethics, the Muslim author of which finds Kantian ethics more suitable to the modern world, without asking how that world came about. Other books attempt to prove the veracity of the Qur'an by subjecting it to the norms of Western scientific inquiry without situating that inquiry.[3] What these instances indicate is that, while the struggles will likely continue for the right to an education in Turkey, whether secular or religious, these struggles appear almost as a distraction, since there is little discussion, public or private, on the kinds of knowledges people are seeking in higher education.

Muslims in Pursuit of "Higher Colonization"
Muslim students making it to Turkish universities find themselves in a double bind. If they wish to practice their Islam, they may compromise their education; if they wish to pursue an education, they may compromise their Islam. The right to wear hijab in class is certainly an important issue, and Muslim women cannot be punished by the state for practicing their religion and expressing their identities openly, especially in a majority Muslim society such as in Turkey. But even when Muslim students are successful in gaining access to the schooling they desire, the struggle for their identity will not end once they enter the halls of higher education. While issues of exclusion based on dress are hotly contested, issues of curriculum and direction are rarely discussed on any side of the cultural divide. Universities in Turkey, as in most other Muslim locales, are generally modeled on Western institutions of higher education, in both form and content. The tacit assumption with respect to knowledge is that the West knows best.

The Education curriculum at Yildiz University in Istanbul illustrates Muslim colonization by Western education. Muslim students planning to be teachers or educational administrators begin with foundational courses, reading from the Greek classics, Platonic idealism, Aristotelian dialectics, and the Socratic method. Most courses then leap forward, past the Church, the Dark Ages, and the Renaissance, and resume with readings from Rousseau. The eighteenth- and nineteenth-century educational thinkers occupy a major part of the semester: Pestalozzi's humanism, Froebel's kindergarten, the British Lancaster method, and the American common school. But at the same time, this canonical survey of the great white men of Western education is filtered and sifted according to official political preferences, so that while students may also read some Dewey, his work is given nowhere near the attention it gets in the West. This could be because talk of "democracy and education" is dangerous in a military dictatorship, or perhaps it is due to Dewey's recommendation, which he made when the Kemalists invited him in the 1920s, that they not abolish the Arabic alphabet. In any case, Dewey is more or less written off as a "liberal humanist" by an otherwise West-directed educational establishment that might be termed "conservative" in America. Similarly, Paulo Freire is popularly denounced as a "communist," the kiss of death for any epistemological association in a state that is still recovering from its associations with NATO in the Cold War, and earlier strained relations with the Soviet Union and Russia.

After getting grounded in foundations, most students will move on to studies in child psychology, another core course for education majors, and with some overlap for first year psychology majors. Both will often focus heavily on the work of Sigmund Freud, typically followed by readings from Jung and Adler. After time surveying other founding fathers, child psychology majors will then dwell at length on the work of Jean Piaget. At Istanbul University, students will take interminable courses in child psychology with professors who themselves studied with Piaget. Students at Yildiz University follow a rigorous course of study in behaviorist and cognitivist theory, reading especially the work of Benjamin Bloom. As with Piaget, Bloom has several disciples in Turkey, most notably Veysen Sonmez, whose works are now canonical. Sonmez's students, in turn, are fine tuning Bloom's theories in their own research. A higher degree in education will progress along the same general trajectory, painstakingly learning selected theories of education as developed in the West. Graduates from such programs teach what they have learned to their own students, and the cycle of colonization by education continues unabated.

Such a scheme is not limited to Turkey, and there are similar relationships to Western knowledges in other Muslim locales. In Palestine during the summer of 1997, I attended a workshop for Arab Muslim school teachers in which a presentation was made be a professor of education at Bir Zeit University on the West Bank, who has his Ph.D. from an American university and is now in local teacher education. The professor lectured on the following topics: theories of learning (Dewey, Kohlberg, Vygotsky), the effective teacher, verbal and non-verbal communication, instructional technologies, instructional groupings, seating arrangements, large and small group and individual work, teaching methods, objectives and planning, simulations, role playing, problem solving, classroom management and discipline, testing and assessment, performance and portfolio based assessment, professional growth, reflective teaching, and active research. The teachers dutifully took notes on this whirlwind tour of Western educational knowledge, and asked questions drawn from their own experiences in teaching various academic subjects to a wide range of local children. Though a bit more progressive than Turkey, the Palestinian discourse on education remains a fairly representative sample of contemporary European and American thinking on education. I was particularly surprised by the unquestioning reproduction of the dominant Western educational discourse, much of which is about delivery systems and which treats problems as either technical or personal. Although most of the students and teachers were Muslims, the focus was on Western knowledge with no consideration of Islamic approaches to teaching and learning. And, as in Turkey, secular modernism defines the form and content of schooling.

One can also find evidence of the paradoxical tension in Muslim minority situations. For instance, the Muslims of South Africa, who were always clear in their denunciation of apartheid, have joined the conversation on educational reform for a post-apartheid state. By way of participating in various national committees, Western-trained South African Muslim educationists succeeded in convincing policy makers that economics courses for high school students ought to include the Islamic perspectives on economics, alongside those of the West. But the celebration of this achievement was short-lived, when a South African gay and lesbian coalition asked the same committee to include gay and lesbian lifestyles and family values in the public school curriculum. Appalled by what they saw as an affront to their moral norms, the Muslims considered resigning the committee, and began looking into private schools, ironically joining the conservative Christian movement in South Africa. But while their resistance to personal immorality was vociferous and active, there was little discussion on more fundamental questions about the guiding principals of Western education. Things like Western science and technology with respect to curricular content, or outcomes based learning and authentic assessment with respect to method, which were being introduced by the American and Australian consultants, were left unquestioned. Muslim schools in other minority settings, such as those in Europe and the United States, face similar situations. In most cases, Western knowledges and methodologies are taken as the universal norm, irrespective of being in a minority or a majority setting.[4]

Returning to higher education, a course of study in virtually any other academic discipline at most Muslim universities will likely follow a similar trajectory by first identifying the great white men of each field and then drilling their theories and practices as universal holy writ, while ignoring or undermining indigenous knowledges. Thus, in biology, genetics reigns supreme, supplanting cell biology after Western scientists isolated the double helix, while completely ignoring Islamic biological knowledge. Physics dwells on Isaac Newton's model, with a taste of Einstein's relativity and quantum mechanics for the adventurous, but neglecting the pre-Newtonian physics that enabled Muslim architects to build magnificent structures. The staple of any Math major is calculus, but with indigenous knowledge like the Muslim roots of algebra carefully filtered through the Newtonian worldview. Philosophy majors run the gamut of Western thinkers from Plato and Descartes, through Kant and Sartre, but with little more than a passing wave to the great Muslim philosophers like Ghazali, Ibn Rushd, and Mulla Sadra. Western medicine is based on a mechanistic Cartesian model, with mastery of surgical and pharmaceutical technique the ultimate goal, undermining the humoral medicine practiced by pioneering Muslim physicians such as Ibn Sina. Western chemistry strips away the self-edifying and spiritual aspects of its Muslim forebear, alchemy. Sociology begins with the work of Durkheim, while Weber is seeing a revival, but Ibn Khaldun receives little more than a footnote. Muslims studying economics will learn all about Adam Smith and John Maynard Keynes, and perhaps even Marx, before delving into Milton Friedman, neo-liberalism, and the techniques of transnational capitalism, but rarely will any course of study consider the economic implications of the Islamic ban on usury. In short, from history and political science to nursing and agriculture, Western knowledge is the only knowledge. Native American scholar Ward Churchill aptly dubbed this complex of Western thought and practice "White Studies."[5] Among other things, pursuing an education in White Studies means adhering to a set of norms and practices largely developed with the emergence of Western modernity. How this knowledge ended up being taken for granted in the Muslim world is an interesting story that needs to be told, though that is for another day.

For now, we need to dwell a bit more on this monolithic entity and look at the institutional structure of White Studies, which has allowed higher education to normalize Western knowledge. Higher education relies on rigid compartmentalization and departmentalization of knowledge, developed in its present form during the 19th century and further modified during the Cold War. Supposedly rooted in Western civilization by way of the Seven Greek Sciences, the Roman Quadrivium, or the Enlightenment's Useful Arts, White Studies as presently configured in most universities assumes that the best way to control thought is to make sure that no one ever sees the big picture, how the Useful Arts fit together, how the Quadrivium meshes with the Seven Sciences, and so forth. Compartmentalization was perfected during the Manhattan Project, under the direction of General Leslie R. Groves, who later admitted that his main achievement was to compartmentalize, and thus control, the scientific research for the atomic bomb.[6] But most universities also adopted his tactics, as the Western world launched its fifty-year Cold War. This period of time corresponded with the so-called independence of most modern nation states, many leaders of which eagerly adopted the compartmentalized discourse of White Studies as their normative mode of thought and action. In such a system, non-Western knowledge is compartmentalized and soon marginalized.

Graduates with a degree in a White Studies discipline often use their limited sense of empowerment to reproduce Western modernity, sometimes finding solace in the pious fraud that Western knowledge is the sum total of human knowledge. The resulting pathological condition, often referred to as "educated," means that one takes Western science as the arbiter of truth, even in matters of religion. It means that unlimited technological progress and economic growth are the keys to human happiness. It means that quantity is better than quality and that technique and efficiency must govern all aspects of a desacralized life. Muslims seeking guidance and prosperity in White Studies are finding that the best they can attain is to practice Islam in private and let the West do the rest in public.

Norms and Allegiances in Islam and the West
The above discussion suggests that, despite the socio-political tensions between Islam and the West, there is an unquestioning allegiance on the part of Muslims to the normative modes of thought and action associated with Western modernity. Much of this is not limited to Muslim societies, and one could likely find similar allegiances to Western norms throughout the Third World. Since emerging from colonialism, most national discussions on education have been concerned with gaining empowerment within the modernist world system, with a general lack of any social or cultural awareness that modernity is peculiar, and that Western knowledges are situated.[7] But this is only part of the problem. Along with curricular issues relating to Western modernity, significant political implications emerge when one considers Western education as an interconnected series of norms and allegiances.

During a period of unrest in the Philippines in 1989, it appeared as if nationalist rebels might topple the American-backed regime of Corazon Aquino. American corporations and military and political officials had a strong stake in maintaining the status quo in the Philippines, if not in the persona of Aquino, then certainly in the socio-economic system she policed for them. The Western media focused on then-Vice President Dan Quayle's management of the crisis (he was left in charge, as President Bush was attending a summit meeting with Gorbachev), with most news agencies reporting his decision to intimidate rebel-held installations with U.S. jets. But what was not well reported, perhaps because it offers a rare glimpse into the Western policy mind, is that Quayle also ordered a mobilization of university graduates. Word went out to American institutions of higher education to provide lists of recent graduates who were Philippine nationals. Though details are sketchy, the thinking seems to have been that someone completing a program of higher education in an American university would have an allegiance to a system of thought and action that would not pose any real threat to Western interests. In the end, Aquino remained in power for a few years more, but the mobilization of American university graduates has lessons for Third World peoples, including Muslims, and especially those who are currently pursuing or considering an education in the West.[8]

Like other civilizations, Islam establishes its own set of norms. Allegiance to these norms provides the basis for a workable social, political, and economic system. According to the Islamic understanding of the evolution of religions, Prophet Muhammad, upon whom be peace, re-established original monotheism, the primordial religion of humanity, after it had been repeatedly corrupted by worldly desires and human forgetfulness. The Qur'an challenges those who cling to corrupted religions and who dispute the veracity of the renewed message: "This is the truth from your Lord, so be not of the disputers. But whoever disputes with you in this matter after what has come to you of knowledge, then say, 'Come let us call our sons and your sons and our women and your women and our near people and your near people, then let us be earnest in prayer, and pray for the curse of Allah on the liars'" (3:61).[9] To generations of commentators, this was a test of truthfulness after all rational arguments had been exhausted. The disputers, generally taken to be Christians, backed out of the challenge, kept and developed their own system, and, to make a very long story short, the resulting Western system is on the verge of ruling the world today, and it is demanding from Muslims, and other peoples worldwide, allegiance to its corrupted norms.[10] But, as the Qur'an reminds Muslims: "The Christians and the Jews will not be pleased with you, until you follow their religion. So say: 'Surely Allah's guidance is the true guidance.' And if you follow their desires after the knowledge that has come to you, you shall have no guardian from Allah, nor any helper" (2:120). Allegiance and guardianship are key concepts for our purposes here, and their place in the Islamic tradition is worth further consideration.

The Qur'an states that Allah is the Ultimate Guardian over Muslims, and that they are not to take Christians, Jews, or disbelievers as guardians: "O you who believe! Do not to take the Jews and Christians as your guardians, for some of them are guardians to others of them. And whoever amongst you takes them as a guardian, then surely you will become one of them, for Allah surely does not guide the unjust" (5:51), and "O you who believe! Do not take the disbelievers for guardians instead of the believers. Do you desire that you should give to Allah a manifest proof against yourselves?" (4:144). In the Islamic worldview, acknowledgment or denial of these basic tenets becomes a yardstick for measuring true faith in the Divine purpose for humanity and whether or not one is faithful to the Divine Trust. The Qur'an warns of corruption and oppression for those who do not make allegiance to Allah as the Ultimate Guardian, and, in turn, to the Prophet Muhammad, upon whom be peace, and a series of "rightly guided" believers as their temporal guardians. The purpose of this series of allegiances is to establish an Islamic social and political order based on the Qur'anic normative injunction of enjoining the good and forbidding the evil. Acknowledging such a system of norms and allegiances can create conflicts of interest for those whose allegiances are intertwined with the currently dominant Western system. For Muslims, knowledge and guidance derive ultimately from a Divine source, not earthly desires or corrupted texts. To know Islam is to make an allegiance to its set of norms, but this allegiance forms a dilemma when those norms become deviant vis-à-vis a corrupted yet dominant set of norms. And this is not theoretical nor passive, because the dominating Western normative system threatens to subvert or destroy what it sees as deviant sets of norms in order to maintain supremacy for its own corrupted set of norms. In the Western system, based on falsehood and corruption as defined by the Islamic tradition, allegiance to a Divine set of norms may come only at great sacrifice, certainly in terms of life and livelihood, but also in terms of faith and practice of one's religion to the fullest extent of its ascribed potential.

Education is an important site for exploring the interplay between conflicting sets of norms and allegiances. This is especially evident if one views education as a process of becoming, rather than as a body of knowledge with certificates and degrees that one can hang on the wall, or as a mere preparation for a profession or livelihood. When a person seeks an education, that person is in a sense making a commitment to become something, or someone, different than when they started. Depending upon how much the education system differs from one's own system in terms of norms, this process of becoming can be quite profound. Entering into such an arrangement means that the person who exits the other end will be quite a different person, with various degrees of allegiance to the particular set of norms adhered to and promoted by the system from which they sought an education. Education is also a two way process, though this is another oft-neglected aspect. On the surface, a student seeks and obtains knowledge, training, and validity from a particular educational institution. A student also contributes to an institutional system in obvious ways, such as through paying tuition and making donations as an alumnus. But, more subtly, students validate an institution by seeking its form of education over the forms offered by other institutions. Students may also contribute by way of securing things like research patents or grants for their alma mater, thus bringing prestige and further validating the normative system. This is particularly important in cross-cultural situations, where students from one cultural background can contribute to the intellectual climate and prestige at educational institutions in a different cultural setting, while at the same time marginalizing those of the cultural background.

Education also takes place within a complex system of intersecting norms and allegiances. First, there is the education of the self. To be a Muslim means to know Islam as a normative system (as suggested above, this itself is not easy). To be considered as an educated person in an Islamic system means first and foremost to have allegiance to its norms and to make every effort to put them into practice. Next, there are implications for any particular local community of Muslims, who are continuing the norms of Islam along with their own language and cultural norms. Then there are implications for Muslims worldwide (what Muslims call the ummah, or global Islamic nation), in terms of making cultural, political, social, and economic connections with other communities, developing over the years into a broad based Islamic movement. Finally, there are implications for humanity in general, part of which involves identifying its problems and hindrances to establishing an ethically just order. Unjust normative systems and their patterns of allegiance feed back into the development of self, community, ummah, and humanity. The potential for corruption or co-optation can enter the cycle at any point by way of education, and threaten to misguide Muslims on any or all fronts. Therefore, the process of education itself needs careful study and deep consideration. It cannot be entered into hastily and uncritically. What one is talking about is entering a system of norms and allegiances that will have potentially profound repercussions for generations to come. This effects not only the practice of one's religion, but also virtually every other walk of life, ranging from agriculture and architecture to medicine and child rearing. Western civilization has created a network of allegiances to its normative system of thought and action, and this network operates by way of education and the accompanying temporal and temporary rewards. Any true movement toward liberation and autonomy, especially one which claims to have allegiance to Divine norms, will have to rethink the meaning and purpose of the forms of education it values and pursues.

No matter how educators fine-tune theories of knowledge and education, in the end they are Western theories that rely on a host of Western assumptions about the meaning and purpose of education, and about human nature and how the world works. But before this corpus emerged at the end of the nineteenth Christian century and into the twentieth century, what guided teaching and learning in the West? More broadly, how have non-Western peoples and societies engaged in teaching and learning before Western norms became universal norms? Or, more fundamentally, what does it mean to be "educated" outside the norms of the modern Western educational system? Muslims are beginning to step back and evaluate their own training and education--which includes careful assessment of community needs and aspirations--before importing part and parcel an educational system from the West. At best, introducing the Western system is like laying a thin socio-cultural membrane over indigenous society and norms, creating a sort of cultural schizophrenia. At worst, imposing the Western system of education builds a support mechanism for direct colonization, which has dogged non-Western peoples for several centuries. Ignoring any consideration of these issues cannot be seen as simply remaining "neutral" or "objective." Rather, in the present aggressive climate of American triumphalism, ignorance or passivity amounts to self-degradation and indirect colonization. It is for this reason that alternative systems of norms and allegiance become worthy of our study.

An Islamic Perspective on the Quest for Knowledge
The Islamic tradition encourages Muslims to seek knowledge. In a series of celebrated sayings, or hadith, the Prophet Muhammad, upon whom be peace, is reported to have said, "Seek knowledge, even in China," "Seek knowledge continuously," and "Seeking knowledge is incumbent upon all Muslims, men and women."[11] While Muslims have heeded his call for centuries, recent developments in Western civilization are posing new challenges to seekers of knowledge. Western civilization is rushing headlong into a commodity driven and individualistic "Information Age" with little sense of the difference between information and knowledge, and with few criteria other than advertising and desire to help make distinctions. In order not to be pulled down into the information whirlpool, some selection criteria seem necessary. To illustrate, log onto any large on-line bookstore, and type in a key phrase, like "self help." Thousands of titles of books in print will appear on the computer screen. Even if they could afford to buy such a vast number of titles, it would be impossible for any seekers of knowledge to avail themselves of what is contained in all of those books. But someone might try to sit down and read as many of those books as they could, if they found some way that they didn't have to work or sleep, or do anything else, and just read them for the rest of their lives, and they will have sought knowledge. But will they then be knowledgeable?

In answering such questions, with respect to the above hadith on seeking knowledge, one problem arises in translation of the Arabic word 'ilm, which is rendered above as "knowledge," and which is also often rendered as "science." But if 'ilm is knowledge, then what is the word for "information" in hadith? Do the hadith and other sources which speak of seeking knowledge also apply to seeking information? Has the Islamic tradition the resources for making meaningful distinctions? In Muslim intellectual history, there is another hadith from the Prophet that can shine light on such questions. Muslim scholars through the ages have commented upon this hadith, ranging from Imam Ghazali (d. 1111 CE) to Mulla Sadra (d. 1640 CE), and, more recently, Imam Khomeini. The wisdom of this hadith has informed Muslim seekers of knowledge for centuries, although less so among Western educated technocrats in the colonial and post-colonial periods. In the Arabic, the hadith is quite eloquent, a sure sign of its authenticity to historians of the Islamic tradition. In English rendition, it is as follows:
The Messenger of Allah may Allah's benedictions be upon him, once entered the mosque where there was a group of people surrounding a man. "Who is that?" inquired the Prophet, upon whom be peace. He was told, "He is a very learned man." "What is a very learned man?" asked the Prophet, upon whom be peace. They told him, "He is the most learned of men regarding Arab genealogies, past episodes, the pre-Islamic days of ignorance, and Arabic poetry." The Prophet, upon whom be peace, said, "That is knowledge whose ignorance does not harm nor is its possession of any benefit to one." Then the Prophet, may Allah's benedictions be upon him, declared, "Verily knowledge ('ilm) consists of these three: the firm sign, the just duty, and the established practice. All else is superfluous."[12]
Scholars will produce commentaries on this hadith, and they'll do speculative research to help determine what is meant by "firm sign, just duty, and established practice." But in a general sense, what the hadith says is that Muslims ought to classify and prioritize the knowledge they seek. This seems to be in full recognition of the mortality of the human being, who only has a certain amount of time to do things. One can sit an entire lifetime in front of a computer or in a library or bookstore, reading all those self-help books, for example, and never do anything else, seeking that knowledge (or is it information?). But without some criteria to classify that knowledge, and thus give it meaning, this effort could be construed as wasting one's time. Or, at best, the seeker of knowledge could be spending a lifetime on something that is superfluous, an extra, a nicety, at the expense of time that could be spent on pursuits that are more important and meaningful, as implied by the hadith. However, when modern Muslims hear this hadith for the first time, many of them will tend to look into it in terms of what is forbidden and what is permitted (haram and halal, in Islamic terminology). They might want the quick and easy prescriptions, asking, "Well, does that mean that some knowledge is haram, and some knowledge halal? Then which is which?" And they cannot get out of the dichotomy between haram and halal. But the hadith is not really about what is halal and haram in seeking knowledge. It is about what is in between, on a sort of sliding scale. It's about classifying and prioritizing the time and effort spent on seeking knowledge. To put it as simply as possible, this Prophetic hadith suggests that some types of knowledge are more important than other types of knowledge, and that there are priorities.

During the period of colonialism and neo-colonialism, Muslims have given over a key part of their lives to the West: the ability to classify and prioritize the seeking of knowledge as outlined in the above hadith, and as put into practice by Muslims prior to colonial disruption. Now, the West decides what is important knowledge, and what isn't. This is done to suit the beliefs and goals of Western civilization. An elaborate system of certificates and degrees, which act like so many carrots and sticks, has assured that the Western system of knowledge is taken as the universal system. But this is a fallacy, one of the hoaxes perpetrated upon Muslims by Western civilization, as revealed by reflection on the above hadith. And there are other hadith in the Islamic tradition that can shine light on certain aspects of modern education, but we need to first look a little closer at some foundational metaphors of modernity.

As Mulla Sadra was writing his commentary on the Prophetic hadith cited above, European philosopher and would-be statesman Francis Bacon uttered the infamous words "knowledge is power." Bacon is often credited as the "father of modern science," yet his celebrated dictum is rarely understood in the context he intended. Bacon believed that "human knowledge and human power meet as one" so that nature can be "forced out of her natural state and squeezed and molded" in order to "establish and extend the power and dominion of the human race over the universe." Bacon insisted that this knowledge of power over nature remain the exclusive trust of an elite corps, later to be known as "scientists," who must "take an oath of secrecy for the concealing of that which we think fit to keep secret."[13] From an Islamic perspective, there are grave errors in Bacon's thinking. Since only Allah has dominion over the universe, Muslims would see a Satanic flaw in the Baconian worldview, in its insistence that human beings use knowledge to secretly extend "dominion of the human race over the universe." Nevertheless, this flaw has not stopped Western civilization from forging itself upon Bacon's dictum. Bacon's paradigm of thought and action, largely protected by a conspiracy of silence, has fueled Western civilization for nearly four centuries. Knowledge was indeed power, but only for those who already had power.[14] The Baconian vision enabled the West to establish a stranglehold on nature, wringing from it the minerals and other resources to fuel its civilization at the expense of the rest of the world. Today, that legacy means that barely twenty percent of the world's population consumes over eighty percent of all natural resources. North Americans are on the vanguard of the Baconian vision, with their meager 5% of world population consuming a full one third of all natural resources worldwide. And compared to the world averages of consumption, Americans use over three times the arable land, five times the energy resources, three times the fresh water, and over seven times the paper, to name only a few areas of consumption.[15]

"Knowledge is power" has well served the Western world elite over the centuries, and some of the most brutal and protracted wars have been fought to protect the bitter fruits of its exclusivity. But this just makes it all the more difficult to understand how it has come to pass that Bacon's dictum is today splattered all over the global mental environment. From Internet commercials to school logos, in advertising and entertainment, the slogan "knowledge is power" has now become commonplace and is repeated on the tips of people's tongues from all walks of life. Bacon's dictum is no longer a secret. In fact, the corporate media now encourages everyone to buy the latest computer technology or pay for high priced schooling precisely because "knowledge is power." It is clear that Bacon and his successors knew that one of the real keys to knowledge as power lie in the exclusivity of that knowledge. So how is it that the West now wants everyone to know its secret? The answer may very well be that "knowledge is power" is no longer the driving force behind Western civilization, so it is no longer necessary to keep it secret. While the West certainly still enjoys, and jealously guards, the benefits of implementing four centuries of the Baconian dictum, it is no longer useful or even relevant in and of itself, because a new dictum is dethroning "knowledge is power." In Bacon's day, the Church and feudal establishment were the benefactors and beneficiaries of the "knowledge is power" apparatus. Today's universities and corporations have taken over that role, so one can find evidence of the new dictum by looking into the corporate boardrooms and elite educational establishments.

"Knowledge is wealth" is replacing "knowledge is power" as the generative force behind Western civilization. But, somewhat ironically, the "information age" allows for clues of the new dictum to be discovered if one knows where to look. For instance, the National Center on Education and the Economy (NCEE), a Washington, DC, think-tank funded by big business and the Carnegie and other large foundations, has taken a leading role in school reform in the U.S. The NCEE mission statement reads: "Knowledge--and the capacity to put knowledge to good use--is now the only dependable source of wealth all over the world. The people, organizations and nations that succeed will be those that make the most of the human desire and capacity for never-ending learning."[16] What is carried over from Bacon's day, though not as successfully, is the necessity for secrecy, or for some other way of assuring that, just as knowledge was power only for the powerful, knowledge will be wealth only for the wealthy. For now, what we have here is a faint glimpse at the blueprint for the new world order of globalized corporate power emanating from Western based institutions and fueled by Western science. Building on its exclusive domination over the fruits of the Baconian dictum, the West is now moving into the realm of knowledge and intellect. But think of what this means. While the results of four centuries of the Baconian order are seen in an increasingly strained natural environment, the West's habit of consumption, its venerated "way of life," is putting an even more terrible burden on global ecosystems, with many now at the point of collapse. Meanwhile, the old and the new dictums of the West are intertwined with issues of "intellectual property rights" in the context of food, botany, and genetics. If the Baconian dictum of the past means the environmental inequity and destruction of today, then it is not too far a leap to see that the new dictum of today may be the "mental" inequity and destruction of tomorrow.[17]

Reconfiguring knowledge as "the only dependable source of wealth all over the world" has many disastrous implications, among them being the specter of patenting various forms of life, including plants and seeds, and even genes. This is especially so for people who will be subjects of the new knowledge order. But one advantage of knowing this now is that it may enable some kind of preemptive measures to disallow the West from making the crucial transition from imperial control over natural resources to imperial control over natural and mental resources. Many modern Muslims, especially those cleared by the Western political investment community and who wield power over their people, have largely bought into the normative worldview based on the Baconian dictum of knowledge as power, a tendency they share with their nationalist and communist rivals and predecessors. This allegiance to Western norms has produced mixed results, in terms of economic and political self-determination, but most modern Muslims have little sense of how it contributes to environmental destruction. Therefore, it may be all the more necessary for them to think hard and twice about the emerging dictum. What does the Islamic tradition say about the relationship between knowledge and wealth? Is it possible to develop an Islamic alternative before the new Western paradigm shift is complete, and before its mechanisms and rewards are too hard to resist?

The Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, once declared to his companions: "There are two kinds of greedy people who cannot be satisfied: the seeker of knowledge ('ilm) and the seeker of this world (dunya). While the seeker of knowledge receives an increase in Allah's pleasures, the seeker of this world delves deeply into tyranny."[18] If we accept, as the Qur'an suggests, that wealth is one of the trappings of the dunya, then the wisdom of this hadith becomes more apparent the more one spends time in reflection. In one sense, the hadith suggests that knowledge and wealth are separate, yet subtly linked, in the Islamic worldview. But how are they linked? Does the Islamic tradition support the emerging vision of knowledge as wealth? Aren't there any alternative visions? While Muslims have in their intellectual tradition ways to decide upon some set of criteria to discern knowledge from information, or to determine what is knowledge and what is superfluous, as discussed above, their traditions also provide some Islamically grounded criteria for making distinctions between knowledge and wealth, and the subtle interplay therein. While it is well beyond the scope of this article to present an exhaustive account of all the Islamic traditions on these matters, it is possible to point the way in a few directions, from history and tradition.

The Prophetic recognition cited above, that the seekers of knowledge and the dunya are insatiable and that the latter will lead to tyranny, was born out on several notable occasions in early Islamic history. It is widely accepted among Muslims that the heir to the Prophet's knowledge and wisdom was Ali Ibn Abi Talib, the Prophet's son-in-law and the youngest person to accept Islam, who is also remembered as one of the "rightly guided" political successors of the Prophet. When Imam Ali became the leader of the Muslims, he faced a challenge in the emergence of dynastic rule within the Umayyad family. The Imam had first-hand experience with the relationship between knowledge and wealth, and this became more acute after his death as dynastic rule solidified under the Abbasids.[19] During that period, the great Muslim scholars and imams, like Ja'far Sadiq, Abu Hanifah, and Ibn Hanbal, languished in prisons because they exhorted people to knowledge--as defined by the Prophet--while the dynastic regimes exhorted people to wealth and superfluity. Imam Ali's reign lies at the crossroads of this shift, so his deeds and sayings are quite instructive for our purposes. On one occasion, he is recorded as having said to his companion Kumayl:
O Kumayl! Knowledge is better than wealth sevenfold. First, knowledge is the heritage of the prophets, while wealth is the heritage of the pharaohs. Second, wealth decreases by spending, while knowledge multiplies. Third, wealth is in need of protection, while knowledge protects those who have it. Fourth, knowledge enters into the burial cloth, while wealth stays behind. Fifth, wealth happens to disbelievers and believers alike, whereas knowledge does not happen except to the believers especially. Sixth, everyone is in need of knowledge in matters of religion, whereas no one needs the owner of wealth. Seventh, knowledge empowers humankind to pass within the straight path, whereas wealth blocks it.[20]
This teaching makes a strong case that knowledge is not wealth. In fact, wealth is a sort of dwindling, and even corrupting, burden, while knowledge is a growing, and at times regenerative ease. It also suggests that knowledge and wealth be kept separate. With the Baconian dictum increasingly exposed as the spinner of inequality, greed, and destruction in terms of the environmental health of humanity, and with "knowledge is wealth" potentially being wielded by the same powers, the mental as well as the environmental health of humanity may depend on the abilities of Muslims and other non-Western peoples to mine their own traditions and try to configure another way, based on deeply rooted teachings like the ones cited here. This alternative way would have to problematize the relationships between knowledge, power, and wealth, forming a grounded critique within which may lie a regenerative vision.

In the West, it is entirely possible for someone to complete a course of study in higher education, but to graduate as an irresponsible liar and a greedy miser. Worse yet, from the Muslim perspective, a Western graduate could receive high honors and yet be an atheist, apostate, or disbeliever. Though they might be able to function as bankers, corporate executives, or politicians in the Western modernist system, to Muslims such outcomes would indicate that either the student has failed miserably, or that the educational system itself is dysfunctional. Along these lines, there are two other famous teachings of the Imam, both of which suggest what the outcomes of education ought to look like, and what they ought not to look like. When asked by one of his companions about how to recognize a knowledgeable person, or what we might understand as some one who is educated, the Imam replied:
To those who are seekers of knowledge, knowledge has many merits. Its head is humility, its eye is freedom from envy, its ear is understanding, its tongue is truthfulness, it memory is research, its heart is good intention, its intellect is knowledge of things and matters, its hand is compassion, its foot is visiting the learned, its resolution is integrity, its wisdom is piety, its abode is salvation, its helmsman is well-being, is mount is faithfulness, its weapon is softness of speech, its sword is satisfaction, its bow is tolerance, its army is discussion with the learned, its wealth are refined manners, its stock is abstinence from sins, it provision for journey is virtue, its drinking water is gentleness, its guide is Divine guidance, and its companion is the love of the elect.[21]
Conversely, another teaching from the Imam, which also problematizes the possible outcomes of the dictum "knowledge is wealth," provides clues as to the undesirable results for someone who has pursued the wrong course:
The people of this world (dunya) are excessive in eating, laughing, sleeping, and anger. They find little satisfaction, and do not apologize to whomever they offend, nor do they accept apologies from whoever has offended them. They are lazy in their obedience but courageous in their disobedience. They are not responsible for their inner wants and desires. They are of little advantage to anyone, yet they are excessive in their speech. They have no piety or fear, and show great enthusiasm in consuming. The people of this world are not thankful for their prosperity, nor are they patient in distress. They praise themselves about that which they do not deserve, and speak often about that which they desire. They expose other people's shortcomings but conceal their positive attributes. And they are not modest to those they meet.[22]
Therefore, in developing criteria for an Islamic perspective on education, those who do not exhibit the attributes of a "seeker of knowledge," as defined in Imam Ali's hadith above, or who cannot discern knowledge from superfluity, as defined in the Prophetic hadith, are not likely to be considered as knowledgeable or well-educated people. Similarly, those who exhibit the attributes of "people of the dunya" can also be understood as having been mis-educated. In the first instance, the problem is the absence of manners, meaning, and relevance, and in the second it is the presence of selfish and destructive behavior. To those rooted in the worldview of Islam, there is a profound schizophrenia in the West, which promotes the highest forms of intellectual achievement side by side with the basest and most selfish forms of frivolity, inequity, and injustice. Forming a critique of Western education on this basis also contains within it suggestions for an alternative vision. Education in the Islamic context folds back over the Prophetic hadith above, in which three knowledges take precedence over others. If one follows this reasoning, it becomes clear that Islamic education, with the Prophet's definition of knowledge at its core, is about learning three kinds of relationships: between the human being and the Divine, between different groups of human beings, and between human beings and the universe (that is, the environment, or the rest of Allah's creation). This includes a formative and consistent emphasis on piety, ethics, humility, and responsibility, which are among the earmarks of a truly knowledgeable person. An education that neglects these kinds of knowledge, to the Muslim, is defective.

While the Islamic tradition also has many profound things to say about specific areas of inquiry, what we would call today "disciplinary knowledge," it first and foremost prescribes a method of inquiry. This helps explain the Muslim history of achievement in the worldly arts, like architecture, agriculture, astronomy, and medicine, to name a few, in that these intellectual traditions have not acted as barriers to pursuing wide-ranging studies in all sorts of areas. Rather, they have simply focused attention on what one might call pre-requisites, or co-requisites, for any other endeavors. The Islamic normative tradition encourages people to seek knowledge that will not obstruct justice, piety, and humility in the context of one's ongoing interconnected relationships with the Divine, other humans, and the universe. In order to understand the tensions and paradoxes of modern Muslim education, one must consider that upon the normative foundations of Islam--as embodied in the Qur'an, exemplified by way of Prophetic wisdom, and acted upon by generations of Muslims--all other associations and allegiances are constructed.

[1] For background on the hijab controversy, see the articles by Burton Bollag in the Chronicle of Higher Education, "A ban on Islamic head scarves unsettles Turkey's universities," vol. 44, no. 33, p. A59 (24 April 1998), and "Headscarf Ban Sparks Protests in Turkey," vol. 45, no. 10, p. A53 (30 October 1998). For a report on the new bill that will curtail religious education, see the Agence France Presse article, "Turkish Parliament Passes Controversial Education Bill," 16 August 1997, and for general background on recent government policies toward Muslims, see the article by Lori Montgomery, "Turkey toughens its stand on Islamic religious expression," in The Dallas Morning News, 9 August 1998, p. 37A. While my reading of the recent aspects of education as contested territory in modern Turkey is based in part on mainstream Western press reports, such as those cited above, I have also supplemented those perspectives by drawing upon a series of interviews I conducted in Summer 1998 with Turkish college students, school teachers, and journalists in Istanbul. Some of the material from those interviews appeared in my two articles for the Crescent International, "In Muslim Turkey, Battle Looms on Education Front," vol. 27, no. 13, pp. 8 and 10 (16-30 Sept. 1998), and "In Education, West Seems Best for Muslims," vol. 27, no. 14, pp. 5 and 10 (1-15 October 1998).
[2] The standard source for modern Turkish history is Bernard Lewis, The Emergence of Modern Turkey (London: Oxford University Press, 2nd Edition, 1968). But his account of the transformation of Turkey from late Ottoman times to the early 1960s seems too intertwined with celebrations of modernity and progress for my taste, so I have also made use of other sources, especially interviews with Turkish Muslim students, educators, and activists.
[3] See, for example, M. Amin Abdullah, The Idea of Universality of Ethical Norms in Ghazali and Kant (Ankara: Turkiye Diyanet Vakfi, 1992), and Haluk Nurbaki, Verses from the Glorious Koran and the Scientific Facts (Ankara: Turkiye Diyanet Vakfi, 1993). Both are published by the Kemalist government's "ministry of religion," and belong to a broader genre of 20th century modernist Muslim literature that scrutinizes Islam according to the norms of Western modernity, without giving any real consideration to the validity of reverse scrutiny.
[4] The South Africa information is based on interviews with participants in the national education discussions, which I conducted in Pretoria in Summer 1998 while working with the Muslim community on the possibility of setting up their own autonomous private schools outside the sway of modernist Christian and Jewish private schools. Incidentally, I've seen virtually the same tensions and paradoxes while working with American Muslim schools.
[5] Churchill's essay, "White Studies: The Intellectual Imperialism of U.S. Higher Education," appears in several places. See, for example, his collection of essays, Since Predator Came: Notes from the Struggle for American Indian Liberation (Littleton, Colorado: Aigis Publications, 1995).
[6] The views of General Groves on the compartmentalization of knowledge can be found in Stephen Hilgartner, Richard C. Bell, and Rory O'Connor, Nukespeak: The Selling of Nuclear Technology in America (New York: Penguin Books, 1983), pp. 22-26.
[7] It is important to remember that the Third World in this context suggests that there is a Third Way outside the usual materialistic dualities of Western modernity, and that this Third Way has potential for liberation from the normative system of Western civilization, its laws, economics, and politics alike. Toward this end, Frederique Abffel-Marglin provides some valuable insights, in The Spirit of Regeneration: Andean Culture Confronting Western Notions of Development (London: Zed Books, 1998). See also the work of Arturo Escobar, especially chapters 2, 3, and 6 in his Encountering Development: The Making and Unmaking of the Third World (Princeton University Press, 1995). The role of indigenous peoples in challenging Western normative modes of thought and action, especially in the realm of international law, is nicely detailed by Franke Wilmer, The Indigenous Voice in World Politics (Newbury Park, California: Sage Publications, 1993). Muslims have also begun to question the norms of Western modernity. See, for example, the two articles by Ghada Ramahi in the Crescent International, "Understanding the Ideology of Western Science," vol. 27, no. 14 (October 1-15, 1998), pp. 8 and 10, and "Leadership and Science in the Muslim Communities of the US," vol. 27, no. 20 (January 1-15, 1999), pp. 5 and 11.
[8] Part of the story on Quayle's handling of the crisis is in Bob Woodward, The Commanders (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1991), pp. 146-9, 150-3. However, the part about mobilizing university graduates comes from a 1992 National Public Radio interview with a Bush-Quayle campaign analyst, who noted the mobilization in his review of Quayle's achievements. Ghada Ramahi, a graduate student at SUNY Buffalo at the time, heard the interview and recalls it clearly, since it caused her to rethink her own role as a foreign national studying in an American university.
[9] For Qur'anic citations, I use the chapter-verse convention, with the number of the former and the latter separated by a colon, and for translations I use my own modified version of the edition by M.H. Shakir (Elmhurst, New York: Tahrike Tarsile Qur'an, Third US Edition, 1989).
[10] My assumption that Western civilization is based in large part upon Christianity is supported by several works: for Western science, see David F. Noble, A World Without Women: The Christian Clerical Culture of Western Science (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993); for Western law, see Robert A. Williams, Jr., The American Indian in Western Legal Thought: The Discourses of Conquest (New York: Oxford University Press, 1990); and for Western economic institutions, see Susan George and Fabrizio Sabelli, Faith and Credit: The World Bank's Secular Empire (Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, 1994).
[11] Muslims see the Qur'an as the word of Allah transmitted through the Prophet Muhammad, upon whom be peace. The second most relevant corpus of literature, kept strictly separate from the Qur'an, is what is known as the hadith literature (pr. hadeeth), which encompasses the sayings and deeds of the Prophet as recalled by his family and friends and transmitted orally for several generations before being written down. The earliest Muslim forms of what we might call epistemology and hermeneutics were dedicated to sifting and sorting the hadith literature. Even though hadith are written down, there has always been a strong tendency to transmit them as part of the oral tradition. The short hadith on seeking knowledge cited here are quite well known and commonly appear in many popular sources. The versions I used can be found, in their Arabic originals, in Muhammadi Ray Shahri, Mizan al-Hikmah, vol. 6, p. 463 (Qum, Iran: Maktab al-A'lam al-Islami, 1404 AH).
[12] This hadith is from a translation of Imam Khomeini's book, Forty Hadith, serialized in an Iranian academic journal. The relevant part, from which I drew the citation and upon which I base parts of my discussion of the hadith, is in "Forty Hadith: An Exposition (Part 25)," Al-Tawhid: A Quarterly Journal of Islamic Thought and Culture, vol. 9, no. 1, pp. 37-50.
[13] My reading and citation of Bacon is based on Carolyn Merchant, The Death of Nature: Women, Ecology, and the Scientific Revolution (New York: Harper Collins, 1983).
[14] R. C. Lewontin makes this point nicely in Biology as Ideology: The Doctrine of DNA (New York: Harper Collins, 1991).
[15] The statistics here are based on those used by the Media Foundation of Vancouver BC, as part of its "Buy Nothing Day" annual campaign (see the website at www.adbusters.org), and on the research of Mathis Wackernagel and William Rees, in Our Ecological Footprint: Reducing Human Impact on the Earth (Gabriola Island, British Columbia: New Society Press, 1996).
[16] The quotation is from the National Center on Education and the Economy website (www.ncee.org).
[17] "Mental" here is not limited to an individual understand of mind. Gregory Bateson's concept of mind and mental ecology is more useful in this context. See his Steps to an Ecology of Mind (New York: Ballantine Book, 1972) for an exposition. In working out some of these ideas, I have also found C.A. Bowers to be useful, especially Educating for an Ecologically Sustainable Culture: Rethinking Moral Education, Creativity, Intelligence, and Other Modern Orthodoxies (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1995).
[18] This is my translation, with the assistance of Ghada Ramahi, of the Arabic original as recorded in Ray Shahri, op.cit., p. 464.
[19] For background on this period, and for a well-balanced presentation on the sweep of Islamic history, see Marshall G.S. Hodgson, The Venture of Islam (University of Chicago Press, 1971).
[20] The Arabic original is in Ray Shahri, op. cit., p. 454.
[21] As cited in Khomeini, op. cit., pp. 46-7.
[22] My authority for this hadith is Shaykh Muhammad Kazem Sadiqi, resident scholar of the Islamic Guidance Center at the Brooklyn Mosque. He cited it in a lecture before Friday community prayers in October, 1998. At the time, I was in the midst of researching this article, attending his lectures over the course of several weeks, and had been asking him each week to provide me with written references for any hadith he cited. He always politely complied with the information I needed. However, this particular time, before I could ask him for the written reference, he noted in his lecture that, while Muslims can find hadith in books, a more lasting lesson could be learned by listening, reciting, memorizing, and teaching some of the hadith that are relevant to our lives, as was the way in the Islamic educational tradition, where thought is never separated from action, and in which orality can reside quite comfortably side by side with print-based literacy. I didn't ask the Shaykh for any references that week. Instead, I decided to reproduce the hadith from memory, and thought it apt to close my notes with this anecdote.

[This article was originally published in Multi/Intercultural Conversations: A Reader, edited by Shirley R. Steinberg (New York: Peter Lang, 2001). It was made possible in part by the Office of the Provost at Brooklyn College, which provided valuable release time from teaching during which I was able to complete this research and write it up. Parts of this article were published in different form in a series of essays on education that appeared in the international newsmagazine, Crescent International. Besides being thankful for feedback from its international readership, I am indebted to its editors at the time, Zafar Bangash and Iqbal Siddiqui, for encouraging this line of inquiry, and for arranging a trip to South Africa, where I was able to develop in public and private some of the ideas contained herein. While in South Africa, the Kalla family was instrumental in making sure I got to speak to parents, teachers, and school administrators. In Turkey, the students, teachers, and journalists I met in Istanbul helped me to grasp the complexities, tensions, and paradoxes of Turkish education. On a more recent trip to Istanbul, I found that the hijab controversy was ongoing but that young women had found a novel solution: wearing a wig over their hijab allowed them to hold jobs as schoolteachers. In the United States, the Imam Zaman Foundation, the Islamic Education Center, the Muslim Community School, and the Muslim Students Association (Persian Speaking Group) all graciously invited me to speak on various occasions, during which I had public opportunities to develop my thoughts on education. Hanan Ramahi of the Jenan School in Palestine inspired my incursions into Muslim education early on, and the late Joe L. Kincheloe encouraged me later on, especially my forays into Islamic thought as indigenous knowledge. Finally, throughout this research I relied on Barry Tala in more ways than I can say.]

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