Main Pillars of the Islamic Code of Education

The Islamic Message is composed of several parts which are interrelated, complimentary to each other and in perfect harmony. These parts are the covering concepts, legislations and directives.

In Islamic doctrine, concept is inseparable from legislative texts, ethical values or worldly ideas and thoughts. It is composed of all above-mentioned elements which are gathered and operate in fine harmony.

Therefore, our subject Education In Islam' is interrelated with the Islamic view of man, universe and life. Furthermore, it covers human conducts, standards and goals. This is the starting point of exploring the fundamental sources of Islamic knowledge and concepts, where the main pillars and milestones of the Islamic education code and its policy for human upbringing are defined. When it is preceded with such a study exercise it would lead to the following deductions:

  1. Islamic education code recognizes the fact that people possess pure natural instincts, and have equal response to good and evil. This reality is revealed in the following verse of the holy Qur'an:

"By the soul, and that which shaped it and inspired it to understand sin and piety. (Indeed) successful is he who keeps it pure and ruined is he who corrupts it."

Holy Qur'an (91:7-10) "So set thy face to the true religion, the nature made by Allah in which He has made mankind; there is no altering of Allah's creation; that is the right religion; but most people know it not." Holy Qur'an (30:30)

A tradition from the Prophet (s.a.w.) says:

"Babies are born with their natural instincts, it is the parents who turn them Fire-worshipers, Jews and Christians. [ 8 ]

Imam Ali (a.s.) says in this regard:

"Certainly the heart of a youngster is similar to an empty land it accepts (makes grow) whatever is strewn on it."1 2. Environment and genes factors have positive and negative effects on people's personalities and life, Allah, the Highest says:

"And Even so We did not send any Warner into a township but those who led easy lives in it said: Indeed we found our fathers upon a course, and we are following upon their footprints. " Holy Qur'an (43:23)

The Prophet (s.a.w.) pointing out the role of genes in the formation of human characters said: "Be careful when choosing a wife, for (maternal) uncles have bearing on babies' chararteristics."2 He also said:

"Offer for marriage those who are equivalent, get married of them, and be selective when choosing a marriage partner."3

  1. Basic motives and instincts exist within all people, but have different magnitudes with respect to strength or weakness. Hence, it is acknowledged that people possess various potentialities such as intelligence, noble characters etc.... Islam takes this fact into consideration in its education process and observes this reality when shouldering people with responsibilities and duties.

(1) Nakijul-Balagha-Imam All's (as.), letter No. 31. (2) al-Kulaini, al-Kafi. Vol. 5. Chapt. 3, p. 332. (3) al-Kulaini. al-Kaft. Vol. 5. Chapt. 3. p. 332.

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  1. Since every human being possesses the will and choice of selection, he or she would be held responsible for his! Her actions. They would be accounted for their deeds and would receive relevant reward or punishment in the Hereafter, any person is able to correct his! Her stands, triumph over carnal desires and overcome adverse conditions, although, he! She would be free to indulge in evil doings and go astray.

"and pointed out to him the two conspicious ways" Holy Qur'an (90:10)

"Nay, man is evidence against himself, even though he puts, forth his excuses." Holy Qur'an (75:14, 15)

Imam as-Sadiq says in this regard:

"No compulsion or (complete) freedom, it is a middle point (for man) between these two extremes" 1 5. Education is a process of refining human character and building a pleasing personality that would help enhance good motives and uproot or curb negative manifestations. Knowledge is a guiding light in life to do constructive work and in turn educate others, while seeking knowledge solely for the purpose of its possession is not encouraged by Islam. Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s.) says:

"Knowledge is akin to practice, whoever learns would work and whoever works gets learned; Knowledge calls for work, otherwise it goes away." 2

  1. Furnishing a model practical code of Islamic values and ethics is an important part of constructive Islamic education. Such an example would provide the society with a visual portrait, add dynamism to thoughts and concepts, induce people to be keen adherents, and encourage the mixing of principles with concepts.

(I) al-Kulaini, al-Kafi. Vol. 1. Chapt. 3, p. 160. from lmam Sadiq (as.) (2) aI-Kulaini. al-Kafi. Vol. I. Chapt. 3, p.44

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"Certainly you have in Allah's Apostle an excellent examplar…" Holy Qur'an (33:21)

"These are they whom Allah has guided; so follow their guidance." Holy Qur'an (6:90)

  1. Learning lessons from other people's mistakes: Allah, the Highest says:

"Have they not journeyed in the land and seen how was the end of those before them?" Holy Qur'an (12:109)

"Have they not journeyed in the land and seen how was the end of those before them? They were stronger than these in might and they dug up the earth and built upon it more than these have built and there came to them their apostles with clear signs; and (surely) Allah never wronged them, but they wronged themselves." Holy Qur'an (30:9)

Imam Au (a.s.) says in this regard to one of his sons:

"So, I hastened to mould you properly before your heart hardened up and your mind became preoccupied, so that you might be ready to accept through your intelligence the result of the experience of others and be saved from going through these (bitter) experiences yourself Now you can very easily make use of all the knowledge which men have to acquire with great care, trouble and patience. Things which were hidden from them and which any experiments, experiences and sufferings could bring to light are now made very conveniently and easily available to you (through these advices)."1

  1. Education is generally a personal and social responsibility:

"0 you who believe guard yourselves and your families against a fire whose fuel is people and stones..." Holy Qur'an (66:6)

(1) Nahjul-Balagha: Letter 31, Imam Au's (a.s.) advice to one of his Sons (Muhammad Hanafiya)

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"And from among you there should be a party who invite to good and enjoin what is right and forbid the wrong and these it is that shall be successful." Holy Qur'an (3-104)

The above mentioned are thus the most important pillars of the Islamic education structure, from which planning and codes are inspired.

Goals Of Islamic Education

Islamic education aims at developing people's talents and inspiring lofty ethical values in them. These goals are the main foundation on which Islamic civilization, society and people's personalities are built. Therefore, a constructive educational system and realizing it through parents, teachers, schools, state, social reformers etc. is of paramount importance in Islam. These goals can be summarized as follows:

  1. Making people discover their innate talents, so that they would evaluate themselves, the universe and society in which they are living. Hence, people would be conscious of their duties, rights, meaning of existence and their relation to life and the universe.

  2. Making people conscious of the Creator on a basis of rational understanding, so that healthy relationships would flower, helping to build believers' personalities and induce in them a correct vision of life and the Hereafter.

  3. Implanting in people a harmonious relationship with the universe and strengthening human ties by developing aesthetic tastes. This would breed the ability to differentiate between good and evil concepts, so that the required effect, with respect to consciousness, behaviour and positive stands, is achieved.

  4. Creating a systematic Islamic thinking which leads people to conform in every thought and deed, according to the Islamic code.

  5. Building a balanced personality possessing within its domain material, spiritual and conceptual elements on a harmonial basis.

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  1. Developing all human resources in order to be employed for the betterment of mankind.

  2. Guiding people to scientific methods of thinking, learning and knowledge acquisition. Children and youth should be aided and encouraged to acquire knowledge, expertise and specialization in various fields.

  3. Mobilizing people to participate in building Islamic society and life, and provide them the chance of living in the shade of an Islamic system.

  4. History of Muslim Ummah should be properly scrutinized, written in a clear sincere style, freed of any political motives in order to make known to the new generations, their exalted heritage. This would instill in them good examples, self-respect and correct appreciation of our grand culture.

  5. Grooming children and youth and training them to take a lead in various social activities in order to master specialized roles. Such talents should be invested in calling people to the message of Allah, the message of virtue and peace. 11. Developing fraternity and brotherhood among Muslims and stressing on sincerity in belief, community and the Islamic Urnmah in large.

These are the most outstanding goals of a scientific Islamic education. Several institutions and parties participate, each according to their ability and responsibility, to achieve the set aims.

Islam's Concern For Education

All heavenly messages have placed a special emphasis on people's education in order to properly develop their natural instincts and bestow on them happiness in this world and the Hereafter. Islam is the final and greatest of all divine messages. Hence, its profound interest in the upbringing of mankind.

"0' You who believe guard yourselves and your families against afire whose fuel is men and stones, and over which are angels stern and strong who disobey not Allah in what He commands them and do what they are commanded." Holy Qur'an (66:6)

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In the above mentioned verse, Allah, the Glorious, commands believers to properly educate themselves and their families, so that there would be virtuous people and families which constitute the Islamic society.

Naturally believers had responded and continue to respond and are profoundly influenced by that call. It is narrated that Imam as-Sadiq (a.s.) once said:

"When this verse 0 you who believe guard yourselves and your families against a Fire.... was revealed, one of the believers sat weeping and said, I was unable to cope with myself, and now I have been burdened with my family.' " The Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.) replied:

"Command your family by whatever commands you follow and withhold from your family whatever you withhold from yourselves."1 It is narrated that Imam Ali (a.s.) when explaining the meaning of this verse, said: "Teach yourselves and your families virtue and good conduct". 2

There are many traditions and directives which reveal Islam's concern with the upbringing of children. "Once a man came to the Prophet (s.a. w.) and said: "0

Messenger of Allah, what is my duty toward my son. He replied, "Give him a fine name, good education and put him in a suitable place."3

It is also narrated from the Prophet (s.a.w.)

"Train your children in swimming and sharp-shooting"4

Imam Au (a.s.) gave one of his sons (Muhammad al-Hanafiya) some valuable educational directives. These gems of advice are indeed guiding lights for all Muslims in every age and era in bringing-up their children.

(I) Muhammad Husairi Tabatabaai. Tafsir a!-Mizan, Sura Tahrim. (2) Muhammad Husairi Tabatabaai. Tafsir a~-Mizan. Sura Tahrim. (3) al-Kulaini. aI-Kafi, Vol. 6. p. 48. (1)aI-Kulaini, al-Kaft. Vol. 6. p. 47.

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Following we quote some parts of his lengthy advice, preserved in Nahjul-Balagha:

"0 my son, when I noticed that I was getting old and when I felt (bodily) weakness gradually creeping over me, I hastened to advice you lest death overtakes me before I divulged to you what I have in my heart, or lest weakness finds its way to my mind as was the case with my body, or you fall a prey to inordinate desires and worldly deceits, which may make you stubborn and untrained.

Certainly the heart of a youngster is similar to an empty land, it accepts whatever is strewn on it. So I hastened to mould you properly before your heart hardened up and your mind became preoccupied, so that you might be ready to accept through your intelligence the result of the experience of others and be saved from these (bitter) experiences yourself Now you can very easily make use of all the knowledge which men have to acquire with great care, trouble and patience.

Things which were hidden from them and which any experiments, experiences and sufferings could bring to light are now made very conveniently and easily available to you (through these advices)."

"0' my son, even though I have not reached the age which those before me have, yet I carefully looked into their deeds and contemplated over events of their lives. I walked among their relics and ruins till I was as one of them. I felt as if I have lived with them from the first to the last one. Therefore I know what brought them good and what brought harm to them. Hence (in these pages) 1 have selected for you from every subject its essence, the choicest, and kept away from you their useless points.

Being a kind father I took care to educate you and develop a noble character at an early age when you are entering a new stage of the world, possessing upright intention and clean heart. I should begin teaching you the Book of Allah (to whom belongs Might and Majesty) and its interpretation, the laws of Islam and its commands, the lawful matters and the unlawful matters (mentioned) in it."1

Imam Ali Zain-ul-Abideen (a.s.) the fourth infallible Imam of the Prophet's Household says in one of his supplications:

(1) Nahjul-Balagha. Letter No. 31. "0 Lord bestow upon me safety of my children, reform their conduct for my sake, and please me with their company. 0 Lord prolong their age for me, increase periods of their destiny, bring up the young

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ones, strengthen the weak among them and endow them with health, faith and manners. Protect them, their souls, bodies, senses and every matter of your concern and their interest."1

It is evident from the above statements that Islam has given great care and attention to children's education. A child's education in Islam starts even before its birth. It begins with parental ties and continues along with the embyro in the mother's womb and when the baby is born it gradually assumes practical shape, progressing through the stages of childhood, youth, adolescence and finally maturity. It is the most perfect education process ever, not found in any other system, school of thought and religion. Islam endeavors to bring up normal children in a healthy atmosphere and gives comprehensive supervision at all stages of their development.

Family psychological atmosphere is given due attention in order to create welcoming feelings for new babies and implant loving ties among family members. Children are encouraged to love and respect their parents while parents are incited to bear children and take responsibility for their upbringing.

A narration from the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.) says:

"One of the blessings for a man is to have a virtuous"2

It is also narrated from Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s.) that:

"Girls are good deeds while boys are grace to their parents, good deeds deserve reward from Allah while grace requires thanks to Him."3

The eighth infallible Imam of the Prophet's Household, Imam Au bin Musa al-Ridha (a.s.) says in this regard: "Blessed is he who sees his heir before passing"4

(1) Sahifa-as-Sajjadiya: Supplication No. 25. (2) al-Kulaini, a!-Kafi, Vol. 6. p. 3. (3) al-Kulaini, al-Kafi, Vol. 6. p. 6. (4) al-Kulaini. al-Kafi. Vol. 6. p. 3.

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Imam Muhammad al-Baqir (a.s.) the fifth Imam says:

"If you intend to bear a baby, then say when you cohabit with your wife; 0 Allah, endow me with a pious child without any extra parts or defects in his! her creation and endow him/ her a good destiny."1

Abu-Basir has narrated that Imam al-Baqir (a.s.) once asked:

"If any of you intend to get marry, do you know what to do?! replied in the negative. Then he said: when you are getting married pray two Rak'ah, then praise Allah, the Almighty, the Glorious and say; 0 Allah, I want to get married, let my choice be the chastiest of women, who safeguards herself and my wealth, be fortunate in life, and bears me a good child who would be my heir in my life and after death."2

Therefore in light of the above traditions children's education in Islam depends on the following:-

  1. Virtuous mothers and nurses should be the base, because they are the first source of inspiration and have a profound influence on children.

  2. Children should have good psychological set up when they grow up in a healthy family atmosphere, full of love, affection, warmth and kindness.

  3. Children's welfare with respect to their psychology, material needs, belief, conduct should be properly taken care of, all along their development till they reach maturity.

There are several traditions from the Prophet which provide guidance to Muslims on how to educate and bring up their children, taking proper care of all their aspects whether material, intellectual, psychological or behavioral.

What a wonderful code of education Islam has! In Islam education practically starts at childbirth when the Adhan (prayer call) and Iqamah are pronounced in the right and left ears respectively of the newborn.

(1) al-Kulaini. al-Kafi, Vol. 6, p. 10. (2) al-Kulaini. al-Kafi. Vol. 5. p. 501.

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The first words a child's ears receive in this world are of Tawheed (Monotheism), thus making its ties stronger with the Creator. The Messenger of Allah himself performed the above-mentioned act when his grandsons Hasan and Husain, were born to his daughter, Fatimah (a.s.). The Prophet's example is followed to this day by Muslims all over the world. Books of Tradition record the Prophet's statement as follows:

"He to whom a child is born should call adhan in the (newborn's) right ear and Iqamah in the left ear for it is an insurance against the (temptations) of Satan." 1

The moral and spiritual side of children's education is then given due attention, helping them to develop their personalities, acquire self-respect and pay heed to their values. A good name also has a soothing effect on a child's budding personality. It is for this reason the Prophet encouraged Muslims to choose the best names for their babies.

It is narrated that a man once approached the Prophet (s.a.w.) and said:

"0 Messenger of Allah, what is my duty toward my son. He (s.a. w.) replied:

"Give him/her a fine name, good education and put him/ her in a suitable place."2

Furthermore, mothers are encouraged to nurse their babies and give suckle. Today science has proved that mothers' milk is the most suitable food for infants which prevents disease from them and keeps them in good health.

What science is finally beginning to acknowledge was testified 1400 years ago by Imam Ali (a.s.). He says:

"Mothers' milk is the safest and of greatest value for sucklings."3

Islamic teachings caution against entrusting children to the care of sick and ill-mannered wet nurses, as a measure for protecting children from contacting bad habits. The Messenger of Allah said:

(1) al-Kulaini, al-Kafl, Vol. 5, p. 24. (2) al-Kulaini. al-Kafi, Vol. 5, p. 48. (3) al-Kulaini, al-Kafi, Vol. 5, p. 40.

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"Do not entrust your child to a stupid wet-nurse, for milk is infectious. Children tend to become imbalanced and foolish because of stupid nurses."1

Imam All (a.s.) said:

"Look who nurses your children, for their milk would influence children's personalities."2

Education continues with children as they progress from childhood to adolescence. Imam Jaf'ar as-Sadiq (a.s.) says:

"Let your child play till he is seven years, teach him for the next seven years, and closely supervise him for another seven years; He would either be successful or leave him to his fate."3

Then he added:

"Converse with your children on Islamic subjects, otherwise deviated ideas may find ways to their minds."4

Islam lays stress on psychological training, where it induces feelings of security, love and affection toward children, so that they would not fall prey to hatred and embitterment. For this reason, the Prophet said: "Whoever kisses his child, Allah will write for him a good deed; whoever pleases his child, Allah will please him on the Day of Resurrection; and those who teach their child Qur'an, Allah will dress the parents (in the Hereafter) in suits, whose brightness will light the faces of people in Heaven."

He further said:

"Love children and be kind to them, fulfill promise to them; as they consider you to be their sustainer."5

(1) al-Kulaini. al-Kafi. Vol. 5. p. 43. (2) al-Kulaini, al-Kafi. Vol. 5. p. 44. (3) al-Tabarasi, Makarim al-Akhlaq, p. 222. (4) al-Tabarasi. Makarim al-Akhlaq, p. 46. (5) al-Kulaini, al-Kafi, Vol. 49.

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A saving from Imam as-Sadiq (a.s.) runs:

"Allah grant great mercy for a father who dearly loves his child." 1 Thus it is the parents who shoulder responsibility for their children's Islamic education. Any neglect on their part in performing this duty which may lead to children's deviation and going astray, is considered a breach of parental duties.