1- The Muslim ummah refers to the Islamic belief that all humans born after prophet Muhammad’s birth are considered from the ummah of Muhammad in general (ummat “Al dawa” or invitation), but those who choose to believe and follow him are the more specific ummat Al ijaaba (ummah of those who responded), who we would call Muslims today. Muslims believe in all the prophets (ie: Adam, Abraham, Jesus, Muhammad, etc.) in the sense that they all originally came with the same central message of Tawheed (worshipping only One God), but different branches/details (how to pray, etc.) contextual to their time/location; each prophet had their own “branches” for their particular ummah (the ummah of the Jews, of the Christians, etc.). Prophet Muhammad is believed to be the seal of the prophets from his time till judgment day for the entire world. Differences between the three monotheistic religions over even the central meaning of Tawheed today (the status of Jesus being more than a prophet, etc.) are believed to be due to tampering/alterations of the older scriptures by various theologians and others throughout history. For a fuller discussion, see Dr. Umar Ashqar’s Belief in Allah.
2- See Paulo Friere’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed (2003)
3- For the often underplayed details of U.S foreign policy see Howard Zinn’s People’s History of the World or William Blum’s Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower.
4- Some academics label the 18th and 19th centuries the traditional period of the Muslim world, thereby, dismissing much of pre-Western Enlightenment history as of negligible significance (Bray, 2007). (Noddings, 1984, p.74).
5- I am purposely using “academics” to refer to Western scholars affiliated with universities and academia to differentiate them from Islamic Studies scholars/theologians (university related or otherwise) in the Muslim world who will be referred to as ulamaa (sg: alim).
6- These ulamaa who tried to incorporate Greek philosophy into Islam as early as the 9th century, are known for placing their own reasoning over textual proofs. They include scholars such as Al-Ghazaali, Al-Razi, and Ibn Rushd; some of them took on W. philosophy as their own substitute belief system, such as Ibn Sina and Ibn Arabi. Ahl Al-Kalaam, philosophers, and Sufis are usually the few ulamaa deemed worthy of mention in Western academia) for obvious reasons (Halstead, 2004). Fazlur Rahman and others (Afsaruddin, 2005) go as far as to translate Mutakallimun (derivative of Ahl Al-Kalaam) and Kalaam as Muslim theologians and theology respectively, thereby delegitimizing all mainstream academic scholarship of Ahl Al-Sunnah over the last roughly 1400 years.
7- Muslims are encouraged to say “peace be upon him” at least once the first time they mention prophet Muhammad’s name in a gathering or paper, etc.
8- Modern Modernists include Egypt’s Syed Tantawi who considered building a gigantic wall on the Egyptian border to effectively imprison Palestinians in Gaza and cut off their aid supplies… a “religious obligation” (Suleiman, 2010).
9- The most common strategy of Westernizing Islam has been a conscious attempt, particularly over the last half century, to delegitimize the Sunnah of prophet Muhammad and his companions by various methods, like portraying it as a sort of cultural baggage left over from the pre-Islamic era. An example is seen in Hallaq’s The Origins and Evolution of Islamic Law. Hallaq ignores any reference to tens of early works on Hadeeth, Fiqh, and Rijaal to purportedly claim that a Qadi (lit: “judge” who rules by Qur’an and Sunnah) in early Islam did not have to know the Qur’an and Sunnah or that Qur’anic legislation ‘evolved’ since the prohibition/punishment on/for drinking alcohol was not applied to Tila’a (a Middle Eastern fruit drink)-which is not technically alcohol (khamr) according to Islamic jurisprudence (Nadwi, 2005).
10- Even Seyyed Hossein Nasr (a Sufi Modernist affiliate himself of IIIT, which is a mildly Modernist institution) notes, “the prejudices that have marred the study of Islam in the West since the time of Peter the Venerable, when the Qur’an was first rendered into Latin and even beforehand, must finally be overcome if in-depth
11- The a priori suppositions of the Modernistic lens are at least acknowledged in some of the work of academics such as Mohammad Akram Nadwi, Sherman Jackson, Talal Asad and Sabaa’ Mahmood. Mahmood praises how Asad for example highlights “how the
power of Western forms of knowledge lies not only in their ability to re-present social reality but also to intervene and remake non-Western traditions, practices, and institutions, [hoping to transform] what it means to live as a Muslim subject in the modern world” (Nyang, Ahmed, and Bukhari, 2009, p.11).
12- Nasr ironically notes, “in many of the major centers of Middle Eastern studies, everything is taught seriously except Islam itself. One sees often in such centers numerous courses on history, anthropology, languages, sociology, political science, and similar subjects pertaining to the Islamic world, but little in-depth study of Islam as the religion… There is no greater source of distortion than applying the secularist perspective of the past few centuries in the West to a religion and civilization where it does not apply.” (Nasr, 2009, pgs.19, 23).
13- Such political initiatives are highly motivated by modern attempts to spread Western culture in the Muslim world through various methods like increasing secularization of Muslim societies and advocating Western gender roles (Kincheloe and Steinberg,, 2004, pgs.44-47, 161-163). One author went so far as to twist the words (relying on an average reader’s ignorance of Arabic syntax and morphology) of 18th century Islamic revivalist Muhammad bin Abdul Wahhab to re-present some of his statements regarding the rights of women as supportive of current Western conceptions of female gender roles. Many references link to page numbers that don’t even exist in the original work (see Delong-bas’s Wahhabi Islam: From Revival to Reform, 2004)!
14- A common myth, which depends on absolute ignorance of the existence of Arabic resources to refer back to, but nonetheless is mind-numbingly recycled (either explicitly or implicitly by ignoring roughly 1400 years of Islamic scholarship that entails otherwise) is that these aforementioned sects were the most important in Islamic history and then somehow magically with the advent of Muslims like Abdul Wahhab in the 18th century and Sayyid Qutb in the 20th, Islam evolved “political/economic” aspects. In reality, Islam has always been practiced as a social way of life in the Muslim world up until colonization when most aspects were effectively secularized (see History of Islam by Akbar Shah Najeebabadi). The false notion that such revivers or reformers were bringing something new is simply because they tried to reincorporate such aspects during/after colonization, blasphemy to Western academia which believes that the world was created in the European Enlightenment.
15- By no means do I intend here that Islam is now, or was ever in the past, something with absolutely no variables. Islam, since the Qur’an’s first verses were revealed had variables like the different forms of recitation revealed to prophet Muhammad according to the different dialects spoken in Arabia at the time (Martin 34, 1985). Sharia, or Islamic Law- which is mostly a guideline for a set of objectives-only has certain constants that don’t change with time; Fiqh however, or Islamic jurisprudence, can vary depending on the context (it gives very specific commands/prohibitions, etc.) But, a macro level analysis of Islamic theology will reveal about 70% of jurisprudence issues are agreed upon (and minor issues like where to place one’s hands during prayer or whether hijab should include the face and hands or not are not pillars of Islam in the first place), because they are all due to slightly different understandings of the Qur’an and Sunnah based on proof, not mere opinion (see The Evolution of Fiqh by Abu Ameenah Bilal Philips). On the other hand, the Modernist movements’ attempts to “reform” Islam, attack fundamental principles and constants of the faith derived from the Qur’an and Sunnah that don’t change with time and are supported by about 1400 years of scholarship based on sciences which Modernists don’t even acknowledge. Without
16- The Qur’an is believed to be the literal speech of Allah which can not be literally translated due to its divine origin (something will always be lost in translation); hence, any translation is a human attempt to convey the meaning as closely as possible (Ibrahim, 1997, p. 54). This is why I, in agreement with mainstream Islamic scholarship, have referred to “translated” verses as “what means…” here, to highlight this issue, but will refrain from doing so the rest of the paper for space.
17- What it means to be “truthful” (sideeq) to Allah is a wide topic, but it can most simply be explained as steadfastness in being sincere to Allah in all one’s actions by consistently doing the most pleasing thing to Allah particular to a time and location (see Al-Afani’s Al-Ikhlaas: Ta’teer Al-anfaas min hadeethil Ikhlaas).
18- Masculine pronouns such as ‘him’ or ‘he’ used in revelation are the default gender used but applies to both men and women unless there is evidence to the contrary on the issue in the Qur’an or Sunnah.
19- Knowledge of the testimony of faith (or shahada) is 1 of the 7 conditions mentioned in the Qur'an needed for this shahada to be accepted, like absolute certainty in it, sincerity to it in 1's actions, being truthful to it, love, meaning not loving any of creation more than Allah and his messenger, full submission, and complete acceptance of every part of the religion as it was revealed (Al-Jabiri, 1995).
20- Tafsir (exegesis) ulamaa are essentially the companions of prophet Muhammad (since they had the Qur’an directly taught to them from prophet Muhammad), so all later Tafsir Ulamaa essentially did was to use their narrations as a basis and expound upon them in regard to whatever aspect of Tafsir they were elaborating on in their work (ie: grammatical, historical, derivation of laws, etc.).
21- See Al Wajiz fi Sharh Al Qawaid Al Fiqhiyah by Abdul Karim Zaidan for a concise summary of the principles of Islamic jurisprudence (Usool Al-Fiqh).
22- Interestingly however, there were many books on how to “seek knowledge” in treatises often called something to the effect of “The Book of Knowledge”(Zaid, p.75).
23- Although excellent in medicine and other empirical sciences, his writings, which challenged the Qur’an and claimed it had to be verified with reason (like some of his counterparts, Al-Farabi, Al-Arabi,etc.) have caused some ulamaa to declare such philosophers outside the fold of Islam. It is ironic that many of the ulamaa acknowledged and celebrated in the West were not technically considered Muslim in much of the Muslim world (Halstead, 2004, p. 518).
24- Women had a tremendous role as ulamaa in Islamic history, but within the guidelines of Islamic gender roles and appropriate conduct between the sexes (segregation, etc.) (Nadwi, 2007), contrary to the revisionist history of “Modern women” imposed by some Western academics (Afsaruddin, 2005, pgs.164-165). Nadwi’s work is actually just the preface to an Arabic 40 volume biographical dictionary of women ulamaa).
25- Plus the Qur’an uses classical Arabic vocabulary, syntax, and morphology, different from those of Modern Standard Arabic (MSA), which are needed to grasp the deeper meanings of Qur’an…which are rarely taught outside of Arabic Studies departments these days.
26- For the effects of this in Egypt see Civil Society Exposed: The Politics of NGOs in Egypt (Abdelrahman, 2004, pgs. 17, 85, 102-107).
27- Allah explains many times in the Qur’an, that from His wisdom is that He created everything in pairs-male/female, day/night, good/bad, etc. For example as will be seen in chapter Iqraa’, if humans, even the pious, begin to feel selfsufficient, then they will transgress the bounds, oppressing themselves and others.
28- creatures made from a gaseous substance, from the Ghayb; the species that Satan comes from, but they can choose obedience or disobedience like humans.
29- The Qur’an describes the stages of the embryonic process in certain places (like 23:12-14) which describes how the embryo matures from a nutfa (drop of semen) to the described alaqah stage above to the mudghah (“chewed substance” appearance referring to the somites at the back of the embryo (when it becomes like
30- Before revelation there was no formal form of prayer revealed yet for the Muslim ummah so prophet Muhammad would seclude himself in the cave to meditate about the greatness of Allah (Al-Ashqar, 1985, pgs.814-815).
31- The Qur’an mentions that one of the wisdoms behind choosing an unlettered prophet for the revelation was so no one could accuse him of writing it himself (Qarnee, 2000, p. 115). In fact if he were to write it himself, it wouldn’t be in his interest to write a verse saying that God teaches with the pen since it was common knowledge among prophet Muhammad’s tribe that he was illiterate (Al-Ashqar, 1985, pgs.814-815).
32- Deen is the closet word to “religion” in the Qur’an. With secularism in the Arab world, the word has also taken on the meaning of “religion” in Modern Standard Arabic.
33- They cite how children are overconfident about themselves from the ages of 4-7, when key characteristics of classroom environment are flexible grouping, evaluation through skill mastery on report cards not grades, work is displayed, small group instruction,
differentiated tasks, and mistakes are valued. All of this disappears as they grow, and so does motivation.
34- Not praying the 5 daily prayers is disbelief in Islam, hence the more severe tone; there is some difference of opinion among theologians if one is considered a disbeliever by abandoning them in general or out of laziness while still believing in their obligatory nature (Ibn Rajab, 2007).
35- Ibn Sina has highly stressed the importance of students having good company in their learning experiences as well (Gunther, 2006, p.380).
36- As a side note, the ulamaa have commented how this hadeeth shows the desirability of creating opportunities for students to experience live dialogues (through for example guest speakers), the importance of an educator maintaining a pleasing appearance,(similar to how Jibreel came in this hadeeth), the close proximity in which the learning took place between Jibreel and the prophet, and how a group of students (the companions) should be as a family who miss each other upon each others’ absence and stay abreast of each others’ affairs (Ibn Rajab, 2007, p. 41-69).
37- For an interesting glimpse at how the concept of Ihsaan would work in developing grassroots educational initiatives through what Iqbal Quadir would describe as a “network effect” (of the people, by the people and for the people) (Quadir, 2005), see the story of Dhul Qarnain in the Qur’an, a powerful righteous ruler who historically ruled most of the earth and his assistance of the weak in giving them greater than what they needed, but making them assist in the effort themselves (Qur’an, 18:83-98; Ibn Kathir, vol. 6, 2000, pgs. 203-209). People maintain what they work and sweat to accomplish.
Mohammed Sabrin is 25 years old at the age of this work. He was born in Cairo, Egypt to Egyptian parents and has lived in the U.S since about the age of six. He completed his undergraduate education at The University of Delaware majoring in English with a concentration in Ethnic and Cultural Studies. It is during this time that he developed his deeper interest in education and how it relates to social change due to his experience with postcolonial literature. He is now completing his Master’s in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies with a focus of Socio-cultural International Development Education Studies (SIDES) at Florida State University. He hopes to continue his graduate studies during his PhD focusing on the empirical side of pedagogy with an intent to be an Education professor in Egypt. He also aims to develop Early Childhood Education institutions corresponding with his immediate interest of improving the quality of ECE in Egypt. His professional teaching experience includes working with various underprivileged Latin American and African-American communities’ academic enrichment programs in the U.S. and being a Graduate Assistant for the SIDES program at Florida State University. He is a stern believer in holistic education that transforms individuals and offers pragmatic solutions to societal dilemmas.
And Allah Is The Most High And Knows Best.