In order to develop society culturally, educationists today are on a mission to change the rigid mindset that rejects anything that is foreign and refuses to adopt a moderate Islamic approach toward a progressive society.
Qassim University recently announced that it will redraft its Islamic studies curriculum to emphasize the moderate tone of Islam and ensure ethical, intellectual and religious balance. The curriculum will include courses to build character, develop critical thinking and improve intellectual skills. Producing graduates with well-rounded personalities who are well versed in Islamic studies can offer solutions from an Islamic point of view to help young people deal with modern-day issues and confront the challenges facing the Kingdom today.
Qassim University Prof. Abdulrahman Al-Dawid said that Saudi students need proper guidance and education that are in sync with their generation and time. The main objective of the redrafting project is to provide the youth with intellectual immunity against intrusive and radical ideologies that stand against the values of Saudi society and its Islamic principles. The university will consult all people who are qualified to contribute to the project, Al-Dawid said.
In line with Saudi Vision 2030 and addressing the alarming threat of terrorism, seeking academic cooperation with reputable academic institutions is critical to promote a high standard of education that can counter the intolerance that has led to extremism, violence and conflict.
Many young Muslims have become disappointed at the hardline position of Islamic scholars who have failed to provide guidance to the troubled Muslim world. The Qassim University initiative can promote moderate scholars trained in Islamic law to develop a more tolerant curriculum introducing interpretations focusing on spirituality rather than religiosity.
Unfortunately, our academic institutions in the past did not monitor militant literature and did not teach the concept of moderation in Islam and did not emphasize the importance of respecting all human beings regardless of their religion or race.
As a result, the distorted interpretations of Islamic texts allowed fanaticism to spread. Meanwhile, many members of our society remained passive and did little to stop the extremists that have gained influence in almost every academic institution.
The Qassim University academic project can include global thinkers and scholars to work on building bridges of understanding to promote global coexistence and influence positive change in the region and the Muslim world at large. Revamping academic structure and reassessing strategies are necessary steps to promote quality, efficiency and the internationalization of the educational system.
The development of an advanced Islamic studies curricula can be achieved with more focus on key core skills, nurturing spiritual values and by strengthening the role of moderate teachers of Islamic studies who focus more on the Holy Qur’an’s emphasis on the ethics of redressing injustice in economic and social life. Muslims are urged to spend of their wealth and substance on family, orphans and the needy. The Qur’anic revelation is based on a clear distinction between right and wrong.
The basis of the divine command is establishing a moral order through human endeavor.
Students need to understand the divine message of Prophet Muhammad, which is a mercy for humankind, and learn about the teachings of good behavior and compassion. Prophet Muhammad was the living example of what a Muslim should be. He preached the values of justice and peace, to wish for others what you wish for yourself, and not to do harm to others. The Islamic studies curriculum should instill in students the idea of using the example of the prophets to tackle the religious turmoil we are witnessing in the region.
The threatening events that unfolded after 9/11, mainly the spread of extremism and terrorism, the sectarian divide, Islamophobia and the chaos and wars surrounding the Kingdom, have tested Saudi Arabia’s resolve as a stabilizing factor in Middle Eastern politics. Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman stated during his recent visit to Malaysia that campaigns against Islam were aimed at undermining its moderation and tolerance, stressing the importance of introducing the approach of Islam, which calls for tolerance, moderation and combating extremism and terrorism in all its forms.
The new curricula should promote research and serious discussion. It remains imperative that Muslims enhance the quality of Islamic education to produce more leaders who can be effective in fighting sectarianism, and the distorted ideology of ISIS and other terrorist organizations that use religion to gain power and control.
Academic institutions today have a responsibility to produce scholars who combine sound religious learning, practical knowledge of the contemporary world and high linguistic proficiency that will enable them to communicate Islam’s teachings to all Muslims and the rest of the world
The Qassim University project to redraft its Islamic studies curriculum is a significant development that needs professional academic support to provide quality Islamic studies education. The initiative has the potential to encourage our youth to live a fruitful and successful contemporary life while embodying their religion’s core spiritual teachings.
This article was first published in the Saudi Gazette on April 9, 2017.
Samar Fatany is a Chief Broadcaster in the English section at Jeddah Broadcasting Station. Over the past 28 years, she has introduced many news, cultural, and religious programs and has conducted several interviews with official delegations and prominent political personalities visiting the kingdom. Fatany has made significant contributions in the fields of public relations and social awareness in Saudi Arabia and has been involved in activities aiming at fighting extremism and enhancing women’s role in serving society. She has published three books: “Saudi Perceptions & Western Misconceptions,” “Saudi Women towards a new era” and “Saudi Challenges & Reforms.”