Allah instructs us in the Qur’an to make du`a’ (supplication) for an increase in knowledge. We read and hear many examples of the benefits, virtue, and honor of seeking knowledge. Typically we envision those engaging in such a process to be struggling in a far off land, and sometimes that is the case. Far too seldom do we apply this to our children, who spend approximately six hours learning every day.
Our children face a variety of challenges in that process. In public schools the learning process is often done without any connection to an Islamic worldview, and many times promotes an atheistic one. We tend to think the remedy to that challenge is placing our children in private Islamic schools. Interestingly however, those schools often use the same textbooks for the majority of the school day and tack on an additional hour of Islamic Studies each day. This can create a dichotomy in the minds of our children whereby the perspective of most of the curriculum content may conflict with the Islamic one.
It may come as a surprise to hear, but to date, there is no complete Islamic curriculum in the English language. Dr. Bilal Philips recently told me that he has been working and pushing for this for fourteen years, yet very little has materialized. That is not to say that nothing has been done. Several complete Islamic Studies programs have been developed, and they are being used widely. Dr. Dawud Tauhidi—may Allah have mercy on him—made significant progress with the Tarbiyah Project. Dr. Nadeem Memon founded the Islamic Teacher Education Program in Canada. Those are just a few examples.
It might seem that the process of fixing the education problem is relatively simple: surely teachers in Islamic schools can simply adapt the content that runs counter to the Islamic worldview. This preventative method might work, however it places a great burden on teachers by requiring them to edit and adjust content on a daily basis. Another approach is to question the objective of education: why are we learning? One wisdom behind learning is that we have been created only to worship Allah, and that ought to be central to our learning process. In light of this, deleting troubling content from secular books will not achieve this aim. In order to do so, we need to rethink our approach.
One methodology, as developed by the Open Islamic Curriculum project, is to create a thematic curriculum that revolves entirely around Islam. No content is lost in the process; all the required subjects are taught within a framework of Islamic themes. The content is also integrated across subjects, such that the Islamic theme, for example Ramadan, continues to be reinforced throughout the school day and across all the subjects. Alhamdulilah (all praise and thanks belongs to God) the objective of that effort is to create materials that reinforce and build the Islamic worldview throughout the school day. And, to offer those materials freely in a modular way so that teachers can integrate whatever lessons, units, or subjects they need.
The Open Islamic Curriculum project launched a few months ago and needs your help. What we need is your time. If you have lessons you’ve developed, please share them. If you can create lessons, sign up to volunteer. If you want to get involved in raising awareness about the importance of Islamic Education, join the social media team. If you are from an IT background, help out with the website. Your ideas and time are welcome. We truly believe there is a great need to refine Islamic Education in our communities, and we also feel that this project will have immense benefits for students across the globe. Join us.