October 7th, 2015

A stronger basis for lifelong education

RECENTLY, the Ministry of Higher Education launched Lifelong Islamic Education with two-pronged objectives: to offer continuous Islamic education to all levels of society, especially for those who miss the opportunity to learn it throughout their academic life, and secondly, to provide complementary professional skills, especially to students in religious studies who are labelled as those who are embroiled only with religious studies.

This will also help them in getting better employment.

With these two main objectives, the lifelong learning initiative will hopefully produce better and more quality human capital in this country.

This initiative to enhance lifelong education in Malaysia should be lau­­ded despite its rather late beginning.

For, lifelong learning is not something new to modern education.

Since the 1970s it has become a term which is popular in developed countries, referring to the additional system which complements formal education.

It is defined as the ongoing, voluntary, and self-motivated pursuit of knowledge for either personal or professional reasons.

The lifelong education system not only enhances social inclusion, act­ive citizenship and personal dev­e­­­lopment, but also self-sustainability.

Although there are formal types of education that are involved in the lifelong learning process, the real focus of lifelong learning is more on another two categories of education: informal and non-formal learning.

Informal learning refers to learning through experience with no formal curriculum and credited subject. Parents teaching their children can be an example of informal learning.

Non-formal learning refers to organised learning, but not guided by formal curriculum such as seminars and workshops.

Despite its pertinent significance, the focus of lifelong education in general is still predominantly related to a market-driven objective, namely to enhance employability among citizens.

Without denying this practical objective, it however has a few weaknesses.

First, it will not attract those who already have good employment since they are already complacent with their working environment.

Second, as a consequence of the first, the kinds of knowledge which will be sought in lifelong learning will only be related to the needs of the job market.

On the other hand, knowledge which is not directly related to the market yet is important in producing good human capital, such as rel­­i­­gious and ethical studies, will not become the concern in lifelong education.

Taking that into account, it is important to find a stronger basis and to ground lifelong learning on a more universal justification in order for it to be really successful in its implementation.

And these justifications can be found on philosophical and religious grounds.

Philosophically, knowledge and education are very close to the nature of human beings.

This is due to the fact that human beings are endowed with reason, that enables them to think and contemplate many things, thus generating new knowledge.

In his definition of man, the great Greek thinker Aristotle pointed out that human beings are essentially rational animals.

They are distinguished from other creations due to their ability to think and generate knowledge.

René Descartes, the renowned French philosopher, put it in a different way through his famous saying, “I think therefore I am.”

Thinking and knowledge, in other words, are the raison d’etre of human beings.

Based on this essential relation between knowledge and human beings, knowledge is therefore considered in the philosophical as well as religious tradition as a great virtue that will elevate its possessor.

It is the light, as asserted by Imam al-Shafie, that will enlighten one’s heart and soul.

It is placed high in human value system and worldview.

Consequently, knowledge must therefore be sought not because it is merely a means to an end but an end by itself.

Imam Al-Ghazali in his Ihya ‘Ulum al-Din gives a good example concerning the nature of knowledge.

According to him, things which are sought by people in this world are of three categories.

First, what is sought as a means to an end such as money.

Second, what is sought for its own intrinsic value such as happiness, and third, what is sought because it can both be a means to an end and also because of its own intrinsic value such as physical health.

Knowledge, according to al-Ghazali, falls into the third category, namely it can be sought as a means to acquire other ends such as wealth and position, yet it also has its own intrinsic value which is its virtuous and enlightening attribute.

To relate al-Ghazali’s point with lifelong education and learning, it is only when knowledge is regarded and seen from the perspective of its own intrinsic value that it will continuously be sought regardless of its worldly and material ends.

This is in line with the virtuous nature of knowledge that will elevate one’s position.

Even if knowledge were to be sought as a means to an end, that end must be more universal, higher and eternal such as happiness and the blessing of God.

This is in line with the Quranic appreciation of knowledge and its possessor.

In Surah al-Mujadalah (58:11), the Quran says, “Allah will raise the position of the believers and of those who received knowledge.”

And in Surah al-Zumar (39:9), “Say, ‘are those who know equal to those who do not know?’ Only the people of reason will take heed.”

Only with these stronger bases, knowledge and education will be approached with a more continuous and lasting spirit.

This is reflected in the history of great civilisations in the past where knowledge is sought not only for its temporary and pragmatic aims but more importantly due to its higher virtuous nature.

And only with this spirit, knowledge will advance wisdom and civilisation. Dr Mohd Farid Mohd Shahran The STAR Home Opinion Columnist IKIM Views 6 October 2015

The knowledge imperative

Learning is worship, reading the Quran and pondering upon it is worship, and travelling to seek knowledge is worship.

ONE of the highlights of Ramadan for Muslims is the commemoration of Nuzul Quran, which means the phenomenon of the Descendence or Revelation of the Quran to the Prophet Muhammad.

To understand the commemoration of knowledge as a critical imperative for the believer, look at the meaning of the term “Quran” itself.

The word Quran comes from the root qaraa, which means “to read/recite”.

Although it is regarded as the guide par excellence for Muslims not to be lost and ignorant, the question that is begging to be asked is to what extent/degree is it read, and read with understanding?

Besides being the mother of books (Ummul Kitab), the Quran is also ayah (signs), sent down (tanzil) at intervals.

It is hikmah/wisdom, discernment of truth and falsehood, huda/guide anddhikr/remembrance.

To illustrate its divine origin, the revelation occurred to the Prophet who was ummi(illiterate).

Recitation of the Quran is like a signature ibadah (worship) in Ramadan. That is why, in mosques and homes daily, recitation sessions (tadarus) are a must for many Muslims.

However, what needs to be highlighted is that tadabur or understanding the message of what is being read is often times taken for granted or left out altogether.

Those who have knowingly or unknowingly been in the latter situation could perhaps be reminded that God regards the recitation of the Quran as something that is of great priority for Him.

“It (the Quran) is for us to collect... and to promulgate.

“When we have promulgated it, follow thou its recital. Nay, more, it is for us to explain and make clear” (Quran – 75:17-19).

In other words, just the (proper) recitation of the Quran is itself already a very spiritually rewarding act, one in which God is at hand to ensure that enlightenment is the outcome of the recitation.

Those who have hesitated to actively synonymise the reading of the Quran with knowledge should also be reminded of another significant fact highlighting the knowledge imperative, which is that the first revelation (ayah) was/is the command to read “acquire knowledge” and learning.

“Read in the name of your Lord and Cherisher, Who created man out of a mere clot of congealed blood. Proclaim!

“Thy Lord is Most Bountiful. He who taught via use of the Pen. Taught man that which he knows not.” (Quran 96:1-5).

For Muslims, this ayah should be a constant in learning and knowledge-seeking.

That is, all learning must be in and with the name of the Creator, to Whom all acts are submitted and by Whom deeds will be judged.

This is so, to ensure that man will not transgress bounds which are brought on whenever he sees himself as self-sufficient, the same verse further explains.

This is why a condition in reading the Quran is avoidance of distractions. One should not be influenced by prejudices and small-mindedness.

Only then can the Quran speak directly to the heart. In doing this, the Quran also relies on our unfailing use of our reasoning (aqal).

This can be seen by the fact that all throughout the Quran, the expressions “do you not see...” or “do they not wonder...” and so on are very common. Faith in God is to be a product of understanding and having knowledge.

A lack of it or failure to harness such knowledge would sabotage faith, thus robbing it of its function in life, which would be doing grave injustice to the self and others.

In Islam, knowledge is linked to ibadah (worship). Learning and acquiring knowledge is worship, reading the Quran and pondering upon it (tadabur) is worship, travelling to seek knowledge is worship.

Practising or applying knowledge is inevitably tied up with akhlaq (good behaviour and morality), which principally is highlighting virtue and combatting vice, enjoining right and forbidding wrong (amar ma’aruf, nahi munkar).

Acquiring knowledge in order to be close to God translates into pursuing and practising it with modesty and humility so that it would lead to dignity, beauty, justice and freedom.

Knowledge is also not purely for the gratification of the mind or senses; it has to be linked to values and goals or intentions (niyyat).

To sum up, for Muslims, Nuzul Quran which takes place during Ramadan (hence the added significance of the month) is to remind them of the knowledge imperative, the main purpose of which is to gain the good of this world; not to cause destruction through waste, arrogance and greed in the reckless pursuit of materialism.

Another critical purpose of knowledge is the spreading of dignity and freedom, justice and truth. It is not to obtain power and dominance for its own sake.

Let us hope that the greatest lesson from our commemoration of Nuzul Quran would be the awareness that knowledge and power coupled with arrogance would lead us to tyranny and injustice, and that knowledge and power coupled with ethics will give us justice and freedom. Prof Datin Dr Azizan Baharuddin The STAR Home Opinion Columnist IKIM View 7 July 2015

Penghijrahan fizikal perlu seiring perubahan sikap

Mereka yang memahami falsafah di sebalik pelaksanaan ibadah haji pasti akan mengerti peringatan Allah SWT kepada hamba-Nya untuk meneruskan kehidupan dengan amal kebaikan.

Penyucian jiwa dan diri yang dilaksanakan menjadi sebab perubahan yang istiqamah. Datangnya takwim baharu dengan kisah penghijrahan adalah cerminan kepada wibawa hamba untuk melaksanakan perintah-Nya dan menjauhi segala larangan-Nya.

Firman Allah SWT yang bermaksud: "Dan hendaklah ada di antara kamu satu puak yang menyeru (berdakwah) kepada kebajikan (mengembangkan Islam) dan menyuruh berbuat segala perkara yang baik, serta melarang daripada segala yang salah (buruk dan keji). Dan mereka yang bersifat demikian ialah orang yang berjaya." (Surah Ali-Imran, ayat 104)

Sejarah perjuangan Rasulullah

Muharam sinonim dengan sambutan Maal Hijrah. Sejarah perjuangan Rasulullah SAW yang disandarkan melalui peristiwa penghijrahan Baginda dari Makkah ke Madinah menunjukkan umat Islam digalakkan melakukan perubahan ke arah kebaikan.

Tanpa rasa segan dan silu, perubahan wajar dilaksanakan dengan penuh rasa jiwa hamba dan meletakkan semangat perjuangan Nabi Muhammad SAW serta sahabat yang melaksanakan penghijrahan bukan sia-sia.

Allah SWT berfirman yang bermaksud: "Dan sesiapa yang berhijrah pada jalan Allah SWT (untuk membela dan menegakkan Islam), nescaya ia akan dapati di muka bumi ini tempat berhijrah yang banyak dan rezeki yang makmur; dan sesiapa yang keluar dari rumahnya dengan tujuan berhijrah kepada Allah dan Rasul-Nya, kemudian ia mati (dalam perjalanan), maka sesungguhnya telah tetap pahala hijrahnya di sisi Allah. Dan (ingatlah) Allah Maha Pengampun, lagi Maha Mengasihani." (Surah an-Nisa, ayat 100)

Penghijrahan Rasulullah SAW dan sahabat adalah semata-mata kerana perjuangan membentuk akidah, tauhid dan kefahaman mengenai Islam. Agama Islam yang suci dibawa merentasi dari negeri ke negeri, negara ke negara, benua ke benua semata-mata untuk menyedarkan hamba perintah wajib dilaksanakan sebagaimana dicatatkan dalam kitab al-Quran dan sunah Baginda.

Hijrah datangnya daripada sifat penolakan dari dalam. Mereka yang benar-benar ingin melakukan penghijrahan dan perubahan harus bersungguh-sungguh berdoa kepada Allah SWT memohon keampunan supaya apa yang berlalu itu benar-benar menyedarkan diri. Mereka meyakini bahawa Allah SWT Maha Pengampun terhadap hamba-Nya dan mendengar segala rintihan serta permintaan.

Firman Allah SWT yang bermaksud: "Dan segeralah kamu kepada (mengerjakan amal yang baik untuk mendapat) keampunan daripada Tuhan kamu, dan (mendapat) syurga yang bidangnya seluas segala langit dan bumi, yang disediakan bagi orang bertakwa." (Surah Ali-Imran, ayat 133)

Selain itu, simbolik penghijrahan adalah perpindahan dari satu tempat ke tempat lain. Perpindahan itu tidak semata-mata mengubah diri dan islah jiwa.

Perkara lebih penting daripada itu membawa kefahaman mengenai hijrah kerana Allah SWT. Bagaimana mungkin mereka yang ingin berhijrah meninggalkan isteri, anak dan keluarga jika tidak meletakkan sepenuh keimanan kepada Allah SWT.

Kefahaman ini perlu diperhalusi supaya penghijrahan bukan secara fizikal tetapi hadir melalui perubahan sikap dan pemikiran berteraskan keimanan sebenar.

Berhijrah bersungguh-sungguh

Mereka yang sanggup berhijrah kerana Allah SWT lantas berdoa bersungguh-sungguh menyempurnakan perubahannya itu, pasti akan memperoleh kelazatan dan nikmat yang akan mendorongnya mencapai kejayaan sebenar.

Allah SWT berfirman yang bermaksud: "Maka Tuhan mereka perkenankan doa mereka (dengan firman-Nya): Sesungguhnya Aku tidak akan sia-siakan amal orang yang beramal dari kalangan kamu, sama ada lelaki atau perempuan, (kerana) setengah kamu (adalah keturunan) dari setengahnya yang lain; maka orang yang berhijrah (kerana menyelamatkan agamanya), dan yang diusir ke luar dari tempat tinggalnya, dan juga yang disakiti (dengan pelbagai gangguan) kerana menjalankan agama-Ku, dan yang berperang (untuk mempertahankan Islam), dan yang terbunuh (gugur syahid dalam perang Sabil), sesungguhnya Aku akan hapuskan kesalahan mereka, dan sesungguhnya Aku akan masukkan mereka ke dalam syurga yang mengalir di bawahnya beberapa sungai, sebagai pahala dari sisi Allah. Dan di sisi Allah jugalah pahala yang sebaik-baiknya (bagi mereka yang beramal salih)." (Surah Ali-Imran, ayat 195)

Perubahan harus diurus. Perubahan adalah satu bentuk kesedaran dalam diri yang disokong oleh tindakan yang wajar supaya setiap daripada mereka itu benar-benar memahami tujuan penghijrahan.