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How crucial is Tarbiya (education) for Islamic activism

How crucial is Tarbiya (education) for Islamic activism / Mohammed Lahlal

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How crucial is Tarbiya (education) for Islamic activism

    By: Mohammed Lahlal

In general, the issue of Tarbiya has been given subordinate attention in the literature of Islamist groups while issues related to politics and society have been extensively debated. Members affiliated to various Islamic groups have long been complaining from spiritual vacuum and seeking ways to meet their desperate need. The Islamist youth, in particular, are actively engaged in political and social activism, but at the end of the day, they find themselves behaving like their opponents in secular, liberal and leftist parties save a hasty prayer they perform if ever they are mindful and find time for it. To fill this vacuum, some youth tend to seek individual salvation in Sufi orders and disengage from all the responsibility and challenges of political and social activism. Some Islamist intellectuals would contentedly accord education the teaching-learning dimension and claim this kind of intellectual endeavor would make a difference by refining souls and disciplining the character. Here are some characteristics of Tarbiya in brief though the issue requires more elaborate discussion and analysis:

Genuine Quranic and Prophetic Tarbiya

While different schools of thought in the world draw their perspective of education on philosophies of secularism, liberalism, socialism, atheism, among others, we, Muslims must not be confused as our reference is the holy Quran and the noble Sunnah (Prophet’s tradition). With the Quran hearts are healed, characters are refined, and in the school of Quran, sciences take their shape and color. The Quran and the Sunnah are the standard by which we weigh up virtues, define relations between man and man, man and universe and man and His Creator. If we have to make some renovation with respect to means and tools, the prophetic method on the seventy plus branches of faith and the ultimate goal of winning the pleasure of God, Exalted is He, must remain unchanged.

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Comprehensive and consistent Tarbiya

The education meant here is what covers heart, mind and character. The heart is the epicenter of change, if it is imbued with Iman (faith), and this faith increases to reach Ihasn, the higher station of faith through righteous companionship, remembrance of God in abundance and virtue of truthfulness, the Muslim believer’s activism would have meaning and he would unlikely be dragged to worldly temptations. The mind also must acquire wisdom to be able to manage affairs, make plans, assess and renovate. And without sound character and strong will, the believer’s aspirations would fall short of going beyond individual salvation, or facing the collective challenges of the Umma to restore unity and integrity and to exit from the lingering plague of injustice and despotism.

Gradualism and moderation in Tarbiya

Muslims do not all have the same disposition to acquire high standards of Tarbiya. So, one of the precepts of education is gradualism. The fresh repentant believer might express enthusiasm and excitement in the beginning, especially among the young, but the longer he stays in the course, the more challenges he has to face, therefore he needs coaching to take him gradually from one stage to another until his soul is purified, his mind acquires some wisdom, and his genuine will grows stronger and bond of allegiance to the collective group is well forged. The programs laid for Tarbiya should take all dimensions into account and cater for the needs to attain a balanced and sustainable model. Moderation is also key to the success of Tarbiya. The objective is to produce a believer of moderate conduct in speech and action because extremism and fanaticism often yield disaster and ruin at both the individual and collective levels. So, perseverance, bringing glad tidings and leniency are parameters of the Prophetic method, and of course they are accompanied with meanings of strength and courage.

Applicable science-based Tarbiya.

It is obvious that the process of education must be based on science and how applicable it is in reality to win credibility. There are two major kinds of science, and both are necessary: science which leads to the knowledge of God, the Almighty and the Hereafter. The source of this knowledge is the divine Revelation, and the believer’s heart receives it and illuminates the mind. And science whose subject is the study of cosmos and the laws governing the universe which the instrumental mind is enjoined to discover to make life easier and more comfortable for all humanity. Therefore, acquiring developed sciences and technologies has become indispensable for Muslims’ subsistence and existence as a community carrying a message to the world.

To conclude, I must say that balanced Tarbiya is a matter of life or death for Islamic activism, particularly the spiritual side which is flagrantly brushed aside by many Islamist groups, or tackled in a superficial way due to too much prudence and reservations as Sufism has been associated with the matter of Tazkiya (purification of heart) and due to the overwhelming trend of political and social activism away from the spiritual concern which, at best is deemed a private individual business.

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