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Opinions of Monday, 29 June 2015

Columnist: Azindoo, Abubakar Mohammed Marzuq

Education and religion: keys to civilization

By Abubakar Mohammed Marzuq Azindoo, Coordinator of Students and University Relations, University of Applied Management (UAM), Germany – Ghana Campus, McCarthy Hill, Accra and Tamale
Email: Tell: 0244755402

The contemporary global society is threatened by acts of terrorists hiding behind religion and related ideologies. For instance, the world recently witnessed a scene of barbarism, when terrorists in Islamic gowns descended on the staff of CHARLIE HEBDO, a satirical magazine in Paris, France. In a blaze of gunfire, the terrorists killed 12 people – among them journalists – of the magazine. Earlier, the magazine had published a satire largely considered an insult to Prophet Mohammed, and in a pompous show of defiance, it had refused to retract the satire in the name of freedom of expression. While the civilized community is unanimous in condemning the outright display of savagery by the terrorists, some commentators seem to use it as an opportunity to justify their usual campaign of vilification against Islam. These anti-Islamic propagandists argue that the attackers were influenced by Islam as a violent religion because at the time of the attack, they were chanting so-called Islamic slogans. The unfortunate situation, therefore, provokes a comparative discourse on education, religion, ethics, and civilization. This Paper seeks to establish three fundamental facts: (1) the gap between Islam and terrorism, (2) provocation as a phase of violence, (3) education and religion as instruments of civilization and progress. However, analysis is centered on education, religion, and civilization.
Education is an essential component of all civilized religions. This is because all religions teach values, customs, traditions, and ethics, which must be learnt and obeyed by practitioners. The Divine Books of various religions are enough to illustrate the importance of education in religion. For instance, the Holy Quran serves as the guiding social principle and spiritual constitution for Muslims. Indeed, Islam is built on the foundation of education. This assertion is evidenced by Hadith Al-Qudsi in which Almighty Allah commands Muslims: “Know me before you worship me.” Another piece of evidence is that the first divine revelation to Prophet Mohammed in Quran is about knowledge seeking – education: “Read in the name of thy Lord!” [96: 1]
Also, there are countless rhetorical questions in the Holy Quran, challenging man to engage in critical thinking and research, which are known activities in contemporary education. “Afalaa ta-aqiluun, afalaa tazakkaruun, afalaa tubsiruun..?” (Don’t you think? Don’t you ponder? Don’t you observe?) All these Quranic justifications of education are reinforced by a prophetic Hadith which seems to be a replica of modern educational systems – structured and unstructured. “Seek knowledge from the cradle to the grave”, Prophet Mohammed urges Muslims. Put within the context of contemporary education, this Hadith is not different from the organized system of education from Primary School to University, from First Degree to Doctoral Degree, from Lectureship position to Professorial Status. It is a reality that no matter one’s level of knowledge, one can only preserve the knowledge by continuous revision and further learning outside the classroom.
This is corroborated by Secular Scholars such as Plato and Gagne. Plato describes man as a learning being, and in the opinion of Gagne, there is more learning outside the classroom than inside the classroom. That is why Adult Education also known as Continuing or Life Long Learning has become a booming area of knowledge seeking in modern society.
Definition of key terms/concepts
In this discourse three key terms deserve operational definitions and scholarly explanations for better analysis. These are Civilization, Religion, and Education.
The word CIVILIZATION comes from the Latin CIVILIS, meaning CIVIL, and related to the Latin CIVIS, meaning CITIZEN, and CIVITAS, meaning CITY or CITY-STATE (Larry, 2009). Expressions such as English "civility" developed from this root, but during the 18th Century Enlightenment, the verb "civilize" came to be commonly used, leading to a new word “civilization” to describe the result. This was used first by authors writing about national and personal improvement. Among them were Victor Riqueti, Marquis de Mirabeau in France, and Adam Ferguson in Scotland who, in his 1767 ESSAY ON THE HISTORY OF CIVIL SOCIETY, wrote: “Not only the individual advances from infancy to manhood, but the species itself from rudeness to civilization.” The word was, therefore, opposed to barbarism or rudeness, but the rationale for the new word was connected to modernism's active pursuit of progress and enlightenment. As such, it has always been colored by Social Darwinist assumptions about superiority and inferiority.
In the late 1700s and early 1800s – during the French Revolution and in English – “civilization” was applied in the singular case because it referred to the progress of humanity as a whole. This is still the case in French (Emile, 1954). All these scholarly interpretations of civilization can be summarized into a simply language for the understanding by the layman and for the purpose of this discourse. Indeed, civilization is simply a socio-political process by which a society achieves an advanced stage of development, order, and decency.
Religion is an organized collection of beliefs, cultural systems, and world views that relate humanity to an order of existence. Many religions have narratives, symbols, and sacred histories that are intended to explain the meaning and the origin of life or the Universe. From their beliefs about the cosmos and human nature, people derive morality, ethics, religious laws or preferred lifestyles. According to some estimates, there are about 4, 200 religions in the world (Kenneth, 2010).
Many religions may have organized behaviors, clergy, definitions of adherence or membership, holy places, and scriptures. The practice of a religion may also include rituals, sermons, commemoration or veneration of a deity, gods or goddesses, sacrifices, festivals, trances, matrimonial services, meditation, prayer, music, art, dance, public service or other aspects of human culture. Religions may also contain mythology. Consequently, religion can be simply defined as a way of life and total submission to the will of God or a supreme being and for the good of society.

Education in its general sense is a form of learning in which knowledge, skills, and habits of a group of people are transferred from one generation to another through teaching, training, and research. Education frequently takes place under the guidance of others, but may also be autodidactic (self-learning). Any experience that has a formative effect on the way one thinks, feels, or acts may be considered educational.
The right to education has been recognized by some governments. At the global level, Article 13 of the United Nations' 1966 International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights recognizes the right of everyone to education. Education, in this discourse, is then defined as sharing of knowledge, skills, values, and attitudes intended to serve God and humanity. This way, education is expected to be a gateway to civilization, peace, stability, and happiness of humanity. Indeed, it is to help establish a just society where people of varied cultures, races, religions, and ideologies would live in harmony and progress.
Comparative Analysis on Religion and Education
Having attempted to understand religion and education, we need to analyze salient aspects of the two concepts in comparative terms. Educational experts believe that every responsible education is built on Four Main Areas: Objectives, Content, Methodology, and Evaluation. These are certainly salient areas of education. According to educational literature, the main objective of education is service to humanity, as the various kinds of knowledge acquired are applied for the advancement of society. In a similar manner, the fundamental objective of every serious religion is to maintain order for the enjoyment of mankind and for service to God. That is why Allah tells Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) in the Holy Quran: “And We have sent you (O Muhammad) not but as mercy for the Aalameen (mankind, jinns and all that exists).” [ 21:107].
In all forms of education the contents are in the form of books, journals, and other academic materials. Comparatively, all religious teachings are contained in Holy Books and other forms of divine literature. For instance, Islamic Teachings are documented in the Holy Quran and in Prophetic Ahaadith – the traditions of Prophet Mohammed. These are complemented by publications of Ulamaa on spiritual and jurisprudential matters.
Methodology, with its associated areas such as instructional design, is determined by the type of education. While Pedagogy is good for the lower levels of formal education, Andragogy is suitable for the higher levels and all forms of Adult Education – life Long Learning. Similarly, the methodology of propagating the word of Allah is in two folds – wisdom and good counseling, not violence and compulsion. Allah commands in the Holy Quran: “Call to the way of thy Lord with wisdom and good counseling...” [16: 125].
Evaluation in formal education is done through examinations, take-home assignments, research projects and term papers. In a university, for example, these forms of evaluation constitute the criteria for degree classifications: First Class, Second Class Upper, Second Class Lower, Third Class, and Pass (in British and other settings). In America the classifications are SUMMA CUM LAUDE: First Class, MAGNA CUM LAUDE: Second Class, and CUM LAUDE: Third Class. In fact, the degree is awarded for a work done within a specific period of time.
Similarly, Almighty Allah evaluates people’s submission to Him and rewards them accordingly. These rewards would form the final awards on the Day of Judgment. This day is described by Quran as: “The day whereon neither wealth nor sons will avail, except him who brings to Allah a clean heart.” [26:88-9]. Another verse states: “That Day people will emerge segregated to see the RESULTS of their actions. Whoever does an atom's weight of good will see it. Whoever does an atom's weight of evil will see it.” [99: 6-8]. Certainly, some would win the award of Paradise, and others that of Hell. Allah says in Quran: “That Day some faces will be radiant, laughing, rejoicing. That Day some faces will be dust-covered, overcast with gloom. Those are the dissolute unbelievers.” [80: 38-42]. In another verse Allah emphasizes: “Verily, the dwellers of the Paradise, that Day, will be busy in joyful things.” [36: 55]

Islam and Terrorism
In view of the above facts, it is clear that Islam does not sanction terrorism. It is equally a bitter truth that some ignoramuses commit terrorism in the name of Islam. But that cannot warrant the charge of terrorism against the religion. In its evolution, humanity has experienced a lot of evils committed by non-Muslims. Socio-political evils like slavery, racism, colonialism, and imperialism have been perpetrated by non-Muslims. The dungeons of slavery and colonialism at Cape Coast Castle in Ghana are still indelible scars of agony to all lovers of human dignity. Africans in general and South Africans in particular are still nursing the wounds of Apartheid which was fueled not by Muslims but by the latter-day apostles of democracy and human rights.
Beyond Africa, the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki is still an insult to the sanctity of human life. Holocaust remains a man-made tragedy of unspeakable proportions, which once reduced a section of the human race to the semblance of the animal kingdom. The killing of about 20 million Aborigines in Australia and more than 50 million Indians in South America is still one of the darkest chapters in the history of mankind. Muslims never engaged in all these crimes against humanity, but it is unfair to associate the crimes with the religions of the perpetrators.

In the light of the above analyses, it has become obvious that education and religion are for public good in all civilized societies. Both concepts are instruments of peace and light, and not weapons of darkness and aggression. It is also significant to mention that Islam, as a champion of knowledge, embraces all forms of education, provided they are designed to serve the interests of humanity and of Almighty Allah. Moreover, it is unacceptable to discredit any religion because of the misconduct of some of its adherents. In addition, it has come to light that irresponsible journalism, evidenced by the insulting satirization of Prophet Mohammed, is a phase of (psychological) terrorism.

In the interest of global peace and security, the following recommendations could be significant:
Provocation of Muslims by a section of the international media in the name of freedom of expression must stop. Besides, governments, institutions, and individuals must refrain from hiding behind semantics to justify provocative publications and outright campaign of calumny against any religion.
It is important to note that threat to global peace is not only by the actions of the armed terrorists. It is also by the words of intellectual terrorists; by the provocation of (Western) hegemonic terrorists, and by the sponsorship of selected terrorist organizations on the pay-roll of (Gulf) financial terrorists. There must be an effective mechanism to check the activities of all these types of terrorists to promote global security.
It is an ignorant Muslim who thinks that terrorism is part of Islam. More ignorant than the ignorant Muslim is a non-Muslim who believes that Islam should be judged by the acts of terrorists hiding behind it. We stand by our condemnation of the massacre of the staff of the French satirical magazine, mourn with the families of the victims, and pray that Allah arrest the perpetrators and deal with them in His own right and might.


Larry, E. S. (2009). The SAGE glossary of the social and behavioral sciences. London: SAGE.
Émile, B. Civilisation. Contribution à l'histoire du mot (Civilisation. Contribution to the history of the word). (1954), published in Problèmes de linguistique générale, Editions Gallimard, 1966, pp.336–345 (translated by Mary Elizabeth Meek as Problems in general linguistics, 2 vols., 1971)
Velkley, R. (2002). The Tension in the beautiful: on culture and civilization in Rousseau and German Philosophy, being after Rousseau: philosophy and culture in Question. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Encyclopædia Britannica. (1974). (15th ed.) (vol. II). Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.