Challenges to Islam, Educational Reforms and Ijtihad in Islam

The Challenges to Islam are so serious that they cannot be countered without improvement in the quality of education through radical educational reforms in the Muslim world. The application of the process of ijtihad is also crucially important to maintain the progressive character of Islam in the contemporary period.

The Western media and intellectuals proclaim loudly and repeatedly that the Muslims are backward because they follow a book which was revealed to guide the tribal Arabs in the 7th century A.D. They refuse to accept the universal relevance of the Message of the Qur’an and state categorically that it cannot be used to guide in technology dominated 21st. century. This monograph argues cogently and convincingly that Muslims are backward because they have deviated from the fundamental principles of Islam and forcefully stresses the universal relevance of the Message of Islam.

Most of the intellectuals agree that the Madrasa System of education produces conservative, orthodox and dogmatic students who resist change but do not resort to violence. The Taliban and Deobandi madrasas got radicalised after the Russian invasion of Afghanistan and has been intensified since the U.S.-NATO invasion of that country. This was fully supported by the United States of America at the time of the Russian invasion of Afghanistan. Most of the jihadi literature, inciting Muslims to jihad and violence against the Russians, was produced in the University of Nebraska in USA.

There is, however, a general consensus among the Muslim intellectuals that present education system should be radically reformed to meet the demands of the contemporary Muslim society. The educational institutions during the early phase of the rise of Islam promoted unity of the revealed and rational sources of knowledge. This unity was first weakened as a result of internal debate among Muslims ulema and was completely abandoned when Muslim ruled states succumbed to colonial powers of the Western Europe. Since then two parallel but unconnected systems of education the religious.

This book presents an Integrated System of Modern and Islamic Education as illustrated in Figure 3 in the text. This model attempts to synthesise the modern and the Qur’anic streams of education and restores the unity of the revealed and rational sources of knowledge.

The book concludes with a discussion on the concept of Ijtihad which implies that anyone having reasonable knowledge of the Qur’an and the Sunnah can resort to independent thinking to arrive at a reasonable and just solution, without violating the core principle of Islam. The concept was originated by Ma’az bin Jabal (a distinguished companion) and was approved by the Prophet himself with pleasure and satisfaction.
Author: Professor Shah Manzoor Alam, a distinguished social scientist.