Islamic housing and the holistic educational systems of Muslims
Having said all this, it will be of a paramount importance that Muslim children be taught from the very beginning of their educational journey such fundamental concepts as the position, role and significance of man, Islamic morals, nature, the world, the family, the house, the neighborhood, neighbors and the whole of society. Studying these concepts must be done on the basis of both the revealed knowledge, in the form of the Qur’an and the Prophet’s sunnah, and the acquired or conventional knowledge as derived from and accumulated through the daily lives of people. This integrated knowledge must be real, alive, total, pragmatic and applicable. It must be Islamic in that its ideals and goals are instigated and watched over by the ideals and goals of Islam, the two remaining in agreement with each other all the way through. This integrated knowledge, furthermore, must be, principally, from Muslims, by Muslims and for Muslims. It cannot be unreal, deceiving or false, as it cannot stem from some foreign sources that are in an outright conflict with the Qur’an and sunnah. Nor can it be obsolete and dead, as it cannot be based on outmoded and dead life traditions, phenomena and experiences. Nor can it be unrealistic and utopian, as it cannot entertain imaginative, naive and fancy ideas that are far from the real world and its challenges. Nor can it be superficial, fractional and narrow-minded, as it cannot be focused on certain life aspects or phenomena only, while overlooking or paying very little attention to the others.
This integrated knowledge must be at the core of the general educational systems of Muslims because its fundamental concepts denote the fundamental aspects of both human existence and Islam as a comprehensive code of living. In those educational systems, there can be no such thing as a separation, or a rift, between the religious and secular realms, between the religious and secular sciences, and between the religious and secular scholars. In Islamic education, there can be no separation, or a rift, between the spiritual and material spheres, and between this world and the Hereafter. Nor can either sphere be pursued at the expense of the other. The two spheres finely balance each other up. Either one without the other will be incomplete. Because Islam is a practical and factual religion, seeing and appreciating life the way it is and in its total sense, meaning and being, each and every one of life’s fields and facets is extremely relevant. Each and every person involved in cultivating those fields and aspects, as well as their roles in and contributions to life, are extremely relevant too and are to be duly appreciated.
Thus, by the time a Muslim child reaches the tertiary education, it is expected that he or she commands a reasonable knowledge about the basic concepts which are integral to the message of Islam and, as such, are integral to human life, culture and civilization, and due to the role and significance of housing in human life, are integral to the subject of housing too. Such basic concepts, as mentioned earlier, are: life, man, family, nature and society. By then, a Muslim child should be very comfortable with the Islamic answers on those critical questions that revolve around his or her purpose in life, his or her place in the world, his or her duties and rights as a citizen, as a neighbor, as a future mother or father, as a future wife or husband, etc. In other words, a Muslim child while reaching the tertiary education should have a decent idea as to his or her place and role in the delicate webs of creation and the socio-political and economic contracts that hem him or her in. Islam with its educational outlook teaches a Muslim child to be optimistic, strong, sincere, pragmatic, balanced, open-minded, earnest and productive.
It would be grossly unfair if a Muslim child is not sufficiently acquainted with those matters and issues by the time he or she reaches the level of his or her tertiary education. Equally unfair would it be if a Muslim child is given a wrong and irreconcilable with Islam education, partly or completely, based on some alien worldviews, cultures and value systems. Such would signify the worst kind of frittering away, deceiving and betraying the young, potential, excited and keen minds and talents of Muslim children which have been entrusted to society’s learning institutions and establishments for cultivation and development. What those children at the end of the day get in return are the firmly established tendencies for a further alienation from Islam, confusion, misguidance, lack of self-esteem, eternal doubts, and spiritual and intellectual hypocrisy, which will accompany and haunt the persons concerned till the end of their lives. These tendencies and these appalling academic and spiritual conditions which are endemic to many parts of the present Muslim world are elevated to the highest level in universities and colleges, by virtue of them being the leading institutions of higher learning. There, the process that commenced many years ago is finally brought to an end. The enthusiasm and promising talents of many young Muslims is misused and wasted forever, and their unfortunate fate, in all likelihood, sealed once and for all. Besides, when they establish families and start working, many of those former students through their family life and the professional engagements and contributions to society will become active, some unconsciously and unaware though, in promoting the same flawed educational policies, systems and conditions under the aegis of which they have been brought up and educated.
The university and college level education is rather a sophisticated one, as it spells the end of the educational journey for most people. Students coming to universities and colleges, therefore, must have a strong academic foundation with regard to general knowledge and the academic fields they intend to specialize in. Students in the institutions of higher learning are being guided and prepared to play a constructive role and make decent and diverse contributions to societies they belong to. They are trained to become agents of change, to lead and make the earth a better place to live in. Having said this, how can one expect the Muslim students to become agents of change, to transform and make their societies better places to live in if they are strangers, partly or completely, to Islam: its message, philosophy, worldview, history, culture and values? How can they contribute to reviving Islamic culture and civilization if they, apart from their ignorance of Islam, feel no affection and enthusiasm for, and can hardly associate themselves with, such a culture and civilization? As far as Islamic housing is concerned, how can one expect the Muslim architecture, planning, art and engineering students to appreciate its world of splendor, making an effort to play some constructive roles and make some decent contributions to reviving and preserving Islamic housing, if they themselves are strangers to the philosophy, principles, values, purpose and functions that its sophisticated and refined realm exemplifies?
The answer to reviving and upholding the phenomenon of Islamic housing obviously lies in education, more than anywhere else. By education we mean its widest horizons, its all levels and its all protagonists: the house as an educational center, kindergartens, schools, colleges, universities, institutes, organizations, NGOs and mass-media. Every educational horizon and level will play its expected roles in ways that suit it and its human resources best. Housing is the most important thing in society, so promoting and working towards the creation of a high-quality housing should be everyone’s obsession. It should be an honor. It should feature most prominently in the hierarchy of priorities of almost all governmental and private agencies. The house is the only institution and a built environment component that is badly and constantly needed by every member of society. People’s happiness with their houses is the best form of happiness that one can get.
It is thus required that all of the above mentioned institutions and establishments with their personnel, and in different capacities and with different scopes and emphasis levels, work together towards a united goal: the endorsement and promotion of the Islamic personal and family lifestyles, coupled with the endorsement and promotion of the concept of the Islamic house as a framework or a physical locus where such lifestyles are nurtured, conducted and facilitated. Indeed, from this life core everything else in society emanates and starts off its public career, retaining proudly the house and family institutions as their foundation and point of reference. It follows that there cannot be an ideological dichotomy in the contents of the various curriculums, plans, agendas and the programs of study, as well as in the ways themes and issues are advocated, presented and taught, as far as the subjects and problems directly or indirectly related to Islamic housing are concerned.
For example, it is gravely erroneous that with regard to the Islamic concepts of the family, the house, aesthetics, man-woman relationships, the dress code, etc., a Muslim in a Muslim environment is bombarded with a way of life on television programs, or in newspapers, or in journals and magazines, but whenever he goes to the mosque, reads the Qur’an, the Prophet’s sunnah, or any book with a pure religious content, he easily runs into glaring discrepancies between what has been served to him through the local mass media and what his religion propagates and teaches.
As another example, it is likewise gravely erroneous that a Muslim child is constantly being taught by his or her parents or grandparents at home about how significant, excellent, pure and principled the Islamic concepts of the family, the house, environmental protection, man-woman relationships, privacy, modesty, the dress code, etc., are, but in school he or she is being taught and encouraged to do some different things, often contrary to the principles and values of his or her family and house upbringing. At best, what he or she has learned at home is being totally ignored, or even scoffed at, in school and in its study programs. Moreover, he or she easily sees that in the real world too, just outside his or her house sanctuary, things are very different from what he or she is being taught and asked to duly adhere to.
Unfortunately, the present state of affairs in most Muslim communities is not helpful at all to the revival and restoration of Islamic housing. Moreover, owing to the importance of housing in society, such a situation clearly maintains and nourishes the other intellectual and spiritual ailments that have been afflicting Muslims and their communities for many years by now. There is a real danger that even some new and hitherto unknown ailments can be generated in the process. If truth be told, there is very little in most Muslim societies today that renders them immune to such a potential hazard.
As said earlier, a comprehensive overhaul of educational systems in the Muslim world will be the key, not only with regard to Islamic housing, but also to all the other aspects of Islamic culture and civilization. In the field of education, everyone, from the leaders to the man on the street, and even children, can play a role and make a contribution. This exactly will be an answer to, as well as a compliance with, a divine modus operandi for a change. Allah says: “Surely, Allah does not change the condition of a people until they change their own condition (that is, what is inside their hearts).” (al-Ra’d, 11)
“This is because Allah has never changed a favor which He has conferred upon a people until they change their own condition; and because Allah is Hearing, Knowing.” (al-Anfal, 53)
Education is everyone’s concern and domain. Everyone has a duty towards it, and everyone reaps some benefits from it. By overhauling their educational systems, Muslims will become bound to cause some dramatic changes and improvements to their personal conditions, to the conditions of their hearts, minds and souls, both in short and long terms. What lies beyond and above their spheres of influence, however, that is not theirs to overly worry about. That is the responsibility of Allah, their Master, best Friend and Protector. He will take care of it as an extension of, and a reward for, what His servants heretofore have done to themselves and their personal conditions.
As part of Allah’s way of doing things with people, He also says: “On no soul does Allah place a burden greater than it can bear. It gets every good that it earns, and it suffers every ill that it earns.” (al-Baqarah, 286)
Finally, by revamping and Islamizing their educational systems, Muslims will be bound to bring the divine light, and all the goodness that goes with it, back to their lives. Such is the importance of creating, disseminating and applying the true knowledge in Islam. In doing so, the darkness and evil of ignorance and faithlessness, and all the malevolence and sin that go along with it, will become set to vanish sooner rather than later. This is so because in Islam the light and darkness, and the goodness and malevolence, cannot coexist. The presence of the light always renders the darkness imaginary, and the presence of the goodness always renders the malevolence illusory. There, in point of fact, exist only the light and goodness, as there always exists Allah and with Him the truth and light. He said about His Holy Self that He is the Light of the heavens and the earth. (al-Nur, 35) There is no such thing as darkness. There is only the absence of the light which we mistake for the darkness. There is no malevolence either. There is only the absence of the goodness, which too we mistake for the malevolence. Hence, for Muslims to get rid of their present maladies they should not really worry about the maladies themselves. Rather, they should worry about how to make sure that the divine light and goodness of Islam are actualized and brought to life. Once that is done, the fading of their maladies and problems will be ensured, and will be both spontaneous and swift.
Allah says on this: “And say: the truth has come and the falsehood has vanished; surely falsehood is a vanishing (thing).” (al-Isra’, 81)
“Nay! We cast the truth against the falsehood, so that it breaks its head, and lo! it vanishes; and woe to you for what you describe.” (al-Anbiya’, 18)
Ibn al-Qayyim al-Jawziyyah, I’lam al-Muwaqqi’in ‘anRabb al-‘Alamin, http://www.islamweb.net/newlibrary/display_book.php?flag=1&bk_no=34&ID=2.
IbnKathir, Tafsir al-Qur’an al-Karim, http://www.altafsir.com.
Ahmed MejidMollahSherif, The House of Al-Musel, (pp. 1-10); Abdel Baki Ibrahim, Revival of Deep Rooted Islamic Values in Contemporary Architecture, (pp. 11-22); Inside: Housing in the Islamic City, Proceedings of a Symposium held in Ankara, Turkey, on 21-25.7.1984. Proceedings prepared by: Center of Planning and Architectural Studies, Cairo.
Titus Burckhardt,Art of Islam, (London: World of Islam Festival Publishing Company Ltd., 1976), p. 191.