Teaching of Prophet’s Biography at
British Muslim Schools
Dr. Mozammel Haque
The teaching of Prophet’s (peace be upon him) biography at the British Muslim Schools was discussed at a Seminar on “Teaching of Prophet’s (peace be upon him) Biography: Methodology and Expectations” organised by Islamic Cultural Centre, London, in partnership with the Makkah-based Muslim World League, on Wednesday, the 29th of August, 2012 at the Islamic Cultural Centre, London.
While inaugurating the Seminar, Dr. Ahmed al-Dubayan, the Director General of the Islamic Cultural Centre, said that we all know that the Prophet’s (peace be upon him) biography is the second source of Islam and Shari’ah. “It is very important for all Muslims and especially recently now in the last few years this biography was actually criticised unobjectively and was presented often not in good way in many media, and also there are many books articles talking about biographies of the Prophet (peace be upon him) but not presented the Prophet (PBUH) the right way” he said.
Dr. Dubayan also mentioned that at the same time we, as Muslims, think that there is a lack of materials or shortage of materials or texts about the Prophet’s biography available for Muslim schools, available for Muslim teachers. “We believe Muslim communities everywhere in the world need to fill this gap and give more concentration and do more studies to represent the biography of the Prophet (peace be upon him) to convey the message to the new generation of the Muslim and to convey the right message of Islam to those people who are not Muslim.”
Dr. Dubayan also mentioned that we know that there are some who would like to deface Islam itself by telling about some wrong stories, some weak Hadiths. “It is our duty as Muslims to defend the biography of the Prophet (peace be upon him) not only by criticising others but also by presenting the biography of the Prophet (PBUH) and studying it again and trying to get more lessons from it and to get really new lessons for the new generation.”
ICC Director General also mentioned about the importance of modern technology which actually offers us “a platform and giving us a ground and more chances for all Muslims, all researchers and scholars and scholars at large who really want to know more about it and to encourage Muslims. He urged the Muslim teachers and Islamic educationists to give this a more concentration and a serious consideration and research.
Dr. Adel Al-Shiddy
Dr. Adel al-Shiddy, the Assistant Secretary General of the Makkah-based Muslim World League (MWL), in his speech as a chief guest said, “The Muslim World League is carrying its duties under the directives of the its Secretary General to support all the efforts for the teaching of the biography of the Prophet (peace be upon him) as a way to understand Islam and putting our youth also on the right way to understand Islam and follow the biography of the Prophet (peace be upon him).”
Dr. Shiddy also mentioned that Muslims are forming the cornerstone for carrying the Islamic teachings to the Muslims around the world and correcting the wrong concept about Islam and the Prophet (peace be upon him).
While mentioning that the League have noticed in its tours that the Muslims in the UK have most powerful understanding and providing the most beneficial efforts to carry the message of Islam and spreading the teachings of Islam, Dr. Shiddy said, “We need them to continue this effort and to avoid any dispute.”
Dr. Al-Shiddy agrees with Dr. Dubayan for new media to be used as a method to spread Islam in a good way and also the Prophet’s biography. He focussed on three methods that we need to provide would be to build on three important units: i) The first one is the norms and manners of the Prophet (PBUH). The Prophet used to practice including truthful trust; and being tolerant. Most of the people need it today. ii) The second thing is the human relation between the Prophet (PBUH) and all those people around him. He used to be husband; he used to be the friend to his friends and he used to be father and also with other peoples with whom he practised his good manners and iii) the third thing is the dialogue and understanding the others where the Prophet (PBUH) preserved this manner of dialogue and understanding the others.
Dr, Shiddy hoped that this meeting will come out with some practical recommendations and the Muslim World League will find some universities in the United Kingdom, to provide them with the theoretical curriculum about the Prophet’s biography; such as the Leeds University. The League is working to provide more of these authoritative texts and curriculum to most of the Islamic institutions around the United Kingdom, he mentioned.
Dr. Shiddy also announced at the meeting the publication of a new Magazine of Seerah.
Mr. Muhammad Ismail, Researcher
Mr. Muhammad Ismail, Researcher and educationalist spoke on the Teaching of Prophet’s (Peace be upon him) Biography in Britain. While speaking about the teaching of Prophet’s biography, Mr. Ismail mentioned, “It is an integral part of the fabric of Islam, and the study of the Seerah is followed by the practising of the Sunnah which leads to the understanding of the Qur’an; therefore the study of the Seerah is essential for every Muslim from a very young age to shape their life.”
Speaking about the present situation of the British Muslim School, Mr. Ismail said, “Each school is different from another school so far as the curriculum and teaching in any school is concerned. So correctly there is no unison in the curriculum. Various teaching methods have been adopted. Various different teaching methods are used, for example, pictorial stories, worksheets, the commercially produced textbooks which come from various sources; some of which are even non-authentic.”
Holding an Annual Seerah Conference in the UK
Mr. Ismail has put forward some suggestions before the Conference to consider, such as i) the organiser should hold an Annual Seerah Conference in the UK at the Islamic Cultural Centre, inviting politicians, intellectuals and the media to talk at the conference to create awareness; ii) Formation of an organisation, named as National Seerah Secretariat at the Islamic Cultural Centre, which will go throughout the country by adopting different activities for the propagation of the Seerah, such as visiting state schools offering them free lectures about Islam and the life of the Prophet (peace be upon him); iii) to promote Seerah with young British Muslim by organising competitions and awards for best achieving schools and people in the subject of Seerah; and finally iv) This conference should form a committee of 5 to 10 scholars and educationists to produce and select authenticated English resources appropriate textbooks for teaching the Seerah of the Prophet (peace be upon him) in the British Muslim schools.
Dr. Abdullah Shaheen, Markfield Institute
Dr. Abdullah Shaheen of the Markfield Institute of Higher Education (MIHE), Leicester, while dealing with teaching of Prophet’s biography, said “What we are discussing today is essentially education, what we call pedagogic issue.”
“What we need today. How best we can teach communicate the values, Dr. Adel mentioned about this, values of the Prophet (peace be upon him) represented; manners, mercy, forgiveness, leadership, conflict resolution, peace, role as a husband, as a neighbour. This wider picture of Muhammad (peace be upon him) could not be taught unless we also consider the pedagogical educational questions how do we teach, i.e. we have an understanding of the objectives of our teaching, we have an understanding of our curriculum the teaching methods,” said Dr. Shaheen.
Dr. Shaheen said, “We have to prioritize the fact that teaching Seerah of the Prophet and Islam requires an important pedagogic awareness. How do we achieve this? We have to prioritize this does not quite educational thinking about Islam. His guidance is a kind of message for the whole humanity."
Dr. Shaheen argued, “Our teaching curriculum, the technique and ways of teaching also prioritize which I would like to call humanity of Muhammad (peace be upon him) so that we can enlarge our aim to include his proper understanding to achieve the wider audience in the West.”
Dr. Shaheen also mentioned that we have to bear in mind that we are living in a wider reality, of course, in the 21st century British society and Islam is being taught within non-Muslim perspectives. One issue that always coming up is which we call the Western Orientalists’ way of looking at the Prophet’s (peace be upon him) life. The heart at it is something called historical critical thinking and in fact the claim implicitly was Muslims are unable to utilise critical historical thinking; therefore what they present to us is a mythical based no evidence of their own faith.”
Dr. Shaheen mentioned his experience at the MIHE and said, “What we do when we teach Seerah at the Markfield Institute we deliberately spend three sessions on this thing called critical historical thinking. Can it be complimented or can it actually be implemented within the Islamic framework and we draw upon the study of Seerah and the study of Hadith. We all aware that the degree of application of comparative historical thinking is already present within Islamic tradition of self-understanding. In another words what we need to do is to retrieve this critical thinking within our own tradition and actually apply worldwide any aspect of Islam today including the life of the Prophet (peace be upon him).”
Construct a contemporary Seerah Curriculum
Dr. Shaheen also pointed out,“ I would say that one important area of investment is to look at the pedagogic and educational aspects of how best we can construct a contemporary Seerah curriculum; identify critical objective and effective teaching method and how do we evaluate the teaching?” He emphasized, “We have to enable the Muslim teachers with relevant pedagogic skills to be able actually to teach effectively; we have to produce materials, teaching methods within that framework.”
Dr. Shaheen lamented and said, “It is unfortunate that we are on the presence of the fourth generation of Muslims in Europe; we do not yet have a proper Muslim teachers training college. My view would be to the Rabita Al-Alam al-Islami and the Islamic Cultural Centre here to make long term plan when we can actually establish one day a proper European Muslim Teachers’ Training Centre to produce our own teachers with the effective pedagogical skills of teaching Islam properly. We have not achieved it; we are still divided within ourselves in trying to reproduce one authentic way of teaching Islam.”
European Muslim Teachers’ Training Centre
“I think time has arrived this issue cannot be addressed in a piecemeal manner. It has to be properly addressed and what is needed is to create an Islamic educational teacher training centre where we will produce these materials which will enable the Muslim teachers with the relevant pedagogic skills. We produce materials that will hopefully present Islam and the Biography of the Prophet (peace be upon him) in the best authentic picture. Without this kind of long term planning we cannot really address this issue; they will all stay as advertisement and we want to go beyond that level, if that is possible,” said Dr. Shaheen.
Another point which Dr. Shaheen mentioned is about Muslim children studying at the mainstream public schools. He said, “In this country most of the Muslim young people, children and kids attend to the mainstream schools. In this country, RE, i.e. Religious Education is determined at the local education level. We have to make it sure within that Local Education Authority the RE contains an element about Prophet’s (peace be upon him) life and his humanity. That should be our last point. Because majority of our young people go to the mainstream school.”
Prophet’s Humanity in the mainstream school
“We should not put all our aim into one basket. There are half a million Muslim kids in the mainstream schools. We have to make it sure that the Prophet’s (peace be upon him) life, his humanity, his leadership, his values, at least presented within the mainstream schools at the Local Education Authority level as well and there are ways of achieving this. All we have to do is: we have to present our case,” said Dr. Shaheen.