The current accepted educational model starts with the gathering of information as the first step. In the second step, the different pieces of information are put together to form knowledge. Now knowledge is put into application in real life. This last or third step is referred to as wisdom.
In more than one location, Quran delineates the mission of Prophet as the teacher of all teachers who also follows the same educational model: Recite the verses of Quran as units of meaning and pieces of information. But the verses are part of a construct so that when they are put together, they form the knowledge about a certain issue or constitute the response to a question or a challenge. Then the Prophet would teach his disciples how he translates the knowledge into application. Quran also calls this step hiqma or wisdom. Wisdom is defined generally as putting everything in its right place. The application of the Prophet is the result of the interplay between the revelation (as the reference of guidance and direction) and the understanding of the society in time, space, and circumstances.
“Our Lord! Send among them a Messenger of their own who shall rehearse your signs to them and teach them the book and wisdom.” [2:29]
However, Quran expands the model and elevates it to a higher overarching horizon by adding to it two major components that provide the right conditions for success.
“In the same way, We have sent among you a messenger of your own, rehearsing to you our signs, and purifying you, and instructing you in the book and wisdom, and in new knowledge.” [2:151]
The first component of success is tazkia or increase in goodness of the students, the main target of the educational system. The basic components, information, knowledge, and wisdom provide the students with the tools and the skills to acquire the habits of different arts to be productive, effective, and innovative in their communities. Tazkia provides them with the habits of character or khuluq that characterize the students as doers and who they are. The habits of arts and the habits of character are both needed to invent new and balanced human beings who are capable of taking the actions that civilize the earth, and at the same time, capable of giving their actions the right direction, the direction of the truth, by adhering to the high values that all emanate from the Beautiful Names of Allah.
According to Quran, both types of habits are required for success. The daughters of Prophet Shuayb described Prophet Moses as strong to work for them but also honest:“O my father! Hire him: truly the best of men to employ is the man who is strong and honest.” [28:26]
When Prophet Yusuf recommended himself to the King of Egypt to oversee the storehouses of the Kingdom, he described himself as one who has the knowledge and expertise but also one who guards the storehouses with honesty and integrity:“I will indeed guard them as one who knows.” [12:55]
In the center of Surah Al-Shams, The Sun, we find a core message and a lead idea about the significance of the habits of character in the definition of the human self:“Truly he succeeds who increases the goodness of his self, and he fails who corrupts it.” [91:9-10]
Our success is dependent on the degree of goodness we add to ourselves, and the level of self-development we achieve. We fail when we stagnate and stop the growth and development of ourselves. The word, dassaha implies that we bury ourselves in the dust, prevent their advancement, and cause their social death. In other words, Quran is giving us the freedom to choose between two diametrically opposite mindsets: The growth mindset versus the fixed or social death mindset.
The second component of success is for the students in every field of knowledge to pursue what is new. This requires a deep belief in the possibilities that are still in the unknown. Quran considers the belief in the “unknown” as the first condition for the success of the high-quality class in the society, al-muttaqeen:“Those who believe in the unknown……….are among those who prosper.” [2:3-5]
Any educational system will give the best results if it provides the environment for the students to always push the envelope and encourage them to extend their hands into the unknown to bring new possibilities into this world through the process of creation or innovation:“So blessed be Allah, The best among creators.” [23:14]
No creation will occur except in an environment of freedom. The most grounded in knowledge are those who do not stop their journey of liberation and keep their minds open for new knowledge and truths:“But those among them who are well-grounded in knowledge and the believers, believe in what has been revealed to you and what has been revealed before you.” [4:162]
By Dr. Walid Khayr