Displaying items by tag: Higher Education in Islam

The concept of literacy means much more than simply being able to read and write. Most of us may be familiar with financial or technological literacy. But, when we speak of futures literacy, we are referring to the area of human imagination.

One can only imagine the future. Futures teach us to harness the power of images of the future, and identify the diverse choices that can lead to different consequences.

Very often, underlying assumptions and fears limit this imagination to create an alternative or preferred futures when, in fact, our imagination is limitless. What inhibits us from freely imagining what the future can be? Past biases, cultural norms and preconceived ideas, just to name a few.

We may have to go through a process of unlearning to unleash the undiscovered power of imagining our desired futures. Speaking to various industry representatives revealed that many prepare for the future, but do so without foresight consciousness. Some claim they have all the data, but are clueless as to how to harness it.

By the time trends are properly qualified, it may be too late to act. Others have miscalculated and are ignorant to the daunting possibility that their organisations may no longer exist in a decade.

They could be "Kodak-ed". Did the taxi industry foresee the coming of Uber or Grab? Myopia sets in when managements become comfortable with their three-year action plans, which are not based on any upward trajectory aimed at the preferred future.

How do universities stay relevant and even excel? Today, with the new norm, digital onboarding is critical. Many businesses have disappeared because they were unprepared for the pandemic. Institutions that were strong with an online presence landed with a softer thud.

This is a case in point which demonstrates the importance of futures literacy. We cannot predict the future, but we can test probabilities and draw up action plans for different scenarios.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco), headquartered in Paris, began building a global futures literacy network in 2012 by identifying local champions in more than 20 countries.

Multiple chairs have been initiated in Finland, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Tunisia, the United Kingdom and Uruguay. The chairs advocate innovative methods or tools of "using-the-future", while partnering members from the civil society, government and the private sector.

The International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM) is proudly the 2020 Candidate for the Unesco Chair in Futures Studies. As such, we were offered to host a booth at the recently organised Unesco High-Level Futures Literacy Summit, which had more than 8,000 registered participants. Exhibitors included 100 institutions showcasing their past, current and forthcoming projects in the area of foresight.

The summit, which began on Dec 8, provided testimonials from around the world that being futures literate changes what people see and do. From high-ranking leaders in the public and private sector to activists, artists, students and professors, the summit showed how people become futures literate and the impact it has on all aspects of life, from dealing with Covid-19 to breaking the reproduction of oppression.

High level speakers had engaged in "futures conversations", including Higher Education Minister Datuk Dr Noraini Ahmad, the Costa Rican vice-president, ministers from Austria, Canada, Côte d'Ivoire, Finland, the Philippines and Sierra Leone. Others included heads of international organisations like the Islamic World Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation director-general, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development secretary-general, Foresight of the European Commission vice-president and professors of universities in China, Egypt, France, Thailand, Tunisia and Saudi Arabia.

IIUM has taken concrete steps to adopt the foresight framework in its vision and planning. Still, after 37 years, how can IIUM fortify the higher education scenario in Malaysia?

The question had to be addressed urgently. With that in mind, the management embarked on the Futures Scenario Building workshop led by Professor Sohail Inayatullah. The event began with the course leader asking participants honest questions and later breaking them into different groups to represent the different scenarios.

The whole process was meant to map the future in a structured way through identifying emerging issues and trends, understanding their implications, deconstructing metaphors and narratives, creating alternative and preferred futures, as well as designing relevant strategies.

Institutionally, IIUM envisions itself as part of the global Muslim ummah, simultaneously acting as a global citizen, working for humanity.


The writer is head of Futures Studies, Office of the Rector, International Islamic University Malaysia

Published in: The New Straits Times, Friday 01 January 2021

Source: https://www.nst.com.my/opinion/columnists/2021/01/653593/futures-literacy-vital-navigating-challenges-looming-ahead

Thursday, 26 November 2020 09:59

We were educated pre-colonisation

Sometime this month, we have seen trending on social media a list of schools touted as the earliest education institutions established in, at the time, Tanah Melayu or Malaya, at the beginning of the 19th century.

Like all things, there is a disconcerting idea that civilisation, culture and coming of age for Malaysia was only possible post British colonial times.

It is quite surreal to see Malaysians support the idea, in perplexing jubilation that education in Malaysia only took place after the British marched into our corridors, built schools and "bestowed" education into our lives.

This could be the most damaging untruth we allow into our history. Our education definitely did not begin with the British, and our education system, like our laws and commerce, did not exist only upon Western indoctrination. We had our own education and knowledge systems we should be proud of which have existed in our land pre-British rule.

Not one to dispute the benefits of British education, this article seeks to dispel the notion that Tanah Melayu did not have an education system worthy of mention before the Penang Free School was established.

Informal education of values, character and knowledge inherited from generation to generation is crucial to nation-building. In this sense, this is how education begins in a Malay household, with Quran studies starting early in life. We can attest to the importance of early informal education where we see Finland — touted as having among the best education systems in the world — only starts formal education at seven years of age.

Since the 7th century, hundreds of years before the British, there were many sekolah pondok or funduq (ie. boarding schools) and madrasah (a term to describe any type of educational institution, secular or religious) established across the Malay Archipelago.

It became a prominent mainstay in Tanah Melayu in the 15th century after the Melaka Sultanate was established. Many Malays who attended sekolah pondok or madrasah then were already travelling to further their education in known centres of learning such as Makkah and Cairo, before later coming back to establish their own sekolah pondok or madrasah.

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Final pages of the Taj al-Salatin, copied in Penang and dated 4 Zulhijah 1239 (31 July 1824).

Thanks to the British penchant for "good" record keeping, the oldest recorded sekolah pondok post British rule was said to be founded in Pulau Chondong circa 1820s by Tuan Haji Samad Abdullah who hailed from Patani. Conveniently, it put the Penang Free School established by the British in 1816 as the oldest recorded school in modern Malaya, exalting them as the bringer of education in this country while blatantly ignoring all other sekolah pondok and madrasah that existed before their rule across Tanah Melayu.

In William Shellabear's edition of Sejarah Melayu, he said that after Melaka was established as an Islamic polity, between the 15th and 17th centuries, the teachings of Islam spearheaded education in the community where the Malays studied with renown scholars.

Illiteracy was eradicated, and the Jawi script was used after centuries of usage of pallavi and rencong scripts.

It was through this Jawi script that the Malays established over 10,000 manuscripts which are now studied in over 60 countries in more than 150 museums and libraries, offering a wide variety of subjects including history, law, medicine, weaponry, literature, starcharting, maritime navigation, literature and cultural pursuits like music and wayang kulit.

Written since the 15th century, if not earlier, the Malay Manuscripts are proof that various schools of thought, the result of a clear path of learning, existed for centuries in Tanah Melayu before the British era.

It cannot be denied that Islam brought enlightenment through the Jawi script where all households learned the Quran, and thus the Jawi script. Homeschooling, sekolah pondok and madrasah as well as silat training ensured a continuous system of learning.

In addition, in the Malay world there was a strong tradition of apprenticeship which ensured a continuous expansion of knowledge in metallurgy, woodworks, cannon/weaponry, ship building and Malay architecture (the marvel of the world with its interlocking technics and intricate pasak that did not need nails, which had disruptive corrosive properties).

The preservation of such collective skills and knowledge is crucial for the survival of the corpus of our heritage and wisdom.

Scholars like Tun Perak, Tun Sri Lanang , Raja Ali and more are proof that there was a healthy workable system of learning in Malay society.

In fact when the Tang Dynasty monk and world traveller, I Tsing arrived in the Malay World in the 7th century, namely Palembang and Kedah, he was so impressed by the schools in the area that he recommended for all scholars to spend six months studying in Srivijaya.

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‘Kitab Ilmu Bedil’ is a Malay manuscript regarded as a traditional literary genre, containing knowledge on weaponry.

In 687 AD, he stopped in the kingdom of Srivijaya on his way back to Chang'an. At that time, Palembang was a centre of Buddhism where foreign scholars gathered, and I Tsing stayed there for two years to translate original Sanskrit Buddhist scriptures into Chinese.

This scholarly tradition established in as early as the 7th century, would surely be the modus operandi adopted throughout the Malay World.

This goes to show that irrespective of the religion that they professed, the Malay World had international-class education system before any European learned how to sail to the Far East.

Through the sekolah pondok and madrasah as well as the recording of knowledge in manuscripts, education in the Malay World expanded beyond our borders to reach its pinnacle in the 19th century to include tertiary education that attracted students from all over the world to learn from us.

We continue this journey to provide the best education to all — a balance of the spiritual, science and skills needed to face a new world.

There is nothing wrong in being an anglophile, but let's not bury our own heritage and history in the process.

The writer is an award-winning Malaysian author, writer and poet, specialising in Malay Hikayat and Asian legends.

Published in: New Straits Times, Wednesday 25 November 2020

Source: https://www.nst.com.my/news/nation/2020/11/644091/nst175-we-were-educated-pre-colonisation