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Tackling Moral Decline: A New Look at Islamiat and its Pedagogy is the Need of the Hour

By Amin Valliani

Nov. 18 2011

WORLD history has never seen a period where a proper sense of morality prevailed. Only Islamic history projects a period of about 13 years where the Holy Prophet (PBUH) established a society in Medina which can be termed as immaculate: free of evil and exploitation.

One of the major objectives of Islam is to extirpate all social evils from society. In order to achieve this, Islam instilled a high of morality amongst its first followers. The Prophet was a living role model amongst them; the Quran describes him as one of exalted character (68:4). Morality is a subject that deals with and determines the veracity of human conduct, e.g. good or bad, right or wrong, etc.

There is not a single moment of a day when an individual is not engaged in doing or thinking something. It is an endless process which goes on all through one’s life. The question arises when one is confronted with the veracity of activity: right or wrong. This relates to morality and Muslims have been asked to seek guidance to determine the veracity of their conduct.

Their ultimate success is predicated on the soundness of their social conduct with fellow beings.

After the Quran, the life of the Prophet is the best source of guidance. While elaborating on eternal verities he simultaneously exemplified through his scrupulous conduct. His life is full of such incidents, where he projects a proper sense of morality.

Even his staunch enemies confessed that his ethics were great. His thought for human benefit, his deeds of kindness, his words for love, his effort for peaceful coexistence and his prayers for human salvation are shining examples for all to emulate.

Contrary to such superb teachings, a cursory look at our society today reveals an all-round state of moral decrepitude; it faces numerous problems, but the most horrendous is ethical degradation at every level. Lack of moral scruples at committing evil can be observed in markets, offices, factories and public places where people interact in a most discourteous manner. Most appear to be individualistic, self-centred and over-ambitious in pursuit of wealth, power and social status. Many ignore the pangs of conscience for the sake of worldly pursuits.

At the national level, many public organisations have failed to meet moral standards. Internationally, we face a grim situation as many NGOs place us on the lowest rung. Some have tagged us as corrupt or unreliable. Pakistanis visiting abroad face disrespect while encountering foreigners. Though the present scenario looks bleak, one must not be disappointed. The Quran says that Allah changes not the condition of a nation unless it changes itself (13:11).

In some government offices, a circular was reportedly issued directing all employees to be ethical in their dealings. A person cannot become ethical just on the issuance of a circular; it is the mindset, acquired over time through an attitudinal education, training and environment which trains you to be ethical in your dealings.

A Muslim who loves his fellow being feels pain when he sees decay all around. There are a number of reasons for this but the foremost is drifting away from the ethical goals set by Allah. We have gone far from the ethical teachings of Islam. Success lies only in adhering to these teachings in letter and spirit.

The Quran is full of ethical teachings. But chapter 17 especially provides ethical guidelines for the believers to follow in material life, whereby an individual as well as society can purge themselves of evils. These teachings have the sole purpose of creating an ethical society. Allah vouches that “Your Lord knows best what is in your inner selves. If you are righteous then verily He is ever-most forgiving to those who turn to Him again and again in obedience and repentance” (17:25). Thus, one has to develop an inner sense that his Lord is aware of what is going on inside/outside one’s self.

People interact mainly through word of mouth. Words represent our inner attitudes; they can create friendship and animosity among individuals. It is on the record that words have been the cause of many disputes and wars and also a good cause of peace and friendship in many areas of the world throughout history. Therefore, the Quran emphasises that believers utter words that are best and be cautious.

Ever since the creation of Pakistan we have been teaching our students the subject of Islamiat in schools and colleges. The education ministry and departments have attached a long list of objectives for teaching Islamiat in their curriculum documents. Yet we see moral decay, therefore, we need to rethink the contents of Islamiat textbooks and evaluate them vis-à-vis our objectives.

We cannot change society and deeply entrenched social attitudes overnight but we must foresee and plan our future society right now and ask ourselves what will be our society in the year 2036, for instance, 25 years from now when a whole new generation will have grown up. In order to create a moral society, a new look at the whole subject of Islamiat and its pedagogy is the need of the hour.

It may be an uphill task but it must be undertaken, with the teachers engaged in teaching Islamiat made conscious that their task is ordained as guides. They must be instilled with a missionary spirit to build their students’ character to shape a future society that is free from exploitation, corruption and chicanery.

The writer is an educationist.

Source: The Dawn, Karachi