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.
Dr. Ahmad al-Dubayan
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, there are also many books and articles talking about biographies of the Prophet (peace be upon him), but these have not presented the Prophet (PBUH) in the right way" he said.
Dr. Dubayan added that at the same time we, as Muslims, think that there is a lack or shortage of materials or texts about the Prophet's biography available for Muslim schools and 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 Muslims and to convey the right message of Islam to those people who are not Muslims."
Dr. Dubayan also said that we know that there are some people who would like to deface Islam itself by telling some wrong stories, some weak Hadiths. "It is our duty as Muslims to preserve the biography of the Prophet (peace be upon him) not only by correcting others but also by presenting the biography of the Prophet (PBUH) and studying it again and trying to learn 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 it a more it serious consideration and conduct research into it.
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 doing its duty 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 path to understand Islam and putting our youth also on the right way to understand Islam and follow the life of the Prophet (peace be upon him)."
Dr. Al-Shiddy agreed with Dr. Dubayan that new media to be used as a method to spread Islam and also knowledge about Prophet's life and his behaviour with the people.
Dr. Shiddy also praised the call of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques during the Islamic Summit at Makkah al-Mukarramah to establish a centre for dialogue.
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 on Seerah.
Mr. Muhammad Ismail, Researcher and Educationist
Mr. Muhammad Ismail, researcher and educationist also 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 said, "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 in the British Muslim schools, Mr. Ismail said, "Each school is different from another school, it is the same as far as the curriculum and teaching is concerned. So 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."
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 Muslims 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. How best we can teach and communicate the values of the Prophet (peace be upon him). He 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 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 discussed 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, of course where we have application of comparative critical thinking of present; because we have usual methodological debates taking place within Hadiths for example. 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)."
Dr. Shaheen also pointed out that since this conference is about not only theoretical information but practical steps, "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."