Education is the activity of changing the ideas and behaviours of people through teaching. The ideas they are taught first start to change their understanding and then their behaviours follow. Once the change of ideas and behaviours is accomplished, it means that education has achieved its goal.
The Philosophy of Positivist Education
In today’s educational system, the dominant philosophy in teaching the physical sciences to students is that of positivism. The positivist education philosophy assumes the existent beings as if they act on their own. It describes the relation of beings with one another in detail but only with a materialist point of view.
Geography, for instance, describes the rain as the liquid water in the form of droplets which condense from atmospheric water vapour and then become heavy enough to fall onto the earth. It explains the wind as the movement of air from high pressure area to lower pressure area. It depicts the mountains as being formed as a result of the Earth’s tectonic plates smashing together.
In another example, biology describes the cell as composed of membrane outermost, then cytoplasm, and then nucleus at its core. It explains in detail the features of the membrane, the duties of cytoplasm, the duties of each organelle in the cytoplasm, the structure of the nucleus and its duties. Likewise, physics explains the reason for the Sun attracting the Earth and other planets through the law of gravitation. It describes the law of gravity in a detailed fashion and through formulations in mathematics.
Let’s look at another example: Every object dropped from a height falls down to the ground. The rain drops fall down from a height of a few kilometres. Although their speed is supposed to be at the speed of a bullet, they reach to the ground as if they caress our heads. In reality, this is evidence for the mercy of our Creator. However, positivist understanding describes it with the law of speed limit, thus hiding the evidence of mercy. With this law, physics says the following: “Every object that is dropped from a height and starts a free fall accelerates every second. However, as a result of the friction between the object and the air, the speed of the object becomes stabilized and it finishes the rest of its fall with a constant speed.” In other words this event has nothing to do with mercy and wisdom – it is just a natural event that occurs as a result of the law of speed limit.
At this point, one should pay attention to this: the law of speed limit is a law like others that Allah has made with His will. Our Lord has such mercy that He increases the speed of a falling object until a certain limit and then stabilizes its speed. If it were not like this, we would face a bombardment of rain drops every time it rained – which would make the life unbearable. The law of speed limit and all the others are the laws made by Allah’s merciful will and enforced by His power in order to ensure the system and order of the universe.
The philosophy of positivist education depicts such a universe that Allah is never involved in it, the laws of nature make it work, and the causes are the creators. That is, the mountains form by the law of nature; the cell is like a factory working by itself; it is the bee that makes honey; it is the cow that produce milk; it is the fault lines that cause earthquakes; the fire burns; the water lifts; the gravity attracts; the trees produce oxygen. While all of these are happening, there is no involvement of Allah; they all take place on their own or by the laws of nature or with the effects of causes. (The truth is far from this!) In other words, it is imprinted on the mind and embedded in the subconscious of people that the causes are the ‘doers’ which have the power of influence as a result of the cause and effect relationship. And this idea is skillfully indoctrinated under the cover of objectivity and being scientific.
The power of indoctrination
If a good person is continuously indoctrinated that he is a bad person, he will soon start being a bad person. And if a bad person is continuously indoctrinated that he is a good person, he will soon begin to do good things. Repetitive indoctrination of a thought helps it take root in the mind and subconscious; and it influences the behaviours directly. Being aware of the power of indoctrination, the politicians succeeded to lead the crowds throughout history by mobilizing them.
Just like in the examples above, as a result of a 16-year-indoctrination from age of six until university graduation that ‘the things exist by themselves’, a generation – even if they become experts of some sciences – comes out, which does not know or love Allah. They have an understanding of a universe that works by itself and is not ruled by Allah. They are a generation raised with weak faith, lack the knowledge of Allah and are captivated by the desires of lower self.
The reality of the things
The reality is totally different from what the dominant philosophy suggests. Allah is involved in the events of universe every moment. Everything and every action in the universe is decided upon by the knowledge and will of Allah, and created by His power. In fact, each science in its field is a witness and an advertiser of the order put by Allah. As Imam Bediuzzaman told the high school students who had complained that their teachers never informed them about Allah, “Every science, in their special languages, always speaks of Allah. They introduce Him. You should listen to those sciences not the teachers.” (The Sixth Issue, The Staff of Moses (as))
The Philosophy of Positivist Education is not suitable to us
Like many wrong habits, this positivist education system has also been imported from the West. The physical sciences which had their development process in Europe, where the philosophy of materialism and nature are prevailing, have been served to the Islamic world unfortunately in this poisonous form. Being presented on the tray of matter and nature, not accepting these sciences as they are represented in the West results in becoming materially backward and being materially dominated by the West. Taking and accepting them as they are means being an atheist or raising generations who do not know or love their Creator, confused by doubts and do not even have Allah and His consent in their agenda. This has been the most dangerous and the most serious ontological problem of the Islamic world in the last two centuries.
Point of view changes the essence of things
Imam Bediuzzaman says point of view changes the essence of things. (See Al-Mathnawi al-Nuriya) For instance, as in the case of ‘speed limit’, if you look at the slow fall of raindrops in the name of Allah, it becomes ‘evidence of mercy and unity’ which increases the faith. However, if you look at the same event with the eye of nature and materialism in a wrong way, it is just an ordinary natural event.
In its first revealed verse, the Qur’an expresses what point of view we must have while looking at the universe, things and events: “Read in the name of your Lord Who created.” (The Qur’an, Al-‘Alaq, 96:1) That is, we must do our reading in the name of our Creator. While we are reading our self, things, events, and the universe – that is while we are trying to solve their meaning – we must look at and read them in the name of Allah.
The necessary solution
One should not look at the things (i.e. matter) and events for their own sake, but in the name of Allah. This is because it is the Divine power that creates and employs the things.
For instance, instead of looking at a flower for its own sake and focusing on its physical qualities by cutting its link to Allah, one should look at it as a miracle of power of Allah, a work of art, a mirror reflecting the Names and Attributes of Allah.
This point of view – looking at things in the name of Allah – must be taught to our children early on in the first years of education. They must comprehend very well that every science is a declaration introducing and informing about Allah.
Not an obstacle to learning the Physical Sciences
Looking at the universe and things in the name of Allah is not an obstacle to learning the Physical Sciences. On the contrary, it contributes to ambition and eagerness to learn the physical sciences.
This is because each science, in their fields, enables us to get in-depth information about matter and its actions. Although matter is lifeless, deaf, blind and unconscious, it acts as if it is conscious and knows and sees; this is a work of the power of Allah. Therefore, having in-depth knowledge about matter and its actions would mean seeing and understanding what principles the Divine power uses, what details it includes and what sort of an art it performs. And this results in obtaining knowledge of Allah (marifatullah). And this result urges us to further investigate the physical sciences.
One who looks at matter and its actions through the binocular of the physical sciences in the name of Allah knows his Lord; he loves Allah as he gets to know Him. And as he loves Allah, he seeks for ways to endear himself to Him.
Someone who learns the law of speed limit, thanks to the physics, both studies all the details and formulas of this law, and he also increases his knowledge and love of Allah with that evidence of mercy of his Lord.
Imam Bediuzzaman says that there are logically no other routes than the four ways below to answer the question of “how did the beings come into existence?”
either brought into existence by the causality of the world like air, water, heat, element, atom, in the sense that it comes into existence by way of the coming together of causes;
or the beings form themselves by coincidence;
or they come into existence as a necessary entailment of nature;
or they exist through the power of Allah.
The impossibility and falseness of the first three ways and the certainty of the fourth one must be proven with logical evidence in a way that will leave no room for doubt. Those three pillars on which the positivist educational system is built must be demolished; a new educational system based on tawhid (unity) must be developed instead. While doing this, the Risale-i Nur Corpus – the masterwork of Imam Bediuzzaman – should be benefited very much.
Especially the religious school books should be prepared in a way suitable to the understanding of today by benefiting from the Risale-i Nur.
There should be an article at the end of every unit of the science textbooks explaining how the topics covered in that unit point at the existence, oneness, the Names and Attributes of Allah. In this way, science subjects are taught to students, and also the real aim – knowing Allah and loving Him – is achieved.
The following word of Imam Bediuzzaman Said Nursi should be the basic principle in re-structuring the educational system: “The light of mind is the positive sciences. The light of conscience is the religious sciences. When these two are combined, truth arises thereupon.”
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