Al-Ghazzali (1058-1111) - Moral purpose
Al-Ghazzalis was a renowned Muslim scholar, in an age where education, knowledge and scientific endeavour were greatly valued, encouraged and practiced in the Muslim world. Born in Iran, he taught theology and philosophy in that great centre of learning, Baghdad. Familiar with Christian scholars and Greek texts from Plato, Aristotle and others, he remains one of the most influential Muslim thinkers and scholars.
Reason and religion
With a deep interest in rationalism and logic, subsumed within a religious context, in The Rescuer from Loss he reveals his own process of reflection and education but it is in The Revival of Religious Sciences that he lays out a systematic account of how to live one’s life, including the role of teaching and learning. Education is to be valued, a religious imperative. But far from being a religious dogmatist, he promotes the role of reason, critical thought and self-examination. This is far from the narrow, dogmatic role of teaching and learning in some areas of extreme Islam.
Teaching & learning
The teacher must be sensitive to the differences among learners. Dialogue and listening are important skills, as teachers must see learners as humans with real needs in terms of morals and purpose. The pedagogy of punishment is not the point. The teacher must therefore be a model for behaviour and show the virtues of humility and honesty. To learn is not to learn by rote or by copying texts. Religiousons compliance is still the goal but education is about teaching the young to play a moral and purposeful role in society.