Meeting with Mufti AbdulHamid Patel CBE: Rethink Islamic Schools paradigm
Not always I get a chance to meet some thinkers of the 21st century, whose philosophy are rooted in my alma mater of Deoband, India. I had the pleasant surprise of attending an intended workshop turned presentation at the Abu Bakr Masjid Toronto on the topic of Islamic schools with an award winning educator. Well that is putting it lightly! Abdul Hamid Patel has been decorated by Her Majesty with the Commander of British Education award. The humble and erudite Mufti of the UK is a successful administrator of a plethora of Islamic schools- some private and some public, in the not so faraway European country of Great Britain- home of some 3million Muslims and thousands of Islamic institutions.
As I listened to him elaborate around philosophy of the foundations of education in an Islamic context; often quoting Jim Collins, a favourite, who said ‘a good organisation cannot be great organisation’, my interest peaked when he mentioned Restorative Justice. Where in the Islamic world does a traditionalist references Restorative Justice in a room full of Imams and evening madressa teachers?
As we moved on the discourse on a warm Easter Sunday, I grew to like the evidently contemporary educator whose words of unchartered waters reminded me for a bit of Sir Muhammad Iqbal wrestling verses off Rumi Persian pages and whipping thoughts on Nietzsche - we must become thinkers and not blind followers. Don't get me wrong! This Mufti Patel was no simpleton!
He reminded the quiet room of separated women teachers and male leaders that it's not enough to acquire itqan-or perfection in our curriculum but ihsan and excellence is needed should we wish to become leaders. Abdul Hamid Patel is undoubtedly a young professional who has successfully trained hundred of teachers and school leaders through his accredited QTS program and manages over thirteen schools! That's a testimony of a turban dressed young eloquent scholar whose twitter seem to highlight modern issues in Education, that public schools in the UK, whose students are primarily non Muslims are pursuing him! Mr. Patel’s network of Tauheedul girl’s schools seems to set the standards of both academic and religious education, rightly so, the savant Mufti believes there is really no distinction between the two when it comes to excelling! See //www.tighs.com/
I like the terminology of spiritual intelligence versus spiritual compliance. I have already tested this out with my study circle inside the Institutions! Compliance is a matrix of the punishment system. For too long our focus in the schools has been compliance of the religious rituals and of course compliance of the management and an unforgiving culture. Herewith the values of taqwa and love of country, with sincere feelings to research spiritual things are not given ample resources. That has to change if we want to combat a cell phone driven generation of extra too much distractions and conflicted by a dichotomy of values and self. I see his call for acute self-discipline a direct challenge to our cognitive dissonance.
I wanted to draw the parallel so badly of Malala when Abdul Hamid reemphasised on the critical need of secular education in the Muslim world but time only allowed me to ask about the application of restorative justice in Islamic schools. By now I can imagine the young girl who complained to me seven years after she was kicked out of her Islamic school for endorsing her friend’s relationship. She never stepped into a mosque again and avoided Ramadan like the plague! Maybe had the authorities not been too worried about the donors’ rebuff and invited her and the parties in a circle of love called Shura- amends and apologies would have saved another youth!
A day spent with amazing colleagues and piously motivated teachers is a beautiful day - Easter is about victory and beauty and this I think is the message of the visiting Professor- let the freedom to think be your best friend and the beauty of Iqra inspire your dreams- if you want to be passionate about Islamic schools and not just a job to get by with!
‘The highest result of education is tolerance.' Mufti Abdul Hamid Patel, CBE, Twitter handle.