Interfaith education: An Islamic perspective

Abstract

According to a teaching of the Prophet Muhammad, “the quest for knowledge is the duty of each Muslim, male or female”, where knowledge is meant as the discovery of the real value of things and of oneself in relationship with the world in which God has placed us. This universal dimension of knowledge is in fact a wealth of wisdom of the traditional doctrine naturally linked to the cultural and spiritual heritage of every human being and every believer of every faith. It allows for the respect of internal and external differences as positive elements of the cultural and spiritual heritage of mankind. In this sense, intercultural and interfaith education plays a fundamental role and fits naturally within the Islamic religious education framework. The author of this article is Vice-President and Imam of the Islamic Religious Community in Italy (Comunità Religiosa Islamica [COREIS] Italiana), an organisation which has been providing teachers and students with training on Islam and interfaith dialogue for almost twenty years with the support of the regional and national offices of the Italian Ministry of Public Education. Referring to existing interreligious and intercultural societies such as Azerbaijan, and a number of successful initiatives and projects, several of which COREIS is involved in, he demonstrates how interfaith education can effectively contribute to preventing the diffusion of anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and radicalism.

Résumé

Éducation interconfessionnelle : une perspective islamique – Selon un enseignement du prophète Mahomet, « la quête du savoir est une obligation pour tout musulman, homme ou femme », le savoir étant entendu ici comme la découverte de la valeur réelle des choses et de soi-même, en relation avec le monde dans lequel Dieu nous a placés. Cette dimension universelle du savoir est en fait une source de sagesse de la doctrine traditionnelle, naturellement liée au patrimoine culturel et spirituel de tout être humain et de tout croyant de toute confession. Elle permet le respect des différences internes et externes en tant qu’éléments positifs du patrimoine culturel et spirituel de l’humanité. Dans cet esprit, l’éducation interculturelle et interconfessionnelle assume un rôle fondamental et trouve naturellement sa place dans le contexte de l’éducation religieuse islamique. L’auteur de l’article est vice-président et imam de la communauté religieuse islamique d’Italie (Comunità Religiosa Islamica [COREIS] Italiana), organisme qui dispense depuis presque vingt ans aux enseignants et élèves des cours sur l’islam et le dialogue interconfessionnel, avec le soutien des directions régionales et nationales du ministère italien de l’éducation publique. Se référant aux sociétés interreligieuses et interculturelles existantes telles que l’Azerbaïdjan, et à divers projets et initiatives concluants, COREIS étant impliquée dans plusieurs d’entre eux, il montre que l’éducation interconfessionnelle peut contribuer à prévenir efficacement la propagation de l’antisémitisme, de l’islamophobie et du radicalisme.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Saint Augustine (c. 354 AD–430 AD), who was born and lived in a part of Northern Africa which is now predominantly Muslim, was an early Christian theologian and philosopher. He travelled to Europe and converted to Christianity in Milan in 386 AD, under the bishop Ambrose. Later he founded the first monastic communities in Europe. From 396 AD to 430 AD, he was Bishop of Hippo Regius (now Annaba, Algeria). His writings influenced the development of Western (Catholic) Christianity and Western philosophy. His statements about the Sophia Perennis suggest the idea of a primordial wisdom which has undergone each religious tradition before the coming of Christ and of which the Christian religion was just the latter revealed form.

  2. 2.

    A hadith [from “report” in Arabic] is an account of words or actions of the Islamic prophet Muhammad. A Sunan is a hadith collection.

  3. 3.

    The Latin expression “cuius regio, eius religio”, translated literally, means “whose realm, his religion”. It states that the religion of a ruler automatically becomes the religion of his subjects. This clause was included in the Treaty of Augusta (1555) as a political compromise among the rulers, which actually did not mean a religious freedom for all citizens.

  4. 4.

    Children in Italy start school when they are five or six years old according to the date of birth, so that they usually attend the fifth and final year of primary school while they are ten or eleven.

  5. 5.

    In 2015, the universal world exposition (Expo), a major public exhibition lasting six months, was held in Milan.

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Correspondence to Yahya Sergio Yahe Pallavicini.

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Pallavicini, Y.S.Y. Interfaith education: An Islamic perspective. Int Rev Educ 62, 423–437 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11159-016-9571-8

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Keywords

  • interfaith education
  • Islam
  • Christianity