The great thinker Ibn Khaldūn was born in Tunis, 1332 AD
and died in Cairo, 1406 AD. His ideas have reflected their importance on the
history of universal thought as much as within the Islamic realm. His thoughts
are all self-created. He has been affected by savants before him but he is not a
continuation of them. He created genuine and innovative ideas. It is due to this
fact that although he lived during the 14th century his thoughts still manage to
shed light among events of current times. His ideas have not lost their
relevance as time has passed. Recognized as the founder of sociological
sciences, Ibn Khaldūn has been accepted and commented upon by historians,
jurists, theologians, politicians, economists, teachers, educators and
environmentalists alike. Ibn Khaldūn’s great work of art, The Muqaddimah has
been translated into the world’s most common languages.
Here, we shall try to enumerate his education-teaching
views which shed light on current educational systems and consequently provide a
text from which we may take benefit.
Imparting Information to
Students at their Level of Comprehension
Information should be given to students gradually in
stages, lower to higher, which they may understand. If teaching methods are
gradually applied to students, the education will prove more effective for them.
Initially, the main principles of information and sciences should be taught, and
taking into consideration the learning capacity of the students these matters
should be explained briefly. The subjects to be taught should be provided with
this method until completion. Such a method will result in the students showing
more aptitude to the given information. However, the students’ aptitude will
remain weak and insufficient. The students during this period will have learnt
to absorb the given information. Pursuant to this, the teacher should revise the
subjects with a little more elaboration and continue to provide the information
in a wider aspect until completion. Then the students’ knowledge and adjustments
shall be enhanced accordingly. The teacher shall then revise the subject three
times over from the beginning. During this period, the teacher shall be able to
explain more difficult and deeper aspects of the subject. This will result in
the students reaching their utmost aptitude. The subject needs revision three
times over and then students become well familiar with the subject. This is the
correct method of teaching according to Ibn Khaldūn.
Students should not be Forced to Memorize
Teachers usually explain the difficult and deeper aspects of subjects which
students are learning for the first time, therefore, forcing the students to
memorize the subject. They accept this as the correct form of teaching. However,
the students’ brains are not capable of understanding this. It’s difficult
enough for them to learn a lesson. This results in the students becoming lazy,
their mind rejects the information and the period of learning is prolonged. This
is subsequently a result of poor teaching methods. The teacher should not impose
upon the students whether they are new or accustomed to the subject. He should
not overload the students with lessons beyond their capabilities and capacities,
or should not intrude beyond the textbook under study or begin a new textbook
before the current one is completed. Otherwise, the issues will be scrambled and
subjects will become complex. When teaching, one must provide thought and
revision. Memorization should be avoided.
Subjects should not be Taught in a Broken Sequence
To teach subjects in a broken sequence is to prolong the term of study for
knowledge or the sciences. For breaking up lessons or pausing results in a
further period to learn that subject. The connection of issues within a subject
will lose its significance. If issues within the subjects of information are
applied in an organized manner until completion, these subjects will become more
profound and their impression more permanent and students will therefore gain
more. The information shall be connected with relative subjects and concretely
formed within the brain and the mind.
Two Subjects should not be Taught Together
Two subjects should not be taught at one and the same time or be mixed with
another subject. One should not pass on to another subject while the first
remains incomplete. For this separates the heart from the mind. Concentration on
learning both subjects at the same time unfortunately leads to an incomplete
knowledge of both the subjects; the student absorbs neither information
Appropriate Length of Subjects Taught
According to Ibn Khaldūn, an over-summarized text on certain information as
well as an over-extended text will create difficulty in learning the actual
information. Furthermore, he separates the sciences into two categories of
science-means and science-purposes. He explains the drawbacks of
over-emphasizing on science-means. He believes that the wise men of recent times
and their emphasis on science-means have led to negative results in the learning
of these subjects.
It is Harmful to be very Strict on the Student
During education and teaching, it is harmful to be very strict on the student
especially if the student is of young age. This sort of aggressiveness
negatively influences the child. It may affect the psychology of the child and
create unhappiness as well as corrupt his desire to work and study. This will
drive the child to misbehaviour and to lie out of fear. He will learn to display
actions contrary to those really within his heart. In time, this will become his
nature and part of his character. It will corrupt the enhancements of social
activities, modernization and the whole meaning of humanity consisting of
self-esteem and family values.
Therefore, teachers, mothers and fathers should not be aggressive towards
children in order to teach them obedience and manners.
Travelling and Conferencing with Scholars is Useful for Education
People sometimes learn knowledge, ethics, occupation, views and virtues from
teachers and also from persons who are masters of their fields or simply others
whom they accept as role models. Practical experience usually influences more
concrete ideas on certain subjects. The more knowledgeable the teacher from whom
information is gained, the more solid the knowledge is acquired by the student.
Terminology of subjects usually complicates the learning process. Due to this,
some assume that these terminologies are just part of the subject. This
incorrect attitude may only be rectified by various means and teaching performed
accordingly. Hearing the information from various masters shall strengthen his
knowledge and assist him to differentiate between terminologies.
Education should be Practical
Ibn Khaldūn also emphasizes the teaching of arts and crafts. He states the
importance of practical application such as to observe, to feel and to apply the
knowledge gained as much as possible. He places emphasis on the fact that these
sort of subjects cannot specially be taught only in theory.
He states that theoretical study must be accompanied by practical study.
Learning Science requires Skill
Ibn Khaldūn believes that learning science requires skill. Tradition is
important in teaching. Tradition must be upheld for the progress of science.
Otherwise, science and education will recede. Tradition of science and education
only prevails in places which have progressed in prosperity.
Ibn Khaldūn has emphasized the importance of science, education and teaching.
He foresees science and education as an inseparable part of prosperity.
According to him, the real difference between mankind and other beings is the
power of thought. Science and art are born from open-minded thought and the
intricate learning of the principles of all issues. Ideas emerge from those who
have the curiosity and desire to investigate what is unknown. From this
situation, the issues of education and teaching arise.
He advises teachers to teach in a comprehensive manner and to gradually teach
subjects in stages, moving from easier to the more difficult. Memorization
should be avoided. He emphasizes that teaching methods should be simple and not
complicated. He states that the teaching of subjects should not be in broken
sequences or else the subject will become scattered and forgotten. Also,
aggressive behaviour towards children will turn them off from lessons, create
laziness, making them unwilling learners as well as negatively affecting their
Education should consist of theory and practice. Education should be revised
and repeated until a good level is attained. He also declares that learning and
teaching the sciences require skill and that the teachers of these sciences
should be knowledgeable in their fields. These clearly defined issues of Ibn
Khaldūn are still relevant for educational issues of contemporary times.
Courtesy: The Hamdard Islamicus, April-June 2001