A Review of Islamic Studies by Muhammad Ya`qub Aligan for Elementary Schools (Books 1-6)
Book review presented at the official launch and presentation of Muhammad Ya`qub Aligan Islamic Studies for Primary Schools, at the Islamic Centre, UNILAG Mosque, Lagos on 25 August 2022.
Assessing the state of teaching Islamic studies at all levels of education in Nigeria should be an appropriate starting point for this review. Among other goals, Islamic studies aims to introduce learners to:
- the practical application of Islamic teachings to life.
- the spiritual, moral, socio-economic and intellectual roles of Islam in society
- the historical and contemporary evolution of Islam as well as the lessons that have been drawn from it.
From the objectives highlighted above, it is evident that Islamic studies should contribute significantly to building the character of the learners in such a way that society benefits from its moral and spiritual resources. The moral crises facing human societies locally and internationally raise the question of the effectiveness of religious education as a preventive mechanism against the proliferation of social diseases. Scholars and researchers have identified the factors responsible for the ineffectiveness of Islamic studies in the context of its teaching in Nigeria. Among these, the most important are the problems of negative government policies which had subjugated the status of the subject at different times under moral instruction or religion and national values. It is currently granted elective subject status with no consequences. The treatment of the subject as a non-priority subject is manifested in the low and in some cases non-recruitment of teachers to teach the subject in schools. Despite periodic revision of the Islamic studies curriculum, there is no corresponding availability of high-quality textbooks that adequately interpret the philosophy of the curriculum and the range of content and activities that students are expected to learn.
This last issue brings to the fore the importance of the intervention of Alhaj Ya`qub Aligan through the publication of this set of six books entitled: Islamic Studies for Primary Schools Books1-6.
The audacious challenges facing Islamic studies in our region had awakened the awareness of experts in the field to come to the aid of the discipline through the publication of books. Today, it is necessary to support more than ever. Islamic studies in the early 1960s did not enjoy the compliment of the availability of referenced textbooks written in English. Busari (2018) rightly argued that:
In the case of the ISS, there were few or no manuals written in English until around 1968-1970. The teachers were mostly traditional Mallams and Alfas (Muslim scholars) who passed through the local and earlier modern Arabic teacher colleges, but mainly used Arabic books, from which they would translate the necessary lessons into acceptable local dialects for their students. However, with the production of ISS books in English written in the program, the subject has become much easier to teach and learn (Busari, JM 2018).
The pioneering efforts and remarkable contributions of authors of Islamic studies textbooks such as Abdurahman Doi, MOA Abdul, Muhammad Rauf, Bashir Sambo, Aisha Lemu and many others deserve praise. The emphasis here is that if education authorities fail in their mandate to provide essential resources for teaching and learning in a particular area, the experts who are the repositories of knowledge should not fail to raise the challenges facing their area of specialization. They feel compelled to use their professional and intellectual resources to safeguard the interest of the discipline…
Nigeria has yet to put in place a textbook policy and appropriate legislation that spells out the details of the required quality of books that mediate between what the curriculum guidelines specify and the actual classroom circumstances. . A textbook, unlike any other book, is:
any educational tool or combination of educational tools which contains a systematization of knowledge and information on a particular subject and which is didactically designed for a specific educational level and age group of students in order to play a role of development and training in the construction of students’ knowledge (Ivić, Pešikan & Antić, 2018).
Starting from the textbook concept stated above and taking into account the current best practices in textbook development as well as the peculiarities of teaching Islam at the lower basic education level, we focus here to determine the extent to which Aliagan’s Islamic studies for elementary schools have met the current needs of Islamic studies pedagogy?
Structure and content of the book
A careful reading of the six volumes revealed the interconnected presentation of six major themes of Islamic studies according to the curriculum specifications. Topics are Quran, Hadith, Tawḥīd, Fiqh, Sīrah and Tahdhīb Main content is structured into 26-50 topics in various volumes of the work with total number of pages per volume ranging from 40-65 .
Each book begins with the congregational activity titled “Morning Devotion.” The text contains moderate length supplications intended to begin the day’s activities in search of divine support. All volumes emphasize the fundamental position of Īmān, in particular its main component, Tawhīd (Islamic monotheism) through the presentation of the attributes of Allah and His role in human life. In each of the volumes, this aspect appears before the presentation of any other theme.
The indispensability of acquiring Arabic literacy skills is demonstrated through the strategic presentation of Quranic Arabic as a basic tool for the effective study of Quranic and Hadith texts. The concepts taught in Quranic Arabic cover the first three volumes. It should be noted that romanization or transliteration of the Arabic script is used as a temporary means of presenting Arabic texts to the learner whereas at the upper primary school level, the use of transliteration is strategically discontinued. in favor of the use of Arabic script in recitation. Koran. The different dimensions of the study of the suwar selected for the study are gradually presented taking into account the cognitive abilities of the learner.
The hadith texts generally support the Islamic label selected for study in books 1 and 2 while the theoretical background for the study of hadith is presented in book 4. Islamic ethics relevant to the education of young people members of the Ummah is extensively featured in all the books. Following the didactic approach of the Koran by relating historical accounts, the author presents the Sīrah (the biography of the prophet), the biographies of certain prophets of Allah and the rightly guided caliphs. The approach is not just a chronicle of personalities’ backgrounds. , but the lessons embedded in their biographies are identified to serve value creation purposes. The Quran presents historical data from a religo-moral point of view in such a way that the biographies evoke deep reflection and introspection. The Quran states:
فاقصص القصص لعلهم يتفكرون
“Tell therefore the stories that all can reflect” (Quran 7:176)
The Five Pillars of Islam and other ancillary topics of Islamic jurisprudence related to the primary level of education are covered in each volume. The presentation of topics on Islamic ethics follows a pragmatic approach designed to educate the mind. The author’s method of presentation has the potential to create a lasting psychosocial impact on the reader.
Assessment of learning features in all volumes as an indispensable component of each chapter. Text boxes are consistently used to delineate the main content of the review segment. Different types of questions such as short answer, matching, completion, true or false items, oral and written exercises are variably deployed depending on the nature of the specific concepts.
Concerns and proposals
The author may be interested in addressing the following concerns in subsequent editions:
- Morning devotion: A single text of supplications is repeated in all the volumes. An enrichment of this useful initiative is proposed. For example, the author may be interested in expanding the scope of morning devotions through additional supplications at the upper grade level.
- Song: this is also limited to volume I. is there a good justification for not extending this to the other volumes?
iii. Hadith: Attention to hadith can be spread over all volumes instead of limiting it to particular volumes.
- Use of Terms: The author should review technical terms used throughout the book for accuracy. For example, the term Madd appears as Madi. The same word is translated as “Prolongation Vowels” instead of “Long Vowel” or “Prolongation”.
- Transliteration: No specific standard is followed in the romanization of Arabic terms and Quranic texts. The word “Al-Duau” can be better transliterated as Al-Ducā’.
- Proofreading: There are various editorial issues that good content and language editing should address. For example, in line 3 of the Preface, the word “According to” should be “according to”. In line 2 of the second paragraph, the word “student” is more appropriate than “persons”.
This publication performed the program brilliantly. The volumes translated the program’s abstractions into easily teachable and learnable units. The authors adopt different models of textbooks which can be teacher-centred, student-centred or textbook-centred. Alhaj Aliagan’s model is above all centered on God. The goal of accessing and adhering to divine guidance figures prominently in each topic. There is a conscious effort to simplify complex concepts so that teaching and learning become enjoyable experiences. The language is simple, clear and consistent.
Sequence in the arrangement of information, age-appropriate method of presentation, strategic use of images to support content mastery, and knowledge recall are features that set the books apart from many previous efforts. The size of the fonts used, the use of learner-friendly color combinations, the effective deployment of text boxes, and the use of illustrations as additional learning support make the book extremely resourceful.
Without reservation, I recommend these revised editions to stakeholders in the formal and informal education sectors. Although the books are primarily written with students in mind, it is also a good introductory text for adults who intend to advance their knowledge of Islam beyond that of the layman. Parents wishing to teach their wards about Islam should find the book very useful. This means that the books are relevant for all age groups.
On this note, I congratulate the author and sincerely salute his efforts in the realization of this intellectual project. May Allah abundantly reward your efforts? Brothers and sisters, I thank you all for your attention. Was-salāmu alaykum wa rahmatullah wa barakātuh…
- MUSA is from the Department of Religious Studies, University of Lagos, Akoka.
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