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The Notion of Prophethood as the basis of our approach to Education

Every system of thought has a view regarding how humanity has to live and be educated according to its own perception of human being. This is the mentality of education. Our notions of public education as well our life styles differ. Thus the notion of education of Muslims depends on the paradigm of Islam. The world of Islam, importing its education models generally from the west today, has to investigate its own concepts carefully so as to develop a theory and a practice of education flourishing from its own basis of thinking. Depending on this concern, in this article we will give attention to the central position of the notion of “prophethood” in the perception of human being and the mentality of education.

Prophethood: it is an indispensable condition of the existence of the humanity

The first reason why there are prophets is “to reveal Allah’s orders unto humankind.” A prophet is a messenger, a chosen one by Allah to show people the true path.

Although we established the basic truth above, there is still a part without an answer for our question “why are there prophets?”: “Why is it needed to send prophets?” We can give a short answer to this question: “because humankind needs.” But this kind of need means that if one of them does not exist it is absurd for the other to exist. The mutual-compulsory relationship between the questions “what kind of creature is human being?” and “why are there prophets?” leads us to this assumption:

The prophethood is an important concept, which is a part of the system resulting in the existence of the man on the earth. The reason of the existence of the man and the form of this existence is itself the answer to the question “why there are prophets?”

When we mention a compulsory relationship between the form of the existence of the man and the presence of prophets, we reach the mentality which is the basis of the notion of “education” by the help of these concepts. We have to emphasize that these two mutually associated concepts to point out what kind of world-view and notion of education as we explain them a bit more.

The frame presented by the Holy Quran about the reason of the existence of the man and his venture can be described briefly as follow: The man exist so as to be "a servant." At this point he is actually similar to other creatures, however, his servitude differs from others, for example angels and animals, because of his different disposition. Adam who is the primordial example of the humankind was brought into being with a special creation by Allah. Allah breathed into Adam, who is the dust of the ground formerly and the future sovereign of the earth, the principle of life that Allah called it as "my soul;" and he thought Adam all names and got him to comprehend the schema of existence designated by the names, and finally he ordered Angels to bow before the man. The story of the expulsion of the first man with his wife from Jannah (Heaven) designates both the weaknesses of human being and the destiny of this select creature who would be appointed the caliph on the earth.The man, described as the caliph on the earth, has been provided with the powers needed for this duty. The man has the ability to comprehend what the good and bad are, and to choose one of them. He has been given eyes, ears and a heart (mind) to observe and to evaluate phenomena. The man has weaknesses such as ingratitude, fondness of temporary pleasures, parsimony, despair, obliviousness, pride, impatience; and he has to overcome these defects. If the man, created in a perfect form in his essence, cannot achieve this duty he may fall to a position even lower than animals. The man who has all these features – full of contradictions – became the creature who burdens what other creatures are not able to burden; ‘the task.’

At this point we have to underlie those two issues regarding the style of the human existence:

Firstly, it seems that the man has to make choices and to build himself according to these choices. This is his aim and his structure of existence. He has the responsibility for outcomes of his choices. So this is the reason why he needs a guide concerning the directions of his choices. There are prophets because the man is an entity who has the ability to make choices and to undertake their outcomes. Moreover, Allah informed us that he does not charge the man unless he sends a prophet. There are prophets because the man has a flesh in addition to his mind and heart; he has some defects in addition to his will and freedom; and he was created as such an entity:

“And shown him the two highways?” (Al-Balad, 90/10)

“Say, "The truth is from your Lord": Let him who will believe, and let him who will reject (it).” (Al-Kahf, 18/29)

“We have sent among you a Messenger of your own, rehearsing to you Our Signs, and sanctifying you, and instructing you in Scripture and Wisdom, and in new knowledge.” (Al-Baqara, 2/151)

“There is no ummah without an admonisher from them.” (Fatır, 35/24)

Secondly, the man comes to the earth without knowledge and finds himself inside an environment. So he is not in just one condition like angels or animals. The features of the man, although they are possibilities or potential conditions in himself, become actual according to time and place; so they are pre-phenomena as possibilities and mutually-associated with phenomena as actualities. For example, every man has the ability to talk, to know, to hope, to want and to will; but the questions – which language he talks, what he knows, wants, and wills, and from what he escapes – gain their meanings and realities on the earth where the man was left in (Görgün, 2003).

So, being “man” and the possibility of self-realization in the direction of the aim of the creation can be achieved just in the environment where the man lives. Adam’s learning names, in reality, is the first environment and the first learning. The man became functional when he learned names. For example, it is well known that the children who rise alone in the nature with animals behave like animals. The condition of Adam was well different from them; the instruction of names for him by Allah means his introduction into this communication or the universe of words. The man becomes the man just when he learns in a group consisting of his genus.

The man had not been alone since his creation even before his fall into the earth; he was not created to be alone. It can be said that other creatures also are not alone on the earth, they have big populations. But, man’s non-isolation is a reflection of the condition, which we can name as ‘existence in one another,’ inside his nature. For example animals are likely alone even though they live inside herds; their community life is just similarity of their instincts. The same is also true for plants. Although trees of a forest look a society, every single tree has its own life. Lives of ants and bees depending on altruisms are the result of their routine mechanical actions repeated as a result of their instincts. But the man gains his being human when he lives among other human beings since the beginning of his life on the earth. The self-consciousness of human being develops not by himself alone but among other consciousness (Ülken, 1967). So it can be said that the quality of being human would be obvious inside a certain environment. The man realizes himself inside a society consisting of his kind; the potentials in him awake.

At this point, the term “prophet” gets involved in the system. Prophet means that the man does not exist alone or stay alone. A prophet is an “environment” required to be human. Let us think that Adam was sent to the earth without knowing names, what and who he is, and how he can names the things around him. In this circumstance, the first response by angels, when they heard that the man will be created, would be true that “shall you create a being which will shed blood on the earth.” But Allah desires to make clear that this being is a totally different thing by teaching him names and sending prophets.

So, there are prophets so that the man is able to be ‘man’ in truth. If we discarded the term of prophet from the system regarding the existence of the man on the earth, the man would not exist as the actual man.  At this point a doubt or an inquiry about the existence and the need of prophets will be baseless. Because, we owe the ability of making such an inquiry or thinking activity to prophets and to the life style, – namely not to be left alone – presented to humankind.

From the term of prophet to the mind of education

The indispensable relationship between the concepts of “humanity” and “prophethood” which compose a meaningful entity just when they come together, gives us also the meaning of the term of “education”. Education is to be [more] human and the prophethood is the indispensable result of being human. So, we have a notion of human being who perceives his own existence in association with the prophethood, and who ties himself to the prophet and to the omnipotency who create this system. In this structure, while the man realize his humanity inside an environment [of education], this environment is tied to an origin. This origin is the tradition descending through the lineage of prophets. In this notion of education, the man is not a structure in itself but an entity building itself inside the tradition.

So, the man in the basis of our notion of education is not only a creature which is not left alone but also the man building himself. Not to be left alone means to exist with the prophethood. To build himself by the man is to have free will and responsibility that the existence of prophets involves at this point. Prophets are guides on the way of being human. Prophets are also human beings. Prophets are educators as the first man, who is the first prophet, was educated by Allah. They eat, drink, rest, suffer, marry, etc. as a human being. They are living example that how a human being has to live. We can think about the verse below in the direction of this point of view:

If there were settled, on earth, angels walking about in peace and quiet, We should certainly have sent them down from the heavens an angel for a messenger. (Al-Isra, 17/95)

The composite structure of the man, consisting of some powers and weaknesses, and his continuous progress requires that he has to occupy on himself and all life have to be an area of education. The aim and quality of education corresponds to the aim of life and the nature of the man. This is its starting point, and its most visible form appears with “prophethood”. Consequently the notion of education depending on the existence of prophets who educate and lead peoples is established in the structure of the being of humankind.

 

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