Five Days of Learning and Unlearning: A Brief Summary of Participation in an Online Five Days Teacher Training Program
Sheikh Javaid Ayub
Five Day’s International Teacher Training Program was organized by Government Degree College Kilam Kulgam in collaboration with the Nursi Society Turkey. The main theme of the program was captioned in its title which reads as ‘Strong Belief and Sound Character through Science and Islam: 5D Thinking Approach.’ The program started on December 11, 2021, at 11: am and concluded on January 15, 2021, at 5:30 pm.
Knowledge can be defined as the outcome of the encounter between the human mind and its environment. If so, then the pedagogy for encountering the environment needs to be defined and understood. This pedagogy is always in the social by the social and for the social. Knowledge, therefore, is social, hence according to a particular worldview. The epistemology of science, therefore, cannot be concerned with the anatomy of that knowledge rather it has to deal with the mental frameworks of the scientists engaged in scientific activities. These frameworks, as we believe, have a sociological origin, therefore; sociology of science is as important an area as science itself. The purpose of the epistemology of science must expand to the area of tracing the mental frameworks and world views held by the scientific community while engaging itself in any scientific activity. The history of science, therefore, should not become a discipline that chronicles successive increments and the obstacles that have inhibited their accumulation-as Thomas Kuhn states that history of science has to take into consideration not only the scientific truths (if they may be called so) of the times but also the frameworks which run parallel to the facts and the scientific truths emerge and are commensurable to that worldview (Kuhn, 2012: 111-134).
Human is concept bearing animals who approach and accumulate knowledge through concepts which are arranged in clusters based on their logical and direct relationship with one another. When these concepts are arranged coherently, a perspective about reality is born. But this perspective or frame is itself based on some accumulated knowledge as the human mind proceeds from known to unknown. These different frames taken together form a worldview.
Knowledge, as Hume believes, is accumulated through senses, thus to him senses are primary and the mind secondary. Rationalists, on the other hand, have put mind first and experience second. Kant, however, tried to balance the two extremes by stating that there is no doubt that all knowledge begins with experience but it does not follow that it arises from experience (Kant, 2007: 37). Through his terminology of a priori and a posteriori knowledge, Kant tries to form a bridge between empiricists and rationalists. However, the Islamic worldview adds one more dimension to the accumulation of knowledge and that is the Qalb, thus bringing also all spiritual, moral, and supernatural forms of knowledge into the ambit of knowledge itself.
Ilumal yaqeen is knowledge acquired through logic and reason, aynal yaqeen is knowledge acquired through senses and haqqal yaqeen is knowledge through Qalb, the most trusted one.
Broadly speaking we have two gigantic worldviews to understand and interpret the cosmic world and the phenomenology. In the words of Said Nursi, these are The secular worldview (Mana-e- Ismi) and the Tawahdi worldview (Mana e Harfi). In a secular worldview the phenomena and the reality are pursued according to the perceptions and consciousness of an individual, but what is consciousness and how it works, and what is it composed of, are the questions whose answers are still pending. Further, it explains ‘what’ and ‘how’ of the reality, the factual truths but do not go beyond them to trace the transcendental ones by asking ‘why’ questions. The appearances are, therefore, be all and end all of this worldview, and these appearances are experienced by the individual self. The secular phenomenology puts the human self at the center of our understanding, but the understanding through ‘self’ needs to be preceded by the understanding of ‘self’ itself (Nacati, 2019: 91). If phenomenology is all about experiencing through ‘self’, it means, all experienced knowledge will depend on the perception of the ‘self’. If ‘self’ is perceived wrongly, as a secular worldview does, we will have the wrong experience, hence wrong understanding of the reality. Humans are the crown of creation, created in the best mold and bestowed with the best potentialities to lead a meaningful and purposeful life. Meaninglessness occurs through the objectification of everything including humans themselves. When humans are objectified, the purpose of their life, their being, and their existence are completely lost, the life goes astray and is clutched in the whirlpool of meaninglessness and nihilism. Humans start looking at their selves and the cosmos through objectified lenses, hence could not reach the transcendental truth. They could not realize that the Cosmos, The Aalami Shihadah is made up of symbols and Aayat reflecting and indicating someone else. That someone is God and God alone- All-Wise, All-Knowing, a Mastermind behind the creation of Heavens and the Earth, the Humans and the Angles. This Mana-e- Ismi approach is faulty and it takes meaning and purpose from life, hence cannot be trusted to lead a good life. Nursi concludes that this mania-e- Ismi approach cannot lead humanity to reality, hence does not help solve the day-to-day problems of humanity. Through this approach, believes Nursi, neither the purpose of the human creation can be known, nor the purpose of the cosmos. So humans following this approach will go astray, get confused, and will fall into a whirlpool wherefrom they cannot escape (Nursi, The Flashes: 232-253).
In contrast to the secular worldview, a Tawahidi worldview places God at the center, therefore, locates the dominicality of Allah behind every cosmological phenomenon. Tawahidi worldview does not stop on knowing the physical realm only but moves beyond the factual truths to reach the transcendental ones. Humans are not just physical beings but spiritual, emotional, and psychological beings also. Objectification of humans has rendered them physical beings only. Instead, when the cosmic world is read through Mana-e- Harfi approach, God manifests everywhere as the Quran mentions All that is in the heavens and all that is in the earth extols Allah’s Glory (Quran 59:1; 61:1;62:1;64:1). The most exciting thing about these Quranic verses is that they all are concluded at Asma ul Husna like All-Wise, All-Knowing, Sovereign, etc, thus clearly establish a relationship between Aalami Shahadah and the Asma ul Husna. This Mana-e- Harfi approach is therefore a clear guide for a meaningful and fulfilled life. Secondly, the most important thing is to learn the language of Mana-e-Harfi to decode the meaning of experienced phenomena. The Mana-e-Harfi approach provides us two essential things: one belief in God which makes the believers accountable and answerable. As humans are created in God’s image, hence will learn to be compassionate, Raheem, Aalim, Rehman and will manifest God’s attributes on the earth. Second: knowledge which not only puts humans on the seat of Khalifah but also helps to answer satisfactorily all existential questions of life. This approach makes mankind reach the level of Ihsan as God is seen everywhere through His created Quran, the Quran-e-Kabir. Nursi explains that this world is well ordered and well measured, wisely and artistically fashioned. No cause, no natural happening can explain this artistry, the only correct explanation, therefore, is that this cosmos is a book written, a mirror, which reflects the author of the book. So what is important is the Manai-e-Harfi approach which Nursi believes is the only reliable and correct approach to read the created Quran.
Nursi places huge stress on knowing the Creator through His creation. So any attempt to understand the created world must be an attempt to reach the Creator. His Risale-i-Nur contains many passages that instruct to employ the ‘Other-indicative’ frame to understand the Creator (For instance see the Twelfth Word in The Words, The Third Ray in The Rays). This ‘Other-indicative’ frame guides one to pass from cause to the source of the cause. The Quran is full of verses that speak of this ‘Other-indicative’ frame. Chapter 2: 164 and Chapter 3: 190-194 does not only offer to reflect and ponder on the cosmic beauties but upholds that reflection as Ziker, as prayers. The community or the persons engaged in such scientific endeavor are named Ulil Albab, the men of understanding because they reflect on the signs of Allah, and their reflections and their research make them say “Our Lord! You have not created this in nein. Glory to You! Save us, then from the chastisement of the Fire” (Al-Quran, 3: 191). Scientific research, therefore, should make one a believer in God, in the Day of Judgment, and the Other World. Nursi did not see any incompatibility in Islam and pure science, instead, he believed that scientific discoveries uncover the working of the cosmos, hence is an excellent guide to understand the signs of Allah. For him, pure science is a genuine effort to reach for the truth and truth is the word of God, so inching towards the truth is simply marching towards Islam. But Nursi, while allowing science, did not approve of scientism or secular sciences, as they, he believed, the corrupt human mind and did not present the actual Truth. These sciences and the Mana-e-Ismi approach deform Truth by associating it with the physical realm only. In Damascus Sermon, he cautions that while adopting modern sciences care needs to be taken to eliminate its corrupting influences (p, 92). Manai-e-Ismi is thus a mistaken approach, a corrupting one that blurs the truth by overshadowing it with the falsehood. In the Twenty- Third Flash Nursi states that this cosmos is Kitab-i-Kabir and it is an All-Wise and All-Knowing author who has composed such a marvelous book, and He is the All-Powerful God. Nursi explains that this world is well ordered and well measured, wisely and artistically fashioned. No cause, no natural happening can explain this artistry, the only correct explanation, therefore, is that this cosmos is a book written, a mirror, which reflects the author of the book. So what is important is the Manai-e-Harfi approach which Nursi believes is the only reliable and correct approach to read the created Quran.
Based on this Nursian understanding of Science, a Five Dimensional Approach (5D) has been designed by the Nursi Society Turkey. The model assumes that God speaks through His words in various revelations and His works in His creative acts in the universe. It aims to derive God’s character lessons embedded in scientific studies of the universe. It will link Divine acts manifested in the universe to various Divine names and attributes.
The “5D thinking” approach provides a holistic vision to see science and religion as expressions of a single reality. 5D thinking consists of the following thinking dimensions:
The first dimension (analytical/scientific thinking) demonstrates how to filter embedded atheistic ideology from modern scientific knowledge. It explores a particular cosmic phenomenon based on scientific understanding without ascribing the ultimate reality to material causes, nature, or chance.
The second dimension (analogical thinking) compares and contrasts the observed phenomena in the cosmos with human-made phenomena for better comprehension. This dimension is based on the phenomenological approach, assuming that the knowledge of the self is the key to learn everything else. It provides a useful analogy that helps readers learn and interpret unknown phenomena through their knowledge of known phenomena.
The third dimension (critical thinking) helps readers question how the observed phenomena might have come into existence. Through critical thinking, it encourages readers to question material causes, natural properties and chance as possible sources of our observed reality. It aims to guide readers beyond material causation and natural properties to pursue hidden realities.
The fourth dimension (meditative thinking) helps readers seek the Maker of the observed phenomena and understand the hidden messages/meanings of His acts. It makes an argument that given the interconnectivity of everything in the universe, the Maker of one thing is the Maker of everything. It also shows how to read God’s knowledge by reflecting on His works in the universe like a meaningful book.
The fifth dimension (moral thinking) encourages readers to reflect on the benefits of the observed phenomena and emphasizes how everything is custom-made for a specific beneficial outcome. It encourages readers to reflect on God’s creation as a unique and precious gift for them and/or others. It guides them on how to derive character lessons from the observed phenomena as a result of the contemplation included in the previous dimensions. It invites them to feel sincere appreciation for the special gifts granted by the Most Merciful and Most Kind. It encourages them to show kindness to others through good character.
The Quran is full of verses that present the created realm as the Aayah but does not stop here; it also states that the human self is also an aayah. Broadly speaking the Aayaat ul Allah manifests in three important forms; aayat-e-unfus, aayat-e-samawat, and aayat-e-Quran (Quran,41: 53 ); the aayat-e-unfus invite humans for self-introspection to recognize the Divine Wisdom that is involved in bringing into existence such a wonderful creation like a human. It also calls humans to identify their position in the world; the Khalifat-ul-Allah and ask them to discharge it for Allah. It is, indeed, the Ilm granted to Aadam that Allah uses to justify Aadm’s vicegerency (Gok, 2016: 66). The Quran mentions that ‘And He taught Adam the Names, all of them’ (Quran, 2: 31). For Nursi, the names taught by God to man are the beautiful names of God Himself (Nursi, The Words: 254). The Quran mentions that all the Most Beautiful Names belong to Allah (Quran, 6:180; 18: 110; 20: 8; 59: 24). The knowledge of Asma ul Husna is closely linked with the purpose of our creation. In the Quran, Allah says that, He created the Jinn and humans for nothing else but that they may worship Him (Quran, 51: 56).
Similarly Aayat-e-samawat presents the entire cosmos as the manifestation of one God. The balance and the coherence of the cosmos, the interconnectedness among the endless particles of the created realm, the working mechanisms of all the phenomenon invites people to understand these spiritual signs and reach to the Creator. For instance the verses from 33-44 of 36th Chapter of the Quran Surah Yaseen reminds presents it in the best eloquent manner. The diagramic representation seems to work more effectively.
Conclusion: The program was designed to train teachers about using 5D thinking approach as a novel epistemological and pedagogical way in teaching science to read the book of the universe. Simply stated Five Dimensional Thinking Approach aims to sacralize the treasure of scientific knowledge which is truly the need of the hour.
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