A woman can be neither a political leader nor a judge; she must only appear in public modestly dressed, and her natural and sacred task is to keep the household smoothly functioning and to raise and instruct her children to be good Muslims. Men, for their part, must shoulder the burden of providing for the family in material ways. Liberation for a woman does not mean being like a male, or taking up male tasks, but rather being herself and fulfilling the destiny Allah created for her. (Waines, 1995, P. 255)
Feminine education is therefore one of the most extreme of all issues with regard to the influence of the Islamic culture on education, and as has been stated earlier there is significant diversity in the educational role inclusion of women. (Weil, 2004, p. 142) for many one of the biggest reasons for immigration is the offer of greater educational opportunity for their sons and their daughters, as they seek to become successful in the global world. (Haddad, Smith & Moore, 2006, p. 13) (Elnour & Bashir-Ali, 2003, p. 62)
Islamic education, in its history was in part intended as a unifying force. Islamic education was foundational to pan-Islamic ideals but did not serve to dissolve nationalism or national borders. "This type of education was an active force in producing a greater affinity between religious and ethnic groups within society and was especially noticeable in Andalusia." (Bin Talal, 2004, p. 5) There was very early emphasis on science as an educational goal with greatly impacted early history and innovation throughout the western world.
H. Nashabi mentions that in considering all majors of sciences as forming a cohesive unity, el-Madrasa physically symbolised the Islamic concept of ummah, which combined religious and secular activities in a totality of religious observance. (Mortada, 2003, p. 92)
Additionally Islamic education was intended to be inclusive of all, as the locations of schools was in conjunction with the mosque, which was open to all, rather than just one or two classes of society.
The traditional location of el-Madaris (pl. Of el-Madrasa or school) adjacent to mosques not only signified the religious and social role of education, but also supported the principle of equal and proportional distribution of educational facilities. As the mosque was accessible to all members of the society, so was the school. (Mortada, 2003, p. 92)
In a sense the Islamic system was one of the first systems of universal education as class played as large a role in education as religion did in the early western traditions of education, which by the way were also frequently associated with religious institutions, but developed as a place of high status, due to the high cost associated with placement.
Islamic education has gone through many periods of transition, including but not limited to challenges to the core religious nature of learning, but in most cases the emphasis ended in expansion of education to other materials in addition rather than absent form religious ideals.
There has been significant movements in the Islamic world, across various nations with Islamic cultures to reevaluate education and knowledge based upon a more inclusive modern ideal of education. (Iqbal & Harder, 2003, p. 261)
Reagan provides a rather inclusive description of just what Islamic education was in its ideal state.
The basis of traditional Islamic education is the kuttab, or Qur'anic school, which had developed and become widespread by the 8th century. 101 This institution bears the responsibility for providing all children with the foundations necessary for the practice of their faith. The curriculum focuses on the memorization of the Qur'an and the ability to read Arabic, although in some societies this basic curriculum was expanded to include the study of Arabic grammar, poetry, writing, and often penmanship. However, it is important to note here that by "reading Arabic" what is often meant for nonArabic-speaking children is simply an ability to decode written Arabic for purposes of pronunciation, rather than fluent reading for meaning in what is for them a second language. As Lisbet Holtedahl and Mahmoudou Djingui noted: Young Muslims will begin by learning the Arabic alphabet, then go on to recognize letters and repeat them in speech, learn by heart some of the last suras (chapters) of the Quran, and conclude their studies by reciting the entire Quran without necessarily knowing its meaning. Throughout this period of study, they will learn all they need to know in order to say their prayers correctly. Having successfully recited the Quran, a young man may be called a mallum and may, if he wishes, establish a school for beginners. 104 the skills taught in such basic Qur'anic schools are both valuable and necessary in the context of an Islamic society, and, in comparing such traditional schooling with that of other societies, it is clear that although such Qur'anic schooling "did not take [children] very far" it met the requirements of the great mass of Muslims in the Middle Ages, indeed up to quite recent times, in that it gave them basic literacy. (Reagan, 2005, pp. 233-234)
For this reason the level of literacy in Islamic nations was often higher than those of other western societies in the Middle Ages and beyond. Possibly even as far beyond as when in the 19th century many western societies established compulsory educational systems that included not only the children of the wealthy but of the poor as well. Islam also established a system of higher education that was frequently based not on born privilege but on merit in learning.
Beyond the level of the kuttab are other Islamic educational institutions that are responsible for the preparation of Islamic professionals -- the scribes, theologians, magistrates, and so on, upon whom an Islamic society relies. Among these advanced institutions are mosque schools, mosque circles, bookshops, and universities (see Fig. 9.2). The most common and significant of these advanced institutions for most Islamic societies have traditionally been the madaris (singular, madrasah), which provided curricula that include the study of tafsir (Qur'anic exegesis), the Hadith, shari'a, fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence), and a variety of other appropriate subjects, often at very sophisticated levels of scholarship. 106 an important aspect of such higher education is the role of disputation or "dialectic" (jadal), which serves not only as an organizing framework for classroom teaching, but also gives considerable insight into the goals of Islamic higher education in general. In the case of contemporary Shi'ite madrasa education, (Reagan, 2005, p. 234)
There have been significant challenges to traditional Islamic education over the years and not the least of which there has been a challenge by some other western cultures that the system is entirely incongruent with the Western-oriented state education system.
Typical of the criticisms of traditional madrasah education is a.H. Nayyar's claim that "present-day madrasah education indicates the existence of an ice age of the intellect."110 it is interesting to note that such challenges, although grounded in and enunciated in Islamic societies, are in many ways similar to criticisms of some religiously-based educational institutions in the West. (Reagan, 2005, p. 236)
Lastly there is significant issues in Western State schooling regarding the demands of involvement in physical education, which can if done without inclusion of special needs for modesty and emphasis son the body as sacred can insult the Muslim culture, and this is especially true of the necessary modesty of women (and to some degree segregation of women) in the culture. (Mcinerney, Davidson, Suliman & Tremayne, 2000, p. 26) in the U.S. And elsewhere, that Muslim immigrants have become common place these challenges are frequently the stuff of newspaper articles and unintentional (and intentional) non-culturally sensitive standards (such as the demand for the removal of head coverings or wearing shorts to participate in gym) and the strictness of following these standards have challenges Muslim's both indigenous and immigrant when facing placing their own children in public schools for education.
Muslim culture has both positive and negative impacts on education as many challenge the idea that more of the system should be about the basics of education (from a western ideal) mathematics, literature, history, science and reading rather than the development and/or recitation of a religious text. It must also be made clear that the standards of the religion developed one of the first realistic and open systems of mass education and that such a tool should not be discounted simply as a result of the fact that it is not secular. Islamic education will likely continue to expand, just as any other educational system, rather than detract from the modern, yet it is unlikely that all of the historical conflicts will be answered in one or two generations, especially with regard to the role of women in the faith (which varies substantially across nations of Islam) and the ideals of physical education as they detract from the necessary modesty of the religions and personal observance of the faith as not a religion but a way of life.