Postmodern Education

Postmodern Education – Shifting Sands of Morality

The writer, Hasnain Walji (Houston, USA) is an entrepreneur, investor, technologist, and a community volunteer. Born in Moshi, Tanzania, he is a researcher, speaker, and writer involved in developing professional training and e-learning applications in nutrition and integrative healthcare. He is President of Integrative Quest, Inc which specializes in formulating and marketing probiotics. He has authored 26 books, all written from a naturopathic perspective, endorsed by the Natural Medicine Society of England, and translated into several languages including Spanish, French, German, Turkish, Hungarian, Portuguese, and Chinese. A contributor to several journals on environmental and Third World consumer issues, he was the founder and editor of The Vitamin Connection – an International Journal of Nutrition, Health and Fitness, and Healthy Eating. He has written a script for a six-part television series, The World of Vitamins.

His institutional work for the Muslim community spans over 30 years, Since 1976 he has served the World Federation of KSI Muslim Communities, as Secretary-General, Vice-President and then as President of this august body. He is also a founding director and the Current President of the Mulla Asgher Memorial Library and Resource Center (MARC) in Toronto. He has served as editor of Shia International and Living Islam Magazines and a regular contributor to a number of Islamic Journals. He has traveled around the world, lecturing and reciting Majlises in English, Urdu and Gujarati.

He has a special interest in the History of the Khojas and currently working on a Documentary called The Khojas – A journey of faith. He is also a founding director of a Social Justice Institute called Penmanship For Peace focusing on the plight of persecuted minorities including the Shia in Pakistan and part of a team compiling a volume on Shia Genocide in Pakistan. His passion is in increasing interfaith understanding to make this world a better place for his five grandchildren. Dr Walji established MARC. He served as the Secretary-General of WF. Dr Hasnian Walji served as the vice president of WF during Mullah’s leadership in the capacity of the president of the World Federation.

The objective this primer on postmodern ideas is to better understand our challenge as a faith Community,  whose values are based on the school o Ahlul Bait (AS),  and generate further discussion on ways to counter this dangerous trend to nurture our upcoming generations within a wider education environment that espouses values of relative truth and changeable morality. 

Postmodernism or Postmodern Education is a word that often gets thrown around these days, but what does it mean and how is it relevant to our Community? 

To begin to understand postmodernism, we need to first review the concept of modernism. Modernism started in the 17th century with René Descartes and Francis Bacon. Basically, in the premodern Judeo-Christian worldview prior to the 17th Century, one explained the question on the basis of scripture or as defined by the Church. Both these thinkers felt that the assumptions based on scriptures needed to change and decided to cast aside religious perspectives ushering in an era of so-called ‘objectivity’.  Later thinkers began to subscribe to the idea of ‘inevitable progress’ where scientific methodology and knowledge were considered the right way for the betterment of society.

These notions were first challenged by a  major influencer on postmodernist thinking, Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–1900) a German philosopher. He questioned the socially acceptable doctrines, such as religion and morality, and also focused on the world around negating the idea of the afterlife.

Today, postmodernity rejects all of the modern scientific assumptions and ideals. Postmodern philosophers emphasize creative thinking and individual differences. In particular in the context of education, the theme of this series: learning to them is not a set of ‘truths’ but an opportunity to discuss, explore and share ideas. The corollary is: that the way ‘Truth’ is defined has changed drastically. Now there is the notion of ‘my’ truth and ‘your’ truth and that there is no such thing as the absolute truth. To stretch it further now you have ‘facts; and ‘alternative facts

An Urdu couplet states

Sach bade ya ghate – sach na rahe

Jooth ki koi inteha hi nahin

When stretched truth is no longer true

Falsehood has no boundaries

Martin Heidegger (1899–1976), another German philosopher, espoused the concept of existentialist phenomenology – concluding that we construct our own truths from within, as opposed to theories or scriptures that advocate one universal truth. Furthermore, Heidegger inferred that we are not born into an existing reality but construct our own reality based on our involvement in the world and on our innate intuitions. So much so, that today we see a redefinition of what it means not just to be a human, but even what it means to be a male, or what it means to be a female, and that we are free now to define ourselves in any way we want to.

The bottom line is: that these postmodernist thinkers believe that there is no absolute or universal truth, contending that truth changes with the advent of new circumstances. Postmodern philosophers reject the notions of traditional epistemology, metaphysics, and universal moral values. In contrast, they highlight subjectivity, interdisciplinary methods, and plurality through individual and cultural differences, touting trendy positive benefits of creative thinking and individual expression, as a necessary factor in the education process.

The concept of a global village has not left us unaffected. We can no longer remain inattentive to postmodern ideas. Based on this overview of postmodernism, our educators and especially those who create curricula for religious education urgently need to consider the influence of postmodern thinking and have deep deliberation to counter this. We hope this forum can be a catalyst in generating discussions to address this existential challenge as we continue to deliberate on this topic.

To survive as a vibrant living entity in the era of Postmodern Education, the community has had no choice but to keep abreast of the changes around it, understand the impact of the modern era, and address the challenges of the postmodern world. We must realize that the challenges of the day must be met, not with an unquestioning observance to a convention or with the fascination of the novel – but with a spirit of revitalizing pristine Islamic values and traditions.  

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