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Reflections from 2nd Warwick Islamic Education Summer School

‘Divine Word in a Secular World’

Developing Contextual Pedagogies of the Qur’an within European Muslim Diaspora

2nd Warwick Islamic Education Summer School
24-26 September 2017
Arden House, University of Warwick

In association with Warwick Religions and Education Research Unit
Centre for Education Studies, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Warwick

Warwick Islamic Education Summer Schools

The first Islamic Education Summer School, held in September 2016 at Warwick University, marked the formation of a learning community consisting of practitioners and researchers coming from diverse disciplinary backgrounds. The aim was to establish a collegial academic space within which research-based reflective practice in Islamic Education would be encouraged. During the first gathering, the main issues and challenges facing the subject were outlined and discussed. The meeting initiated a reflective process of rethinking Islamic Education within the context of mainly secular and culturally/religiously diverse Western Europe as well as the wider Muslim world. Several themes were also identified to be explored in-depth in subsequent annual meetings. By facilitating a dialogue and exchange of experiences among practitioners and researchers, the learning community aims to contribute to the emergence of Islamic Education as an interdisciplinary field of research, teaching and professional development.
Islamic Education aims to facilitate the achievement of a competent Islamic literacy among the diverse groups of learners so that they can develop contextual understandings of Islam and show confidence in articulating and interpreting Islam within the context of their lived reality. Appreciating diversity and engaging with inter-faith/inter-cultural dialogue and contributing to the public understanding of Islam are among other significant aims of the subject. However, the presence of a reflective culture of teaching and learning remains crucial in realizing these educational goals of personal empowerment and social and community development.

The second Islamic Education Summer School: Islamic & educational contexts

In Muslim societies, all education begins with the Qur’an. The formation of the first historical Muslim community, the ummah, under the prophetic leadership of Muhammad originated in and was guided by the Qur’an. Unlike Islam’s sister faith traditions - Judaism and Christianity - where sacred texts emerged after the formation of the communities, in Islam divine revelation has produced the faithful community. The Qur’an, and its embodiment in the life of Prophet Muhammad, the sunna, constitute the heart of Islam and define the core of religious, moral and spiritual authority for ethnically/culturally diverse Muslim communities across the globe.
The predominantly oral culture of the Qur’an’s first audiences is reflected in its unique composition style and the prophetic delivery strategy that are shaped by dynamic oral-aural performance. Therefore, Muslim children first engage with the Qur’an through a set of liturgical and embodied pedagogic practices such as reverential listening and the recognition of Arabic letters through repetition and memorization. Learning short Qur’anic passages by heart is crucial for them to perform the obligatory prayers. The overall experience is meant to be nurturing children’s spiritual and character development, and retention of religious memory through helping them socialize into the religiously framed culture of their communities. Traditionally, this embodied learning was gradually complemented with a set of reflective pedagogies facilitating learner engagement and enabling knowledge, understanding and insights into the Qur’an to emerge.

Owing to diminishing proficiency in classical Arabic and other factors, the embodied reflective culture of learning the Qur’an is by and large no longer available to most of the learners. Gaining Qur’anic literacy, the most significant dimension of achieving an adequate Islamic literacy, requires the presence of a learner-focused dynamic educational culture and a set of reflective/transformative pedagogic strategies. The current ‘teacher, instruction and transmission-centered’ models of Islamic Education - even within majority Muslim societies - appear unable to achieve this desired learning outcome. The situation within minority Muslim communities such as the European Muslim diaspora poses a much more challenging picture: the ‘teacher, text and transmission-centered’ approach remains dominant within both early (maktab/madrassa) and higher education (dar al-uluum/hawza) levels of Islamic Education. Lack of contextual pedagogies of the Qur’an within the training of Muslim faith leaders often leads to the formation of a religious and spiritual authority that struggles to develop meaningful responses to the contemporary challenges facing the community, including searching questions that might or could be asked by children and young people.

Qur’anic literacy remains essential in the formation of faith among European Muslim youth. However, most of these young people have experienced a linguistic shift away from their parental languages to the increasing adoption of European languages as their main medium of communication. They do not have direct access to the Qur’an in Arabic and the Qur’an committed to the memory can, therefore, remain aloof and apart, thereby hindering personal reflection and understanding. The life-world of European Muslim youth is informed by a set of further challenges e.g. the inherited uncertainties of a post-colonial Muslim world, parental demand on replicating the borrowed identity narratives from their countries of origin, religious extremism, and the expectations of the wider secular society. The rise of religious extremism has complex political, historical and psychological dynamics. But, ultimately, the extremist narrative is justified and structured around a theology, a distorted but distinctive reading and interpretation of the Qur’an. An emotionally-charged language of political grievances and increasing Islamophobia are supplemented with an ahistorical and rigid literal appropriation of the Qur’an which shapes a religious identity that remains in permanent conflict with the surrounding world. Lacking a competent Qur’anic literacy makes young people vulnerable to these rigid and extreme interpretations of the Qur’an, often ending up in young people developing extreme religiosities.

The second Islamic Education Summer School: focus, themes and structure

The second Islamic Education Summer School will focus on exploring the challenges informing the teaching and learning of the Qur’an within the minority Muslim context of the European Muslim diaspora. The aim is to create an opportunity for practitioners to reflect on their experience of teaching the Qur’an by critically considering the strength and weaknesses in their underlying models of teaching the Qur’an and thereby identifying areas for further research and development. This reflective dialogue will include perspectives of RE practitioners, specialists in Religious Studies, Islamic/Qur’anic Studies and the wider community of researchers and educators interested in exploring different aspects of traditional and contemporary pedagogies of the Qur’an.
The content of the programme is shaped by an intersecting theological, pedagogic and methodological nexus and will draw on the following broad themes and subthemes:

  • developing educational approaches to the Qur’an;
  • exploring the pedagogic significance of ‘oral/aural performance’ in the composition of the Qur’an, arrangement/delivery of its content, and process of its transmission and standardization;
  • examining the traditions of teaching and studying the Qur’an within the classical Muslim intellectual, theological and spiritual heritage;
  • the pedagogic significance of classical Qur’an study books, exegetical/ commentary works and the literature on the life of the prophet (sira);
  • strength and limitations of current teaching/learning practices (i.e. memorization) and textbooks used to introduce the Qur’an to Muslim children and young people within the context of madrassa/maktab education and formal Islamic schools;
  • teaching the Qur’an through English (and/or other European languages);
  • investigating the impact of teaching and the study of the Qur’an on the formation of religious identities and values among Muslim children and adolescents;
  • creating a dialogue between ‘empirical theology’ and Qur’anic hermeneutics by exploring Muslim faith leaders’ perceptions, interpretations and proclamations of the Qur’an;
  • adopting critical pedagogies and the learner-centered, experiential, dialogue- and discussion- focused teaching/learning strategies while facilitating study of the Qur’an (e.g. storytelling, performing arts and teaching the Qur’an as literature);
  • teaching the Qur’an through contemporary issues such as gender equality, social justice, human rights, environmental concerns, religiously-based violence and attitudes towards the religious and non-religious ‘other’;
  • examining the role of e-learning, social media and online platforms for teaching the Qur’an;
  • developing curriculum and assessment criteria for the study of the Qur’an within Muslim educational settings;
  • examining the study of the Qur’an within the traditional theological seminary context and its impact on the formation of male/female religious and spiritual authority and leadership;
  • challenges of teaching the Qur’an to children and adolescents with special educational needs;
  • presentation of the Qur’an within Religious Education and Religious Studies within mainstream schooling;
  • challenges of teaching and learning the Qur’an among the communities of new Muslims; and,
  • opportunities and challenges of studying the Qur’an alongside the Bible and other sacred books with view to promoting intertextual and interfaith understanding.
The second Islamic Education Summer School: who is it for?

There will be opportunities for networking and special sessions for researchers and practitioners to present their work. The aim is to facilitate a cross-fertilization of ideas and to share the best practice among the emerging inter-disciplinary community of researchers, practitioners and policy makers. Participants will be supported in formulating and discussing their research interests and will receive peer support and an opportunity to interact with the experts in the field.
The Summer School is open to all researchers and educators who are interested in developing their understanding of the educational culture and pedagogic practice within Muslim communities and their interaction with wider social and educational institutions.
The programme will be delivered through interactive workshops, lectures and presentations.
Participants will also have the opportunity to learn more about the Islamic Education initiative at Warwick, research expertise within Warwick Religions and Education Research Unit, and the wider research and taught programmes at the Centre for Educational Studies at the University of Warwick.

Further information on how to apply:

You will find more informtion about delegate packages and prices here.

Please register your place here and follow the instructions online regarding payment

If you have any questions about booking please get in touch with Helen Knight at or if you have any questions abouut the context please email, the course leader.

Please note the number of places are strictly limited to 25 bookings allocated on a first come first served basis. If you wish to make a presentation please submit an outline (max 500 words) of your paper.

Islamic Summer School

Click here to read reflections from the Summer School held in 2016

Islamic Summer School