My name is Shazad Khan and I’m passionate about learning and teaching. I founded U-Knowit to provide myself with an online platform to reach people that I couldn’t have reached otherwise. I’ve been teaching a range of subjects for nearly two decades now which include, Critical Thinking, English for Academic Purposes, Interactive Learning & Communication Skills, Arabic and Islamic Studies. I’ve also been blogging at micropaedia.org since 2010. U-Knowit is basically an accumulation of my struggles, passions, reading, learning and meanderings; all systematically organised into modules for intellectual consumption.
But enough about me… I have a question for you – what type of person are you?
Are you passionate about empowering yourself?
Do you want to learn new skills and knowledge?
Do you struggle with the ability to write academically?
Do you struggle with being a Muslim in a Western context?
Do you find yourself in a pickle over pronouns and prepositions?
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Sitting in a cafe last night with an old friend and student – Dr Khalid Hussain – we had a very insightful and lengthy conversation about education and its purpose. The conversation was interspersed with sweet cardamom tea and added more flavour to the discussion. It propelled me to write today’s blog.
One of the deeply rooted superstitions of our age is the notion that the sole purpose of education is to benefit those who receive it. What we teach, how we teach, what subjects we encourage, are all utilised for one underlying purpose – “what do the kids get out of it?” And this ignites another more detrimental question – “is it relevant?” – and by relevant they mean “relevant to the interest of the kids.” From these superstitions have arisen a multitude of other problems such as the abhorrence of rote learning. Continue reading →
Literally, the Quran in Arabic means recitation. Fulfilling this purpose, it is perhaps the most recited – as well as the most read book in the world. Certainly, it is the most memorised book in the world, and possibly one that exerts the most influence on those who read it. So great was the Prophet Muhammad’s, Allah bless him and give him peace, regard for its contents that he considered it the major miracle that God worked through him. He himself, unschooled to the extent that he was unlettered, could not have produced a book that provides a ground plan of all knowledge and at the same time is without poetic peer.
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The onslaught of technology has left us with little energy or mental space to ponder over creation. In times gone by, nature spoke the language of God; it still does but we fail to comprehend it. William Wordsworth, the celebrated English poet, repeatedly lamented the loss of the connection with the divine. His ode, ‘Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood’ begins with these words:
‘There was a time when meadow, grove and stream,
The earth, and every common sight,
To me did seem
Apparelled in celestial light
The glory and freshness of a dream.’ Continue reading →
A relative of mine asked me about the hijab, and this is what I replied:
The concept of hijab is based on modesty, which as Muslims, is a praiseworthy trait and in this sense of the term it is not gender-specific. It is incumbent on both male and females to adopt and adorn themselves with modesty and decorum when they interact with each other. This should be obvious. This notion of hijab thus goes beyond the outward dictates of the law – it is an inner trait that one adopts. A non-hijabi in this sense can be adorned with the praiseworthy trait of modesty, and a hijabi can be completely divest of it.
The law possesses both an outward conformance and inward reality – the letter and spirit of the law respectively. The ideal is to create an inward and outward harmony. Even a superficial reading of Quranic verses and related hadiths will attest that the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, has always emphasized the balance that is reached by this. Continue reading →
John Godfrey Saxe’s (1816-1887) version of Blind Men and the Elephant:
It was six men of Indostan,
To learning much inclined,
Who went to see the Elephant
(Though all of them were blind),
That each by observation
Might satisfy his mind.
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Tradition is here defined as an intellectual tendency or social perspective of continuing the preservation of values, statements, norms and the like from one generation to the next. In contrast, modernity is the social outlook on life which is inclined to break with tradition. It is driven by the force to repudiate traditional values, customs and beliefs in favour of more radical ideas. A delineating feature of modernity is constant change whilst tradition is identified by continuation. Where do we stand regarding these two polarities as religious people?
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What conventional wisdom promotes and dictates is the assumption that religion is an outdated weltanschuuang. It presupposes the reality of secular ideals vs. the myth of religion. It assumes the necessity of secularism versus the threat of religion. Much of the foreign policy of the last decade or so, and now with Theresa May and David Cameron’s new terrorism Bill, is underpinned by an assumption that somehow secularism is a saviour of religion. It sees religion as a dangerous phenomena and therefore it is in need, or more correctly, there is a necessity for it to be tamed. Continue reading →
I wish to show the theoretical underpinnings of Habermas’ ‘Religion in the Public Sphere’. Namely, I want to highlight that Habermas’ work is underpinned with a binary position of religion versus the secular; of metaphysical claims against non-metaphysical ones. I want to show that the constraints of defining religion in secular terms presumes religious values to be speculative and therefore as less real than the materiality of other concepts. I want to show that Habermas implicitly suggests that religious reasoning and viewpoints are intrinsically and diametrically opposed to secular reasoning and it is only with the condition of institutional translation proviso that they are relevant in the legislative domain. This is based on a certain definition of religion and is neither based on a sociologically unified political formation nor on a singular religious logic (Mahmood 2009). This dichotomy of characterising religion as such is based on an a priori epistemological assumption of the nature of religion. Continue reading →