Besides producing religious knowledge throughout history, the seminary schools were centers for self-construction and self-purification. Seminary schools are important not only due to knowledge production but also because they nourished religious scholars and leaders who are role-models for the Muslim societies.
Today and with the developments and changes in modern societies including Muslim ones, preserving the mentioned roles of seminary schools requires a comprehensive plan based on today’s societal need. The world center of Islamic sciences (The Seminary of Qom) is rooted in the traditions of historical seminary schools (both in terms of education and spiritual enrichment) and the center educates all young students coming from various backgrounds. Therefore, the center follows an organized approach for its educational system as a major principle. Accordingly, the charter of educational activities-as it is introduced herein- is the first step to achieve the abovementioned approach. It is a challenging job to compile an unparalleled charter of activities; however the center achieved compiling the charter thanks to the collaborative efforts of the president of the center, the Department of Religious Education Studies, and members of Cultural Council and Religious Education Council.
Following is an overview of the Charter of Educational Activities for the purpose of introducing the Center to the public, to students, lecturers and staffs.
What is the Charter of Educational Activities?
The charter is a collection of items and issues including the basics, goals, principles, approaches, policies, strategies and regulations in regards to facilitating and improving learning experience of the students and welfare of their families as the future disseminators of Islam in international level.
The charter is summarized in three major sections:
First section: Overview
This section includes general subjects such as the basics of an educational charter, necessities and objectives behind the charter, theory behind it, major questions, limitations, and barriers ahead of compiling a charter and stages of compiling the charter.
Second section: Theoretical subjects of the charter:
This section deals with theoretical and principles of the charter; including definition and clarification of all major parts of the charter, worldview, anthropology, epistemology, spiritual studies, principles of Islamic schooling, tenfold Islamic educational principles and their objectives and common teaching methods.
Third section: Executive issues:
Including policies and courses to improve the educational environment of the center. Such policies are divided into two sections:
A: inclusive policies: which are not related to one major department and all sections and departments of the center are bound to observing them.
B: Sectoral Policies: which are relevant to the activities and responsibilities of each section or department
Elaborating the question:
Ethical education in society, particularly in the center did not receive adequate attention which means that the systematic and objective approaches did not exist in the learning process of seminary students of the center and the programs and approaches were based on personal and subjective decisions. Therefore, the Educational Charter was compiled based on a systematic approach and ethical education.
Specifications of optimal charter of education: transparency, inclusivity, depth and cohesion between subjects, clarity and practicality, adaptability with overall objectives of the center and so forth.
Designing and developing a charter for the center was due to the:
A: attention to ethical education
B: attention to different aspects of education
C: attention to stages of ethical education and creating cohesive link between all the stages
D: Decreasing the impacts of subjective approaches and encouraging objective and systematic approach
E: Development of standards for performance measurement of ethical education programs
F: Necessity of effective allocation of resources (human and capital) for ethical education
The general objective of developing the charter is to modify and improve the entire processes (learning, cultural, research, welfare, administrative) to be in accordance with the Islamic educational principles.
Limitations in compiling the charter:
Limitations reflect the differences and importance of ethical education in order to understand how deep and sensitive this issue is. The limitations were:
a. complexity and ambiguity of meaning and methods of teaching ethical issues to learners
b. Lack of a clear definition for the relation of ethical education and human scientific development
c. Lack of a role-model or a relevant successful example
d. Financial limitations and lack of expert and effective human resources
e. Variety of students in terms of culture, language and backgrounds
f. Idealistic viewpoints and lack of attention to realities, hastiness and having a superficial viewpoint in regards with ethical programs.
Second Section: Theoretical subjects in the Charter
Recognizing man is a foundational issue in ethical education; that is because the subject of ethical education is man and without a thorough knowledge of man and his or her potentials and system of self, it is impossible to attain to a comprehensive ethical education curriculum. Clearly, developing such an understanding is achieved through assessment of theoretical parts, i.e. cognitive issues; practical parts, i.e. the virtue (FADHILAT); and relation of man with the universe which is part of his relation with God. Accordingly, the foundation of ethical education in Islam is as follows:
1.1. Worldview Principles of Ethical Education: which means believing in the followings: that man is moving towards God; that God is the owner of the universe; that the universe works based on a systematic and cohesive organization; that the world is objective and receives guidance; that world is based on a justice system; that world has different stages.
1.2. Principles of recognizing man in ethical education: which means believing in: that man is multidimensional; that man has innate potentials; that individuals are different; that man has inherent dignity; that everyone is equal and shares the same human essence; that the structure of character of every individual appears gradually; that man’s apparent behavior and his conscience are affected by each other; that man and his environment are affected by each other; that man has limitations and weaknesses in regards with ethical education.
1.3. Epistemology of Ethical education: which means believing that man can recognize issues; that man can recognize issues through his senses, reason, and heart; that the sources of recognition are within self and within the universe;
1.4. Principles of study the virtues in ethical education: which means believing that virtue is rooted in man’s conscience; that Theology is the basis of all moral virtues; that virtue is realized only if the intention and insight is true.
1.5. Principles of ethical education: it is referred to normative Dos and Don’ts, guidance of the process, and ethical programs and activities.
Major principles in Islamic ethical education:
For the sake of God
For the sake of worshipping God
Remembering the hereafter, and asceticism while enjoying life
Being nature-oriented, seeing the truth, being based on virtues, and having aestheticism
Being Communal oriented
Attention to innovation and creativity; moderation and having universal viewpoints
Attention to charity and justice seeking activities
Attention to positive change in situation and the environment
Toleration and friendship
Continuity and consistency
Being fast in charity deeds
Being kind and generous
Preserving religious identity and believing in individual immunity
Taking care of appearance while not being hypocritical
3- Methods of ethical education:
The educational methods are the activities for changing the behavior and personal characters of the learners; such methods are used in the process of education so that the learner attain the ultimate objective, i.e. Closeness of God. Such activities are used based on the principles. According to Islamic ethical education, the methods, objectives and principles of ethical training are totally related to one another. Followings are the four educational methods organized by the Research Office.
3.1. Ethical training methods based on the beliefs: motivating the learner to reflect upon God’s signs in the universe, reading history and seeing the destiny of different nations, righteous people and corrupt individuals, preparing the groundwork for returning to one’s clean nature and attention to God’s signs in one’s self.
3.2. Ethical training methods based on refinement, meditation, calculation of self, suggestion, mortification and standing against self-will, practice and repeat, becoming friends with rigorous people, developing good habits, preaching the good, being good-tempered and sociable
3.3. Ethical training methods based on social and political issues: becoming familiar with political events and developments, cooperating, preparing the groundwork for team working and communal works (such as keeping promise, helping, charity, tolerating opposition), developing social and political skills, becoming familiar with the methods used by political rivals, getting to know the activities of mass media, preparing the situation for communication, dialogue, debate, consultation, and exchange between nations, becoming sensitive about the good of Muslim societies, Muslims’ unity and destiny
3.4. Ethical education of the learner’s family: providing skills regarding psychology of men and women and clarifying their differences, understanding and accepting the role and position of each member of family, preparing the situation for fulfilling each other’s needs, understanding and observing the needs of both sides, reducing damages and challenges in the family relations, informing the importance and position of family, bringing to attention the training of the children.
Inclusive policies which are applied for all departments and sections of the center
1. Attention and emphasis on the importance of ethical education and adding religious teachings to the curriculum of the center as the major mission of the center due to its impact on other missions of the center.
2. Developing a systematic approach towards ethical education in all departments and sections of the center
3. Applying religious and ethical traditions of seminary school and improving the seminary schools in all sections of the center
4. Preserving dignity of the students
5. Developing a friendly and trustworthy relationship between students and staffs
6. Observing ethical etiquette and Islamic social rules when communicating with others
7. Creating a positive and welcoming environment for the students and staffs
8. Having justice in actions and strategies and being moderate in distribution of resources (budgeting, facilities and other resources) and expanding the culture and teachings of Ahl-e Bayt
9. Emphasizing Islamic commonalities, unity, proximity of Islamic religions, and exchanging of thoughts with other Islamic religions and sects, while stressing expansion and deepening of culture and teachings of Ahl-e Bayt
10. Encouraging students to participate in activities, and policies of the center,
2- Major Sectoral Policies:
1. Policies regarding admission:
a. Encouraging admission of talents
b. Creating balance between volume of admissions and facilities of the center
c. Considering ethical education in the process of admission
d. Using modern methods and tools for the process of admission
2. Support and Human Resources:
a. Paying attention to the primary requirements of students (including livelihood, and social security issues) in order to facilitate the process of ethical learning
b. Paying attention to job security of the staffs and academics and improving their financial situation
c. Employing quality staffs with ethical qualifications
d. Improving academic excellence of the staffs especially when it comes to teaching methodology of ethical education through training workshops
e. Improving the assessment system and using reward and punishment methods
3. Educational Policies
a. Paying attention to seminary and religious missions when developing the curriculum
b. Preserving and improving ethical and educational standards in different grades
c. Employing merit and ethically responsible academics
d. Preparing necessary facilities to perform ethical education
e. Preparing and encouraging students towards dissemination and propagation of Islam based on today’s global situation
4. Cultural-ethical training policies:
a. Encouraging active training (increasing and deepening the role of lecturer) in cultural-ethical programs
b. Having special attention to ethical and spiritual education while teaching other courses to students (creating balance between course units)
c. Emphasizing truth-seeking spirit and quality in ethical education and encouraging students to observe religious codes of conduct
d. Encouraging friendly methods (sympathy towards others and love of God) while using other common learning methods
e. Attracting NOT distracting students and using preventive rather than curing methods in regards with ethical and spiritual damages in students
f. Having attention to the education of students’ families and improving political analysis skill of the students and their spouse
g. Paying attention to students’ physical fitness and mental freshness and improving the quality of family activities and students’ extracurricular programs
h. Having special attention to boosting team working activities within cultural activities, expanding practical and cultural skills and facilitating consultancy programs
i. Paying attention to sanctity of family
5. Research Policies:
a. Paying attention to cultural and ethical learning in research programs
b. Observing research etiquette, and observing academic merits and standards when facing opposite ideas and viewpoints
c. Paying attention to innovation in research programs
d. Discouraging bias approaches and encouraging critical approaches and dialogue
e. Emphasizing dynamic Ijtihad and applying time and situation when it comes to Ijtihad issues, while preserving the old traditions and methods as well as Jawaheri Ijtihad
6. Communication and media policies:
a. Emphasizing increasing worldwide commination, change in today’s commination methods, and highlighting development of Muslim countries relations
b. Stressing on the Islamic principles and values when having cultural exchange with other Muslim countries