The means, mode, style and the thrust of teaching Islamic instructions to students in Pakistan, have confounded planners, parents, teachers and learners almost ever since inception. The passion to make religion, move, mould and modulate the lives of learners, has seen a series of scrolls and spates of syllabi and courses with an even bigger scope of speeches and seminars to forge the perfect embodiments of Islamic thought and conduct. The present saga of the Single National Curriculum (SNC), has spawned an even bigger swell and reverted almost to recreate the drama of General Zia’s dictatorship to extend the Islamic content even to the science and other unrelated subjects and disciplines.

Yet his dictatorship that trampled democracy, triggered extremist, intolerant and terrorist mindset and trends also threatened peace, cohesion and co-existence of diverse faiths and practices also proved the futility of the obsession to induct piety, purity and perfection by excessive indoctrination. It also proved the failure of feeding the reams of religious contents to the younger minds. The ideals of piety, purity, peace, social harmony and blessings of a fair and proper regard and dealings for fellow human beings, vouchsafed as the Haqooq-ul- Ebaad also remained utterly elusive. Pakistan is still feared as the fourth most dangerous country in the world. It is at the 167th slot in the safety and security of women, 140th in corruption and 130th in access to justice and rule of law.

The emphasis thus should not be on teaching and making to remember a lot but rather on more inspiring aspects that can ignite interest and insight of the learners to seek, sift, and assimilate more in a step wise or sumptuously graded style synching with learners’ age and comprehension. The objective must be to impart the very basics to stimulate the quest and curiosity of the kids avoiding uploading and building the data banks in their brains. This actually has always been the tradition and technique of the great Sufis, saints and scholars who idolised the impact of a mere glance of a real guide (Morshed) to catapult the entire existence, conduct and persona of their disciples and devotees.

The need and relevance for a lot of bulk or committing and carrying a lot of information in the brain in this digital age, has now been indeed replaced by a more facile and rewarding approach by the ever-amazing facilities like computers, mobiles, watches, wearable gadgets and emerging modes of artificial intelligence. Even a kid with a click, cue or command on a digital console, can find reams of data, information, reviews, commentaries and avail the wonders and wealth of the top world scholars, libraries and portals. The education system in many parts of the world, is actually moving to synthetic teachers, virtual vaults and artificial intelligence simulations. Innovative education modes, styles and tech business to transform the age-old classrooms, which was in billions in 2019, is expected to reach much higher in 2027.

Even more potent and stimulating than the innovative tech, are the learner’s interest, interactions and experiences that may simply be summed as the social setup and environs or what the sages called the ways of the world around us being the best teacher. Ladling loads of religious contents similarly cannot create the most virtuous societies devoted to socio-economic justice, human care and concern. Almost all great world religions have stressed the primacy of justice, care, concern, regard and kindness for the kin, elderly, poor and the oppressed. But only the societies that managed to excel in science, innovative tech, trade and business, have afforded the resources and reforms to ensure the basic needs, care, protection and facilities to the sick, elderly, less indigent and even an optimum guaranteed family income to every household.

In view of all such compelling evidence, an effective strategy would be to start with the elementary ideas built on a story like narrative of Islamic belief about the universe, the Sun, stars, moon, mountains, oceans and all humans and living things on it have been created. It can then lead to a Muslim’s obligations ranging from a basic submission and affirmation of Kalima to a general conduct and social outreach like greetings, manners and dealings particularly with the neighbours. The beginning in every aspect must be in the mother tongue. Arabic texts and scriptures must be kept to the minimum at least throughout the primary levels. The texts of prayers preferably must await the start of the secondary stages when the learners are sufficiently inspired to learn and remember them.

An even more integral prerequisite for any religious instruction, in our rapidly evolving global village, is to impart the realisation that people around us and in the world at large also have other religions, beliefs and practices. The requisites about tolerance, decency, proper reaction, norms, niceties about pluralism and inclusiveness and interaction with them, thus have to be nurtured from the earliest age and levels of comprehension.