A research on Islamic Adult Education in Germany

The summer began with a great gift for me – my research in the field of Islamic Adult Education in Germany got published. The foundation of this work I did in the frame of my Master Thesis in the end of the remote 2014 at Humboldt University, Berlin. But it took the past 14 months to re-assess and analyse the empirical material again and to edit the work as there was a need for more profund use of the empirical data. The result is a peace of research I value a lot and I am truly thankful, that Prof. Dr. Aiga von Hippel, who leads the Department for Lifelong Learning at the Institute for Educational Sciences at Humboldt University, insisted on me publishing the research.

The title: “Erwachsenenbildung in islamischen Organisationen in Deutschland. Eine Analyse der Angebote Berliner Moscheen”

In the book I explore the islamic ideal of a mature adult person, known as Insan-i-Kamil, the attitude of the religion and the islamic philosophy towards lifelong learning as well as the learning needs of adult muslim individuals.

Besides analysing the adult educational activities of several mosques in Berlin in the empirical part of the work, the book contains also a chapter, in which I summarize the essence of the specifics of adult learning in general. You can access the online publication here.

Here a short summary of the findings of my research:

  • the theoretical analysis indicates, that lifelong learning is essential in Islamic thought and for several longer historical periods was almost identical with the religion and worship; Quran verses, Hadis and the opinions of theologists throughout history and at German Universities, such as Prof. Dr. Mouhanad Khorchide, as well as the interviewed imams at Berlin mosques support that view.
  • there are diverse views on what the charachteristics of an adult personality from Islamic point of view are, but what is common is that all opinions see adulthood as the ability to be critical towards oneself and to be willing and able to work on one’s own charachter to overcome weaknesses and mistakes.
  • the empirical research shows that Berlin mosques fulfill crucial social tasks within the society, such as serving as a community space that fosters the feeling of belonging and that serves as prevention against depression and alcoholism; in the same time the dependence of the mosques on private donations due to lack of financial support through the state makes them interested in keeping the members of their community at any price, which creates a conflict between their interests and the need for many members to find a way back into regular employment.
  • financial support for mosques from the side of the German state, as is the case in Scandinavian countries, is a crucial key to enable their independence as well as to invite them for cooperation; treating mosques the same way as churches and synagogues would also be symbolic as well as a physical act of acceptance, that Islam is a legitimate part of Germany, as are Christianity and Judaism, too.
  • Berlin mosques display a big variety of activities in various languages that they offer for adult learners – Muslims and non-Muslims; part of the events are not only Quran cources and courses that aim at providing indepth knowledge about the religion and worship, but also language courses, literature festivals, excoursions, guided tours in the mosque for non-muslim visitors with focus on esthaetics and architecture, teachings for the own identity (such as how to wash the body of the death person before the funeral), conferences on the topic of radicalisation prevention, events on ecological topics, lectures about physical and psychological health, sometimes in cooperation with communal actors, just to mention some.
  • Especially for the younger generation – for the people born here, in Germany, the German language is the language of their faith; in German they learn, discuss and express their thoughts about Islam, as they master German better than Arabic, Turkish, Kurdish. This way German, and not any other language, becomes a bridge between the roots of the young people’s identities and their modern lives in Central Europe, enabling them to gather and to own all the pieces they are ‘made of’
  • the more a mosque is visible and comprehensible externally as a mosque (having a minarett and a typical architechture), the more the citizens are interested into visiting the place and learning more about it; this way, interestingly, architecture and aestetics become factors in the professionalisation of adult educational work in mosques: the curiousity of the society creates new demands in the mosques, which leads to Muslims learning more about their religion to be able to explain what was until then self-understandning for them; in this dynamic new offers for adult education gets created, such as guided mosque tours, which invite for dialogue and create space for encounter; also the younger generation receives more space for agency within the mosque communities because they are the ones who study or have studied in Germany, who speak the language – literally and culturally – and who can best host non-muslim visitors eager to understand their faith community place; this leads to a shift in the inner dynamic of mosque associations, bringing creativity, participation and the will for cooperation with other Musim, non-Muslim and interfaith institutions
  • the way media report about Muslims and mosques play a crucial role in the society’s dynamic – supporting curiousity and dialogue or vice versa – intrusing angst and hate towards Muslims; media agency thus also influences the development of adult education offers of the mosques in an indirect way

What is clear, is that we need more research on this field and I hope that my piece of work has created good foundations for others to continue this very important work in future. All the encounters in the mosques were for me precious and I am still astonished by how simple it is just to listen and how invaluable fruits this can bring.

Holding the published book in my hands was meaningful for me for a further reason, too: to edit the text for publishing in the last 14 months was for me a great challenge, which thought me mindfully:

  • how writing on the side (besides job and private life) is possible, if we are determined to accomplish a goal
  • that gathering little peaces of words, put on the page a letter at a time, some minutes a day – just as squirrels gather little nuts one at a time – matters and over time sums up to a considerable amount of valuable work one has accomplished successfully
  • that writing fulfills me and brings happyness in my life that cannot be substituted by another activity
  • that each of us has 24 hours a day only – not more and not less; and that we need to do the work within the time that we have, within the time given, which means that done is better than perfect and a done project is more valuable than a perfect one we never find time to realise.

Also because of these very intimate moments in the writing process and true insights that the process of editing gave me, seeing this book in the world, starting to live its own life, means a lot to me. It was not a qualifying work, like a dissertation is, but it was a gualifying experience for me, that shaped in me qualities I was longing for, and that will enable me to give birth to further texts of my truths in future.

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