Peace, one and all…
One of the fundamental purposes of Higher Education is to help students explore, construct and challenge meanings. It is to help students break down complex, involved questions into smaller pieces, which can then be analysed. It is also to assist our students in their attempts to gather these small pieces (and their own analyses) into new and emerging syntheses. Thus, in the Humanities, we help students explore the range of ideas, opinions and perspectives of the ‘human sciences’ – and then we strive to help them build their own understandings, based uponour own insights as educators.
I do not mean to suggest by this that we simply manoeuvre students into reproducing our own ideas. Nor do I mean to suggest that we place ourselves on some kind of intellectual pedestal as ‘experts’ and ‘masters’. No, although such things do happen (and being human, I am subject to human frailties). Rather, what I mean is that we strive to communicate the gathered insights of a particular body of knowledge as guidance – so that those encountering the terrain for the first time might get a sense of the landscape facing them.
Moreover, I understand my own role as one of supporting new endeavours, as one of offering all that I have learnt to those who come after me (whose minds and potential insights are far in excess of my own). A saying of the Prophet (alaihi al-salatu wa al-salam) encapsulates my own feelings here. This statement comes within the body of the Prophet’s farewell sermon (alaihi al-salatu wa al-salam):
‘…All those who listen to me shall pass on my words to others and those to others again; and may the last ones understand my words better than those who listen to me directly…’. Source
In other words, I am naught but a small link in a much greater chain. And praise be to Allah, Who maketh it so!