Holistic Education on the Essence of the World Religions

By Dr. Robert Crane

The limitations of the “engineering mindset” should not reduce the importance of “engineering”. Rather the “humanities” should be re-emphasized in the broadest context of holistic education. For specialists in education this context can be expressed in the following tripartite paradigm of Classical Islam, which constitutes the essence of every world religion:

1) God engineered the entire universe as a symbol for us to contemplate the unity in its diversity pointing beyond its physical architecture to the spiritual awareness that transcends it (traditionalist ontology).

2) Our greatest opportunity through our inborn freedom of choice therefore is to use critical reasoning not merely to understand the universe through scientific observation but to design entire paradigms of thought in order to understand ourselves (epistemology). This is a major purpose of the 500-page Volume Three of the Holistic Education Center’s mega-textbook, Islam and Muslims: Essence and Practice, which is an index of more than one thousand concepts used in the first two volumes designed to teach students how to think conceptually and engage in paradigm management.

3) The greatest challenge is to design and implement the guidelines for compassionate justice through the open-ended architectonics of the paradigm known in Islam as the maqasid al shari’ah (progressivist axiology).

There is no need to play down the STEM educational quadrivium (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) as the source of an “engineering mindset”. Rather we need to play up the above trivium of ontology, epistemology, and axiology as the essence and body of the humanities in a balanced education designed to help students in every field of education rise above the secular and superficial appearances of reality in order to help everyone achieve one’s ultimate purpose on earth, which is to become the unique person that one was created to be and therefore in potential already is.

This, in turn, produces the ultimate harmony of human community at every level from the nuclear family to the nation and on to the community of humankind and even beyond this to the realm of cosmic metalaw. At this level the Golden Rule is no longer “Do unto others as one would have done to oneself”, but rather “Do unto others as they would have done unto themselves”, based on the human instinct, known as infaq. This is the educable inclination to give rather than to take in life.

This is the best way to bring together the best of the human community and its pluralism of wisdom through the harmony of transcendent and compassionate justice for everyone.

The sky is not falling. The sun has been obscured temporarily by the rain, but the rain is followed eventually, God willing, by the sun. Hope for the future is better than fear of the past and is the key to civilizational rise and fall.


Dr Robert Crane is the Chairman of the Holistic Education Center for Civilizational Renewal, based in Kerala, India, which publishes Armonia. He was formerly a professor in the Qatar Foundation’s Qatar Faculty of Islamic Studies and Director of its Center for the Study of Islamic Thought and Muslim Societies.