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Expressing Post-Secular Citizenship

A Madrasa, an Ethic and a Comprehensive Doctrine

Zahraa McDonald

According to Habermas, the contemporary public sphere is post-secular. In other words, the continuing presence of religious communities within a secular society is indisputable. However, the significance of this is not entirely clear, despite intensive discussion by social scientists, journalists, policymakers and politicians regarding the role of religion in the public sphere. Understanding contemporary religious phenomena requires serious academic and public engagement.
Drawing on theoretical approaches from sociology (Max Weber), philosophy (John Rawls) and religious studies (Abdulkader Tayob), this book analyses empirical data from the study of a madrasa in South Africa in order to explore the important question of how individuals may engage in the public sphere as members of religious communities.
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Chapter Five: A lesson in perfecting character



A lesson in perfecting character

5.1  Introduction

This chapter is the second of two presenting data gathered at Madrasa Warda. The previous chapter presented data illustrating an alignment of Madrasa Warda to the Deobandi education movement. Chapter Three contends that the Deobandi education movement has established a religious ethic applying the framework constructed in Chapter Two. Religion, when it is rationalised in the form of a religious ethic, implies a certain worldview that constitutes a particular pattern of actions in this world, culminating in a peculiar character (Weber 1966). Unsurprisingly, then, the previous chapter further demonstrates that Madrasa Warda, a religious education institution associated with the Deobandi education movement, seeks to instil an Islamic-inspired outlook. The substance of that outlook – that is, the detail relating to patterns of behaviour and ensuing character – is not discussed in the previous chapter. In this chapter the pattern of behaviour associated with the ethic of the Deobandi education movement is examined from data gathered at Madrasa Warda.

Data drawn from the texts used at Madrasa Warda, observations at the institution, together with interviews and informal discussion with teachers and learners, are presented in the chapter. Firstly the data explains that teaching and learning at Madrasa Warda is inspired by the process of character building or tarbiyya, orientated to God and emulating the Prophet. The data then describe behaviour patterns deemed to emulate a perfect character. The Will of Allah is considered to be contained...

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