Muhammad Al-Sharafi… He wanted to replace the dark ones with the Arab philosophers of enlightenment
On the margin of the book of the former minister of education and higher education in Tunisia
Thursday – 29 Dhu al-Hijjah 1443 AH – 28 July 2022 AD Issue No. [
Is Dr. Mohamed Al-Sharafi Taha Hussein Tunisia? To some extent, even to a great extent. He was the Minister of Education in Tunisia, just as the Dean of Arabic Literature was the Minister of Education in Egypt. And both of them innovated the curricula of education in an unprecedented way. Both were rational, enlightened and progressive, not superstitious, fundamentalist. In fact, Muhammad Al-Sharafi practiced the ministry for a much longer period than Taha Hussein… When former president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali proposed this ministry to him, he did not hesitate for a moment. But he says in his valuable book that if he had proposed any other ministry to him, his answer would have been a categorical refusal. He says what it means: In September 1988, the Presidency of the Republic called me and informed me that the President wanted to meet me in my capacity as president of the “Tunisian Association for Human Rights.” I liked the initiative and appreciated it. I say this, especially because I did not ask anything from the president and that he was the one who initiated the call and asked to see me and not the other way around. And when I met him at the Carthago Palace, we exhausted the issue in just fifteen minutes. Then the president said to him: ‘I have more time for you if you want. Do you suggest that we undertake specific reforms in Tunisia and in any sector? We want to use your expertise to serve the greater good.” Muhammad Al-Sharafi replied: “Yes, I have a proposal regarding the education system. It needs urgent or urgent repairs. The level of Tunisian education has declined, and the general trend of education is traditional and reactionary, while the orientation of the Tunisian state is modern and progressive. Then the President became so interested in my words that he asked me to send him a detailed report on the matter. It never occurred to me that after reading the report he , would not personally present the Ministry to me. But this is what happened.” He said to him in a sensible way: Who better than you to implement this enlightening program of reform, the outlines of which you personally drew? The good is urgent. Indeed, that is what it was. In this way, the President of the Republic offered him the post of Minister of Education to carry out the necessary and desired reforms, the man immediately accepted, and his ministerial adventure, which lasted five years and fifty days, completely and utterly head of the ministry begins.
What can we infer from this speech? We conclude that Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was a good man, chivalrous, eager for the renaissance of Tunisia, at least in the first ten years of his reign. Then closure, authoritarianism, family rule and favoritism began, but not before that. We conclude that it was enlightening, unlike what happened after January 2011, the alleged and ominous spring of Ghannouchi and the Muslim Brotherhood who tried to turn back the clock so that the general trend of Tunisian education became fundamentalist and obscurantist has. These are things that need to be said now, after all that fuss, to set the facts straight.
Then review Dr. Al-Sharafi the general problem as follows: The school must be in harmony with the state of society to be able to easily integrate the child into his environment and surroundings. This is what most schools do in all countries except the Arab and Islamic worlds. In most countries of Islam, we notice that society moves, disintegrates and develops, but the school does not develop, but instead remains hostage to mentalities that date back a thousand years! A century and a half ago, Muslims felt their backwardness compared to Europe and tried to correct the situation. Indeed, they succeeded on a quantitative level, as the establishment of schools, universities and educational institutions multiplied in various countries. But not on a qualitative level. Little has changed here. In the sense that the rigid traditional heritage mentality was dominant and controlling education programs. Since officials in Arab and Islamic countries were afraid to touch forbidden subjects; They refused to introduce any reform in the subject of religious education in schools, as well as the subject of history.
Then the famous Tunisian thinker gives the following examples: At school, the student learns that the ideal society is one in which the woman is a prisoner of the home. However, he later discovers that the woman has been freed and is no longer a prisoner in her home, as her mother and grandmother were fifty or a hundred years ago. Tunisian and Arab women in general have emerged and come out of their shells and occupy prestigious positions and positions in all fields, almost as well as men. At school they teach the student that usury is forbidden. However, he later discovers that the entire modern banking system is based on the interest system. In school, they teach the student that the only legal political system is the Caliphate system, where the clerics associated with the old jurisprudence dominate, which says that physical limits must be enforced as flogging, stoning, cutting off the hand of a thief . etc., but this Tunisian student later discovers that these terrifying limits are insurmountable. The implementation and that the political system has become a modernist, refuses to implement it. Commercial law, penal code and personal status law have all changed and innovated, especially in Tunisia, the pioneer of modernity in the Arab world since the days of Bourguiba. So, the school teaches you one thing and the state teaches you another. In this way we produce schizophrenic citizens. Therefore, educational curricula should be radically reformed and modernized.
The clash with the Muslim Brotherhood
Dr. Muhammad Al-Sharafi tells us what it is about: From the first day he assumed his duties at the head of the Ministry of Education, he encountered the Islamists’ hostility towards him, or rather the Islamists. Rashid Ghannouchi expressed this stance against the new minister and his enlightening reforms in his various statements to the press at the time. So is the Tunisian Student Union, which is affiliated with the fundamentalists. We say this in spite of the fact that from the beginning the honorary pastor opened his heart to them and told them that he was ready for dialogue with them. He has an Islamic upbringing and even a traditional fundamentalist too! But it later changed and developed. This is also the case of Taha Hussein and most of the Arab enlightenment. Here the author devotes interesting pages to talking about his father, his family and his ancient Arab-Islamic upbringing in the city of Sfax, the capital of southern Tunisia. I really enjoyed reading it and it reminded me of childhood. But the thing that surprised and shocked the minister is that the first major crisis happened not exactly with the Ghannouchi group and political Islam, but rather with the official Islamic group affiliated with the state and the supervisors of the Ministry of Religious Affairs. They are the ones who declare their support for the president and the system at the head. But here we like to ask this question to Dr. Al-Sharafi: What is the difference between them, sir? Official pro-regime Islam and opposition political Islam have one thing in the end: we mean that they have the same mentality and the same ideas. So there is nothing here to be surprising or surprising. However, they mocked him and Magoa when he decided to delete two books scheduled for religious education. And these are two reactionary books that say that the only legal system is the old caliphate system in the defunct Ottoman way. They also say that a man has the right to beat his wife. They also ask that the books of Jean-Paul Sartre be deleted and banned on the grounds that they are the works of an infidel. But the minister told them that Sartre was defending Algeria’s independence and putting himself in danger because of it. The argument did not convince them, so they demanded not only to ban it, but also to ban the books of all the philosophers of the Enlightenment and modernity, such as Voltaire, Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Kant…etc. Thus began his enlightening battle with the obscurantists from day one. Fortunately, Prime Minister Hedi Bakouche sided with the Minister of Religious Affairs. Most important of all, President Ben Ali personally stood with him in full force against the obscurantist, reactionary current that dominates the arena and educational programs.
Then Dr. Al-Sharafi concludes by making the following important observation: In fact, official Islam and opposition Islam communicate with each other in the manner of crossing vessels. Official Islam, including mosque sheikhs, official muftis and state clerics, is the one taming the students and stuffing their heads with the old fundamentalist superstitions. As for opposition political Islam, it exploits the same ideas to incite people in the streets against the state and the regime. The work of this stream therefore complements the work of the other stream and never contradicts it.
How does it contradict him if they maintain the same priestly doctrine, that is, the same dark, closed understanding of Islam? For this reason, both began to reject the reforms of the honorary minister who called for the abolition of the mentality of puritanism, appeasement and coercion in religion. As well as calling for the abolition of polygamy, arbitrary divorce, wife beating and the application of terrible physical restraints. In this way, the great battle broke out between Dr. Muhammad Al-Sharafi on the one hand, and the Ghannouchi group and the Muslim Brotherhood in general on the other. This is the group falsely called: Al-Nahda! It seems to me that Muhammad al-Sharafi wanted to replace the gurus of obscurantist fundamentalism with the Arab Enlightenment philosophers. He wanted to substitute al-Kindi, al-Farabi, Ibn Sina, Ibn Rushd, Ibn Bajja, Ibn al-Tufail, Taha Hussein, Abbas Mahmoud al-Aqqad, Muhammad Arkoun… etc. in place of Hassan al-Banna , Sayyid Qutb, Muhammad Qutb and dozens of others. And if he had succeeded, we would not have recently “mastered” all these bloody ISIS generations.