1st Edition

A Fresh Look at Islam in a Multi-Faith World
a philosophy for success through education

ISBN 9781138898813
Published June 9, 2015 by Routledge
278 Pages 16 B/W Illustrations

USD $45.95

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Book Description

A Fresh Look at Islam in a Multi-Faith World provides a comprehensively theorised and practical approach to thinking systematically and deeply about Islam and Muslims in a multi-faith world. It makes the case for a contemporary educational philosophy to help young Muslims surmount the challenges of post-modernity and to transcend the hiatuses and obstacles that they face in their interaction and relationships with non-Muslims and visa-versa.

It argues that the philosophy of critical realism in its original, dialectical and metaReal moments so fittingly ‘underlabours’ (Bhaskar, 1975) for the contemporary interpretation, clarification and conceptual deepening of Islamic doctrine, practice and education as to suggest a distinctive branch of critical realist philosophy, specifically suited for this purpose. This approach is called Islamic Critical Realism.

The book proceeds to explain how this Islamic Critical Realist approach can serve the interpretation of the consensual elements of Islamic doctrine, such as the six elements of Islamic belief and the five ‘pillars’ of Islamic practice, so that these essential features of the Muslim way of life can help Muslim young people to contribute positively to life in multi-faith liberal democracies in a globalising world.

Finally, the book shows how this Islamic Critical Realist approach can be brought to bear in humanities classrooms by history, religious education and citizenship teachers to help Muslim young people engage informatively and transformatively with themselves and others in multi-faith contexts.

A Fresh Look at Islam in a Multi-Faith World has been awarded the 2015 Cheryl Frank Memorial Prize

Table of Contents

Part 1  Introduction: A Tale of Two Young Muslims, a Spiritual Quest, a Book to Be Used 1. From Sacred Civilisation to Secular Confusion: Why Does Islam Need a Philosophy? Part 2 2. Shared Meta-theoretical Premises: ‘Underlabouring’ and ‘Seriousness’. 3. Original Islamic Critical Realism 4. Dialectical Islamic Critical Realism: The life of the Prophet Muhammad 5. Islamic metaReality: the Articles of Faith and Pillars of Islam Part 3 6. Towards an Ontology of Educational Success: Muslim Young People in Humanities Education 7. History Education: from Absence to Emancipation 8. Religious Education: Learning about, from and for Religion-for-Life 9. Citizenship Education: a Pathway to Full Critical Engagement 10. Conclusion: A Call for Existential Seriousness to Re-generate the Happy Muslim Consciousness

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Dr Matthew L.N. Wilkinson is a Research Fellow at Cambridge Muslim College, Affiliate Lecturer at the Woolf Institute, Cambridge and Visiting Fellow at the Institute of Education, University of London.

The book is borne out of the author, Matthew Wilkinson’s, 23 years of humanities teaching of young Muslims and practice and research-based experience of Islam. Matthew embraced Islam in 1991 after reading theology at the University of Cambridge, where his Part 1 exam was recognised by a scholarship. After gaining a traditional Islamic education and British teaching qualifications (QTS secondary history), Matthew taught history, religious studies and citizenship in mainstream and Islamic faith schools for 15 years. Thereafter he gained a PhD on an ESRC studentship at King’s College London on the relationship between history curriculum and British Muslim boys. More recently, Matthew has lectured in history and religious education at the University of Cambridge. He has also acted as an expert witness in Islamic theology and Muslim identity.


"Muslim communities in the UK have important contributions to make to the local communities and broader societies in which they live. Yet to date, these communities, and Islam more broadly, are often the subject of misunderstanding and vilification.

Whereas Islamic legal and political traditions have, at key points, inspired and informed Western political and intellectual traditions and British Muslims have historically made, and continue to make, important contributions at every level of British life, portrayals of their religion and identity still often seem to focus on terrorism, intolerance, and issues such as FGM and forced marriages.

 A Fresh Look at Islam in a Multi-Faith World makes a comprehensive case for a contemporary educational philosophy in our schools, with a view to playing a key role in creating mindsets that are resistant to radicalisation and encouraging of productive, intercultural relations. Dr. Wilkinson’s analysis of the history curriculum’s potential role in creating a forum for discussion to address the ignorance that leads to the misunderstanding of our communities adds real value to this important discussion, and to the wider debate around how we educate our children"

Rt. Hon. Sadiq Khan MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Justice, Shadow Lord Chancellor & Shadow Minister for London


"This book shows how the philosophy of critical realism and the Islamic tradition can meet with the type of intellectual fertility that characterised the meeting of Islamic thought with the philosophy of the ancients that sparked the European Renaissance 800 years ago. It returns to the contemporary Islamic intellectual tradition an intellectual depth and rigour that it has often lacked and it will be of enormous help to teachers of young people who wish to show their charges how Islam can be a productive member of the family of faiths in the modern age." 

Professor Roy Bhaskar, World Scholar, Institute of Education, University of London 


"This remarkable integration of Islamic wisdom with critical realist theory energetically tackles some of modern Britain’s most pressing issues in curriculum design and community integration."

 Tim Winter, Shaykh Zayed Lecturer in Islamic Studies, University of Cambridge; Dean, Cambridge Muslim College 


"Using detailed research into the experience of Muslim boys, Matthew Wilkinson examines the intellectual, social and spiritual blocks to young Muslims engaging in British democracy and to owning the open-minded intellectual tradition once characteristic of Islam. One important remedy is a rigorous history education. Young Muslims need historical knowledge if they are to connect 'being authentically British to being seriously Muslim' and to participate fully in the civic life of Britain. Far from suggesting that British history is not important, Wilkinson argues that it is centrally important, and that its completeness requires a rigour in identifying interconnections across British, European and world history. History teachers wishing to reflect on the past, present and future relationship of Islam with Britain will find much food for thought in this book."

Christine Counsell, Senior Lecturer in History Education, Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge


"Matthew Wilkinson combines broad and deep scholarship with practical experience and penetrating philosophical analysis in this survey of Islam in a multi-faith world. He presents a persuasive case for a new theoretical approach to education regarding Islam and Muslims in Britain today and illustrates its application in some humanities subjects.

His telling remarks on religious education and citizenship, in particular, are very topical and relevant. If fully adopted, his approach could transform education in our schools and the relationship between Muslims and non-Muslims in our society".

John Keast OBE, Chair, Religious Education Council of England & Wales


 "Matthew Wilkinson is an expert in the education of young Muslims as well as in the teaching of Islam in UK schools.  His book delivers exceptional insights into our secondary education system and is of value to anyone interested in reflecting on the challenges raised by living in contemporary multi-faith Britain.

Dr. Wilkinson’s book makes an important contribution to today’s debate about how we educate our children and I have no doubt that it will become a standard work in the fields of education, Islamic and interfaith studies."   

Dr. Edward Kessler MBE, Executive Director, Woolf Institute, Cambridge


"In our rapidly changing world all of us, Christians and Muslims alike, need as much help as we can get in relating what we believe to the often confusing problems of daily living.  The traditions in which we stand, properly understood, give us stability and enrichment to approach these, but they still require wisdom in application. I warmly commend this book for the thoughtful contribution it offers to the gaining of that wisdom for both teachers and learners."  

Lord Richard Harries of Pentregarth, Former Bishop of Oxford


 "This book makes an important contribution to an ongoing debate both about the way subjects on the curriculum are framed and about how the diversity of contemporary  British society can and does renew and refresh that debate.

Dr. Wilkinson is well positioned to understand and reflect the implications of the social cohesion debate as it impinges on curriculum reform and has, here, identified many of the factors which could make a difference to how that debate is at present conceived.

As such, this book is to be very much welcomed and will start a new and engaging phase of discussion at a critical moment for fresh thinking about the way that faith in general, and Islam in particular, are addressed in our schools."

Mary Earl, University Lecturer and Convenor, Initial Teacher Training in Religious Studies, Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge


 "With his expertise and experience, Matthew Wilkinson’s thoughtful narrative is valuable reading for learners, educators and policy-makers, and all others who seek to deepen mutual understanding and tolerance between believers in contemporary, multi-faith Britain.  I highly commend it to all."

Rt. Hon. Simon Hughes MP, Minister for Justice and Civil Liberties