Gatekeeping Is No Genuine Substitute For Education

Our community is in dire need of a tune up, especially religious leadership. We need people at the helm who truly have the skills to teach, not just regurgitate textual material. I’m not calling for abandoning texts, just that we need folks who can really and truthfully convey the meanings of the texts, amongst many other things, to our community members.

That’s why I’m always disturbed when I hear people say, “such-and-such can’t be translated from the Qur’an” and then proceed to translate what was apparently locked away in Harry Potter’s Chamber of Secrets. In my esteem this is nothing other than such a person disqualifying themselves as a proficient educator. But furthermore, I also see it as part of a fundamental misunderstanding of what translation even means:

from the Latin translatus “carried over”, trans, meaning “across, beyond” and latus “borne” or “carried”.

So the meaning of the Qur’an can indeed be “carried over” to other languages. Will those new translations be independent of the source from which they are translated from? No. But intellectual gatekeeping (a symptom rooted in a vanquished self-esteem and identity more than anything else) will never be a substitute for true education.

Too Much Emotional Dependence?

I’ve been reading an engaging book, Mindfulness-Integrated CBT, by Bruno A. Cayoun, and it made me think about how we as leaders and religious educators are engaging with the broader Muslim public. Hopefully you’ll follow me on this one:

“During psychotherapy, the client may learn about himself or herself based on what we say as therapists, colored by our own view of the world and operational paradigm. Our client acquires self-knowledge based on someone’s view, the therapist’s: ‘the client’s thought is irrational because it leads to emotional pain,’ If this is the only level of involvement (faith in the clinician), symptoms may be alleviated for some time but the client’s sense of self-control and self-efficacy tends to remain poor and bound to the context and topic of the intervention. A potential danger is dependence on the clinician for approval or reassurance, leading to unnecessary long-term treatment.”

I sometimes worry about the cult of personality that exists within our communities. It’s not that I think charisma has no place and should be done away with, but rather I’m concerned that people are getting attached to people (students to teachers, people to institutions) or places to such an extent that it interferes with the therapy and healing that (I think) we’re trying to accomplish. I say this as I have been slowly pushed more and more into a public spotlight and have concerns about the quality of what I am producing.