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1 October 2023 (Sunday)

Religious Education and Problems of Citizenship

By Nurfarhana Che Awang


The biggest challenge faced by the Islamic community today is the ideology of secularism that has seeped into the education system worldwide. The effect is that Islamic Studies has to align with the secularism needs as long as it does not go against the teachings of Al-Quran and Al-Hadis. In this context, the teachers play an essential role in making the students understand that the purpose of Islamic Studies is to ensure the students can accept divine attributes. Teachers also have to emphasize the appreciation of Akidah, Syariah, and Akhlak as it will guide students to build a sense of responsibility within themselves towards their Creator, human beings and nature, as well as create good citizenship.[i]


Epistemologically speaking, according to Fathi Yakan (1997),[ii] Islamic Studies is a process of forming an individual and the community based on Islamic axes, whether it is the aspect of belief, thoughts or actions as well as creating individuals and communities under the perfect understanding of Islam without outside elements interfering. Its result would be Muslim individuals who are content, balanced and controlled. According to Abdul Halim Mat Diah (1989),[iii] Islamic Studies is a process that the students undergo with the help of the educator in forming Muslims based on the teachings of Islam. Most educational figures translated Islamic Studies as a process of presenting the knowledge to an individual to create good character and personality in daily life. Thus, good citizenship will be formed through applying Islamic values with Islamic studies.

The concept of citizenship is only concerned with national rights and sovereignty issues. However, the idea of citizenship has changed politically, economically, and social, with loyalty, conspiracy and courtesy that produced the civic concept in the concept of citizenship involving volunteerism through association and role in society (William, A. Gaston, 2012).[iv] The idea of citizenship was agreed upon by Geboers et al. (2015). They stated that citizenship is obeying the agreements and laws, equality, trust in the government,  involvement in politics, civic participation, and voluntary participation in activities or public services.

Furthermore, According to Hicks (2011), in the knowledge aspect of the understanding and function of the democratic system, citizens first need to know the government, constitution, and civic.[v] Modern political systems today rely entirely on the success and role of citizenship because those are the features and essential elements in becoming a “constituent member of society” (Cogan & Derricott, 1998:13).[vi] Therefore, as mentioned before, the success of the process in moulding the community depends on the value of the citizenship that is present in the citizen as portrayed by Aristotle to describe the Athens.

“…to understand what a constitution (politeia) is, we must inquire into the nature of the city (polis), and to understand that since the city is a body of citizens (politeia/polites) we must examine the nature of citizenship.” (Aristotle, 1995:84).[vii]

Islamic Studies can form good citizenship in the forming of the Malaysian community towards nation building by empowering the values that exist in the National Education Philosophy (NEP) that was drafted as a guide for a goal, base and inspiration in all efforts and plans made in the educational field and to create well-balanced citizens in ensuring the growth of a nation. Islamic Studies can form a Muslim’s personality that encompasses spiritual, physical, intellectual and emotional needs. Islamic Studies is also able to develop the aspects of physical, spiritual, and mental human traits to produce individuals who genuinely believe Allah S.W.T. from religious studies. Besides that, Islamic Studies can also involve students in worldly knowledge and the hereafter.[viii]

The concept of citizenship can be pointed out to the student through the knowledge and practice of citizenship by providing knowledge, teacher’s pedagogy, the use of textbooks, and the involvement of students in co-curricular activities. To ensure the sustainability of a nation’s growth, many efforts were made by the Ministry of Education to evoke nationalism within a student to form citizens that possess identity and love for their fellow man and country (Shamsul Amri, 2007).[ix]

Nation-building is something that can be difficult in Malaysia because the process of achieving national integrity is not easy. This is because it involves a complex process. Looking back at history, education, social, political, and economical, everything is racially oriented. Efforts to have national integrity based on one identity are not widely accepted by non-Malays (Ting Chew Peh, 1987).[x] The forming of Malaysia was based on the Malay state system (Malay Polity) that started as “Tanah Melayu”, which was initially created from the name “Melayu”. After 1910, labour workers in economic sectors forced the British to get immigrants from China and India, which simultaneously changed Malaya’s demography to a country with various races. The implementation of the New Economy Policy in 1970 shows lots of efforts that the government took to realize the national integration towards forming a multiracial nation.

To realize the government’s desire to form a multiracial nation, Malaysia’s Ministry of Education introduced Civic and Citizenship as a subject which was stated in the National Education Philosophy (NEP), as well as making changes to Islamic Studies and Moral Studies to create citizens that can contribute to the country. The government’s assessment revolves around the concept of citizenship and appreciation of moral values. It should be assessed regularly and given attention, especially in this era of globalization, to fulfil its desire to create good citizens. Besides that, history should also be applied in Islamic Studies to enhance patriotism in a student, creating citizens with a sense of responsibility towards their country.

This can be seen from the concept of citizenship “as right-bearing units” (that have the right and gives the right) and also as “duty-bearing units” (carrying out the duties and responsibilities of a citizen) (Oldfield, 1990).[xi] These researches were proven in Europe to achieve national unity through the reciprocal process because establishing a nation involves the top-to-down process and the down-to-top process. Besides that, Heater (1990:2)[xii] stated that an individual has four roles in being a citizen. The first is status, the second is loyalty, the third is roles and obligations, and the fourth is the right to be a citizen. Therefore, Heater further stated that these values do not infer the relationships between men and people but involve the connections to the abstract concept of a city-state. Therefore, Heater’s statement can be referred to in the context of citizens’ roles and responsibilities contributing to nation-building. It is clear because citizenship involves the relationship between citizen and country. It can also be mentioned here that the duties does not merely fall on the citizens (students) but also on the citizens (teachers) to instil good values through Islamic Studies for students to gain knowledge regarding their roles as a citizen.

Mohd Mahzan et al. (2015)[xiii] stated that three aspects make a good citizen: the education system, knowledge of Malaysia’s constitution, and concern for a multiracial community. Education is an essential factor in forming and educating citizens. Malaysia is a country that practices the constitutional monarchy democracy and has been practising it since its independence in 1957. Through the implementation of this process, the Malaysian community has the chance to, directly and indirectly, participate in politics through the election process. Thus, democracy also requires the involvement of citizenship in the context of politics, society, and the economy. The democratic system can also be known as a Polyarchy government.

According to research that has taken place, it is stated that their students are less aware of their responsibilities as a citizen (Hamidah e al. 2011).[xiv] Research done by Naomi (2012)[xv] displayed data of a democratic nation that states the research done for respecting human rights, tolerance, and unity is the cause of blurriness in ensuring the extent of the value of citizenship there is in youth. The lack of knowledge of citizenship is the cause of the lack of patriotism in students. This should be taken into account because a high identity formation of the youth is a base for a country’s development and nation-building. According to Mohd Zahari et al. (2006), the lack of nationalism within a student results from not appreciating good citizenship values.

In nation-building, the Malaysian Ministry of Education, with the help of the Islamic Education Sector (SBP), has to enhance the measure of education, teacher’s pedagogy, as well as extra-curricular activities by instilling within the students Islamic values through the concept of citizenship to provide a clear understanding for the students regarding their role as a citizen. Besides that, the application of knowledge and teacher’s exercises must also be reinforced so that teachers can provide meaningful lessons to the students. The curriculum activity context also has to be enhanced to provide students with soft skills and good communication skills with students of different ethnicities, which would create understanding and appreciation amongst themselves.


In conclusion, citizenship is a fundamental element in the development of nation-building. Therefore, education plays the primary role in forming good citizenship through implementing Islamic Studies. This is because Islamic Studies possesses Islamic values that are “Sumur” or universal and “Rahmatan lil’ Alami” that are suitable for a nation that is multiracial; thus, it becomes a fundamental pillar in taking on the country’s aspirations.

[i] Hasan Langgulung (1986), Pengenalan Tamadun Islam Dalam Pendidikan. Kuala Lumpur: Dewan Bahasa dan  Pustaka, h. viii.

[ii] Mohd Roslan Mohd Nor, Wan Mohd Tarmizi Wan Othman., Sejarah Perkembangan Pendidikan Islam di Malaysia. Research Gate.

[iii] Ibid., Hlm. 64.

[iv] Siti Hasnah Bandu, Mohd Mahzan Awang & Abdul Razaq Ahmad., 2016. Penerapan Kompetensi Kewarganegaraan dalam Kalangan Pelajar Pebagai Etnik Peringkat Sekolah Menengah di Malaysia. Bangi, Fakulti Pendidikan Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia.

[v] Op.cit., dalam Siti Hasnah Bandu, Mohd Mahzan Awang & Abdul Razaq Ahmad., 2016. Penerapan Kompetensi Kewarganegaraan dalam Kalangan Pelajar Plebagai Etnik Peringkat Sekolah Menengah di Malaysia. Bangi, Fakulti Pendidikan Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia.

[vi] Heater, D., 1990. Citizenship: The Civic Ideal in World Historry, Politics and Education. London New York. Logman.

[vii] Winarno, 2015. Pemikiran Aristotle Tentang Kewarganegaraan dan Konstitusi. Humanika, Vol,21. Hlm. 56.

[viii] Baharom Mohamad, Ali Suradin & Za’ba Helmi Khamisan., 2008. Peranan Pendidikan Islam dan Pendidikan Moral dalam Membina Sahsiah Pelajar Berkualiti. Skudai, Persidangan Pembangunan Pelajar Peringkat Kebangsaan.

[ix] Mohd Ridhuan Tee Abdullah, , 2010. Cabaran Integrasi Antara Kaum di Malaysia: Perspektif Sejarah, Keluarga dan Pendidikan. Jurnal Hadhari , Volume bil 3, pp. 61-84.

[x] Ibid., dalam Mohd Ridhuan Tee Abdullah, 2010.

[xi] Fee, et. al, 1995. The Politics of Nation Building and Citizenship in Singapore. London and New York: Routledge. Hlm. 29.

[xii] Heater, D., 1990. Citizenship: The Civic Ideal in World History, Politics and Education. London New York. Logman.

[xiii] Op.cit., dalam Siti Hasnah Bandu, Mohd Mahzan Awang & Abdul Razah Ahmad, 2016).

[xiv] Op.cit.

[xv] Op.cit.

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