Investigative Articles

The Seeds of Terrorism and Extremism in the Curricula of Islamic Education in Sudan

By Qureshi Awad


Experts confirmed to Al-Taghyeer that the Islamic Creed and Fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) curriculum in primary schools and the Islamic culture curricula in Sudanese universities suffer from the infiltration of Salafi ideas, specifically Wahhabism, which can be used to justify terrorism and incite hatred. These curricula also consider democracy and human rights contrary to Islam and deem fighting those who adhere to these values a religious duty, as they are identified as apostates and must be subjected to corporal punishment within the hudud system under Islamic law.  

Most recently, lessons and chapters were deleted from primary and secondary curricula, the most important of which are “Purifying Islamic Creed from Superstition” and “Islam Religion of Tawhid (monotheism)”. This decision had angered the Ansar al-Sunnah Muhammadiyah group, which responded to it with a counter-campaign in mosques, newspapers and parliament; whereas Sufi factions welcomed the decisions, as the content of these lessons and chapters oppose and attack Sufi beliefs.  

This issue brought back to the surface the discussion on the curricula of Islamic education in Sudan and the need to radically change curricula in place, not only within the limits of partial deletion or partial addition, but with a view to complete reform as existing curricula contains pieces of legislation which breeds ideologies of terrorism and coercion and create ideas that oppose democratic and human rights values.

In the “Islamic Creed and Fiqh” curriculum for the fifth grade, there’s an anthem by an unknown poet that says “Tomorrow our guns are pounding the strongholds of the perpetrator” and another which states that “our youth come to Jihad with faith gear”. The curriculum for seventh grade alludes to “forbidden allegiance” as love and affection for non-believers. It also explicitly forbids Muslims supporting and/or linking their fates with those of non-believers, along with defending those who don’t believe in Islam as a doctrine and a way of life. Moreover, it prohibits assimilating with “infidels” and their way of life, and to resist adapting to non-Islamic law in the political, economic, educational and social aspects of life as a substitute to Islam. The curriculum also calls on Muslims to spy on infidels, reveal their plans and secrets and provide information to believers.

The text also asserts that it is not permissible to adhere to nothing but God’s law, whereas whoever disregards such, is considered an infidel and an unjust ruler, whereas people’s dealings amongst them ought not to be outside what God has revealed. Similarlythere is another reference which states that the backwardness of Muslims is due to the disagreement of their stances and renouncement of Jihad.   

On the other hand, in the curriculum of Islamic Culture for year one in the University of Sudan, it affirms that a ruler must be male, and later states that the caliph cannot be female. On the conditions of the caliphate, the ruler has the right to choose his successor and the Umma (community of Muslims) must pledge its loyalty to him.  On this Islamic appointment of a successor, it is not required for the entire general public to agree; the blessing of the – -ahl al-hal wal ‘aqd’s (those who loosen and bind- an appointed council for the making and unmaking of laws/decisions) – is enough. It also indicates that anyone who contests the ruler must be killed. The curriculum does not recognize any other authority besides the executive and legislative authority, and also sets the basis for belonging as “the house of Muslims and the House of infidels”, dividing communities. Death is also the punishment for apostasy.

The Islamic Culture curriculum in Neelian University asserts that belonging to atheist sects can include support for capitalism, communism and secularism, and constitutes apostasy. Those individuals can be given a chance to retreat and re-enter the realm of Islam, if and when they refuse, the apostasy hudud (punishment under Islamic law) which is death must be applied to them. The same curriculum deems democracy as shirk (sin of practicing idolatry or polytheism) for it gives the power of ruling to the people.

Dr. Omar Yousef al-Tayeb, lecturer at the Faculty of Arts, Neelain University, stated that the curriculum had been leaked, pondering how it could have happened since curricula are developed by specialists and are reviewed on high levels. Dr. al-Tayeb believes that the material was interpolated by Salafis whom are well advanced within the National Curriculum Division. He also believes that stronger censorship ought to be directed towards the sale of books on the streets and in front of colleges. Dr. Fathi Iraqi of Gezira University, Faculty of Arts, said that the teaching of the curriculum of Islamic Culture in Neelain University has been associated with a group of Salafi professors from Omdurman Islamic University. He adds that the curriculum is incompatible with the nature of Islamic Culture as it focuses on the study of Furq and Jammat (sects and groups) and the opinions of scholars of  Andalusia and Basra, especially on the subject of the Hijab( the Islamic veil worn by Muslim women). Dr. Iraqi adds these Islamic schools of thought don’t complement the nature of the Sudanese reality. He concludes that such ideology belittles other jurisprudence and does not celebrate all the heritage of religious jurisprudence in society.

Dr. Khidir al-Khawad, a researcher in sociology, challenges the scientific methodology put forth to create such curricula as it lacks any academic references in Sudan or in comparison to other countries. Any curriculum should be thoroughly vetted and include wide consultation before it is adopted. As any scientific material before adopted to be taught, must meet the conditions of the scientific method in terms of knowledge, the tools and methodology by which it was collected and the scientific references it has employed from researchers to academics. Dr. al-Khawad points that the references of Islamic Culture curriculum don’t feature academics and that the reference itself doesn’t include an index, unlike many specialized curricula in universities and institutions of higher education that have utilized the experience of regional and international higher education institutions and benefited from the knowledge and the methods and tools used to collect different literature and research. In addition, the text of these curricula includes many fallacies. Dr. al-Tayeb concluded that Islamic curricula can in particularly be dangerous when included in teaching tools for young children.

We were unable to meet with officials from the National Center for Curriculum or the Ministry of Education to get their opinion on the wave of criticism directed towards the curricula of Islamic education in primary and secondary schools.

The issue of public education curricula has been raised within the activities of civil society because of its direct link to democracy and human rights. In this context, al-Khatim Adlan Center for Education and Human Development (KACE) in 2013 implemented the “Education Reform” project, which aimed at activating and developing peaceful coexistence among the Sudanese components by reforming the education curricula in Sudan through brainstorming sessions, workshops and public seminars.

Writer and thinker, Abdelaziz Hussien al-Sawi, stated that democracy in Sudan can only be achieved through enlightenment, which necessitates reforming the education system.

Observers also have accused the ruling regime of benefiting from the current education system and curricula, by displaying a lack of willingness towards reform.  


1- Ahl al-hal wal ‘aqd (those who loosen and bind). This concept evolved during the period of the Khulafa ar-Rashidoon as a mechanism to choose the leader of the Muslims. The ahl al-hal wal ‘aqd are the leading personalities of society who are knowledgeable and have a proven track record of sincerity and sacrifice. They have no personal or class interests. The person who is appointed leader also does not cover such a position but is seen as most suitable for the job.

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