You want to be happy, educated and true to the spirit of Islam? Well, good fortune smiles on you: there is no lack of great thinkers eager to walk you through to your destination. The issue of knowledge and education has preoccupied Muslims right from the inception of Islam.

Knowledge is not a fragile glass lamp wherein its flame can be snuffed out in a single breath. Centuries of the interweaving of various insights and scholarships in the case of the Islamic tradition simultaneously demonstrate the durability and malleability of the production, transmission and reception of knowledge.

To me the novel is a magnificent form, and the greatest of challenges for a writer because it encompasses all aspects of human existence: feeling, thought, sensation, intuition, the lyric epiphany and the inexorable epic all fall within its compass.

Education is both the most lamentable reflection of the conditions across Muslim contexts and the most important element requiring attention if the situation is to be improved. While teaching about Islam is only an aspect of educational landscape in Muslim contexts, it has much wider ramifications given the continued centrality of religion in Muslim societies.

Higher education is in a state of flux. The shift of the funding from the government to students is changing many aspects of higher education.

In established industrialised societies, where most of the important debates about the overall general direction of society have been resolved, the debates around the purpose of higher education usually centre around the contests between utilitarianism (vocational and professional skills and employability) and some relatively more lofty ideas, such as ‘self-fulfilment’, ‘nourishing the soul’ and sustaining values, social cohesion, and even social justice.

What route should we take through the landscape of higher education, in particular within Muslim societies? As a keen country walker, given to long-distance trekking in a range of ‘wilderness’ environments, I might suggest that we approach this task as another arduous trek, setting out to cover as much ground as possible in all weathers and take in every conceivable vista on the way.