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An Analytical Appraisal of Islamization of Knowledge
By Dr. Muhammad Amin
Educational Reforms Trust Pakistan http://www.Safa.edu.pk
Muslim Epistemology An Analytical Appraisal of Islamization of Knowledge
Dr. Muhammad Amin Professor & Chair Department of Islamic Thought & Civilization University of Management & Technology, Lahore
Epistemology or Islamic concept of knowledge is not merely theoretical but has a close bearing on human thought and behavior in individuals and the society at large. Quran, Hadith and Muslim scholars have attached great importance to Islamic concept of epistemology. In the early days of Islam epistemology flourished in the light of Islamic principles. Later on under the influence of colonial powers and wave of modernity Muslim epistemology lost it identity. Different Muslim scholars presented different views to develop and evolve an education system in the light of Islamic Principles. Hossein Nasr, Al -Attas, Fazlur Rehman ,Ismail Raji Al-Faruqi and Ziauddin Sardar are few of them. According to the writer’s point of view with reference to Muslim epistemology entire knowledge including social sciences and religious studies should be reproduced or reconstructed in the light of Muslim worldview. New disciplines of knowledge should be introduced such as Occidental studies, Muslim Civilizations, Science of personality development and Ummah studies etc. For this purpose practical training of personnel having a truly Islamic mindset is required. Academic planning, theoretical frame work, impressive monograph and organized workshops on reconstruction of existing knowledge in Islamic perspective should be arranged A role model University along with affiliated colleges and schools can serve the purpose. The insightful, well planned step by step process is required to develop an educational system based on Muslim Worldview. For this, entire Ummah should pool its resources, both intellectual and material, and embark upon the project, giving it top priority.
An Analytical Appraisal of Islamization of Knowledge (1)
Muslim epistemology means Islamic theory of knowledge or the Islamic concept of knowledge. It discusses nature of knowledge, its sources, objectives and scope, its types and branches, which branch of knowledge is useful and should be acquired, which one is harmful and should better be avoided, what is possible to know, and what is simply not possible to know, how can knowledge be acquired etc.
The discussion of epistemology is not merely theoretical as it has a close bearing on human thought and behavior in individuals and the society at large. Epistemology, in fact, is the product of the worldview of a society (its concept of man, the universe and the deity).The concept of knowledge in a society gives birth to different disciplines and branches of knowledge, educational philosophy and institutional infra-structure. Education plays a key role in the character building of individuals who in turn make up the society and develop a civilization.
The importance of epistemology should be evident from the fact that the Noble Quran provides detailed guidance in this regard, and the subject also gets high priority in the Ahadith.For instance, Imam Bukhari, in his Sahih, has set the chapter on Ilm (knowledge) immediately after the Book of Revelation and the Book on Iman, and it is an exhaustive study spreaed over sixteen chapters. Similarly, Muslim ulema and scholars, theologians, thinkers and the Sufis (mystics) have attached great importance to knowledge and discussed it at length. (2) Accordingly, Imam Ibne Abdul Barr, Syed Ali Hajveri, Ibne Sina, Imam Ghazali, Ibne Rushd, Ibne Khuldoon, Ibne Arabi, Ibne Taimiyah, Mullah Sadrah, Shah Wali Ullah, Shah Ismail Shaheed, and in the recent past Allama Muhammad Iqbal, Maulana Syed Abul Ala Maudoodi, and Dr. Rafi Uddin have made valuable contribution in this field. (3) Muslim history also bears witness to the fact that the Islamic ideology of life brought about all embracing spiritual, moral and conceptual development of the Muslims during the period of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) and his companions, and the Muslims made remarkable advancement in every sphere of knowledge, religious, as well as secular including social sciences, technology and natural sciences. However, after about one thousand year, deviation of the Muslims from their worldview coupled with the absence of a proper system of education
and Tarbiyah, internal dissention and various other factors weakened the Muslim world and they became slaves of the strong Western nations. The awakened sections in the Muslim society continued their resistance against the oppressive forces and were finally successful in throwing away the yoke of slavery within a century or two. But as is always the case, the oppressive forces don’t occupy lands only, they also enslave minds and hearts of the oppressed nations. Accordingly, after invading the Muslim states, the Western Imperialism wound up the educational system of the Muslims, replacing it with their own based on the Western worldview and epistemology. This strategy enable them to create a class of the local Muslims which were Muslim in name but practically loved the Western values and culture in all respects. (4) Consequently, when the turn of events forced the Western nations to concede political freedom to the Muslims, they were successful in handing over power to the class which had been captivated by the glamour of Western thought and civilization. The net result was that the Western concept of life and knowledge remained acceptable in those liberated Muslim states and the educational system introduced by the colonial rules continued except with some cursory changes made under the pressure of religious groups and the general public. The Ulema who had succeeded in preserving the religious education to some extent by establishing Madrasas (religious schools) during the colonial rule did not realize their responsibilities in the newly liberated set up and stuck to their old education system which had no room for secular knowledge and disciplines. This was the over all situation for the last three quarters of a century although some Muslim thinkers advocated that an educational system founded on the Western worldview and epistemology did not provide solution to the problems of the Muslim world, and that the Muslims should evolve their own educational system based on the Islamic worldview and epistemology. The writings of Allama Muhammad Iqbal, Syed Abul Ala Maudoodi and Dr. Rafi Uddin in the recent past, especially in the Indian sub continent, established this point.
Some Muslim scholars residing in the Western felt the gravity of the situation in early 70s of the last century. Accordingly, Iranian scholar, Dr. sayed Hossein Nasr in the USA, made a critical analysis of the Western epistemology, declaring it harmful for the Muslims. He also underscored the need for sticking to Muslim epistemology to confront the present day challenges. Dr. Nasr was influenced by Sufism (mysticism) and his views on Muslim epistemology also reflect the same. (5)
Views of Al-Attas
Malaysian scholar of Arab origin, Syed Muhammad Al Naquib al-Attas also analyzed Western and Muslim epistemology in detail and came to the conclusion that:
- knowledge is never value-neutral. It is always influenced by the worldview and the religious, moral, social and cultural milieu of the society which it absorbs unconsciously, mostly without being noticed by others. (6) - The Western epistemology is based on skepticism – skepticism that knows no moral values and norms. The Western mind has however been able to exploit skepticism as a constructive force despite its weaknesses and harmful effects. - The Western scientists extensively benefited from the Muslim advancement in knowledge at the initial stage. The Enlightenment Movement of France in the 17th century that laid down the foundations of the modern Western science and technology was essentially influenced by the Muslim epistemology. The Western civilization however, did not accept the Muslim disciplines of knowledge in their original form. Instead, it assimilated that knowledge in its own epistemology, shaping the disciplines of knowledge according to Western thought and behavior. As a result, the Muslim knowledge came in partial harmony with the Western epistemology and was fused and amalgamated with the Western culture. This process, it may be said, saved the West from the “negative aspects” of the Muslim epistemology. However, complete harmony could not be developed between the Islamic and the Western knowledge because the two are based on two conflicting and contradictory ideologies. This dualism and internal conflict of the Western skepticism gave birth to an unending curiosity in the West and the desire to know the unknown, which is the real motive behind all their new discoveries and inventions. (7) - Any attempt of the Muslim scholars to reform their educational system within the ambit of the Western epistemology would only promote Western values and ideas because the Western knowledge, being a product of the Western epistemology and the Western worldview, can neither find roots in the Muslim society and culture nor can meet its demands.
Dr. Fazlur Rahman’s View point
Eminent Pakistani intellectual, Dr. Fazlur Rahman, who spent his last years in USA, in his book “Islam and Modernity”, has discussed the plight of knowledge and education in the Muslim countries along with their efforts for its reconstruction. His views in brief are as follows: - It is imperative to make a distinction between the Normative Islam as it is in its original sources and the Historical Islam as it has been passing through different stages of implementation in the Muslim society and as it exists today.
An effort should be made to review or rediscover the Historical Islam by analyzing it in the light of the normative Islam. (8) - The above process should be continued in the light of two basic principles. First, a fresh understanding of the Holy Quran (in the sense that while giving due importance to the Order of Revelation of the Holy Quran and the enforcement of the Quranic injunctions in the early days, a conscious efforts should be made to discover relevance to the Quranic verses in the present day situations). This necessitates focusing on the noble Quran as revealed and not as we recite it today (i.e. to follow ‘Order of Revelation’ instead of ‘Order of Recitation’). Secondly, a critical analysis of the epistemological and educational concepts of the Historical Islam should be made to find out its strong as well as weak points before we apply them in the reconstruction of knowledge and education today in Islamic perspective. (9) - The traditional institutions of religious education as at present have crumbled under the debris of the past while the modern Islamic forces remain completely ignorant of the importance of knowledge and education, and are attaching greater importance to political Islam. Accordingly, their study of Islam is superficial and they haven’t done any solid work for the Islamization of knowledge and education. (10) - The challenge at hand is not the Islamization of the Western disciplines of knowledge but to critically analyze the worldview of the Historical Islam in the light of Normative Islam, and then review the Islamic epistemological thought to reconstruct the Islamic disciplines of knowledge. (For instance, Dr. Rehman opposed the division of knowledge into religious and secular and differs with Al-Ghazali who advocates the superiority of religious studies (revealed knowledge) over the Physical sciences (medicine). (11) - Intergration of the Islamic and the modern disciplines of knowledge is essential. However, the Muslim states so far haven’t realized the need for practical steps in this direction to achieve the desired results, and the modern Islamic forces non governmental level too haven’t taken the issue seriously. (12)
Dr. Raji al Faruqi’s Standpoint
Although Syed Naquib al-Attas criticized the Western epistemology and Dr. Fazlur Rehman also made a realistic study of the educational conditions in the Muslim society and the influence of the West on that, both of them couldn’t lead to any alternate and practical approach with reference to Muslim epistemology. It goes to the credit of Dr. Ismail Raji al-Faruqi, a Palestinian Muslim scholar settled in USA, to have presented a comprehensive philosophy
for the reconstruction of the Muslim epistemology along with a practical framework for Islamization of knowledge.
Dr. Faruqi’s view in brief are as below:
1. The Muslim Ummah can’t steer out of its present mess unless its education system is revamped and reconstructed. To achieve that, the duality of the religious and the modern disciplines of knowledge must be abolished and the two should be synthesized to evolve an integrated system of education imbued with the true Islamic spirit. This will, however, be possible only with the Islamization of knowledge in the true Islamic spirit. Around twenty branches of modern social sciences being taught at the University level at present must be reviewed in accordance with the Islamic ideology. Islamic History should be a compulsory subject for every student. (13) 2. Objectives of Islamization of knowledge are: a) To gain command over modern disciplines of knowledge. b) Acquisition of the Islamic knowledge. c) Determining the Islamic viewpoint in regard to every branch of knowledge. d) Unifying and integrating the modern disciplines of knowledge with the Islamic thought; and e) Establishing the supremacy of the Islamic thought over the modern knowledge. (14) 3- Islamization of the modern knowledge and other objectives mentioned above can be achieved only under a comprehensive, well thought out plan. Dr. Faruqi’s plan incorporates the following steps: i. Acquisition of adequate information about every branch of modern knowledge. ii. Detailed study of different disciplines of knowledge and achieving expertise in these. iii. Acquisition of the Islamic knowledge in its various branches. iv. An analytical study of Islamic thought with reference to the problems of the modern age.
v. Determining the Islamic standpoint in regard to each and every branch of knowledge. vi. A critical study of the modern knowledge from the Islamic viewpoint. vii. An analytical study of the problems facing the Ummah in every sphere of life. ix. A study of the problems facing humanity at present. x. Unifying the Islamic thought with the modern disciplines of knowledge. xi. Restructuring the modern disciplines of knowledge at the university level in the light of the Islamic thought. xii. Publication of the knowledge acquired through the Islamization process. (15) Thus, Dr. Faruqi not only realized the need for the Islamization of knowledge in the modern era but also gave a plan of action for that. Going still further, he established an institute called International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT) in USA and arranged several international conferences (Islamabad in 1989, Kuala Lumpur in 1986 and Khartoum in 1987), and assigned this important task to the Muslim world’s top educationists and thinkers. It was primarily the result of this movement that international Islamic universities were established in Pakistan and Malaysia, while various branches of the IIIT are working in different Muslim countries. The question now arises, what has been the net result of this exercise? Unfortunately, Dr. Faruqi, who conceived the idea of Islamization of knowledge, did not get the opportunity to implement his plan and hidden forces put him to death considering him and his activities as a threat. To answer this question, we would first refer to the views of Mr. Ziauddin Sardar, Dr. Wali Raza Nasr and Dr. Manzur Ahmad on the work initiated by Dr. Faruqi. Later, we would present our own views in this regard.
According to Ziauddin Sardar, a known Pakistan born thinker based in the West, the plan conceived by Dr. Faruqi has certain flaws in terms of thought and action. These are as under:
i.. Ideologically, there is no substance in Dr. Faruqi’s concept of the Unity of the Truth and the Unity of Ilm (knowledge) implying that since Truth is one, therefore, it equates with Ilm also being one. ii. Majority of the scientists believe that many a thing which we believe as true today, may prove to be false tomorrow. iii. If Ilm is The truth, every effort for its attainment ought to be the attainment of the truth. But hundreds of scientists are presently doing research on weapons of mass destruction. Can we treat their work as digging out “The Truth”? iv. According to Dr. Faruqi, Allah is The Truth which is One. Therefore, there can’t be more than one truth in Ilm or knowledge. This is, however an erroneous view because the concept of Allah being the Absolute Truth does not imply that there can’t be more than one Truth in knowledge, for instance, such a possibility exists in Physics. v. Dr. Faruqi’s argument that pursuit of knowledge aims at search for the Truth which is One, is also fallacious as may be probed in day to day life. For example, when a child poses a question, what are the trees for? , there may be more than one correct answers to this query, for instance, that the trees are for providing shade, for decoration and beauty, or we get fruit form these….etc. (16) 2. Dr. Faruqi has mainly stressed on the Islamization of the social sciences. Theoretically, the importance of the social sciences can’t be denied. But it is also an irrefutable fact that the present development in the West which is also greatly affecting the world’s social, economic and political structures, primarily depends on the advancement of science and technology in the West. Hence, the need for the Islamization of the Physical and Natural sciences can’t be underestimated. (17) 3. During the 20th century, the knowledge paradigm of the West in Social and Natural Sciences with reference to objectivity has been the same. However, now several Western scholars accept that the process of perception is never valueneutral, and is influenced by the interests and the attitude of the observer: - the ideas, interests and values of the person engaged in experimentation influence the results of his efforts. - an individual does not study facts from a strictly neutral angle as his findings inevitably reflect his ideas, perception, likings and disliking, etc.
There fore, it is not possible to Islamize the modern social sciences which have been evolved under the Western epistemological paradigm (perceptions, images, theories, linguistic patterns etc.). Such an attempt won’t be the Islamization of the Western knowledge, instead it would tantamount to Westernization of Islam. (18) 4. It is impossible, with reference to social sciences, to create harmony between two different epistemological paradigms which are based on the conflicting worldviews, because adherents of every paradigm would work within their own paradigm, and any effort for unification or amalgamation of perceptions, images, theories and linguistic patterns from adherents of one paradigm would be neither understandable nor meaningful to the adherents of the other paradigm. 5. Every discipline of knowledge is the product of a particular worldview and meets the requirements of a specific culture evolved by that worldview. For instance, the discipline of Orientalism was evolved after the West subjugated the Muslim state and felt the need of studying Islam and the Muslim societies with the ulterior motive of successfully controlling the Muslim masses and resolving various problems cropping up with that. In this background, Dr. Faruqi’s suggestion of accepting the Western division of knowledge as such and “establishing the specific relevance of Islam to each area of modern under the domination of the Western worldview. Islam is permanent Truth and a reality for all times. Therefore, instead of discovering the relevance of Islam to the modern knowledge, it is modern knowledge that needs to be made relevant to Islam and its correctness or otherwise ascertained. In other words, the Islamization of knowledge should not begin with the acceptance of the disciplines of knowledge already in existence. Instead, the paradigms of the Islamic epistemology must be formulated first. There should be knowledge paradigms as well as behavior paradigms. The knowledge paradigms would determine the basic principles, concepts and values for each discipline of knowledge while the behavioral paradigms would lay down the moral boundaries within which the Muslim scholars would work. We must keep in mind that the Holy Quran, the Sunnah and the traditions of the Muslims in the field of knowledge provide the basis for the Muslim epistemology, although it is now necessary to study these in light of the modern realities. Like the paradigms, the disciplines of knowledge too are strictly ideological (knowledge based) and behavioral (shaping the human conduct).
Therefore, the paradigms of Islamic epistemology having firm footing and being functional, would create new disciplines of knowledge in accordance with the Islamic worldview, to meet the needs of the Muslim society. (19) The disciplines of knowledge formulated by the West after banishing religion and morality, are meeting the requirements of the Western society and promoting their culture. However, these neither reconcile with the Muslim worldview nor can be absorbed in the same. Therefore, the Islamization of the Western knowledge is simply impossible. The task before the Muslim scholars therefore, is to establish the above mentioned two paradigms of the Muslim epistemology (knowledge Paradigm and Behavioral Paradigm) in accordance with the Muslim worldview to undertake the study of the Western knowledge - both analytical and critical and absorb and assimilate the findings of such study in its own paradigms gibing them a new shape and color of their own in harmony with the Muslim culture. Muslim scholars in the past benefited from the knowledge of the other nations through this process and this is the only way to Islamize knowledge even today. (20)
Dr. Wali Raza
Dr. Syed Wali Raza Nasr, son of the Dr. Hossein. Nasr, a young and emerging Muslim scholar in USA, while critically analyzing the plan for the Islamization of knowledge under the auspices of Pakistan chapter of International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT) opines: - The term Islamization of knowledge’ is incorrect. It gives the impression that there is something un-Islamic that is being brought in line with Islam. In fact, no knowledge is essentially un-Islamic. For instance, take the case of Hard sciences. These are simply study of nature to which the Hoy Quran invites the faithful, time and again. (21) - The Islamization of knowledge need not be undertaken apologetically or as a defensive measure. Instead, the whole exercise should be on the basis of the Islamic worldview with special reference to its spiritual aspect which must be brought to lime light. (22) - Work on the Islamization of knowledge was initiated in different fields, especially Economics, without necessary groundwork on intellectual and practical fronts before establishing different institutions. Consequently, it has not yielded any concrete result from the Islamic view point. (23) The proper way of Islamization of knowledge would be to study the basic philosophy behind every discipline of knowledge, social sciences as well as the
natural sciences, bringing to fore its basic concepts, (keeping in mind that these concepts are natural, eternal and are not the discovery of the Muslims; for instance, the principle of Supply and Demand in Economics). - to study these in the light of the Muslim worldview / Islamic perspective determining their role in the Islamic thought and action. In other words, the Islamization of any discipline of knowledge is linked with the Islamic approach and the Islamic outlook and not in its restructuring or revision of its institutional framework. (24)
Dr. Manzur Ahmad
Former Vice Chancellor Karachi University and currently the Rector of the International Islamic University, Islamabad, Dr. Manzur Ahmad, in his recent article on educational issues, made the followings observations on the efforts of Islamization of knowledge: 1. The entire endeavor for the Islamization of knowledge is based on the assumption that the knowledge produced by the West in un-Islamic and should thus be Islamized. This presumption in itself is wrong. It is incorrect to divide knowledge into Islamic and un-Islamic. The whole worldly (secular) knowledge can’t be categorized as un-Islamic. Islam, in fact, does not believe in the dichotomy of religious and secular. Muslim thinkers in the past had categorized as un-Islamic only those branches of knowledge which did not stand to the test of intellect and experiment such as magic, sorcery, soothsaying, etc. otherwise all intellectual and experimental branches of knowledge were always appreciated by the Muslim scholars. (25) 2. The Western concept that the universe is being run on certain basic laws discovery of which is the primary function of knowledge, is so solid and viable that it cannot be demolished on intellectual grounds. Besides, the idea that the laws of nature have been devised by Almighty Allah is a matter of faith, not an intellectual approach. There fore, the criticism of modernism by some Western thinkers cannot be taken as an argument in support of the veracity of religious perspective of knowledge, nor can the Islamists benefit from that in any manner.(26) 3. While Islamization of knowledge is a vague and unpractical project, one may endeavor for the Islamization of values and of the self, which too, however, seems to be difficult in the midst of a strong value system founded on the basic concepts of Western philosophy and thought. Besides, belief in the veracity of our own value system along with a struggle for establishing its dominance may
lead to confrontation. We have to keep in mind that the Muslim value system requires deeper understanding and restructuring today. In the modern times, any religious value system can’t become compatible with the prevailing moral sensitivities while pressing for the social conditions, possible and tenable one thousand years ago, but no more suitable in today’s industrialized and global society. (27)
4. All attempts for Islamization of knowledge so far have been a failure in the sense that these have only added to the moral degradation of the Muslims instead of cutting it down. (28)
The Writer’s Viewpoint
As we consider the reconstruction of knowledge and education in the Islamic perspective and the contemporary needs, a number of questions arise in our mind such as: what is the true nature of the task?, what would be the basic guidelines for doing job?, what methodology should be followed - a methodology that would be both effective and fruitful. We would explain our view point in the light of Dr. Faruqi’s answers to these queries with the difference that we have also proposed Islamization of Education along with the Islamization of knowledge because the educational process alone provide the practical and institutional set up required for the reconstruction of both thought and knowledge.
Theoretical Aspect Nature of the job
From our point of view, the task before, the Muslim intellectuals with reference to Muslim epistemology is the ‘Reproduction’ of knowledge (provided this term is correct) and its reconstruction or recasting in a creative manner in the light of Muslim worldview, and not a mere Islamization of modern social sciences. There is a vast difference between the two. First. The goal in the former is the reconstruction of the entire knowledge, not merely the modern social sciences, including religious studies, Science and Technology. For instance, Muslim religious studies today must include a comprehensive study of concepts and terminology in Islamic and the Western Thought. Similarly, it is imperative to introduce new disciplines such as ‘Muslim Civilization’, ‘Ummah Studies’ (History and Geography of Muslim people, past and present) and ‘Tazkiya-o-Tarbiya (science of personality
development in Islam).Contents and methodology of teaching Arabic in nonArab Muslim countries needs to be revised. It is necessary to provide answer to various misconceptions and questions being raised by the Western intellectual about Islam. Likewise, the impact of Western thought and civilization on the Muslim society also needs to be studied from an analytical and critical angle, and the numerous legal and ideological issues cropping up in result thereof should be discussed in depth. Similarly, the Physical Sciences, though primarily based on observation and experience, yet the style of their presentation and expression needs to be reviewed. For instance, in Mathematics, we may include questions on Zakat instead of bank interest. Again, in the field of science, the statement “Water has the characteristic to expand when it converts to ice when temperature falls” may be reshaped as “Allah has gifted water with the quality to expand when it coverts to ice as temperature falls”. With that, we may add that: the wisdom behind this is that living beings may survive even below the top surface of the lakes and the seas. In the field of Technology, a Textile Engineer brought up with an Islamic outlook would not design thin clothing through which body is visible, and a painter with a Muslim mentality would not paint nude pictures; and so on. Second. Even in the case of Social sciences, ‘Islamization of the modern concepts’ would only form a part of a large scheme of reconstruction of social sciences. This reconstruction would involve reshaping of a certain discipline of a social sciences from the view point of Islamic epistemology based on the Islamic worldview. This would required us to keep in view the past Muslim heritage especially the Muslim dominance in the world, besides taking into account the requirements of the modern times. This last segment would entail that if a particular discipline has shown development in an epistemology and worldview other than Islam, then this academic development should be critically analyzed and those of its ingredients as are healthy and compatible with the Muslim epistemological, should be accepted. Subsequently, these should be assimilated within the framework of Muslim epistemological domain and accepted as knowledge beneficial for the contemporary Muslim society. We follow the above methodology in our personal life and have found it practical and useful. When we intend to write on a certain topic, we first write down our own view point based on our studies, observation and assumptions. Then we revert to other thinkers and authors and dig out their observations and writing on the topic. It we find in their writings some new idea, a new dimension or something that has not been incorporated in our article, we do not hesitate in benefiting from that after gibing reference to those authors. In this
exercise, our own view point remains dominant in our works though we do benefit others. The same approach needs to be adopted in the reconstruction of knowledge in Islamic perspective today. First, we should reconstruct various disciplines of knowledge in the light of Islamic thought, advancement made in a particular field in the past, the requirements of the modern times and the homogenous conditions etc. Next, we should critically analyze the development made by other nations / civilizations in that particular branch of knowledge and then we can decide whether or not to accept something out of that which does not contradict our worldview, epistemology and major themes developed by us in that particular branch of knowledge.
Three basic principles should remain before us during the reconstruction of knowledge in the Islamic perspective: 1. The Objective The primary objective of knowledge and education is to develop a personality in accordance with the worldview of a society. Therefore, for the development of a personality in a Muslim society, it is inevitable that its knowledge and education system are based on the Islamic Worldview and Islamic epistemology. Any compromise or relaxation of this principle is bound to cause mental disharmony and ideological confusion, resulting in distortion and destruction of the Muslim personality. 2. Rejection of Western Thought and Civilization In principle, this should have been our first point because while entering the fold of Islam, we first deny all deities and then proclaim our faith in One God or Allah. There is no sense in affirming faith in One God without refuting all false gods. One the same premise, while reconstructing knowledge in the light of the Islamic worldview, we should not only discard the knowledge based on Western worldview, but also reject and negate it because the Western Worldview is not only different from the Islamic worldview, but in fact it is contradictory to that. Similarly, the Western epistemology is totally opposed to the Islamic epistemology. Consequently, the Western knowledge can neither fit in ideological and cultural framework of Muslim society nor can beneficial to it. This is a basic principle, but since the Western thought and the Western philosophy rarely come under discussion in our society, we would try to give a comparative study of the both below:
The Islamic Worldview 1. Source
The Western Worldview 1. Sources
The divine guidance provided by Allah Human intellect and senses. through His apostles. 2. Concept of human being 2. Concept of human beings
Human beings are humble servants of their Human beings are sovereign and fully Lord who submit to his commandments independent to lead their lives they wish. unconditionally. 3. Concept of the Universe Allah is the sole Creator and Sustainer of the Universe and He has vested mankind with limited authority to manipulate in the universe. The life in the Hereafter has priority over the life in this world. 3. Concept of the Universe The Universe is the outcome of the natural laws which also regulate its existence. Human beings enjoy full freedom on the earth and are free to lead their lives in accordance with their sweet will. The worldly life is an end in itself and is to be given priority over every thing else. 4. Concept of Deity Faith in God is an entirely personal affair for an individual, having nothing to do with the collective life (such as political, social, economic systems, etc). Every individual is at liberty to line in the way he likes. 5. Goal of Life
4. Concept of Deity Mankind has been created by Allah who alone is the Lord, the Sustainer of all creation, and He is Living, All Powerful and possesses all Authority. None else is worthy of worship and obedience. 5. Goal of Life
A human being is required to lead his life in Attainment of every success and maximum this world in obedience of the divine worldly pleasure, at any cost and in any injunctions on the model set by Allah’s manner in this world. messenger, to earn Allah’s pleasure in the Hereafter.
The above mentioned differences between the Islamic worldview and the Western worldview naturally lead to opposite and contradictory epistemologies as shown below:
Islamic Epistemology 1. Sources of knowledge
Western Epistemology 1. sources of knowledge
Primary: Divine revelation (The Holy Primary: Human intellect and senses Quran and the Sunnah) (Observation and Experience). Secondary: A limited and subordinate Secondary: A cursory role of religion. role of human intellect and senses. 2. Objectives of Knowledge 2. Objectives of Knowledge
To know and truly understand the Lord Success in the worldly life and the and the Self; to prepare and motivate attainment of maximum pleasures. individuals for worship and obedience of Allah in the worldly life for earning His pleasure in the Hereafter. 3. Branches of Knowledge 3. Branches of Knowledge - The revealed knowledge (The Quran and the Sunnah). - Knowledge related to revelation, and its implementation; for instance, Arabic language and Muslim jurisprudence. - Disciplines of knowledge that are based on divine revelation as well as human intellect and senses, such as Economics, Politics, Psychology, etc. - Disciplines of knowledge mainly based on human intellect and senses (observation and experience) such as Medicine, Engineering, Agriculture, etc. 4. Purpose of Education a) Various disciplines of worldly knowledge such as: - Natural / Physical / Hard Sciences - Arts and Humanities - Social Sciences - Technology b) Religious knowledge. This is a purely personal affair of a human beings and has nothing to do with the collective life. 4. Purpose of Education
To develop personality of individuals Rearing up a human being as a in a way that they become faithful completely free and independent being
servants of Allah.
(sovereign) capable maximum worldly pleasure.
of achieving success and
The comparative study above makes it crystal clear that the Western worldview and the Western epistemology are no only different but totally opposed to the Islamic worldview and Islamic epistemology. Therefore, in the course of reconstruction of the knowledge, the Muslim can’t afford to blindly copy the Western disciplines of knowledge. On the other hand, they should consciously reject the Western knowledge and find out their way in an Islamic perspective.
Eradication of a Misconception
Although we have explained in detail our views for rejecting the Western knowledge in the course of reconstruction of Islamic lines, yet some Muslim intellectuals differ with this approach, and we think there is no harm in examining their view point as well. The main arguments of this group are (29): 1That the real force behind the rapid development of the West is its advancement in knowledge, therefore, in order to achieve worldly progress, the Muslims must acquire Western knowledge. 2The development of knowledge is a continuous process. It neither knows any limits nor is it the property of someone. No civilization can survive or progress in isolation. Every civilization is the custodian of the knowledge acquired by its predecessor. It exploits this knowledge for its benefit and also develops it. In this way, the process of human development goes on unhindered. In other words, knowledge is a collective property of mankind and the Muslims too should benefit from the Western knowledge and also contribute to its advancement. Therefore, the idea of the Muslims rejecting the Western knowledge and trying to build up on the basis of the knowledge in the Middle Ages, is neither practicable nor wise, and would only makes us a laughing stock. In reply to these arguments, we may submit that every civilization has its roots in a particular worldview and it develops knowledge which is in harmony with its worldview. A civilization may, after a careful analysis, partly benefit from the knowledge alien to its worldview but it can neither absorb/assimilate that knowledge, nor promote it in its totality. This careful and limited utilization of other knowledge may involve digesting the relevant knowledge content after
bringing it in harmony with its own epistemology, giving it a shape and color of its own, and an entirely new look acceptable to its own body of knowledge. The Muslims had adopted this process in the case of the Greek knowledge. However, at that time, the Muslim civilization was at its peak, and its ideology was powerful enough to swallow some foreign body, digest the same and reproduce it in a new form and shape. (The Holy Quran furnishes a simile of the cattle swallowing green fodder and supplying human beings with white milk (30). However, the conditions at present are totally different. The Muslim civilization is oppressed, not dominating. It is sunk in the mire of decline. The minds and hearts of the Muslims have been conquered by a powerful, colonial civilization having an alien worldview. The Muslims themselves are cut off from their own worldview, and thus deprived of original thinking and high morals. Therefore, if they try to absorb the Western knowledge in its original form, they would only reproduce its copy. This blind plunge them into confusion leading to destruction of their personality and identity. In fact, they already suffer from this malady. What the Muslims need under these circumstances today is Ijtehad i.e creative thinking and intellectual sovereignty; and not Taqleed or blind following. They need not be browbeaten by the dominant Western thought and civilization but should stick to their own roots. Having accepted the principle that they have to work within the Islamic worldview and the Islamic epistemology and should consciously reject the conflicting Western worldview and the Western epistemology, they may benefit from the advance Western knowledge within certain limits, as explained above. Further, it would be wrong to believe that as political, economic and scientific progress of the West is because of their advancement in knowledge, therefore, Muslims too should focus to seek that knowledge. In our opinion, knowledge and education pave way for progress only when these are in harmony with the worldview of the society. We believe that if Europe and America today start following a body of knowledge which is based on an alien worldview and epistemology, they would face a decline. Similarly, if Muslims adopt a body of knowledge based on Western worldview and epistemology, they would further go down in the quagmire of decline and degradation. Turkey, for instance, has been copying the West for the last seventy years or so, with little again. It is, therefore, wrong to presume that by attaining the Western knowledge alone, the Muslims can march on the path of progress. We may recall that our predecessors ruled major part of the world for about on thousand years without even being familiar with the Western knowledge, and undoubtedly, theirs was
the best and the most advanced civilization of their time. It would be better if we look at the realities in their true perspective. We have dealt with this issue in detail in our other writings (31) 3Reconstruction of knowledge must be a Non-Political Agenda We would however, suggest that the task of reconstruction of knowledge on Islamic lines should be undertaken purely on non-political basis, and the people engaged in this exercise should have no links with any political group or party. This in because the powerful Western colonialism which had been compelled to grant limited independence to the Muslim states during the twentieth century is ruthlessly against the complete independence of the Muslim states and is conspiring to capture the Muslim states once again. After Afghanistan and Iraq, Iran and Pakistan seem to be their next target. No doubt Dr. Faruqi was an academician and a non-political figure, but he had ideological leaning with certain groups having political agenda. Accordingly, some “dacoits” stormed his house one night and put him to death along with his wife, and this had happened in the USA, the world power that claims to be the biggest champion of liberty and intellectual freedom. And this was long before 9/11 that made the Muslims a symbol of terrorism. So, there is every likelihood that if some other Muslim enthusiast ventures to tread this path and tries to break the status quo and bring about a qualitative change, some “dacoits” may barge into his house and remove him from the scene. Therefore, there is no harm in exercising caution. No doubt any plan for the intellectual and educational emancipation of the Muslim Ummah and the consequent banishment of the menaces of poverty, degradation and humility, is somewhat political in nature yet any such project working on non-political basis had greater chances of success as against the one having open political affiliations. The Naurasi Movement in Turkey is an example in this respect, which is working in the field of education on non-political basis and has set up several universities and hundreds of schools in Turkey and other countries, even couple of them in USA, and is getting positive results.
Having explained the main features of the task and the basic guidelines for doing the job, we may now discuss the mechanism to achieve the goal. In our humble opinion, the task may be undertaken in four phases.
First Phase: The Worldview
This will have three dimensions: 1. The Western Worldview
We must understand the Western worldview, the philosophy, principles and intellectual basis on which the edifice of Western thought and civilization stands. This world require a detailed discussion on Western philosophy, ideological movements (such as Renaissance, Reformation, Enlightenment, Modernism etc.) beside different isms such as Humanism, Secularism, materialism, Empiricism etc. 2. A detailed study of the Islamic worldview and its institutions. 3. A comparative study of Western and Islamic worldview. This should include: - An analytical study of the Western worldview, highlighting its weak points and shortcomings. - An analysis of the Islamic worldview, highlighting its practicability and superiority over the Western worldview.
Second Phase: Epistemology
Three dimensional exercise (as outlined in the Fist Phase) focusing on the following points: - Study of the Western epistemology: prominent features of the concept of knowledge emerging from the Western worldview such as sources of knowledge, purpose of knowledge, branches of knowledge etc. - Studying the Islamic epistemology and its prominent features in the light of Islamic worldview. - A Comparative study of the Islamic and Western epistemology. This should comprise: * An analytical study of the Western epistemology and its weaknesses. ** Analytical study of the Islamic epistemology with its strong points, and its superiority over the Western Epistemology. Third Phase: Disciplines of knowledge-preliminary study This would also be a three phased project, on the pattern narrated above: - Study of the basic concepts of every discipline of knowledge having its roots in the Western Worldview and the Western epistemology, along with their theme, values and institutions.
- Highlighting the basic theme, values and institutions of all the disciplines of knowledge having roots in the Islamic worldview and the Islamic epistemology. - A Comparative study of the convergent disciplines of knowledge of both the Western economics and Islamic economics, the Western concept of religion along with the Islamic concept of Deen etc. This will have two parts: *An analytical and critical study of every discipline of Western knowledge highlighting its weaknesses and shortcomings. ** An analytical study of every discipline of Islamic knowledge, especially with reference to its advancement in the past with concrete suggestions for its future development to meet the requirements of the modern era. Along with that, a categorical admission and indication of the fact that the Islamic knowledge provides better solutions to human problems as compared to the Western knowledge and education, it is not only more practicable, but also guarantees better and more effective results as against the solutions given by the Western disciplines. At this stage, its would also be better to examine the need, scope and possibilities of benefiting from the convergent discipline of the Western knowledge, to redesign and reorganize its relevant ingredients of making them acceptable to the body of Islam knowledge. Fourth Phase: Preparing Courses of Study for various Disciplines Once a serious and systematic effort is made on the three phases mentioned above, it won’t be difficult to prepare a course of Study for each discipline. Rather, it would be easy to build a comprehensive and grand structure of knowledge on the intellectual and practical foundations in the Islamic perspective. However, the differences of age, sex and local conditions etc. would have to be taken care of as the common sense demands, and the whole effort would have to be linked with quality training and creative research. It is hoped that the Reconstruction of Knowledge on the lines suggested above would meet the requirements of Islamic renaissance and challenges of the modern age. It will provide the basis for a truly Islamic education system required to build a model Muslim personality capable of discharging its responsibilities, both in individual and collective life, besides achieving real success in this world and in the Hereafter.
Need for New Disciplines of Knowledge
We believe that if the Muslim continue blind following of the Western knowledge contradictory to Islam, they would never realize the need for new disciplines of knowledge in their education system. Keeping in view the requirement of the Muslim society in present era, the following four new disciplines of knowledge are urgently required bedsides the reconstruction of the whole body of knowledge:
1. Occidental Studies
This new discipline of knowledge should consist of the following major themes: - Study of the ideological foundation of the Western civilization; - An analysis of the policies and the strategy of the West in regard to Islam and the Muslim world: - An analysis of Orientalism (West’s study of Islam and the Muslim world); - The impact of the Western civilization on the Muslim society; -A comparative study of the Western thought and its basic concepts, terminology and institutions, with that of Islamic thought, its basic concepts, terminology and institutions.
2. Tazkiya-o-Tarbiya (Sciences of Personality Development)
Traditionally, there were Madrasas for education the children and khanqahs (Zawiya, Tekkes) for development and rehabilitation of personality of the grown ups, in the Muslim world. In some religious schools and khanqahs, certain books were also prescribed for this purpose. A new and regular discipline should be introduced for tarbiya of the students and the teachers on Islamic lines and in a coordinated manner. The following may be the salient features of this discipline: - Principles of personality development in the light of Islamic worldview and the Islamic epistemology; - Normative personality, normal personality and rehabilitation of a damaged personality in Islam and the Western approach in these spheres.
3. The Ummah Studies
The conspiracies of the Western imperialism during the last two hundred years have greatly damaged the concept of Ummah in Muslims. It is now necessary that the new generation of the Muslims is informed of the concept of the Ummah, its glorious past and its history & the geography. The youth should also be educated about the realities and challenges of the modern age and the problems facing the Muslim Ummah (especially the disunity), along with the possible solutions.
4. The Muslim Civilization
The traditional Islamic disciplines being taught in our educational institutions include the Holy Quran, Hadith, Fiqh, Aqidah,Kkalam etc. It is high time that the Muslims also start studying their civilization. This should include its ideological foundations, cultural expressions, influence on the world at large, comparative study with other civilizations, its history, institutions and prominent personalities, besides bright chances to its renaissance since its primary sources are intact. All these topics put together in the right perspective and proper order, would prove highly useful no only for the Muslims but also thought provoking for other nations/civilizations.
The Work Plan
The reconstruction of knowledge on these lines should be carried out in a well planned manner. The important features of this planning should be:
Training of Workforce
Successful implementation of this plan requires personnel having a truly Islamic mindset. This job can’t be entrusted to all and sundry or the people brought up and educated under the Western worldview and the Western epistemology, as they might not be able to think beyond those. It is just possible that the manpower suitable for this task may not be available in the society, so they would have to be produced and their minds built on correct lines through proper mental, ideological and practical training. Training of mind will make the trainees understand the nature and the importance of the task so that they work with dedication and conviction. Ideological training would equip them with independence of thought for carrying out the task without any influence of the Western thought currently dominating the world, because the Western worldview and the Western epistemology are contradictory to the Islamic
worldview and the Islamic epistemology. The practical training is required for doing the job in a highly professional manner.
Establishment of a University in Private Sector
Dr. Faruqi (and hid colleagues) thought that task of reconstruction of knowledge should be undertaken by the Muslim governments in view of the wide scope of activities involved and heavy finances required for the project. However, this very factor proved to be counter productive. Plainly speaking, our national institutions and the Muslim governments are not tailored to support the Islamic agenda and thought. The ideological gap between the Muslim rulers and the Islam loving masses and religious circles is a bitter reality that can’t be ignored. In our humble view, Dr. Faruqi and his friends could have done much better by establishing a university in the private sector, without depending on the governments. No doubt, in that case, the output could have been small, yet it would have yielded permanent and far reaching results. (32). Even today, if some one wants to take up the job, establishment of a university in private sector is a must.
Creating a Role-Model
Academic planning, theoretical framework, impressive monographs and organized workshops & seminars on the topic of reconstruction of existing knowledge and education, in Islamic perspective, will not yield positive results unless a new role-model educational institution is established to serve as a beacon of light. Establishment of such a role-model institution requires creative research and academic autonomy which are only available at university level. However, a university alone may not suffice and a model school (Primary to Secondary) would also be required so that the process of elimination of dichotomy, introduction of Islamically designed integrated curriculum, teachers, training, students’ tarbiya activities all take place at school level also and provide a complete chain form bottom to top (from grade-1 to Ph. D) and gives desired results. Further, the proposed university would require regular availability of good and capable students. This necessitates a next work of affiliated schools, colleges and Madrasas, whose curriculum, text books, examinations, tarbiya activities etc. are supervised by the proposed university. Such a chain of educational institutions would not only ensure bright future of the proposed university but would also change educational scenario of the country as a whole.
Along with that, specially designed tarbiya activities for teachers and the students would be necessary to make this educational model a success and result oriented. We have some suggestions in this regard which are given below:
The teachers play the key role in the success (and failure) of any educational scheme. Even the best education courses designed in Islamic perspective are doomed to fail without good teachers. At present good teachers groomed on true Islamic lines are a scarce commodity and the general lot is West oriented. The core theme of an Islamic oriented teacher training center should be “Be good Muslims yourselves and make students good Muslims”. We are not aware of any training center in the country which follows this theme. We surveyed and analyzed knowledge working of many Islamic-oriented educational institutions in the country from this viewpoint and came to know that in spite of best intentions, most of these failed simply because their managements tried the teachers already available in the market. As against this, those few institutions were comparatively successful which recruited fresh talented graduates and trained them according to their needs. We happened to know that an International Islamic University gives preference to the teachers possessing Ph.D and having teaching experience from Western would lack the flexibility to adopt a new approach after having reached the height of their profession and would not be beneficial for this scheme, in spite of their ‘quality’ and ‘professionalism’. Hence the need for teachers training for the proposed model educational institution (from school to university) and its affiliated schools and colleges both before induction and on-the job is absolutely inevitable.
The ultimate goal of the Islamization of knowledge and education cannot be but to produce a personality desired by the society according to its worldview. According to the Holy Quran, knowledge and education are the means of personality development and character building (Tazkiya) (33). Therefore, all education must be based on the Holy Quran and wisdom leading to development of personality and building of character on these two principles. Islamic history speaks of a broad net work of khanqas and Zawiyas for development and rehabilitation of personality of Muslim individuals. Unfortunately, that institution has also been deteriorated, liked all other institutions, due to general decline of the Muslim Ummah, and some alien customs and rites have crept into that. Nevertheless, the rules and regulations farmed by the learned mentors of the institution are Islamic and based on
wisdom, prudence and practical experience. These can be implemented in educational environment for Tazkiya of students with necessary modifications. Student’s tarbiya being the ultimate goal of all educational activities requires multi dimensional efforts. This goal must be reflected in the curriculum, it should be the main objective of teachers training and it should get due importance in the text books. Similarly, the educational management should be trained on these lines and a system should be devised to evaluate tarbiya like evaluation of other teaching disciplines. In fact tarbiya should be the main criteria of the success or failure of the students for promotion to next grade. Each educational institution should have a tarbiya net work headed by the Director / Principal / a suitable senior teacher. This person should be well familiar with the principles of human psychology (or can be assisted by an Islamic-oriented professional psychologist) besides being acquainted with the Islamic teachings / tradition of character building so that he can bring up the students as a balanced personality. The proposed tarbiya network should have a teacher as tarbiya In charge or mentor for each class (although from the Islamic point of view, every teachers should be a mentor). Then, in every class, a suitable student should act as Deputy of the Teachers In charge of tarbiya. This tarbiya Team should hold meetings before the commencement of the academic year and chalk out a detailed tarbiya program for the next year. Later, it should hold regular weekly meetings to ensure the implementation of the program. In case the team feels problems in the tarbiya of a student, it should contact the parents and make special efforts for reformation and moral rehabilitation of the child (34). The ultimate goal of education should be the build up a child as a good Muslim in every respect.
Work to be done at Ummah Level
It should be noted that the goal of reconstruction of knowledge and education at individual level is to enable a Muslim to obey his Lord in this world to seek His pleasure in the Hereafter. But at the level of Muslim society, it should work as a source and tool of renaissance of the Ummah by steering it out of the present degradation. As such the entire planning should be done keeping this goal in view which requires that the education system of the entire Ummah should be revised and changed. The first step in this direction would no doubt be the setting up of a model educational institution (from school up to university level ) in any Muslim country along with all out efforts for reconstruction of knowledge and education in Islamic perspective land then to introduce the system gradually in the Muslim countries. We are sure that if this project is
floated with a non-political agenda in the private sector, it would yield good results.
The last Word
Eliminating the influence of Western thought civilization on knowledge and education in the Muslim societies and its reconstruction in accordance with Islamic teachings is indeed an uphill task, and in the words of renowned researcher and Sufi Prof. Dr. Ghulam Mustafa Khan, only Imam Mehdi can accomplish it (35). However, We believe that the job is of immediate nature and we shouldn’t wait for Imam Mehdi for that. Instead, the entire Ummah should pool its resources; both intellectual and material, and embark on the project, giving it top priority. The sooner it is done, the better it would be.
1. This is an expanded and revised English version of our Urdu article published in Quarterly Taleemi Zawiyay, Lahore, June-Sep 2006, P-180-200, primarily based on Ziauddin Sardar’s “Rediscovering the Epistemology of Islam, in this “Islamic Futures”. 2. Even non-Muslim scholars confess that; see for example: Rosenthal, knowledge Triumph”, P-46, Brill Lei den, 1977 3. For details, see Urdu Encyclopedia of Islam, 13:42, Punjab University, Lahore, 1976 4. Lord Macaulay’s historic report of February 2, 1835 on Indian Education. (The Encyclopedia of Education, 4:570, Crowell-Collier Education Corporation USA, 1971. 5. Nasr, Hossein S., Encounter of Man and Nature, Allen and Unwin, London, 1968 6. Al-Attas Muhammad Naquib, Islam, Secularism and the Philosophy of Future, P-127, 128, Mansell London, 1985. 7. Ibid., P-30. 8. Rahman, Dr. Fazlur, Islam and Modernity, P-141, The University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1982. 9. Ibid., P-146,147 10. Ibid., P-1137 11. Ibid., P-134 12. Ibid., P-130,139 13. Al-Faruqi, Dr. Ismail Raji, Islamization of Knowledge-General Principles and work plan, P- 8,9, International Institute of Islamic Thought, Washington, 1982. 14. Ibid., P-38
15. Ibid., P-41 16. Sardar, Ziauddin, Islamic Futures, P-95, 96 17. Ibid., P-100
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