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Issues in Islamization of Knowledge, Man and Education PDF Print E-mail

Mahmoud Hamid Al Migdadi

The debate over the process of Islamization in general and the Islamization of knowledge in particular, has frequently shed more heat than light. Debaters often seem to be holding entirely different points of view, and talking past each other. More particularly, two differing perspectives with regard to whether or not knowledge should be Islamized have emerged. The liberalists, who are also known as adaptionists because they imitate secular vision of life, first by separating religion from politics, and second by reducing Islam to a realm of individual ethics, view all religious phenomena as social facts thus reject normative reduction of religion to reality. According to Tibi (1988), for instance, the Muslim backwardness in the development of science and technology is rooted in Islam itself. This is because, argues Tibi, Muslim societies have been structurally dominated by a pre-industrial culture, i.e. Islam. His solution to this problem, therefore, was through secularization of Islam. The liberalists reduced the world to rationality and considered it as a source and mean of knowledge.

Also, according to the traditional Muslim scholars – the traditionalists who are also called the rejectionists, because they oppose all Western ideas and values without any assessment and consideration (Ali,2001), all knowledge is from Allah and when al Qur’an was revealed, it had been Islamized then, so  there is no need to re-Islamize it today. They are well versed in various branches of revealed knowledge, and are careful of their sayings and behaviors and these must be all in line with the Qur’anic verses and prophetic traditions. With regard to their attitudes towards Western education, they have no interest at all. Rather, they claim that Western education spreads the laxity of morals among pupils through indiscriminate mixing of boys and girls at school and unveiling of girls’ heads, bosoms, and legs, in addition to the secular syllabus it brings about (Nasiru, 1997). They do not realize the necessity of modern education because they view the world depending on the Qur’an and prophetic traditions as both sources and means of knowledge. In addition, the secularist-modernists argue that modern knowledge is universal, not related with any specific civilization and culturally neutral, thus cannot be infused with the value system of any particular culture (Hoodbhoy and Abdus Salam, in Hashim and Rossidy 2000: 20). Such positions are reinforced also by Fazlur Rahman, who argues that one cannot map knowledge; it is created by Allah in the human mind. So Muslims should not pay any heed for making maps and charts of how to develop Islamic knowledge (Fazlur Rahman, in Hashim and Rossidy 2000: 20).

On the other hand, the secularist-modernists’ views of neutrality of science were debated and rebutted by contemporary Muslim scientists. Kirmani, in (Hashim and Rossidy 2000: 20), for instance, argues that in reality “there is nothing neutral or value free about modern science, its priorities, its emphases, its method and process and its worldview are dictated by the narrow concerns of Western society or culture.” Sardar, in (Hashim and Rossidy 2000) concurs with this view and argues that by divorcing ethics and morality from its epistemology, Western civilization has produced a body of knowledge that does not concern itself with the Islamic concerns of trusteeship of man, sacredness of nature, social justice, public interest and seeking the pleasure of Allah. Their views are shared by Nasr, in (Hashim and Rossidy 2000: 20) who contends that “Muslims must seek to create their own science by incorporating what is positive in modern science into a world view where God reigns supreme….” Furthermore, and contrary to those who view knowledge as neutral and not specifically related with any civilization, culture, religion or race,  proponents of Islamization of knowledge namely AlAttas, Al-Faruqi, Abu Sulayman, Al-Alwani,  among others, have argued that Modern knowledge is not neutral and can not be applied as it is to the Muslim community which has certain values and beliefs that are greatly different from that of Western civilization.

In light of the above, and in order to address this issue, I agree that the source of all knowledge is Allah, and since the revelation of al-Qur’an, knowledge was once Islamized. However and due to passage of time and because of the incorporation of foreign elements and ideologies, namely those Western ones, into the Muslim world and Muslim minds, the Islamic elements, the Islamic metaphysical foundation of knowledge, the conceptions of truth, reason, wisdom, and reality and so on had undergone remarkable changes and been influenced by various elements of Western culture including, among others, rationalism, dualism, secularism, humanism, and naturalism. Consequently, it can be argued that knowledge no longer conforms to the acceptable framework of Islamic worldview and Islamic conception of knowledge. This is significantly true with respect to acquired knowledge subjects including sciences such as mathematics, physics, chemistry, medicine, engineering, economics and administrative sciences, and social sciences including history, geography, politics, psychology, sociology and educational sciences.

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