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ISLAMIC MEDICAL EDUCATION RESOURCES 04

9701-BASIC ISSUES IN THE ISLAMIZATION OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY*

Paper presented at The Malaysian Institutions Program Seminar on Islamization of Knowledge Universiti Teknologi Malaysia  Johor Bahru January 4-5, 1997 by  Dr Omar Hasan Kasule, Sr.; MB ChB, MPH, DrPH (Harvard) Professor of Medicine, International Islamic University, Malaysia. PO Box 70 Jln Sultan Petaling Jaya Selangor DE Malaysia Fax 60 3 757 7970

ABSTRACT

The paper defines the concept of Islamization and raises 4 basic issues that need to be addressed as far as science and technology are concerned: (1) unstated and stated a priori biases in the formulation of hypotheses, selection of hypotheses for testing, interpretation, and  use of scientific knowledge (II) the assertion that only empirical knowledge is valid (III) arrogance in not acknowledging limitations to human observation and interpretation of physical phenomena (IV) dealing with the parts and missing the whole (v) Lack of balance and co-ordination.

 

* Concepts of this paper are derived from the following papers presented by the author before: The Empirical method: an Islamic Reformulation Kuala Lumpur September 1997, The Islamization (reformulation) of disciplines of knowledge at Capetown September 1996, and Islamic Medicine: Concept and Misunderstanding Kuala Lumpur July 1995.

 

 

1.0 THE CONCEPT OF ISLAMIZATION

Islamization of knowledge has become a very popular term and has taken on an identity of its own such that the semantics are debated without dealing with the underlying concepts. Islamization is a process of recasting the corpus of human knowledge to conform with the basic tenets of aqidat al tauhid. When we talk about Islamic or Islamized knowledge we should be careful not to imply that there is knowledge that is not Islamic. All true knowledge whatever its kind and source is Islamic. Islamic knowledge has no time or space constraints because Islam is universal being suitable for every place and time. Islamized knowledge will be for the benefit of all humanity and not monopolized by Muslims. The process of Islamization does not call for re-invention of the wheel of knowledge but calls for reform, correction, and re-orientation. Islamization is an evolutionary and not revolutionary movement. To avoid any further semantic confusion the term ‘reform of disciplines’ will be used subsequently in this paper.

 

2.0 REFORM OF DISCIPLINES: CHARACTERISTICS, VISION, MISSION, AND GOALS

Discipline reform is the most important item on the agenda of contemporary Islamization movement. Successful reform must have the following characteristics: pro-active intellectual effort, academically and methodologically rigorous, objective, and has practical consequences. The long-term vision is accelerated growth of objective, universal knowledge that is beneficial to all humanity and allows a harmonious interaction of humans with their physical, social, and spiritual environment. The practical mission is conceptual transformation of the paradigms, methodologies, and uses of disciplines of knowledge to conform to tauhid. The immediate goals are to de-Europeanize basic paradigms of existing disciplines and thus change them from being parochial to being objective and universal, reconstruct paradigms of disciplines using Islamic universal guidelines, reclassify disciplines of knowledge, reform the methodology of research, encourage growth of knowledge through research, and inculcate morally correct application of knowledge

 

3.0 MISUNDERSTANDINGS OF THE DISCIPLINE REFORM PROGRAM

Reform does not imply that all what was in the discipline was un-Islamic. There are many good and true things accepted by Islam in many of the modern disciplines. Reform is not theologizing knowledge since Islam is universal and all-embracing; it does not seek to parochialize knowledge and tailor it to a particular culture or place. The reform we have in mind is of paradigms, methodology and uses of knowledge and not its contents. Content is changing so rapidly that reforming it is clearly futile.

 

4.0 MAIN AREAS OF REFORM

The following are the main areas in which discipline reform will be undertaken: classification of disciplines, epistemology, and methodology. These will be achieved in an ambiance that emphasizes revival of ijtihad and research, motivation to excel in knowledge, and inculcates correct attitudes to the use of knowledge especially science and technology.

 

5.0 BASIC ISSUES/PROBLEMS INVOLVED

A priori assertions or non-assertions (assertions by default) bias the selection of fields/issues of investigation, formulation of hypotheses, selection of hypotheses for testing, reporting of data, interpretation of data, and use of information.

 

Both European empiricists (experience is source of knowledge) and rationalists (reason is source of knowledge) agree that there is no source of knowledge outside the human.

 

The empirical method performs well in investigation of the present but is awfully incompetent in its historicity and futuristicity. Investigation of the past and the future requires ‘ilm al ghaib that comes only from wahy. 

 

European empiricism, by looking at the human as only matter, does not have the tools to understand human duality. It fails in understanding causal relations in situations in which humans change the ecosystem. Humans can create new facts that accord with their inner biases such that an investigator coming later is confused.

 

Too narrow specialization in science has resulted in a situation of knowing the parts and failing to put them together. Knowing the whole picture makes the study of the parts more meaningful.

 

The claim of universality and objectivity is not true. It would have been more honest to accept the minimum that European science reflects a Euro-centric view of the world.

 

Empirical knowledge is relativistic and probabilistic. European science is too arrogant in stating its conclusions as established facts when the observations on which they are based may be wrong.

 

Empiricism depends on human senses. Human senses are limited in their observation and can be deceived; this failure is not cured by use of instruments because they are aids and extensions of the basic human senses.

 

The human intellect is necessary to interpret and understand empirical observations. This intellect has limitations and there are matters like the human himself that lie outside its reach. A human can not understand himself fully.

 

A very noticeable feature of the development of science and technology in the past 2 centuries has been a lack of equilibrium and balance in the field of applications. What are today’s achievements become tomorrow’s problems.

 

6.0 PRACTICAL STEPS / TASKS OF THE REFORM PROCESS

The following steps must be followed by anyone, individual or teams, involved in the reform process: (a) Grounding in Islamic sciences: basics of usulal fiqh,  ulum al Qur'an and ulum al hadith, (b) reading Qur'an and sunnat with understanding of the changing time-space dimensions while at the same time knowing limitations of literal reading and interpretations, (c) clarification of basic epistemological issues and relations: wahy and aql, ghaib and shahada, ‘ilm and iman, (d) Islamic critique of basic paradigms of various disciplines, (e) Islamic reviews of existing text-books and teaching materials to identify deviations from the tauhidi episteme, (f) cumulation of published research, (g) publication and testing of new school text-books, (g) publication of new text-books and other teaching materials, (h) establishment of specialized research institutions, and (i) developing applied knowledge in science and technology from basic knowledge.

 

7.0 THE CHALLENGE: WHAT CAN YOU DO AS AN INDIVIDUAL?

You must develop commitment to the discipline reform process. You must master your discipline well; you can not reform or improve what you do not know. If you did not get a traditional Islamic education endeavor to get the minimum essential knowledge of usul al fiqh, Qur’an and hadith methodology. Critique your discipline on the basis of tauhid and the universal and perennial values of Islam. Orient your research and teaching to Islamization priorities. Write and publish your ideas and experiences. Net-work with others who hold similar views and are engaged in similar endeavours. Teach and inspire others to take up the challenge of educational reform.
BASIC ISSUES/PROBLEMS

 

A PRIORI ASSUMPTIONS

 

SOURCES OF KNOWLEDGE

 

INTEGRATION AND SPECIALIZATION

 

OBJECTIVITY AND UNIVERSALITY

 

LIMITATIONS OF HUMAN SENSES

 

LACK OF BALANCE

Professor Omar Hasan Kasule January 1997