THE CONCEPT AND HISTORY 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.
The concept of Islamization of knowledge is not new in Islam. The 3rd century
AH witnessed a process of Islamizing Greek knowledge with much enthusiasm. The process was not without its pitfalls that have
been recorded in history. Modern scholars working on Islamization of their disciplines will benefit from the previous experience
to avoid repeating many of the mistakes.
The early Islamization process started with astronomical, physical, biological, and mathematical
sciences. It later led to development of the disciplines of theology (kalaam) and
Islamic philosophy as counterparts to Greek concepts. The early Muslim scientists like us today felt the problem of dichotomy
of knowledge keenly and tried to bridge the gap with varying success. They not only tried to Islamize foreign knowledge but
also embarked on developing new knowledge through research.
The recent Islamization movement had its earliest beginnings in the 14th century
when several Muslim thinkers wrote about the cultural and intellectual invasion of the ummat promoted by an imposed and foreign
education system. The responses to this invasion varied. Some just rejected the European education system and European sciences
altogether. Some Accepted them whole-heartedly. Some others accepted them with reservations their argument being that they
could be de-Europeanised.
The First World Conference on Islamic Education held in Makka in 1397 AH/1977 AD was a
major event in the Islamization movement. The Conference succeeded in defining the problem of dichotomy or duality of knowledge
and recommended several general approaches to its solution. Follow-up conferences that elaborated practical approaches to
solve the problem were held at Islamabad in 1400
AH/1980 AD, Dhakka in 1401 AH/1981 AD, Jakarta in 1402 AH/1982 AD. The movement thereafter appeared to lose momentum and a sense of direction.
A fifth conference was held in Cairo in 1985 and a 6th one in Capetown in 1996.
Practical steps to Islamize knowledge were undertaken in this period. Many Islamic elementary
and secondary schools were established with the aim of making their curricula reflect the teachings of Islam. Islamic universities
were also established in Malaysia in 1983, Niger, Uganda, and Islamabad. These were essentially modern universities modelled on the European model within an Islamic
Specialised institutions were set up to spear-head the Islamization process. The most well
known being the International Institute of Islamic Thought registered in the US in 1981.It has
held many conferences and published many books to publicise the concept of Islamization.
The experience of IIIT illustrates the difficulties and challenges of Islamization. From
its inception, IIIT set itself the task of producing textbooks for the various disciplines of knowledge that would present
the Islamic perspective. The process required mastery of both the European disciplines of knowledge and the traditional Islamic
sciences. This would be followed by a critical analysis of both. The results of the analysis would be applied to the practical
realities in the ummat in order to produce a new synthesis that would be in text-books used in schools and universities. It
was expected that the student who would use the new text-books would develop a new mind-frame in an intellectual-cultural
context that would facilitate solving the ummat’s outstanding problems and to contribute to growth of human knowledge.
This simplified schemata could not be executed easily because there was a lot of preparatory work that needed to be done.
IIIT therefore books on background material needed to prepare the ground for the Islamization project as shown in the bibliography.
It held seminars and colloquia to discuss specific issues. A major problem encountered was lack of intellectual manpower capable of contributing to the project. There are few scholars in the ummat who have
enough grasp of both the classical Islamic and modern European disciplines to be able to make an original contribution. The
few who are available are so busy in day-to-day political and social problems of their countries that they have little time
or energy for scholarly work. The summary of the IIIT’s experience over the period 1981-1997 is that the process of
Islamization is larger and more complicated than had been anticipated.
REFORM OF DISCIPLINES:
Discipline reform is the most important item on the agenda of the 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
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.
Classification of disciplines in most universities reflects
the European world-view and epistemological assumptions. Some form of re-classification will be needed to reflect tauhidi
An Islamic epistemological thought must be developed from
the Qur’an, the sunnat, and the ummatic intellectual experience over the past 14 centuries.
The methodology of research must be reformed to remove all
sources of bias.
The Qur’an is very central to the discipline reform
process but must be used correctly. The Qur'an is not a text-book of any discipline although it has data and facts on various
disciplines. The Qur’an gives general principles that establish objectivity and protect against biased research methodology.
The Qur’an creates a world-view that encourages research to extend the frontiers of knowledge and its use for the benefit
of the whole universe
MISUNDERSTANDING THE REFORM PROCESS
The process of discipline reform is wont to be mis-understood.
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
Wrong approaches to discipline reform have occurred and these
have given the whole process a bad reputation. The following approaches have been used and have not succeeded because they
did not address the core issues of the paradigms and methodology of disciplines: 'Insertion' of Qur'anic verses and hadiths
in an otherwise European piece of writing, searching for scientific facts in the Qur'an, searching for Qur'anic proof of scientific
facts, searching for Qur’anic scientific miracles, searching for parallels between Islamic and European concepts, using
Islamic in place of European terminologies, adding supplementary ideas to the European corpus of knowledge, and adding Islamic
subjects to European school or university curricula.
The possibility of discipline reform by spiritual reform of
the student, scholar, or researcher has also been suggested at one time or another. Whereas it is possible for a scientist
to be good, it is difficult for him to change his discipline and turn it around.
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 usul
al 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.
The priorities among disciplines: The following is the order
of priority for discipline reform: natural sciences, social sciences, humanities, applied sciences and technology, and Islamic
sciences. Natural sciences are trend-setters both in the field of methodology and social change. Social sciences will be easier
to reform because they have now largely adopted the empirical methodology of the natural sciences. Humanities need to be recast
using the Qur’anic methodology of analyzing the growth and decline of human civilizations and societies. Islamic sciences
became fossilized over the centuries when ijthad was limited; they need a major
revival. They will have to be purged of hellenic, judeo-christian and other influences and will have to be rebuilt directly
on the basis of the Qur’an and authentic sunnat. These important sciences
will have to be approached taking the time-space dimension into consideration.
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
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