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ISLAMIC MEDICAL EDUCATION RESOURCES 04

0004-ISLAMIZATION OF KNOWLEDGE

Lecture to 1st year students at the Kulliyah of Medicine, International Islamic University, Kuantan on Saturday 15th April 2000 by Professor Omar Hasan Kasule sr.

OUTLINE

1.0 THE CONCEPT AND HISTORY OF ISLAMIZATION:

A. Definition Of Islamization

B. Early Efforts At Islamization Of Knowledge

C. Recent Efforts At Islamization Of Knowledge

D. Academic Institutions

E. Professional Organizations

 

2.0 REFORM OF DISCIPLINES:

A. Rationale Of Starting With Disciplines

B. Characteristics

C. Vision, Mission, And Goals

D. Scope

E. Role Of The Qur'an

 

3.0 MISUNDERSTANDING THE REFORM PROCESS

A. Rejectionist Approach

B. Parochialist Approach

C. The Content Approach

D. Spitirual Reform Approach

E. Current Failed Approaches

 

4.0 PRACTICAL STEPS / TASKS OF THE REFORM PROCESS:

A. Mastery Of Classical Islamic Sciences

B. Islamic Critique Of The Disciplines

C. Islamic Critique Of Teaching Material

D. Writing, Publishing, And Application

E. Prioritization Among Disciplines

 

5.0 THE CHALLENGE

 

1.0 THE CONCEPT AND HISTORY OF ISLAMIZATION:

A. DEFINITION 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.

 

B. EARLY EFFORTS AT ISLAMIZATION OF KNOWLEDGE

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 Islamisation 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 Islamise foreign knowledge but also embarked on developing new knowledge through research.

 

C. RECENT EFFORTS AT ISLAMIZATION OF KNOWLEDGE

The recent Islamisation 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 Islamisation 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, and Cairo in 1985. The movement thereafter appeared to lose momentum and a sense of direction until a fifth conference was held in and a 6th one in Capetown in September 1996.

 

D. ACADEMIC INSTITUTIONS

Practical steps to Islamise 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 in ….., Uganda in…., Islamabad in….. These were essentially modern universities modeled on the European model within an Islamic context.

 

Specialized institutions were set up to spear-head the Islamisation process: The International Institute of Islamic Thought in Virginia, USA,  the Islamic Academcy in Cambridge, UK, the Muslim Education Trust of Nigeria, The Muslim Education Trust in UK, Iqra International Education Foundation in Chicago, USA.

 

E. PROFESSIONAL ORGANIZATIONS

 

2.0 REFORM OF DISCIPLINES:

A. RATIONALE OF STARTING WITH DISCIPLINES

Discipline reform is the most important item on the agenda of the contemporary Islamization movement. Islamization will have to start at the level of disciplines. This is because knowledge has become so specialized that no effort at general islamization can succeed. Each discipline has developed its own unique epistemology, methodology, and corpus of knowledge. It is also realized that the effort must start with existing disciplines of knowledge. The alternative of starting from a tabula rasa is not practical and will make the process of islamization both long and expensive. Such an approach will relegate the present corpus of human knowledge to the dust-bin of history which does not make sense. If such an approach were taken, the Muslims will be busy reconstructing knowledge from its foundations while others are going ahead which will mean that the Muslims will never catch up.

 

B. CHARACTERISTICS

Successful reform must have the following characteristics: pro-active intellectual effort, academically and methodologically rigorous, objective, and has practical consequences.

 

C. VISION, MISSION, and GOALS

VISION

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.

 

MISSION

The practical mission is conceptual transformation of the paradigms, methodologies, and uses of disciplines of knowledge to conform to tauhid.

 

GOALS

The immediate goals: (a) De-Europeanizing basic paradigms of existing disciplines and thus change them from being parochial to being objective and universal.  (b) Reconstructing paradigms of disciplines using Islamic universal guidelines. (c) Re-classifying the various disciplines of knowledge. (d) Reforming the methodology of research, and (e) Encouraging growth of knowledge through research, and inculcate morally correct application of knowledge

 

D. SCOPE

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

 

CLASSIFICATION:

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 assumptions.

 

EPISTEMOLOGY

An Islamic epistemological thought must be developed from the Qur’an, the sunnat, and the ummatic intellectual experience over the past 14 centuries. This can incorporate experiences of other communities even if non-Muslim.

 

METHODOLOGY:

The methodology of research must be reformed to remove all sources of bias in the selection of fields of investigation, hypothesis formulation, data management and analysis.

 

E. ROLE OF THE QUR'AN

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.

 

3.0 MISUNDERSTANDING THE REFORM PROCESS

A. REJECTIONIST APPROACH

The process of discipline reform is wont to be mis-understood and mis represented by both proponents and antagonists. 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.

 

B. PAROCHIALIST APPROACH

Reform is not theologizing knowledge since Islam is universal and all-embracing. Reform does not seek to parochialize knowledge and tailor it to a particular culture or place. The parochial approach stated in its simplicity is that if the others have their disciplines of knowledge, Muslims must also have their own disciplines of knowledge. Such an argument ignores the universal nature of Islam.

 

C. THE CONTENT APPROACH

This approach simply aims at rewriting existing text-books to reflect Islamic themes. Some of the effort may be very superficial such as change of terminology and illustrations without changing the essence. 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; by the time one aspect of content is reformed, the discipline has already moved ahead and the reform is already outdated.

 

D. SPITIRUAL REFORM APPROACH

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 as an individual, it is difficult for him to change his discipline and turn it around on his or her own. A major change involves a system and not an individual.

 

E. CURRENT FAILED APPROACHES

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. (b) Searching for scientific facts in the Qur’an. (c) Searching for Qur’anic proof of scientific facts. (d) Searching for Qur’anic scientific miracles. (e) Searching for parallels between Islamic and European concepts. (f) Using Islamic in place of European terminologies. (g) Adding supplementary ideas to the European corpus of knowledge. (h) Adding Islamic subjects to European school or university curricula.

 

4.0 PRACTICAL STEPS / TASKS OF THE REFORM PROCESS:

A. MASTERY OF CLASSICAL ISLAMIC SCIENCES

Grounding in Islamic methodological sciences of of usul al fiqh,  ulum al Qur’an, ulum al hadith, and 'uluum al llughat, This is then followed by reading the Qur’an and sunnat with understanding of the changing time-space dimensions while at the same time knowing limitations of literal reading and interpretations. This is then followed by clarification of basic epistemological issues and relations: wahy and aql, ghaib and shahada, ‘ilm and iman

 

B. ISLAMIC CRITIQUE OF THE DISCIPLINES

Islamic critique of basic paradigms of various disciplines involves a critical review of the basic assumptions and concepts in the methodology of each discipline using criteria of Islamic methodology and Islamic epistemology

 

C. ISLAMIC CRITIQUE OF TEACHING MATERIAL

Islamic reviews of existing text-books and teaching materials is undertaken to identify deviations from the tauhidi episteme. This will guide the process of reform by focusing only on areas in the discipline that are not in conformity with Islamic teachings.

 

D. WRITING, PUBLISHING, and APPLICATION

RESEARCH

Discipline reform is not an administrative effort. It is academic and will progress well if there is cumulation of published research. The research will generate more interest and will engage academicians and educators in serious debate about the issues of Islamization.

 

TEACHING MATERIAL

Publication and testing of new text-books and other teaching materials is a necessary step towards reform by putting into the hands of teachers and students reformed material. The process of reform will not achieve its ultimate goal of social reform and societal change unless it becomes part of the curricula at schools and universities.

 

SPECIALIZED INSTITUTIONS

Establishment of specialized research institutions will be necessary for continued support of the reform process

 

APPLIED KNOWLEDGE

Developing applied knowledge in science and technology from basic knowledge will be the last stage of the reform process. This is because in the end it is science and technology that actually lead to changes in society.

 

E. PRIORITIZATION AMONG DISCIPLINES

Due to limited manpower and material resources, the reform process can not be undertaken for all disciplines at the same time. Some form of prioritization will be necessary. Disciplines that are more methodological will have to take first priority followed by disciplines that are closely related to social reform and societal change is the order of priority for discipline reform: basic natural sciences, applied sciences and technology,  social sciences, humanities, 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. Since they represent eternally valid revelation, they must have relevance for each period and each place.

 

5.0 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 the basic paradigms of 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 endeavors. Teach and inspire others to take up the challenge of educational reform

Professor Omar Hasan Kasule Sr. April 2000