Presentation at Ta’aruf and Intellectual Discourse XVI (TIDE 16), 2000 25th-28th May 2000 at Sri bayu Beach Resort, Pulau Pagkor by Prof Dr Omar Hasan Kasule, MB ChB (MUK), MPH, DrPH (Harvard); Deputy Dean, Kulliyah of Medicine, IIUM


The educational crisis manifests in 5 ways: (a) Deficient Quantity: inadequate, impaired or distorted knowledge (b) Duality: incoherent and contradictory sources of knowledge (c) Irrelevance: divorce from reality and inability to resolve current problems (d) morality is separated from knowledge (e) Brain drain to industrially developed countries.


The problem of duality is the most serious one. There is a dichotomy in the education system: traditional Islamic vs. imported European, ‘uluum al ddiin vs ‘uluum al dunia. There are competing and contradictory world-views. Some Muslim students study at foreign schools in Muslim lands and others are sent overseas for studies. Other Muslim students study at traditional Islamic institutions in their countries or overseas. Graduates of the 2 systems speak different languages and use different terminologies. Graduates of the European system may not know Islam or its heritage and have little self-confidence in their Islamic identity. Graduates of the traditional system may not understand the contemporary world or the world of the next century. The consequence of this duality is confusion in the minds of students and intellectual schizophrenia of the elite and society’s leadership. Integration of the 2 systems has failed or has been difficult in several countries. The attempt of integration of the 2 systems at university level by introduction of western disciplines at traditional universities like Azhar has been difficult. Integration of the 2 systems at university level by introduction of traditional disciplines at new universities like the International Islamic universities in Islamabad and Kuala Lumpur is being attempted with much difficulty and the results will be evaluated in due course. Integration of the 2 systems at the school level has many obstacles in front of it. The experience of Islamic schools in US and UK is so far of limited success because basic intellectual and conceptual issues were not worked out. It was therefore not possible to develop complete curricula and text books reflecting Islamic paradigms; these universities and schools are a continuing manifestation of duality occurring in the same building.



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.



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 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, 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. 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. Government-sponsored Islamic universities were also established in Malaysia in 1983, Niger, Uganda,  and Pakistan. Later private Islamic universities were established. These were essentially modern universities modeled on the European model within an Islamic context. Specialized institutions were set up to spear-head the Islamization process: The International Institute of Islamic Thought in Virginia, USA,  the Islamic Academy in Cambridge, UK, the Muslim Education Trust of Nigeria, The Muslim Education Trust in UK, Iqra International Education Foundation in Chicago, USA.



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. Successful reform must have the following characteristics: pro-active intellectual effort, academically and methodological, 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: (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. 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.



The process of discipline reform is wont to be mis-understood and mis represented by both proponents and antagonists. There are 5 approaches each manifesting its own brand of misunderstanding of the refrorm process: rejection, parochialism, change of discipline content, and spiritual reform. 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. 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.  The content 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. 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.



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.



The discipline reform process is envisaged in five stages: Mastery of classical islamic sciences, Islamic critique of the disciplines & review of teaching materials, writing, publishing, and application. 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. 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. 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 focussing only on areas in the discipline that are not in conmformity with Islamic teachings. 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 academiciana and educators in serious debate about the issues of Islamization. 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 refomed 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. Establishment of specialized research institutions will be necessary for continued support of the reform process. 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.



The first and logical step in the Islamization of a discipline is to write an Islamic introduction to it. This should establish basic Islamic principles and paradigms that determine and regulate the methodology, content, and teaching of a particular discipline. Students of the discipline will study the introduction first before embarking on studying the discipline. The student will in this way have an Islamic orientation to the discipline that will enable him or her to deal with the discipline in a critical way. He will be able to recognise aspects of the discipline that agree with the Islamic frame-work and separate them from those that do not. This sets him on the road to new creative thinking that helps him make original contributions to the discipline from the Islamic perspective. The Introduction to the discipline can therefore be looked at as a tool to transform a student from an uncritical consumer of knowledge to one who is critically selective.



A parallel can be drawn with the Ibn Khaldun’s Introduction to History, muqaddimat, which was the first book of his universal History, kitaab al ‘Ibar. Ibn Khaldun’s work is rightfully called the philosophy of History because it presents generalizing and methodological concepts that make sense out of the narration of historical events. We can, in other words, say that the muqaddimat enables a student to understand the study of History. Ibn Khaldun presented a rational/logical, analytical, and encyclopaedic approach to History. He was original in his thinking and developed new terminology to convey his ideas. He explained how the physical environment affects the growth of human society from the most primitive to the most sophisticated urban centers. He explained the determinants of leadership and the political system. He explained the relation between group feeling, ‘asabiyyat, on one hand and the rise and fall of political dynasties on the other. He explained the rise and fall of civilizations and the factors that regulate economic and social conditions. The conclusions presented in the muqaddimat was based on Ibn Khaldun’s wide experience in practical politics as well as his extensive travels in the then known Muslim world. Ibn Khaldun was a Muslim scholar and many of his ideas were influenced by Islamic precepts. The debate is however still open whether the muqaddimat can be considered an Islamic Introduction to History or is just an introduction.



The Kulliyah of Medicine of the International Islamic University, Malaysia, is currently experimenting with an approach to Islamization in medicine similar to that pioneered by Ibn Khaldun. It has a 5-year program of Islamic input into the Integrated Medical Curriculum that will be published in 5 volumes under the title ‘Muqaddimat al Tibb: Introduction to the Study and Practice of Medicine for Medical Students and Medical Practitioners’. The programs runs parallel to the medical curriculum. Relevant Islamic concepts on medical conditions are introduced before the students study those conditions. The purpose of medical treatment can be used to illustrate this approach. The western (Euro-American) world-view is that the purpose of medicine is to prevent premature death, prolong life, and may be at some stage in the future discover the cause of aging and thus be able to eliminate death altogether. Medical students at Kuantan are taught that the timing of death, ajal, is in the hands of Allah and that no human, physician or not, can delay or advance it. People will die when their term arrives. The purpose of medicine is therefore not to prevent death but to maintain the human in the best quality of life for the remainder of their life on earth. Since the moment of death is never known to any human with any certainty, the physician will strive his utmost until the last minute to ensure the highest possible quality of life. The two approaches, western and Islamic, will lead to differences in the attitudes and behaviors of Muslim and non-Muslim physicians although they have the same quantum of medical knowledge, skill, and medical technology.



Due to limited manpower and material resources, the reform process cannot 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. The proposed order of priority for discipline reform is: 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.



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 endeavours. Teach and inspire others to take up the challenge of educational reform.

Professor Omar Hasan Kasule June 2000