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ISLAMIC MEDICAL EDUCATION RESOURCES 04

0010-CRISIS OF KNOWLEDGE, (AZAMAT AL MAARIFAT)(PART I)

Lecture for 1st year medical students at the Kulliyah of Medicine, International Islamic University, Kuantan on 7th October 2000 by Professor Omar Hasan Kasule Sr.

OUTLINES

1.0 MANIFESTATIONS OF THE KNOWLEDGE CRISIS

A. Quantity and quality:

B. Duality

C. Irrelevance

D. Divorce from morality

E. Brain drain

 

2.0 UMMATIC MALAISE DUE TO THE KNOWLEDGE CRISIS

A. Role of the intellect and knowledge

B. Manifestations of intellectual failure

C. Religious and socio-cultural failure

D. Political and economic dependency

E. Military and technological weakness

 

3.0 HISTORICAL BACKGROUND

A. The first generation

B. Destruction of the khilafat rashidat

C. Intellectual stagnation

D. Secularization

E. External factors

 

4.0 KNOWLEDGE, A PRE REQUISITE FOR TAJDID

A. Tajdid and knowledge

B. Revival movements in the early period

C. Revival movements in the recent period

D. Modern revival movements

E. Reasons for success/failure of revival movements

 

5.0 KNOWLEDGE: STRATEGY, OBLIGATIONS, AND ETIQUETTE

A. Revival and education

B. The new knowledge strategy

C. The school

D. Higher education

E. Education of the masses

 

1.0 MANIFESTATIONS OF THE CRISIS: QUANTITY & DUALITY

A. DEFICIENCY IN QUANTITY & QUALITY

IGNORANCE AND ILLITERACY

Knowledge of a preponderant majority of the ummat is inadequate, impaired, or distorted. There is pervasive ignorance of uluum al diin and uluum al dunia. Religious illiteracy, ummiyyat diiniyyat, and alphabetical illiteracy are common in many countries. Illiteracy is felt more acutely as a problem in the Muslim world because Islam is a religion of knowledge and Muslims should have done better. The message of Muhammad was essentially to the illiterate to enlighten them ( p 158 2:78, 3:21, 3:75, 7:157-158, 62:2).

 

MARGINALIZATION OF GENERAL EDUCATION

The intellectuals and the broadly-educated are marginalized in the material-driven industrial society in favor of people with narrow and specialized technical skills who are considered economically more productive. Technical education although vital does not cater for all needs of the society. The technically-educated without a broad education can be a danger when they work as a cog in machinery without the ability to understand or appreciate the consequences of their activities on the welfare of society and the environment. Marginalization has affected both the traditional Islamic and the modern systems. Institutions that teach the classical Islamic sciences usually have the poorest facilities. The teachers are poorly paid. Their graduates have few opportunities in the job market. The brightest students are advised by their parents and friends not to enter these institutions because they will have no future. The formal modern sector has not fared much better in most Muslim communities. Teachers are no longer respected as important members of society; their leadership position has been taken by politicians, businessmen, and technicians. Teachers are despised and are among the lowest paid professions in the community. There is little respect for scholarship. Contempt and not prestige is the label of intellectuals. Wealth and power are considered more important that scholarship. The consequence has been migration of the brightest and most competent from educational institutions to politics and business where their efforts will be appreciated more.

 

NEGLECT OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY

There is neglect of the empirical sciences in some Muslim communities that have considered empirical sciences not sacred and not worth learning. In some cases these sciences are studied but not with the spirit of mastery, use and further development by research. The aim of the student is to get some facts, pass some examinations, and get a certificate that opens the door to lucrative employment. These students have skills but no vision or mission for the ummat and they end up serving only their personal interests and those of industrially-developed countries but not those of the ummat. There is no urge to research and extend the frontiers of knowledge. Home-grown technology is little and has little encouragement or prospects in the near future.

 

B. DUALITY

DICHOTOMY

Muslim education is suffering from the impact of incoherent and contradictory sources of knowledge. There is a dichotomy in the education system: traditional Islamic vs. imported European, ulum al diin vs ulum 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. Dichotomy, being a cancerous disease that is unnatural and goes against the tauhidi-based Islamic civilization, does not end at dividing the ummat’s elite into two camps only; each of the two camps in dichotomized further. Graduates of the traditional system are divided between the conservative who live in isolation and do not engage or interact with the European civilization and the activist who actively critique the European system and defend the Islamic alternative. The graduates of the European system are also dichotomized into two groups. One group is apologetic and accepts all what they learned from European sources as superior to whatever they have in their Muslim intellectual heritage. The activist Islamist group does not reject the positive aspects of European culture but is aware of its failures and refuses its wholesale importation into the Muslim world. They are advocating a contemporary Islamic approach, asalat islamiyyat mu’asirat, that builds on Islamic tenets in approaching contemporary problems and challenges. There is thus conflict between and among the different groups in political and social arenas. The conservative traditional and the apologetic European educated groups have facilitated and helped europeanization of their Muslim societies in two ways. They have failed to understand the failures of the European societal model to be able to warn the ummat of the inherent dangers. They have innocently and in ignorance allied with europeanizing forces in both the colonial and post-colonial eras in the false  quest for material development and reform of their societies.  The conservative traditional group has also contributed to painting a negative image of Islam by appearing to be backward, living in the past and being narrow-minded. The consequence of these various forms of duality is confusion in the minds of students and intellectual schizophrenia of the elite and society’s leadership. The masses and the ummat in general has had to pay a heavy price for the confusion among the elite.

 

INTEGRATION EFFORTS

Integration of the 2 systems has failed or has been difficult in several countries because it has been mechanical and not conceptual. 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.

 

C. IRRELEVANCE

Knowledge dispensed at great expense in many educational institutions is not relevant to the contemporary needs of the ummat and can play no role in meeting the challenges. This runs counter to the teachings of the prophet about knowledge that is not useful, ilm la yanfau. The irrelevance is seen in both the traditional and modern systems. An example of irrelevance in the traditional system are the ancient manuals of fiqh that are used in teaching without explaining the spatio-temporal changes that have occurred and which call for new ijtihad to deal with modern problems. Students are given solutions to problems that no longer exist while they have no guidance on how to deal with the pressing problems of the day. The modern system uses western models and textbooks that are not relevant to the local problems. Sometimes we witness the intellectual perversity of imagining or inventing western-type problems in the local situation in order to proffer western-like solutions for them especially in the area of women and sexual rights.

 

D. SECULARIZATION and DIVORCE FROM MORALITY

The process of secularization in education has succeeded in removing the moral dimension from the education. It has violated the aim of Islamic education to produce an integrated and perfect individual, insan kaamil. Instead the education system aims at producing a technically-competent person who is not educated in the full sense of the word. Secularization has affected both the traditional Muslim education system and modern formal education system. The technical person may be an expert in Islamic Law, shar’at, or a factory worker. Both carry out work in narrow and specialized areas and need not relate their activity to an integrated whole system.

 

Secularization of classical Islamic sciences occurred by studying and teaching them as academic subjects without the spiritual context with the result that people get knowledge that does not change their behavior or reform society. Such knowledge has no impact on the general public who hear it from scholars. This in turn has led to another type of duality between word and deed. What is said is not put into practice because of lack of conviction. With time the general public loses interest in the word and becomes susceptible to external non-Islamic influences.

 

The modern formal education system, modeled on the euro-american secular paradigm, has removed morality and religion from education both in the curricular and the extra-curricular activities. The teachers and administrators, brought up and educated in a secular ambience, can not understand and implement the integrated tauhidi-based education that Islam requires. They are also incapable of being an Islamic model for their students. De-emphasis of morality in the secular education system is responsible for the increasing mis-bahavior of youths in school that has in turn affected academic achievement negatively. The youths are taught the european concept that values are relative and that there is no absolute evil. The criterion of judgment is anthropo-centric ie what the human likes, prefers, enjoys, or finds more comfortable of convenient. It is an intellectual perversity that while the students are taught to question every moral value and everything sacred, they are not taught to question the evils of sexual promiscuity and hedonistic life-styles. Secularization is driven by economic forces because it creates good consumers who will have no moral qualms about buying European goods and services.

 

E. BRAIN DRAIN

There are two types of brain drain in the Muslim world. Some educated people move to Europe and America where they can get better facilities for their work and where they enjoy physical amenities and feel secure from the political and security instability in their home countries. Such people become very productive in their adopted countries and are a net loss to the ummat. Some migrate away from their academic pursuits but stay within the country being engaged in business or politics. There are no attempts to reverse the brain drain by understanding the push and pull factors and doing something to reduce their effects. The main push factors are: lack of freedom, no respect for human rights, no recognition of scientific work, being isolated from interaction with other scientists, poor or inadequate research facilities, poor socio-economic environment. The pull factors are largely the same as the push factors but working in the opposite direction.

 

2.0 UMMATIC MALAISE DUE TO THE KNOWLEDGE CRISES

A. ROLE OF THE INTELLECT and KNOWLEDGE

IMPORTANCE OF KNOWLEDGE and INTELLECT

Knowledge deficiency and intellectual weakness are the most significant manifestation of ummat’s decadence. Human history started with knowledge when Allah taught Adam names of things. The Islamic civilization started with the instruction to the prophet Muhammad (PBUH) to read ‘iqra’ and was essentially a revolution in knowledge and ideas. Knowledge enables understanding and resolution of existing problems. Knowledge enables anticipation and solution of future problems. The intellect must be able to analyze and solve problems. It must have a correct knowledge base if it is to produce useful ideas and thoughts. Intellectual failure follows knowledge deficiency. Intellectual failure either results into new problems in society or renders the society incapable of solving its existing problems

 

SYNERGY BETWEEN KNOWLEDGE and INTELLECTUAL CRISES

The knowledge and intellectual crises interact in a synergistic way to lead to ummatic malaise. Intellectual failure is a direct result of the crisis in knowledge. The starting point everything is knowledge. Knowledge is the basis for research, ijtihad, thought, and the rest of intellectual operations. Knowledge leads to thoughts. Thoughts lead to action. If the knowledge is wrong or deficient, the actions will be defective. Knowledge deficiency leads to intellectual failure. Intellectual crisis leads to ummatic failure. The crisis in thought worsens the crisis in knowledge. Clear thought of leaders leads to successful research that generates correct knowledge. Confused thought leads to wrong or misleading knowledge. Lack of clarity of ideas leads to failure even in using available knowledge correctly. Thus knowledge and intellectual failure end up as a vicious cycle that is difficult to interrupt.

 

BLIND COPYING, taqliid a ‘ma

The intellectual crisis of the ummat is worsened by copying and using poorly digested alien ideas and concepts as well as use of analytic tools that are not relevant or suitable to the Islamic intellectual heritage or contemporary social realities. The prophet warned the ummat about the lizard-hole phenomenon in which the ummat in later times would follow its enemies unquestionably like the lizard running into its hole.

 

B. MANIFESTATIONS OF INTELLECTUAL FAILURE

THOUGHT FAILURE

Thought failure in the ummah could manifest in the following ways: (a) intellectual stagnation which is suppression of the freedom of thought, closure of ijtihad, blind following, taqlid, and fanaticism for madh’hab. (b) Syncretism, talfiq, which is juxtaposition of ideas that are incompatible without attempting to analyse them critically to arrive at a synthesis or favor one of them, tarjiih.  (c) Lack of vision as a guide vision for the present and the future, ru'uyat mustaqbaliyyat. (d) Superficiality, satahiyyat, and concern with minor inconsequential issues. (e) False outward manifestations of religious rituals, shakliyaat, with a dead core.  (f) Esoteric sects, al firaq al batiniyyat, that claim to have secret agendas or knowledge exposed to a select few and are a cause of social disruption. (g) Sterile arguments, jadal, that lead to no purpose or goal of practical utility.  (h) Intellectual analysis using un-islamic terminology and concepts that compounds the intellectual confusion.

 

UNRESOLVED ISSUES FROM THE PAST

Thought failure is responsible for the following issues that started in the past and are not yet resolved up to today. These issues are still causes of controversy when they should not be: (a) the role of human free will versus that of pre-determination, al jabriyah, in human actions. (b) Acceptance of repentance, taubah, or faith, iman,  for persons who commit major sins. (c) Understanding the nature, dhaat, and attributes, sifaat, of Allah. (d) Understanding the scope of knowledge through reason, ‘aql, and that of transmitted knowledge, naql, as well as the relation between the two.(e) Pre-determination , qadar, and causality, sababiyyat, and how they interact in human actions.

 

UNRESOLVED CONTEMPORARY ISSUES

Thought failure is also responsible for the following major contemporary intellectual issues still unresolved: (a) The woman: nature, role, rights, and responsibilities. (b) Plurality of opinion and practice. (c) Leadership/imama:t qualifications, selection, roles, and scope of responsibility.  (d) Shura and its practical application. (e) Application of Islamic teachings to today’s realities: economy, education, politics, and international relations.

 

C. RELIGIOUS and SOCIO-CULTURAL FAILURE

OVERVIEW

Among practical manifestations of the ummatic malaise in the 15th century are: deficient ibadat, action deficiency, political weakness, economic dependency, military weakness, dependence in science and technology, and erosion of the Islamic identity in life-style.

 

DEFICIENT IBADAH

Acts of ibadat are carried as outward rituals with a dead core. There is little understanding of wahy in all its comprehensive ramifications. There is limited understanding of the wide scope of ibadat that includes all human activities if done with a god intention and according to the Law. Deviations and excesses lead to quarrels and divisions. Superstitions and bid’a in ibadat take over where there is little knowledge or understanding. Behavior of individuals and communities is not in conformity with the image expected of a nation that observes its acts of ibadat rigorously. Ibadat is supposed to lead to good social behavior.

 

ACTION DEFICIENCY

There is lack of dynamism and activity. There is lack of resolve and a sense of direction. Thinkers abandon practical work and live in an ivory tower of surreal isolation and abandon. Knowledge and intellect do not automatically lead to action. There must be an inner drive to change society in a practical way.  There must be a sense of urgency in tackling the problems of the ummat. Major disasters and catastrophes in the ummat do not elicit a determined response or even concern; they pass as if they are routine events. Many public and private institutions are weak. Administration is ineffective and inefficient. Poor planning, execution, and follow up are common. There is leadership and managerial anarchy.

 

EROSION OF ISLAMIC IDENTITY IN LIFESTYLE

Many youths today are losing contact with the origins of Islamic culture and civilization. This has been achieved by secularization of education systems, changing alphabets from Arabic to Roman or Cyrillic, physically destroying ancient written material to deny access to the heritage left by the ancestors. The Islamic identity is being threatened by European culture being imposed and maintained by powerful media and economic forces. In some cases Muslims who try holding on to a few Islamic cultural mores are prevented by regulations and constraints; for example young pre-pubertal girls are prevented from wearing a small scarf over their head in schools where teachers and administrators are scantily dressed. The euro-american culture is not a common heritage of all humanity but it has become the standard cultural expression almost everywhere. Media, arts, and literature in the Muslim world reflect more Euro-centric than Islamic values. The political and economic environment imposed on the Muslim world discourages growth of an Islamic social identity. People are left in suspension: they have lost the Islamic roots yet they have not fully pick up the western culture. In the end they gravitate towards the worst of the two worlds.

 

D. POLITICAL and ECONOMIC DEPENDENCY

POLITICAL WEAKNESS

There is political disunity. The ummat is divided into more than 50 unstable and artificial nation states. Each so-called nation state is divided along ethnic, tribal and sectarian lines. Even small remote communities do not escape the malaise of disunity on basis of sectarian, ta’ifiyat, schools of fiqh, madh’hab, ethnic or linguistic differences. Muslims lack a united credible and forceful voice at international forums. Political institutions are immature. Political suppression and human rights abuse are common.

 

ECONOMIC DEPENDENCY

There is dependency and weakness in the ummat despite immense natural resources. Muslims have relatively little control over resources in their land. They sell raw materials cheaply and buy expensive finished goods. A consumer society that does not produce its basic necessities has developed.  There is no security of basic necessities: food, water, and energy. Many Muslim societies lack a future economic vision. Many current economic policies are not a reflection of the teachings of Islam. There is little intra-Muslim co-operation and economic exchange. Many of the national economies are weak being characterized by underemployment, unemployment, high inflation, social injustice, inefficient production and distribution.

 

E. MILITARY and TECHNOLOGICAL WEAKNESS

MILITARY WEAKNESS

Muslims have little control over military technology. They use technology that they do not produce. Access to the more advanced forms is in the hands of enemies of the ummat who guard its secrets closely. Colossal sums of money are spent on ineffective weaponry that has not increased military effectiveness. Planning and organization are underdeveloped. There is no overall strategy and no sense of mission. Military resources are wasted in unnecessary internal conflicts planned or abetted by enemies. The spirit of jihad is systematically being eroded by the media and the education system. Standing up to defend honor, rights, and religion are denigrated. The advantage in numbers that translate into military manpower is also being eroded by effective birth control programs and systematic programs to weaken and destroy the family.

 

DEPENDENCY IN SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY

There are few practical minds that work effectively and efficiently in research and development. The few who exist do not find sufficient encouragement. The situation is worsened by brain drain to Europe and America due to lack of local encouragement and support. Muslims have become users and not producers of technology. There is low understanding and appreciation of technology among the masses. There is no adequate infra structure for future development of S&T.

 

3.0 HISTORICAL BACKGROUND

A. THE GENERATION OF THE PROPHET

The causes of the contemporary malaise have a historical origin. Some solutions will have to be sought from a deep study of history to understand the genesis of the current problems. The generation of the Prophet (pbuh) was the best generation. The best teacher met the best students and excellent results were obtained. Companions had excellent knowledge and understanding. The momentum of the first generation continued in the era of the khulafah al rashidin and the next 2 centuries. Intellectual progress up to the third century was due to this early momentum. The so-called golden era of Muslim learning coexisted with the seeds of decay. Those seeds eventually became the phenomena of intellectual and knowledge failure that have been described. There is a lag time between reasons for decay and the actual collapse of a civilization. The seeds of decay that appeared after the khilafat rashidat took a couple of centuries before leading to the actual physical collapse of the Islamic state. On the other hand the ummat today is apparently weak but the seeds of a revival are evident. They will take time to bring about visible renaissance. There is however no doubt that the renaissance shall occur.

 

B. DESTRUCTION OF THE KHILAFAT RASHIDAT

SEEDS OF THE DOWNFALL

Seeds of the current crisis appeared towards the end of the khilafat rashidat due to the rapid geographical and demographic expansion of the ummat (12-40 AH) that occurred without sufficient time to teach, train and educate the leaders and the masses. As a consequence there was a decrease in the proportion of knowledgeable people who had a deep understanding and appreciation of Islam and its culture. The newly Islamized groups retained many of the old ideas and concepts from the previous societies. New citizens with little knowledge or understanding of Islam changed the basic character of the state.

 

THE GREAT TURBULENCE, al fitnat al kubrat

Major problems started in era of Othman and led to what is known by historians as al fitnat al kubrat. Othman’s words were prophesy: ‘If they kill me, they will never unite and will not be able to fight an enemy together’. The Islamic state did not know sustained peace or stability after him. The Jewish convert Abdullah bin Saba played a leading role. He made exaggerations and claims about Ali until he declared that Allah entered into Ali and that Ali was the rightful khalifat. He spread his fitnah in Basra, Kufa, Syria, and Egypt. Fighting over leadership started and continued. For the first time Muslims fought Muslims. What started as political differences later became sectarian or ideological differences. Texts of the Qur’an and seerah were used in disputes by  ta’awil to support partisan points of view. The old asabiyyat al jahiliyyat returned.

 

NEW SOCIAL ORDER

New social and political forces overthrew the khilafat rashidat and the ideals it represented were distorted or abolished. Opposition by scholars and thinkers to the new political and social order was defeated by force of arms. Then the authentic ‘ulama and opinion leaders who remained faithful to the ideals of Islam were marginalized and persecuted. Abu Hanifa (d. 150AH) died in prison. Al Shafei (d. 204 AH) was brought to Baghdad in shackles from Yaman and then fled to Cairo with his life. Malik ibn Anas (d. 175 AH) was beaten until his hand was paralyzed. Ahmad ibn Hanbal (d. 241 AH) was beaten until his shoes overflowed with blood. Sterile argument, jadal, in the basics of religion appeared. New groups were formed: mu’tazilah, shia, khawarij, jabriyyah, marjiyah, asharites, falasifat, and sufis. Existence of so many competing groups contributed to the intellectual and social confusion and fragmentation.

 

C. INTELLECTUAL STAGNATION

SCHISM BETWEEN THE INTELLECTUAL AND POLITICAL LEADERSHIPS

Schism and isolation between the intellectual leadership on one hand and the political and social leadership on the other hand appeared. The political and social leadership could not benefit from the intellectual guidance of the scholars. The scholars had no contact with the decision-making machinery that controlled society and were thus denied the opportunity to study and analyze societal problems from that angle. Military regimes were in effective control under cover of the Khalifat, started the process of secularization of the Muslim state. The soldier-rulers held political power in the office of the sultan while the khalifat was left to be a powerless figure-head and a source of religious legitimacy for the regime. Corrupt scholars, ulamau al sultan, who supported the new political order appeared. A lot of intellectual corruption ensued.

 

ISOLATION OF THE SCHOLARS

Ulama  were isolated from centers of influence in society with no political or social roles. They worked on the fringes to preserve ulum al Qur’an, ulum al aqida, ulum al lugha and ulum al sharia. These disciplines were deemed necessary for the preservation of the central essential dogmas of the diin. Other ulama developed natural sciences like medicine, physics, chemistry by translating Greek knowledge and adding on it. These disciplined were not seen by the new political order as a threat. They were on the other hand encouraged and patronized by the governments. Socially dynamic and politically sensitive fields like politics, sociology, and economics were neglected. This was due to the ulama not being involved in the field or for fear of persecution by the political leadership.

 

INTELLECTUAL CONFUSION and STAGNATION

Intellectual confusion reached its climax in the 3rd century AH. It was a period of intellectual confusion was characterized by jadal. The companions and tabi’un had hated jadal in religion. With the opening of the door to jadal, several groups such as mutakalimun, falasifa, sufis and others emerged. Closure of the door of ijtihad became necessary to preserve the basics of religion from onslaught of hellenic and other philosophies. Intellectual failure and stagnation started. Widespread ignorance and illiteracy became common. As part of the intellectual stagnation, the fuqaha concentrated on ayat al ahkam and neglected ayat al kawn. This delayed scientific development in the ummat.

 

D. SECULARIZATION

The Tatar started the secularization of the Muslim society by institutionalizing the separation between the political and religious leaderships. The separation arose initially as a practical necessity since the new powerful military ruling class had little Islamic knowledge or legitimacy; they therefore found it convenient to rule under a figure-head ‘religious leader’ with the title khalifat. With the passage of time the separation became institutionalized and the pretense was thrown off. Secularization became a cancer that slowly gnawed away at the ummat. Starting in politics and government it spread to the military establishment, the educational institutions, the judiciary, and society as a whole. In the family and tribe it led to negative asabiyyat in which the spirit of Islamic brotherhood was replaced by ethno-centricity and tribalism.

 

E. EXTERNAL FACTORS

INTERACTION OF INTERNAL and EXTERNAL FACTORS

The decline of the ummat had both internal and external causes. It is an unrealistic mistake to blame all the ummat’s ills on external factors. Internal factors are more important and prepare the ground for external factors to operate. Ignoring internal factors is shirking responsibility and hence failure to admit mistakes as a first step to correcting them. Many non-Islamic ideas and facts without valid proof have found their way into the intellectual and religious heritage of the ummat making the existing crisis even worse. The paragraphs below explain some of those external influences.

 

PERSIAN INFLUENCE

Abassid rulers depended on the Persians in building their state especially the organization of the bureaucracy. Persian ideas therefore spread. Persians had used Greek logic in their religion and this reinforced Greek influence on the ummat.

 

INDIAN INFLUENCE

Indian religion and philosophy had their impact because there was continuous exchange by means of trade between Arabia and India.

 

HELLENIC INFLUENCE

The hellenic influence was most felt during the Abassid era. Abassid rulers wanted knowledge of any kind and any origin. Weakness of attachment to Islam helped acceptance of Greek ideas. Greek learning was adopted in order to defend Islam using Greek logic; Greek logic was very precise and attractive. There were attempts to reconcile Islam and Greek philosophy in order to make the acceptance of Greek ideas more palatable in the ummat. Al-Farabi tried to reconcile philosophy and religion by resorting to ta’awil. Ibn Sina and Farabi tried to explain religion in the form of philosophy. These attempts to reconcile irreconcilables continue even in our times with, sometimes, disastrous intellectual consequences.

 

BYZANTINE and JEWISH INFLUENCES

Byzantine Christian Influences had impact on the following: (a) providing folkloric details on tafsir of Qur’anic stories (b) encouragement of fabrication of hadith (c) introducing the idea that God can manifest in a person. Jewish influences are discernible in the following: (a) tafsir of Quranic stories using details from jewish folk-lore, Israiliyat, (b) fabrication of hadith, (c) Attempting to identify resemblances, tashbiih, between Allah and humans (d) confusion about jabr and ikhtiar.  

 

EUROPEAN INFLUENCES

Medieval Europe had its influence through the crusaders in the period 489-690 AH. Contact with crusaders resulted in a 2-way flow of ideas. Only a few European ideas entered the ummat as a result of this interaction that lasted a couple of centuries. The saw little to attract them to the less developed European scholarship of that time. Europeans who came for the crusades faced a more developed Muslim world. They were civilized by contact with Muslims. Europe learned the letter and not the spirit of Muslim knowledge. Ideas and knowledge obtained from Muslims stimulated the European intellectual renaissance whose final product was a secular order because the transfer was partial.

 

Europe in the colonial era had a decisive impact on the ummat. Comprehensive military, political, economic, and cultural invasion started with Napoleon’s invasion of Egypt at the end of the 18th century CE. He came with an army and a culture. Europeans in the colonial era faced a backward Muslim world. They imposed a new education system and a European epistemology that inculcated the following negative concepts: refusal of the unseen, ghaib; exclusive use of empiricism even in matters beyond its scope; doubt of religion; refusal of morality; and secularism. Secularism is the most powerful tool of Europeanization imposed on the Muslim word by colonial rulers. Some Muslims mistakenly thought that being Europeanized and adopting secularism will be a tool to be used in getting rid of colonial rule. The experience of the past 50-70 years in several Muslim countries has proved them wrong. The Muslim world has become even weaker vis-a-vis Europe and America.

 

Europe in the post-colonial era continued to have an impact on the ummat. This was achieved by installation of puppet rulers as agents of europeanization. Ideas of secularism and nationalism were spread and imposed sometimes by force. European powers have not been reluctant to intervene even militarily whenever there were signs of a return to the Islamic origins. The balance of power in the post-colonial era is more unfavorable to Muslims that it was in the colonial era. In the colonial era Muslims were defeated militarily and politically but they were able to resists the ideological onslaught and kept their families largely free of European ideas and behavior. In the post-colonial era, European influence has penetrated deeper into the fabric of society thanks to the more effective education and media forces.

 

Go to Part II

Professor Omar Hasan Kasule Sr. October 2000