Presentation at the 20th Anniversary of the Islamic School in Capetown, South Africa on 13th August
2004 by Professor Omar Hasan Kasule, Sr.
1.0 QUR’ANIC PRINCIPLES ABOUT SOCIAL CHANGE
1.1 The original position is success
The original default position is success and happiness based on iman. Iman is a precondition for happiness on earth[i]. Transgressions lead to fall and destruction. If communities believe and have taqwa they get bounties from Allah. Bounties are a test for humans[ii]. Bounties are increased if humans are grateful to Allah[iii] but unfortunately few humans are grateful to Allah[iv]. As a result of ingratitude social change occurs from good to bad. The Qur’an has
talked about change from good to bad as destruction of people[v] or communities[vi] and as punishments for transgression[vii].
1.2 Laws of social change, sunnat
The Qur’an has described the following laws of social change, sunnat al
llaahi fi al taghyiir[viii]. The same laws applied to all past communities[ix]. Allah does not change the original position of a community unless and until they themselves
do evils that necessitate that change[x]. Social change leading to decay is due to not
following Allah’s laws[xi], luxuries[xii], kufr[xiii], rejecting the truth[xiv], transgression, dhulm[xv], crime[xvi], the actions of the ignorant[xvii], following desires and passions[xviii], sins[xix], and wasteful extravagance[xx].
1.3 Concept of reform, islaah
Social reform is returning to the original position of success and happiness by removing the causes that led to failure.
The Qur’an has described reform[xxi] in many verses. It is linked directly to iman. The believers will eventually be victorious[xxii] and the earth will be inherited by the righteous[xxiii].
2.0 SOCIAL CHANGE BY EDUCATION
2.1 Knowledge, a pre requisite for revival (tajdid).
Reform and revival of the ummat will occur through educational and knowledge
reform. Tajdid is a recurring phenomenon in the ummat and is a sign of its health and dynamism. It is a basic characteristic of the ummat that periods of reform/revival alternate with periods of decay and return to jahiliyyat.Tajdid requires knowledge, ideas and action related by
the following mathematical equation: tajdid = idea + action. Action without knowledge
and guiding ideas will not lead to true change. Ideas without action are not change at all. Tajdid requires and is preceded by a reform in knowledge to provide ideas and motivation on which to build. All
successful societal reform starts with change in knowledge. The ideal society cannot be created without a knowledge base.
That knowledge base must be correct, relevant, and useful. Successful revival movements throughout Muslim history have always
been led by scholars.
2.2 Knowledge: strategy, obligations, and etiquette
Social change requires change in attitudes, values, convictions and behavior of a critical mass of the population.
Attitudes, values, convictions, and behaviors are determined by the knowledge base. The vision of the knowledge strategy is
an upright balanced person who understands the creator, knows his place, his roles, his rights, and his responsibilities in
the cosmic order. The mission of the knowledge strategy is conceptual transformation of the education system from kindergarten
to post graduate studies to reflect tauhid, positive moral values, objectivity,
universality, and serving the larger causes of humanity.
3.0 THE QUR’AN AS A BASIS FOR KNOWLEDGE
3.1 Basic Concepts
The Qur’an is not a textbook of science. It however contains many verses that train the mind to observe,
analyze, think and act in a scientific manner. The Qur’anic stories have lessons, many scientific, for those who understand.
Intellect is correlated with signs and with knowledge. Failure to use the intellect and blind following are condemned. Knowledge
is supreme. The Qur’an removes blind following. Human knowledge is limited. Knowledge is acquired by study. Humans were
ordained to read. Knowledge by itself is not useful unless it is associated with work. The Qur’an has used the term
fiqh to refer to understanding which is deeper than knowing. The Qur’an puts emphasis on thinking. Thinking is
based on empirical observation.The Qur’an emphasizes freedom of thought in the form of freedom of belief. Innovations
in religion are prohibited but creativity is encouraged.
3.2 Descriptive knowledge
The Qur’an described mountains, the barrier between two oceans, metal, the wind, plants, the sky, honey,
and water. It described the motion of the earth, the boats, the sun, the moon, the water, and of the wind. It described processes
such as making of iron, armor, dams, and boats. It described the creation of the human from dust. It describes the constant
laws of nature, sunan al laah fi al kawn. The laws are fixed and stable and operate in various situations. Order is
a law of nature.
3.3 Analytic knowledge
The Qur’an calls for evidence. It rejects false evidence and condemns non evidence-based knowledge such as
sorcery, consulting fortune tellers, speculation or conjecture. Human thought is a tool and not an end in itself. It operates
on the basis of empirical observations and revelation, both objective sources of information, Thought that is not based on
an empirical basis or revelation is speculative and leads to wrong conclusions. The Qur’an calls for objectivity. It
condemns following subjective feelings and turning away from the truth. Reliance is on observation and not speculation. The
Qur’an calls upon humans to observe Allah’s signs in the universe and in humans. The Qur’an however made
it clear that human senses have limitations. In many prohibitions the Qur’an provides logical reasons. The use of similitude,
tashbiih, of two things and phenomena is seen several verses. The Qur’an also employed many examples, mithl,
to illustrate concepts. Prudence in reaching conclusions is emphasized.
3.4 Etiquette of discourse
can be for finding out information. The opposing opinion should be respected. Differences on scientific matters can arise
and are natural. Discussion and exchange of views is a necessity for humans. Discussion has its own etiquette. Truth must
be revealed. Contradictions must be avoided. Arrogance is condemned. The following are attributes of good discussion: objectivity,
truthfulness, asking for evidence, and knowledge. Purposeless disputation is frowned upon.False premises should be abandoned once discovered Fear of people should be no reason for not revealing the truth.
Deception is condemned. The truth of any assertion must be checked. Yaqeen is the basis of ‘ilm but dhann