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PLENARY: SHAPING MUSLIM SCHOLARS FOR THE WORLD TAN SRI PROFESSOR DR. MOHD KAMAL HASSAN
1. Introduction: The World in Agony
I wish to express, first and foremost, my heartfelt gratitude to the organisers of this international conference for inviting me to deliver a paper on the subject of “Shaping Muslim Scholars for the World”. It is my presumption that the academic leadership of PERMATA Pintar educational system which came up with this topic may be quite concerned about the future role of its Muslim students in bringing about the necessary cultural and societal changes that would lead, in the long run, to significant civilizational reconstructions in light of the serious civilizational crisis our world has been through in the last several decades. As a Muslim academic who has been involved in the educational process of moulding Muslim students and young scholars to become good transformational leaders in their respective countries for the last four decades, I am absolutely convinced that such concerns are highly justified and timely, given the state of political turmoil and ethical corruption in many Muslim countries today. In this paper, I will share with you some thoughts on the kind of Muslim scholars we need to produce from the perspective of the Islamic worldview and epistemology in the context of contemporary civilizational crisis. Several concerned Western thinkers, scholars and intellectuals have expressed their concern pertaining to the contemporary ethical and civilisational crisis, particularly after the global economic crisis of 2007-2008 and the huge financial scandals before and after that period. Suffice it if I were to quote a couple of those intellectual concerns expressed in the following words: “At the start of the 21st century, humankind finds itself on a non-sustainable course – a course that, unless it is changed, could lead to grand-scale catastrophes….We are travelling at breakneck speed into an age of extremes – extremes in wealth and poverty, extremes in technology and the experiments that scientists want to perform, extreme forces of globalism, weapons of mass destruction and terrorists acting in the name of religion….A drastic change is needed in the first half of the 21st century to set the stage for extraordinary events in the rest of the century” This is the opening statement by James Martin (2006: 3-4), a leading international authority in computing and author of The Meaning of the 21st Century: A Vital Blueprint for Ensuring Our 104
PROCEEDINGS FROM PERMATA INSAN Future, who founded in 2005 the James Martin 21st Century School at Oxford University, thus linking many institutes and academics around the world who are concerned with the future of the planet. But back in September 4,1993, at the Parliament of the World's Religions, held in Chicago, the “Declaration of a Global Ethic” authored by Hans Küng, the renown Catholic theologian, declared in no uncertain terms that; “The world is in agony. The agony is so pervasive and urgent that we are compelled to name its manifestations so that the depth of this pain may be made clear. Peace eludes us...the planet is being destroyed...neighbours live in fear...women and men are estranged from each other...children die! This is abhorrent! We condemn the abuses of Earth's ecosystems. We condemn the poverty that stifles life's potential; the hunger that weakens the human body; the economic disparities that threaten so many families with ruin. We condemn the social disarray of the nations; the disregard for justice which pushes citizens to the margin; the anarchy overtaking our communities; and the insane death of children from violence. In particular, we condemn
(http://www.religioustolerance.org/parliame.htm. Accessed 26th May 2016) Today the global environmental crisis has reached an alarming stage. It is becoming clearer by day that Planet Earth is under the threat of global warming and climate change as a result of man-made problems. To Naomi Klein, “the really inconvenient truth is that it is not about carbon – it is about capitalism…. [T]he most profound threat humanity has ever faced [is] the war our economic model is waging against life on earth.” (Naomi Klein 2014, back flap). The world is indeed in distress and deep crisis on many facets of contemporary civilisation, a civilisation that prides itself, and excels above all, first in marvellous scientific and technological advancements and sophistications, and second in constructing socio-political and socio-economic systems without any theocentric moral-spiritual foundation. Grounded in the rationalist and secularist worldview of the European Enlightenment, the construction of modern civilisation depended upon secularised and absolutised reason as the sole guide for human development and progress. In this regard, what Hans Küng writes in the epilogue of his voluminous work is most illuminating: “The price that the West had to pay for the […] epoch-making change in values and norms […] of late-modernity […] was a high one: the other spheres of life were left with no religions and indeed largely also with no moral basis and ultimate horizon of meaning. […] From this follows a deep crisis of orientation and […] desperate search for meaning, criteria and a shared basis for values. Like absolutized faith, so too absolutized reason can set free destructive energies, with devastating effects […]. If many Muslims are showing themselves dissatisfied […] with Western-technological 105
PROCEEDINGS FROM PERMATA INSAN modernization and are returning to the tradition of their religion, it is because of such anxieties […]. Here is a new task for Muslims and Christians together” (Hans Küng 2009, 649-650) The dominant influence and impact of secularized and absolutized rationality which separates science and technology, development, progress and modernity from ethics and spirituality, is in our mind, one of the main reasons for the world being “in agony”. “Never,” says Hans Küng in his Declaration of Global Ethic, “has there been such a need for a mechanism to counter global distress.” In our view the global distress is a manifestation of the failure of secular modernity, and as a Muslim academic, we are of the view that part of the malaise of the Muslim world -- the political turbulence, the intra-religious sectarian violence and turmoil, the rampant corruption and abuse of power in the public and private sectors, the forced migration of millions of Palestinians, Iraqis, Syrians, Kurds and North Africans, the shameful widening chasm between the small but powerful and affluent elites and the abject poverty of the downtrodden and miserable masses in Asia and Africa, and the terrible mess it is in -- is due to the failure of Muslim leadership to construct truly just, equitable, balanced, integrated and holistic models of human development and civilisation. The Muslim world, together with the rest of our troubled world and the endangered Planet Earth, are obviously in dire need of fundamental reforms and transformations on several fronts. The systemic and civilisational crises that we are in requires a new kind of intellectual, political, economic, social, cultural and moral leadership that is capable of working together across the religious, national and ethnic divides toward restoring the harmony of human reason with Divine guidance and transcendent wisdom, the integration of science and technology with religious ethics, and the reunification of material progress with spiritual and ethical principles and norms. The educational system is obviously the most important key to the solutions of civilizational problems.
For Muslim countries, it is imperative that educational reforms initiated by the ministries of education or schools go beyond embracing the so-called “21st Century Learning Skills” with their focus on creativity, critical thinking, collaboration, communication, innovation, problem solving, leadership, etc. (www.p21.org/our-work/p21-framework. Accessed 26th May 2016). Those skills are undoubtedly useful and relevant for a highly competitive world economy, but from the Qur’anic perspective, the spiritual anchor and moral compass of the students’, the scholars’ and the leaders’ personality and character are the most crucial factors for the proper development of human beings as the Servants and Vicegerents of the Creator, Master and
PROCEEDINGS FROM PERMATA INSAN Sustainer of the universe. Therefore, the spiritual-moral consciousness or intelligence needs to be restored to their rightful places in the scale of priorities, reintegrated with all the knowledge and skills of the world, and continuously reinforced. This implies, among other things, that the process of moulding, training, educating, assessing and guiding Muslim students and scholars in the remaining decades of the 21st Century must consciously avoid being dependent or subservient to the dominant secularised educational models in the modern world which has been producing “Excellence without a Soul”, that Harry Lewis refers to in his trenchant critique of Harvard’s undergraduate education (Harry R. Lewis 2006). We ought to learn, however, all the useful and successfully proven techniques or methods of educating and training the younger generation to assume the leadership of the future, from the West or from the East, as long as they are in harmony with the Quranic worldview, principles and norms.
2. Muslim Scholars: The New Breed as Products of the Qur’anic Model of Integrated and Holistic Scholars
In the Muslim world, several international and national conferences which have been held since the First World Conference on Muslim Education in Mecca in 1977 underscored the necessity of removing the disastrous dichotomy separating the two major branches of knowledge – A) Sciences of Religion (`uluum al-deen) known variously as “Revealed Knowledge” (`ilm al-wahy), “Islamic studies” (al-diraasaat al-islaamiyyah), “Transmitted Sciences” (`uluum naqliyyah), “Shar’i sciences” (`uluum shar`iyyah), “Religious Sciences” (`uluum diniyyah), “Islamic Sciences” (`uluum islaamiyyah) or Islamic Religious Knowledge, which are obligatory (fard ‘ain) upon every Muslim to know, and B) the Sciences of the World (`uluum al-dunya) also known as Acquired Knowledge Disciplines (‘uluum muktasabah) or Intellectual Sciences (`uluum `aqliyyah). Islamic religious sciences or disciplines dealing with the subjects of Islamic theology, law, ethics, spirituality are derived from Divine revelation contained in the al-Qur’an and the Prophetic Tradition, while the acquired human knowledge in the form of natural or physical sciences, medical sciences, applied sciences, professional sciences, social sciences and humanities are derived from studying the physical universe, the world of nature, human society and life by means of sense perception, reasoning, logical thinking, experience, and empirical observation. In the worldview of the Qur’an and Islamic epistemology, the study of the latter sciences ought to be based on faith in Tawheed (the creed of Islamic monotheism) and in harmony with the principles, values and norms of Islam, because they are the Servants’ efforts to understand the diverse Signs of the Compassionate 107
PROCEEDINGS FROM PERMATA INSAN Master, to utilise those God-given bounties in the universe and nature in the context of serving Him, not forgetting to be grateful to Him for all the bounties, and looking forward to the eternal life of true happiness, success and felicity in the Hereafter.
The reintegration of the two branches of knowledge which were completely divorced during the colonial and post-colonial secular educational systems would have positive results for both branches and would be instrumental in producing the new breed of Muslim scholars. The religious sciences would be enriched, enlivened and become dynamic by being linked or connected to several aspects or disciplines of the worldly sciences, and thus made relevant to contemporary societal needs, issues and challenges. This process of innovative and creative “relevantisation” is in fact necessitated by the religious spirit of reform (islaah), renewal (tajdeed), and revitalisation (ihyaa’) of the sciences of religion. On the other hand, the sciences and the humanities of the world as products of secular, agnostic or atheistic worldviews would become more useful and more relevant to the needs and problems of Muslim societies after undergoing the processes of desecularisation, decolonisation, indigenisation, reorientation, remoulding, or revision – where necessary – according to the worldview, epistemology and ethics of Islam. It should be mentioned that both processes of “relevantisation” of the sciences of religion and “Islamicisation” or “Tawheedisation” of the sciences and humanities of the world are ongoing pursuits of the agenda of Islamic educational reform in this post-colonial, post-modern and globalisation era. It is from this ongoing reformist, integrative and transformative intellectual agenda of the Muslim Community (Ummah) that we expect to produce the most desirable qualities of the Muslim scholar who are intellectually and spiritually equipped to address the ills and the agony of the contemporary civilisation.
By “Muslim scholars” we mean those educated individuals or persons who profess the religion of Islam, are knowledgeable in fields of knowledge, expertise or skills pertaining to this-worldly life (al-dunya) and/or religious matters (al-deen). In order for human beings to fulfil their dual but intertwined roles as the Servants (`ibaad) of Allah Most Gracious and as the Custodians, Vicegerents, Inheritors of the earth (khalaaif al-ardh), they need to apply both the sciences of religion and the sciences of the world. Hence the importance of adopting the paradigm of unity of knowledge and the non-polarity of Divine revelation and human reason in the worldview of the Qur’an. It is important to note that the Qur’an emphasises the obligation for human beings to use the God-given intellect (`aql) as His gift and trust, to read and understand the “Two Books” of knowledge, in order to function optimally as His Obedient Servants and competent 108
PROCEEDINGS FROM PERMATA INSAN Vicegerents by studying the Qur’an as well as studying His “Signs” (aayaat) – in physical, material, natural and human dimensions -- as manifested in the universe, nature, man and life. The persons who have reached the necessary level of knowledge, understanding, and consciousness coupled with the right spiritual attitude and moral characteristics are called “`ulamaa’”(Q. 35:28)(“such as are endowed with knowledge”/”those who have knowledge”/ “those who know”/), “`aalimuun”(Q. 29:43) (“people who are endowed with knowledge”/ “those of knowledge”), alladheena uutu al-`ilm” (Q. 16:27) (’those who were endowed with knowledge”/ “those who have been given knowledge”), ulu al-`ilm (Q. 3:18) (“those who were endowed with knowledge”/ “people possessed of knowledge”/”those who are endowed with knowledge”. The context in which the word “`ulamaa’” is used is very significant: “Are you not aware that Allah sends down water from the skies, whereby We bring forth fruits of many colours – just as in the mountains there are streaks of white and red of various shades, as well as (others) very black. And among human beings too, and beasts and cattle, diverse are their colours. It is only those who have knowledge from among His Servants that stand truly in awe of Allah, (for they alone comprehend that) verily, Allah is almighty, much-forgiving)” (Q. Fatir 35:27-28) In these two verses, “those who have knowledge” (al-`ulamaa’), as understood from the immediate context, would have expert understanding or knowledge of natural sciences including chemistry, physics, botany, agriculture, earth sciences, geology, and anthropology. In their study of the natural phenomena and pursuit of expert knowledge in the natural or human sciences, they come into direct contact with the physical and tangible Signs of God’s power, knowledge, wisdom, will and purpose. Their faith in God is reinforced thereby and the more they are exposed to the marvellous diversities in nature and in man, the more they feel overwhelmed by the Creator’s and Sustainer’s presence, purpose and will. These scholars know how to “read” the natural phenomena deeply – they are the ones who truly fear, and have the awe of, God because the complexities, intricacies and systematic order in the cosmos could not be comprehended except by those who are truly knowledgeable of this Open Book of God. Their knowledge of God’s attributes as manifested in the diversities and complexities of the natural and human phenomena makes them most conscious of God’s omnipresence and omnipotence, making them most fearful of His displeasure or punishment, in case they misuse their knowledge or act in any way contrary to the will of their Compassionate and Omniscient Master and Maker. This interpretation becomes all the more persuasive when the above verses are compared with many other verses of the Qur’an which refer to various aspects of the natural phenomena, including the human body, as representing
PROCEEDINGS FROM PERMATA INSAN the signs of the One True God. One verse that is addressed to “the people who use their reason” in the proper way is as follows: “Verily, in the creation of the heavens and of the earth, and in the succession of night and day; and in the ships that speed through the sea with what is useful to man; and in the waters which Allah sends down from the sky, giving life thereby to the earth after it had been lifeless, and causing all manner of living creatures to multiply thereon; and in the change of the winds, and the clouds that run their appointed courses between sky and earth: in all these there are signs indeed for people who use their reason (qawm ya‘qiluun)” (Q. 2: 164)
Verses of this nature have convinced several Muslim scholars since the last century that the cosmos and nature constituted another “Book” of Allah (S.W.T.) that has to be studied by human beings using their God-given intellect to derive useful scientific, technological and other worldly knowledge which are necessary for the Servants and Vicegerents of God to play the active civilisational role on earth. At the same time, they seek guidance from the Book of Divine revelation as represented by the Divine scriptures which culminated in the Qur’an. Thus, the most desirable form of Muslim education is one which combines the “readings of the two books” (al-jam ‘bain al-qiraatain): the “Open Book” of nature and the “The Written Book” namely the Qur’an. Scholars of this category belong to what the Qur’an calls the “Ulu’l Albaab”, people who use their intellects in the way that God wanted it to be used, i.e. in harmony with faith in God and His revelation, with their functions as His Servants and Vicegerents, and with the ethics of God-fearing people of knowledge.
3. Emulating and Institutionalising the Ulu’l Albaab Integrative Model
The term Ulu’l Albaab (UA) is used sixteen times in the Qur’an as a favourable metaphor of the integrated mind and personality of the true believer, whose intellect, knowledge and skills are utilized in accordance with revealed Divine guidance and norms. The word albaab in Arabic is the plural of lubb which means ‘aql (intellect or reason) or the purest and best part of any substance. The expression reflects the great honour (al-sharaf al- ‘azeem) and high
PROCEEDINGS FROM PERMATA INSAN esteem (al-martabah al- ‘aaliyah) conferred by God upon those who use their intellects in a sound manner. The most frequently quoted verse which refers to the UA is the following: “Verily, in the creation of the heavens and the earth, and in the succession of night and day, there are indeed signs for the Ulu’l Albaab, who remember Allah when they stand, and when they sit, and when they lie down to sleep, and thus reflect on the creation of the heavens and the earth: ‘O our Sustainer! You have not created all this without meaning and purpose. Limitless are You in Your Glory! Keep us safe, then from suffering in Hell!” (Q. 3: 190-191)
The well-known commentator of the Qur’an, Ibn Kathir, explains in his Tafseer al-Qur’an alKareem the meaning of albaab as “pure and consummate intellects (al- ‘uquul al-tammah alzakiyyah) which comprehend things and their realities in the clearest way”) (www. alislam.com/Tafseer, acc. 14 October 2009).
He elaborates that “those who understand,
reason, and ponder over the meanings of things in their true nature are only those who possess sound intellects and correct understandings (www. altafsir.com/Tafseer, acc. 21 October 2009). Al-Alusi says in his Tafsir Ruuh al-Ma‘aani that UA are “those who possess unadulterated intellects (al-‘uquul al-khaaliyah) which are freed from any kinds of blemished sentiments or imaginations” (www.altafsir.com. , acc. 21 October 2009), while Al-Shawkaani defines UA as “those who have sound intellects which are freed from defects of deficiency” (al-‘uquul al-saheehah al-khaaliyah ‘an shawa‘ib al-naqs).
In short, the UA are Muslim
scholars who think, investigate or analyse issues with intellects which are freed from elements of disbelief, polytheism, egocentrism, influence of base desires, emotional biases or negative emotions. However, the intellect that is thus uncontaminated, as in the minds of the UA, is ever in need of Qur’anic piety (taqwaa) – the deep spiritual consciousness of the omnipresence and omnipotence of God such that the scholar is always mindful lest any of his/her actions, thoughts, ideas, theories, products or behaviour would incur His displeasure or wrath. It is this spirit of taqwaa, in the worldview of the Qur’an, that will lead the scholars to the attainment of true felicity (al-falaah), real success and wellbeing in this world and in the Hereafter).
It is clear that the verses of Q. 3:190-191 referred to above reflect the theocentric and spiritual attributes of the UA. They show that the uncontaminated mind or intellect a la UA integrates in a harmonious way the attitude of dhikru’Llaah (remembrance of Allah) which is present in the process of tafakkur – the kind of deep thinking or contemplation or analytical activities -of the people of sound reasoning. This concept of contemplative or analytical thinking that 111
PROCEEDINGS FROM PERMATA INSAN tafakkur represents, includes the activity of painstaking observation, academic research, scientific investigation and empirical analysis of the secrets of nature in the heavens, the earth and in human lives. The deep study and analysis of the workings and intricacies of the world of nature and of human behaviour together with faith in the One Creator and Sustainer lead the sincere and humble intellects to the awareness of the ultimate End and the continuity of human life in the eternal abode of the Hereafter. This implies that believing scholars of natural or social sciences and humanities who are imbued with the spiritual-moral consciousness of taqwaa is aware that if they were to misuse their expert knowledge, or if they were negligent, ungrateful to the Creator, or strive with the blessings they obtained from their mastery of natural resources or their knowledge of the social-human sciences to cause injustice, suffering, oppression, imbalances and to dominate over others -- to perpetuate their economic or political hegemony over weaker or poorer people -- they would surely meet the wrath of their Master in the Hereafter, and that would be the height of ignominy and shame (khizy) for these intellectual and intelligent Servants of God the Most Gracious Most Compassionate.
The mind of the UA scholars, being fully integrated and uncontaminated, is most capable of integrating the knowledge acquired from the scientific study of the natural or social phenomena with the values, wisdom and norms acquired through Divine revelation. The Muslim scholar par excellence then is not to be evaluated based purely on his or her field of specialization – religious or worldly – but more importantly on the dominant attitude of his/her personality visa-vis the Sustainer, i.e. on what the Qur’an calls khashyatu’Llaah (the profound awe of God’s omnipotence and fear of His displeasure).
Taqwaa and khashyatu’Llaah then constitute the necessary spiritual ingredients in the formation of the mind of Islamic intellectuals, leaders, scholars, professionals as well as the ordinary believers. It should be reiterated that in the Islamic worldview, the principle of taqwaa is the common spiritual core value in the proper development of the life of the individual, family, institutions, community, nation, and civilization. (Q. 5:100, 10:65).
intellectuals and professionals in this “Age of Turbulence” (Alan Greenspan 2007), agonising world, global crises and rampant corruption are, in my humble opinion, in greater need of taqwaa and khashyatu’Llaah than ever before.
PROCEEDINGS FROM PERMATA INSAN 4. Educational Implications of The Integrated Approach
When we look back to the glorious period of Islamic civilization, we find the Muslim scientists, physicists, astronomers, engineers, architects, chemists and mathematicians from Baghdad to Spain in the West and to Central Asia and India in the East were well-known for their scientific studies and discoveries of the secrets of nature and the human body, but unlike the secular-minded scientists or social scientist of the modern era, they were people who were staunch believers in the Tawheedic worldview of the Qur’an.
They worked within the
Tawheedic paradigm which integrated the sciences of religion with the sciences of the world. Many of them could be considered the embodiments of the intellectual and educational model of UA lauded in the Qur’an. Today the new generation of Muslim scientists and intellectuals, in both the natural sciences and social sciences could also represent the model of UA if they decide to pursue, develop, construct and disseminate their scientific or intellectual products based on the epistemology of Tawheed and the axiology of true believers. The Muslim religious scholars and intellectuals, on their part, could appreciate more profoundly the Divine knowledge and wisdom embedded in the cosmos, nature, society and the human body through the disciplines of biology, anatomy, astronomy, physics, mathematics, medicine, etc. Informed and illuminated by some degree of familiarity -- if not proper grounding -- in modern scientific knowledge, minus the biases of secularism, materialism, agnosticism, atheism or naturalism, the Muslim religious teachers, scholars and leaders of today would have a far more positive impact on moral and religious education of the younger generation of Muslims as well as the educated classes. To be able to harmoniously blend the understanding of the “Two Books” of Allah, requires, however, the holistic development of the human personality which integrates the physical, rational, emotional, spiritual and intuitive faculties of the human self in accordance with the first principles of the unity of God, the unity of the human self and the unity of knowledge. In the world, today, Muslim communities have been and are being exposed to at least four major systems of education: 1. The completely secular system as in many non-Muslim countries, where only the natural sciences, the social sciences and the humanities are taught, to the exclusion of religion. 2. The predominantly religious educational system where a few subjects of worldly knowledge are taught, but they are a small part of the curriculum and are taught without any reference to religion or metaphysical perspectives.
PROCEEDINGS FROM PERMATA INSAN 3. The predominantly worldly educational system where some aspects of religious knowledge are taught, but they are also isolated, marginalized or compartmentalized, as if religious knowledge has no relevance to the knowledge of the world of nature, society or culture. 4. The system which offers both the religious and the worldly sciences, but they only coexist; there is no real interpenetration or interconnectivity between the two spheres of knowledge. Religious knowledge is therefore not enriched by or made relevant to worldly knowledge, or reformed to be kept abreast with contemporary changes, while the worldly knowledge is not constructed to be in harmony with the worldview of Tawheed.
The fourth system comes closest to the fully integrated model of education – the fifth system -- in which the two streams are brought into meaningful and dynamic interaction and symbiosis with one another to enrich and complement each other and produce at the end of the educational process: A) the religiously informed and God-fearing natural scientist, engineers, doctors and social scientists on the one hand, and B) the scientifically informed religious knowledge specialists who understand the contemporary realities and changes, and know how those changes impinge on moral, ethical, theological and spiritual values and norms. This system will be able to produce the so-called “intellectual-ulama’” and the “ulama’-intellectual” as they say in Indonesia. With all the serious moral and environmental crises threatening the sustainability of contemporary civilization, we believe that the Muslim community urgently needs experts in natural and applied sciences or technology and social scientists who are at the same time possessing deep faith, high moral integrity and taqwaa, as well as the experts in religious disciplines who are also knowledgeable in some branches or aspects of scientific or professional knowledge. Further studies and research into the contemporary significance and applicability of the UA model of integrated knowledge and education are required to enhance the collective transnational efforts among Muslims to produce more institutions, groups and individuals imbued with the worldview, mindset, attitudes and habits of the Ulu’l Albaab as the best model of educational and intellectual excellence.
We feel very strongly that it is essential for Muslim communities all over the world to regain the leadership in promoting scientific knowledge and technological innovation that Islamic
PROCEEDINGS FROM PERMATA INSAN civilization once held sway for almost a thousand years before being dominated by Western imperialism and colonialism from the 16th century onwards.
In Malaysia, the government has reiterated its plan to have, by the year 2020, sixty per cent (as compared to thirty seven percent currently) of the students in schools and universities of the country enrolled in the natural/physical science stream, the other forty percent to be in the arts, social sciences, humanities and Islamic religious sciences. It is note-worthy that the Muslim leaders and decision makers in the ministry of education have been planning to increase the number of special secondary schools which combine the natural science subjects with Islamic religious knowledge to produce more integrated and holistic Muslim professionals in the near future.
We share the view that Muslim nations and communities are obliged to gain mastery of the “hard sciences” and technology so that Muslim countries can develop their own God-given potentials and human capital to become economically and politically self-reliant, more productive, less dependent upon, and less indebted to, the technologically advanced nations for their material and physical wellbeing. To be sure, Muslim countries and societies which had been under the dominion of Western colonialism cannot continue to become perpetual consumers of Western or Eastern technology or products, nor subservient dependents upon the economic generosity of the powerful globalising nations to further expand their hegemony or national interests at the expense of the less powerful or less technologically advanced nations of the South, which include the Muslim countries. However, the need to gain mastery of “the sciences of the world” (`ulum al-dunya) should not be just for the purpose of gaining Muslim economic or technological independence and progress; it is an educational means to know the One True God, to appreciate all His bounties in nature, and to serve His cause, including the fulfilment of the “higher objectives of the Divine Way” (maqaasid al-sharee`ah) – preservation and sustainability of religion, life, intellect, property, progeny, rights, environment, etc.
It is our hope as well that the Muslim younger generation and youth who are going to be future scholars, who would then be among the future leaders of Muslim nations, would be more motivated to pursue the study of natural, physical and professional sciences not just by invoking their patriotic, ethnic or national sentiments or career prospects – all of which are undoubtedly important -- but by awakening a deeper and more profound spiritual consciousness in their hearts. This is the taqwaa-based consciousness that; a) the study of the natural phenomena and unveiling the secrets of the physical universe is an essential part of the mission of “the Servants of Allah the Most Gracious” in worshipping the Compassionate 115
PROCEEDINGS FROM PERMATA INSAN Creator and “Sustainer of all the world” (Rabb al-`Alamin); b) they belong to a universal community (Ummah) destined by their Creator to be “the best community brought forth for mankind” (khair ummah ukhrijat li al-nas) (Q. Surah Al `Imran 3: 110); c) that this divinely constructed
universal Community is a Justly Balanced Community (Ummah Wasat)
mandated by the Almighty God “to be an exemplary witness for all people” (Q. Surah alBaqarah 2: 143) and; d) that they are the heirs of a great flourishing civilization that once dominated Spain (Al-Andalus), North Africa and West Asia for about eight hundred years, and provided the intellectual and cultural foundations for the emergence of the Renaissance in Europe in the Middle Ages. Young Muslim students in the natural sciences, social sciences and humanities need to be well informed of how the rich scientific and technological tradition in Islamic civilization was based on the theocentric worldview of the Qur’an, and as such it did not experience, nor led to, the kind of moral, intellectual and environmental crises faced by the modern secular civilization in which the natural sciences and professional disciplines were based on secularist, naturalist or empiricist worldviews and philosophical assumptions.
Therefore, while Muslim educationists support Muslim government efforts to increase the number of Muslim students in the natural science stream in the coming years and the international plea for the percentage of budget allocations for science and technology research to be increased – the reports of the Millennium Development Goals of the United Nations show the embarrassingly low commitment of the Muslim countries’ budget to the development of science and technology – they should not adopt the uncritical attitude towards secularist, materialist, agnostic or naturalist philosophical framework of the natural or social sciences and humanities. They should voice strong objections, in United Nations international conferences, to the unethical exploitation of modern science, the subservience or misuse of science and technology for selfish commercial or nationalistic economic interests, which have contributed to the grave and alarming environmental crisis the planet Earth is currently undergoing.
We, on our part, share the views of concerned non-Muslim intellectuals and scientists of the South regarding the role and contribution of scientists and scientific experts to the strengthening of the lucrative weapon industries serving as instruments of political or economic subjugation by the rich nations over the Third World, in this era of globalization, turmoil and uncertainties. It is our considered view that if scientists, technologists, technocrats and scientific organisations, institutions including universities, were to continue to view nature and the human-social phenomena
from a naturalist, positivist, rationalist materialist, 116
PROCEEDINGS FROM PERMATA INSAN empiricist, modernist, agnostic or atheistic philosophical presuppositions – which are different branches of the main trunk of the secular worldview in the world today – then our world would continue to be hostage to the multiple crises of post-modern globalising civilization based on absolutized reason or agnosticism.
As Muslim academics, we are agreeable to, and appreciative of, theistic, transcendent, or metaphysical worldviews or philosophical underpinnings of non-Muslim scholarship which share the vision of Reality, Existence and Life that possesses a Transcendent dimension, moral order and Divine purpose. As Muslim scholars, our scientists and professionals should be able to work together with Occidental or Oriental scientists or scholars of the natural and human-social phenomena who acknowledge that the reality of life and existence is much more than the totality of material or physical substances, properties or behaviours being observed or analysed by empirical, rationalist or mechanistic scientific method. We look forward from Occidental or Oriental societies to a more holistic, sustainable and ethical paradigm of developing science and technology, social sciences and humanities that combine the physical dimensions of reality with the ethical and spiritual dimensions, to work together for the future wellbeing of our embattled planet and all its inhabitants, both human and non-human. For us Muslim academics, such integrative perspective and model is already present in and provided for by the Qur’an and, therefore, it is more than high time that objective scientific minds and serious scholars, especially Muslim scientists and professionals at home and abroad, as well as the budding Muslim scholars that the PERMATA educational institutions are producing undertake the much needed paradigm shift in the study of natural sciences, applied sciences, professional sciences, social sciences, arts and humanities.
We would like to end by quoting from The Prince of Wales’ speech entitled “Islam and the Environment” which he delivered at Sheldonian Theatre, Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies in 2010. His speech is a profound critique of the secular, materialist and empiricist worldview of the modern West which, in his opinion, has caused severe environmental crisis in the world today: “When we hear talk of an “environmental crisis” or even of a “financial crisis,” I would suggest that this is actually describing the outward consequences of a deep, inner crisis of the soul. It is a crisis in our relationship with – and our perception of – nature, and it is born of western culture being dominated for at least two hundred years by a
PROCEEDINGS FROM PERMATA INSAN mechanistic and reductionist approach to our scientific understanding of the world around us…. The utter dominance of the mechanistic approach of science over everything else, including religion, has “de-souled” the dominant world view, and that includes our perception of Nature. As soul is elbowed out of the picture, our deeper link with the natural world is severed. Our sense of the spiritual relationship between humanity, the Earth and her great diversity of life has become dim. The entire emphasis is all on the mechanical process of increasing growth in the economy, of making every process more “efficient” and achieving as much convenience as possible” (http://www.princeofwales.gov.uk/media/speeches/speech-hrh-the-prince-of-walestitled-islam-and-the-environment-sheldonian-theatre. Retrieved on September 10, 2014)
References Al-Alusi, Tafsir Ruuh al-Ma ‘aani. http://www.altafsir.com. Charles, Prince (2010). “Islam and the Environment.”
prince-of-wales-titled-islam-and-the-environment-sheldonian-theatre “Declaration of Global Ethic” (1993). http://www.religioustolerance.org/parliame.htm. Greenspan, Alan (2008). The Age of Turbulence. New York: Penguin Books. Ibn Kathir, Tafseer al-Qur’an al-Kareem. http://www. al-islam.com/tafseer, Klein, Naomi (2014). This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs The Climate. New York: Simon & Schuster. Küng, Hans (2009) (John Bowden, trans.), Islam: Past, Present & Future. Oxford:
World. Lewis, R. Harry. (2006) Excellence Without a Soul: How a Great University Forgot Education. USA: Public Affair. Martin, James (2006). The Meaning of the 21st Century: A Vital Blueprint for Ensuring Our Future. New York: Riverhead Books.