Wednesday, April 02, 2008

To Islamize and beyond!!!

Book Review
Islamization of Knowledge: General Principles and Work Plan by International Institute of Islamic Thought, Herndon, Virginia, U.S.A, edited by Dr. Abdul Hamid Abu Sulayman, Second Edition, Revised and Expanded, 1409AH/1989AC, 126 pp.

It should be much appreciated, that the IIIT had published a book entitled Islamization of Knowledge: General Principles and Work Plan. This book was written by Dr Ismail Raji al-Faruqi after the working agenda of the Third International Conference on the subject Islamization of Knowledge.
Based on the overall view of the book, one could not but to submit gratitude to those involved in the publication of this book. Starting from the contents, one can clearly detect the carefully choreographed structure of the book as a result of professionalism in intellectual discourse. The chapters itself were warily arranged in accordance to its priorities. As an introduction to establish unwavering commitment of readers, the first chapter embarks on a journey to outline the problems of the Muslim society. The historical background, so as the main threats instead of merely its side-effects are also mentioned. After readers have understood the present state of the Islamic society and its contributors, the second chapter begins to establish the solution to which all of the threats could be treated, even not as a whole, properly. What follows afterwards is two chapters back to back on the very fundamentals of Islam. It would be like other Islamic essentials books if these two chapters are to be mentioned earlier. But the main agenda is to attract scholars of Muslim society to accomplish the Revealed objectives. So it is a job well done to organize it as such. The fifth and the sixth chapters are actually a little confusing in terms of priorities. Therefore I would put fifth the chapter of which the concept and work plan of Islamization is discussed instead of the Agenda of the Institute for it is the cause of the Institute that attracts participation of desired members. However looking back at the detail points under the fifth chapter ‘Agenda of the Institute’, it would support my previous point of view regarding the cause of the Institute. Finally, to sum it all up, it ends with the seventh chapter ‘Financial Requirements’ where possible financial back-up was to be identified.
In accordance with this second edition version of the previous revised and expanded script, it may not look like there is any difference between the two versions. Or rather it can’t be looked like there is any difference between both. But the fact that the book was revised and expanded in a period of just a year proved that the professionalism of those who directly involved in the Islamization project is unquestionable. That it is beyond anticipation to know that the force at work behind the Divine project is of steadfast determination.
We then look upon the third and fourth chapter of the book. Upon which we are debriefed of the fundamentals of Islamic doctrines. Concise as it may seem, yet these pair of chapters actually summarizes the basic Islamic belief of which is necessary in order to nurture a well-balanced devoted Muslim brainpower. Emphasizing on the five essential first principles of Islamic methodology, these chapters bring about a comprehensive synopsis of what makes a Muslim, a true Muslim.

Unfortunately, aside from the abovementioned list of plus points, one can still be confused at certain point to the extent of skipping it unwillingly. For instance, from the aspect of its language proficiency. Concerning the fact that the book is intended to higher level of education group, the vocabulary is somewhat encyclopedic that an average Muslim student would find it difficult to comprehend such large scale type of masterpiece. Or maybe we can say that the book was targeted to the American Muslim society where the root of the malaise of the Ummah originated. But then again, one cannot deny the role of lesser Islamic intellectuals, that there are far more large number of Muslim students that are not up to the advance-language challenge, but possessed equal, or even greater, scope of initiatives, determination and creativity. For the process of Islamization requires every stage of Muslim society’s contribution to make sure of its accomplishment. Truth be told, the book must be read at the very least more than a couple of time to understand its message completely.
Besides that, it has come to one’s concern that even though the book title and message are of the Islamization process, to relate contemporary knowledge to Divine Revelation, it does not emphasize on the methodology of Islamic tradition of knowledge. Little is used of the culture of Islamic methodology of supporting statements or reasoning with revelations. Except in the chapter that has direct connection with Islamic doctrines, other chapters seem to be cut off from the all-inclusive source of Islamic knowledge. This consequently proves several hypotheses;
The author is unconsciously projecting the image of dualism in his work. Clearly published in the book where we can see two different kind of situation. First is the situation where the range of discussion evolved around the subject of occupying contemporary knowledge, such as social analysis, psychological assessment, history background check and so on. In this situation the author has so little initiative to resort to traditional Islamic methodology to support his statement by referring to revelations. The second situation is where the center of discussion is about basic fundamentals of Islamic principles, in other words, the ‘religious’ side of the knowledge, where the author successfully practiced the Islamic core of culture.
One can even go to the extent of saying that the author is not committed with the major task of implanting revelations in every step of man’s actions. Was he aware of the principal message of his work, and to what extent does his awareness affect his very course of professional habit; it is unknown to the readers.
Or even worse, one could raise the factual truth of this matter that the author’s act of leaving behind the Islamic legacy, might prove somewhat of a disbelief that harbors deep inside the author’s mind. Unsure whether the Islamic legacy might actually hold the key to the salvation of the Ummah from submission to the social malaise.

Last but not least, in the sixth chapter, the author has devised a model work plan of which may hold the answer to the big Q of how to Islamize knowledge. He divided his blue print into two stages, which the first of it is the stage of accumulating necessary and essential fundamental knowledge in accordance to his object of research. This stage was then divided into two sub-stage, first is the mastery of modern sciences, and the second one is the mastery of the Islamic legacy.
Unless one has mistakenly understood the message that the author tried to convey, but is it not obvious that this description of stage division contradicted the previous core of argument. In the first chapter the author exclaimed that the real problem of the Ummah lies within the very core of educational system. That the system is taken from an alien source strange to Islamic culture and belief, the whole Ummah is forced to succumb to social disease. But later on the author mentioned first the mastery of modern sciences as superior to the mastery of Islamic legacy, ignoring the fact that the modern sciences are so harmful, it would completely deafen the Islamic conscience from within the young generations. Wouldn’t it be more appropriate to prioritize the Islamic legacy instead of the contemporary sciences of Western culture? Or one could say that Islamic legacy in today’s civilization is less relevant that it should come second after Western education. So unless it be made clear that the order of priority is not emphasized here, even so it is still liable to equip young generations with Islamic legacy rather than favoring the concept of secularism.

In the end, as it is the first of its kind, the high intensity of organized material of this book is somewhat a remarkable fact. It is not fair to blatantly imposed series of argument out of mere discrimination. However, every suggestions and disagreements should be recorded for the sake of intellectual improvement. That goes without saying to all, be it readers, commentators and even the author himself.