Research Paper in Focus

From Streamlining to Mainstreaming “Islamization of Knowledge”

Paper Title: From Streamlining to Mainstreaming “Islamization of Knowledge”

Author:        Sari Hanafi

Publisher:    American Journal of Islam and Society, 38(1-2), 101 -135.

International Islamic University of Malaysia (IIUM) was established according to the visions developed by prominent Islamic scholars Ismail al-Faruqi (Co-founder of the International Institute of Islamic Thought in Virginia [IIIT]), Abdul Hamid Abu Sulayman (Current Chairman of IIIT), and Syed Muhammad Naqib al-Attas (Founder of the International Institute of Islamic Thought & Civilization [ISTAC]), with the aim of linking what they call ‘revelation and heritage’ with social and human sciences.

The author explains that this paper unfolds the passage from a generation of faculty who established the Islamization of Knowledge (IoK) paradigm in order to streamline it, to a new generation that seeks to mainstream it. The aim is to show that this transition has been made possible due to the employment of Maqasid-al-Shari’ah.

Maqasid-al-Shari’ah approach provides conversation at a broader level engaging society in a pluralistic and universal way. There is more agreement on universal morals than on specific teachings of any religion. However, there is need for balance.  The author notes that the greatest challenge for research at IIUM is to transform the meta-religious principle from its philosophical outlook into a more feasible scheme for practical intellectual engagement.

On the other hand, the author highlights that too much repetition dulls the mind and creates boredom, instead of motivating students to engage in further exploration. Therefore, there is need for bilateral exchange of views, discussions and discourses to appreciate the Islamic perspective in an engaging way and to also acknowledge that why it may still not be acceptable to some people. There is need for analytical and engaging dissemination of ideas than mere articulation in legalistic ways.

Two broad aims of academic institutions can be identified, i.e. i) building high quality morally conscious professionals having a clear understanding of Islamic precepts, injunctions and their contemporary applications, and ii) developing and creating new knowledge itself, i.e. Islamization of Knowledge. To achieve the first aim, both curriculum and extra-curricular activities are important.

As far as the first aim is concerned, IIUM has been quite successful through its culture and environment, such as the use of discussion circles (Halqa), religious lectures (Friday sermon) and religious teachings (Recitation of Qur’an and Tahfiz with meaning).

However, as far as the second aim is concerned, it is a long-term project in which multiple generations will be involved. The author rightly illustrates the scholarly views from the physical scientists that what is needed is not a complete overhaul of the specific knowledge of physical sciences, but incorporating the Islamic perspective and consciousness about Islamic worldview.

Physical sciences can help in understanding the cause-effect link in physical dimensions. However, how to benefit from the knowledge of cause-effect link requires a moral and normative perspective wherein religion has an important role to provide values and ethical perspective.

In Islamization of knowledge, social sciences have more need of reform. The knowledge about life and physical sciences does not need a parallel religious explanation of the physical facts. However, when it comes to knowledge about human behaviour, human society and policies to govern and transform human behaviour in society, religious knowledge has much to offer. That is where, there is greater need of integration of knowledge.

In achieving the second aim, another challenge which the author mentioned is the incentive problem. Increasingly, universities in Malaysia have felt financial pressures. Research grants are limited. In winning research grants and promotions, record of publishing in past is important. There are much less number of journals which are welcoming towards integration of knowledge and pluralistic methods of inquiry.

That is why, even within Islamic economics, much of the research is directed towards empirical and statistical analysis of “what is” rather than what “ought to be”. In this regard, it is important to utilize at least the indigenous journals to produce research which is aiming at integration of knowledge and Islamization of Knowledge.

If research journals are not flexible enough for this purpose, books, edited volumes and research bulletins shall be utilized in print and seminar series or seminar courses shall be introduced in non-print ways of knowledge dissemination. If faculty is provided with some incentives in using these mediums, they will take interest and hence, more quality content can be developed with more concerted efforts in the future.

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