Sunday, March 29, 2009
Saturday, March 28, 2009
Ketika kami berbual-bual, secara tiba-tiba salah seorang diantara kami melontarkan persoalan yang mana kami sudah agak lama tidak mengadakan diskusi ‘ilmu – suatu perkara yang lazimnya akan kami lakukan sekali dalam sebulan. Menyedari hakikat itu, lantas kami bergegas ke Times Bookstore untuk mencari koleksi buku yang ingin kami perdebatkan. Dan kesudahannya kami membeli buku-buku ini:
Every generation needs to reinterpret its great men of the past. Akbar Ahmed, by revealing Jinnah’s human face alongside his heroic achievement, both makes this statesman accessible to the current age and renders his greatness even clearer than before.
Four men shaped the end of British rule in India: Nehru, Gandhi, Mountbatten and Jinnah. We know a great deal about the first three, but Mohammed Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, has mostly either been ignored or, in the case of Richard Attenborough’s hugely successful film about Gandhi, portrayed as a cold megalomaniac, bent on the bloody partition of India. Akbar Ahmed’s major study redresses the balance.
Drawing on history, semiotics and cultural anthropology as well as more conventional biographical techniques, Akbar S. Ahmad presents a rounded picture of the man and shows his relevance as contemporary Islam debates alternative forms of political leadership in a world dominated (at least in the Western media) by figures like Colonel Gadaffi and Saddam Hussein.
Journey into Islam: The Crisis of Globalization
Globalization, the war on terror, and Islamic fundamentalis, followed closely by a rise in Islamophobia, has escalated tensions between Western nations and the Muslim world. Yet internationally renowned Islamic scholar Akbar Ahmed believes that through dialogue and understanding, these cultures can coexist peacefully and respectfully. That hope and belief result in an extraordinary journey. To learn what Muslims think and how they really view America, Ahmed traveled to the three major regions of the Muslim world - the Middle East, South Asia, and East Asia.
Journey into Islam: The Crisis of Globalization is the riveting story of his search for common ground. His absorbing narrative and personal photos bring the reader on a tour of Islam and its peoples. Ahmed sought to understand the experiences and perceptions of ordinary Muslims. Visiting mosques, madrassahs, and universities, he met with people ranging from Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf to prime ministers, princes, sheikhs, professors, and students. He observed, listened, and asked them questions. For example, who inspires them? What are they reading? How do the Internet and international media impact their lives? How do they view America, the West, and changes in society? Ahmed’s anthropological expedition enjoyed extensive access to women and youths, revealing unique information on large yet often misunderstood populations. Lamentably, he found high levels of anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism and a widespread perception that Islam is under attack from the West. But he also brought back reason for hope. He returned from his groundbreaking travels both impressed with the concerned, kind nature of the individuals he encountered and invigorated with the vitality and passion they displayed. Journey into Islam makes a powerful plea for forming friendships across religion, race, and tradition to create lasting peace between Islam and the West.
Social Justice in Islam is perhaps the best known work of Sayyid Qutb, a leading figure in the Muslim Brethren of Egypt who was executed by the regime of Abd al-Nasir in 1966. Despite the years that have passed since Sayyid Qutb’s death, the imprint of his thought on the contemporary Islamic movements of the Arab world remains profound. The Arabic original of “Social Justice in Islam” was first published in 1949, but this book in particular retains its relevance in many respects: the persistence of gross socio-economic inequality in most Muslim societies; the need for viewing Islam as a totality, imperatively demanding comprehensive implementation; and the depiction of the West as a neo-Crusading force.
Friday, March 27, 2009
In this respect, the modern Middle Eastern experience stands in stark contrast to that of medieval Europe, where Christianity was indeed a real obstacle to intellectual progress. In Europe, where it first arose, the ideology of ‘secularism’ gave direction to a lengthy effort to emancipate humans from the hold of a corrupt religious institution. When the same ideology was belatedly introduced into the Middle East late in the nineteenth century, it became a tool of domination used to weaken local religious institutions as part of an effort to consolidate the cultural and social power of despotic authorities.
There was nothing inevitable about this development, as the record will show. In the first half of the nineteenth century, a variety of Muslim intellectuals responded warmly to the prospect of spreading technology, science, and democratic values into the Middle East, believing that modernization did not conflict with the established values and principles of Islamic law (Shariah). It was only later, and under the influence of a small group of Christian Arab intellectuals, that secularism was cast as the enemy of Islam, and turned into a tool of domination.
As a result of this unhappy experience with ‘secularism,’ the Middle East today is at a historic crossroads. A resurgent Islam at home with modernization promises a revival of free inquiry and technological progress. But it has been impeded by local despotic regimes that cling to the ideology of secularism, and by an American regime that feels threatened by any signs of a Muslim renaissance.
The first efforts to modernize the Middle East were a by-product of European involvement in the region. Napoleon Bonaparte’s invasion of Egypt between 1798 and 1801 dealt a humiliating blow to the Muslim Ummah, rather reminiscent of the Crusades more than five centuries earlier. Though it was brief, the French ‘incursion’ into the heart of the Arab world, the very centre of darul-Islam, exposed the weakness of the Ottoman Empire and her scandalous retardation behind Europe.
The task of regaining Egypt and expelling the French expedition was assigned by the Ottoman sultan to an Albanian task force led by a former cigarette seller named Muhammad Ali (1769-1849). Egyptians greeted Ali as a liberator not only from the French but also from the tyrannical Ottoman governor, Khurshid Pasha. Thanks to his military successes, first against the French at Abu Qir in 1799 and then against the Fraser led English expedition in 1807, Ali emerged as Egypt’s new governor. He promptly proceeded to establish a dynastic autocracy, one of the first in the Middle East to explicitly devote itself to ‘modernization.’
Perhaps because he was European himself, or perhaps because he had vanquished two European armies, Muhammad Ali became obsessed with the pursuit of science, technology and political power. Like two more recent Arab leaders, Jamal Abd al-Nassir of Egypt and Saddam Hussein of Iraq, Ali embarked on a variety of ambitious industrialization projects. He dug irrigation canals, promoted cotton as a cash crop for export, centralized taxes, and established monopolies in industry and foreign trade. He hired European experts and professionals who helped him set up special schools and training facilities to educate and train army officers, state officials, and technicians.
In the meantime, on behalf of the Ottoman sultan in Istanbul, Ali sent his son Ibrahim to crush the expanding Wahhabi movement in Arabia between 1811 and 1819. He conquered the Sudan and quelled a rebellion in Greece. Emboldened by these successes, he seized Palestine and Syria. Alarmed by his growing power, French and British forces returned to the Middle East. In exchange for the hereditary governorship of Egypt for his line, Ali agreed to pare down his army.
At the same time, something similar was taking place on the eastern wing of what is today the Middle East. The second Qajar Shah Fath Ali, who ruled Iran from 1797 to 1834, found himself courted by the French and the British, who both wanted Iran to side with them against the Russians. His Azerbaijan crown prince, Abbas Mirza, sought Western training for Iranian forces and, as Muhammad Ali did, sent students abroad to improve the military. But the modernization of the military in Iran proved even more difficult than in Egypt, and under the Qajars, Iran lost more territory to the Russians.
The setbacks suffered in Iran and Egypt inevitably provoked debate over their causes. In both regions, the erratic and whimsical policies of despots made the systematic pursuit of technological capabilities difficult, if not impossible. At the same time, despots like Muhammad Ali lashed out at the power of the ulama (Muslim scholars), fearing it posed a potential threat to their plans for modernization and also to their political authority.
It was in this context that intellectuals in the Arab world began to debate the causes of the difficulties Muslim countries were having with modernization. Religion was of interest to such intellectuals but not, oddly enough, as a barrier to progress.
Take the case of an Al-Azhar scholar by the name of Rifa’ah al-Tahtawi (180l-1873). His preoccupation with the question of modernization grew out of a stay in France, where he served as a religious guide for a group of Egyptian army cadets who were studying science and modern military technologies. The scion of a scholarly family, Tahtawi threw himself into the study of European culture with enthusiasm. He acquired a precise knowledge of the French language and read books on ancient history, Greek philosophy and mythology, geography, mathematics, logic, and, most importantly, the French thought of the eighteenth century - Voltaire, Rousseau’s Social Contract, and other works.
Returning home after five years, Tahtawi made no secret of his admiration for what post-revolution France had accomplished. He advocated introducing democracy into the Middle East. And he criticized those who opposed the idea of taking knowledge from Europe, saying: “Such people are deluded; for civilizations are turns and phases. These sciences were once Islamic when we were at the apex of our civilization. Europe took them from us and developed them further. It is now our duty to learn from them just as they learned from our ancestors.”
Still, as a religious scholar, Tahtawi insisted that Muslims should only borrow elements of European culture that did not conflict with the established values and principles of Shariah. In 1834, shortly after his return to Cairo from Paris, Tahtawi published his first book, Takhlis al-Ibriz Ila Talkhis Bariz. This summarized his observations of the manners and customs of the modern French, and praised the concept of democracy as he saw it in France and as he witnessed its defence and reassertion through the 1830 revolution against King Charles X.
Trying to show that democracy was compatible with the laws of Islam, he compared political pluralism to forms of ideological and jurisprudential pluralism that existed in Islam itself: “Religious freedom,” he wrote, “is the freedom of belief, of opinion and of sect, provided it does not contradict the fundamentals of religion.” An example would be the theological opinions of the al-Asha’irah and the al-Matiridiyah; another would be the opinions of leading jurists within the doctrine of the branches. For by following any one of these schools, human feels secure. The same would apply to the freedom of political practice and opinion by leading administrators, who endeavor to interpret and apply rules and provisions in accordance with the laws of their own countries. Kings and ministers are licensed in the realm of politics to pursue various routes that in the end serve one purpose: good administration and justice. Tahtawi was not an isolated figure. Other nineteenth-century Islamic reformists including Khairuddin Al-Tunisi (1810-1899), Jamal Al-Din Al-Afghani (1838-1897), Abdel Rahman Al-Kawakibi (1854-1902), and Muhammad Abduh (1849-1905) were often referred to as ‘Muslim modernists’ and followed Tahtawi in stressing that Muslims could benefit from European successes without undermining Islamic values or culture. Typical of this generation of Muslim modernizers was Al-Tunisi, leader of the nineteenth-century reform movement in Tunisia. In 1867, he formulated a general plan for political and administrative reform in the Arab world in a book entitled Aqwam al-Masalik fi Taqwim al-Mamalik (The Straight Path to Reformation of Governments). He appealed to politicians and scholars to explore all possible means to improve the status of the community and develop its civility, and cautioned the general Muslim public against shunning the experiences of other nations on the misconceived basis that all the writings, inventions, experiences, and attitudes of non-Muslims should simply be rejected. He further called for an end to absolutist rule: “Kindling the Ummah’s potential liberty through the adoption of sound administrative procedures and enabling it to have a say in political affairs,” he argued, “would put it on a faster track toward civilization, would limit the rule of despotism, and would stop the influx of European civilization that is sweeping everything along its path.”
Another of the Muslim modernizers, Al-Afghani, called for adherence to Islamic fundamentals combined with a repudiation of despotism. In his view, a key cause of the decline in the Muslim world was the absence of ‘adl (justice) and shura (council). The remedy, he believed, was republican government: the people of the Arab world ought to be allowed to assume a larger political and social role by participating through shura and elections. “For those governed by a republican form of government,” argued Al-Afghani, “it is a source of happiness and pride. Those governed by it alone deserve to be called human; for a true human being is only subdued by a true law that is based on the foundations of justice and that is designed to govern man’s moves, actions, transactions, and relations with others in a manner that elevates him to the pinnacle of true happiness.”
From Tahtawi to Al-Afghani, Muslim scholars of the nineteenth century seemed to have had no doubt that the failure of the Muslims to modernize had more to do with a lack of freedom than a lack of technology. The latter was seen as a fruit of the former, and in any case Islam was not responsible for the absence of either.
In the later years of the nineteenth century, a quite different analysis of how to modernize the Middle East was elaborated by a smaller but quite influential group of Christian modernists. Among them were such important figures as Shibli Shumayyil (1850-1917), Farah Antun (1874-1922), Georgie Zaidan (1861-1914), Ya’qub Suruf (1852-1917), Salama Musa (1887-1958), and Nicola Haddad (1878-1954). The real problem with the Arab world, they argued, was its culture and, specifically, its dominant religion. Most of these men had been educated at the Syrian Protestant College and then settled in Egypt, which was the cultural hub of the Arab world. Their ideas were propagated through Al-Muqtataf and Al-Hilal, Arabic publications founded respectively in 1876 and 1892. These journals promoted a brand of aggressive nationalism, in which love of country and fellow countrymen would transcend all other social ties, even those of religion.
Through their copious writings, these thinkers laid the foundations of an indigenous brand of secularism in the Arab world. Praising the liberal thought of France and England during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and condemning the hegemony of tradition over the human mind, they stressed that reason should set the standard for human conduct. For modernization to take place, they demanded that only traditions that were compatible with this objective should remain. The main aim of these intellectuals was to lay the basis of a secular state in which Muslims and Christians could participate on a footing of complete equality.
After graduating from the Syrian Protestant College, the oldest member of the group, Shibli Shumayyil, went to Paris to study medicine. He is reputed to have first introduced the theories of Darwin to the Arab world through his writings in Al-Muqtataf. He belonged to the late nineteenth-century movement that saw science as the key to unlocking the secrets of the universe, even as a form of worship. He believed that the religion of science necessitated a declaration of war on older religions. For him, social unity was essential for a general will to exist and involved the separation of religion from political life, since religion was a cause of division. He insisted that nations grew stronger only as religion grew weaker, and pointed out that this was true of Europe, which had only become powerful and truly civilized once the Reformation and the French Revolution had broken the hold of religious leaders on society. He criticized both shuyukh (Islamic scholars) and Christian priests for resisting progress and development.
Farah Antun, who migrated from Tripoli to Cairo in 1897, claimed that the conflict between science and religion could be solved but only by assigning each to its proper sphere. He dedicated his book to “those men of sense in every community and every religion of the east who have seen the danger of mingling the world with religion in an age like ours, and have come to demand that their religion should be placed on one side in a sacred and honoured place, so that they will be able really to unite, and to flow with the tide of the new European civilisation, in order to be able to compete with those who belong to it, for otherwise it will sweep them all away and make them the subjects of others.” Antun laid special emphasis on the separation of temporal and spiritual authorities. If European countries were now more tolerant than Arab, he argued, it was not because they were Christian, but rather because science and philosophy had driven out religious fanaticism and a separation of religion and politics had taken place.
By the end of the nineteenth century, a growing number of Muslim intellectuals fell under the influence of the Christian modernizers. For example, Qasim Amin (1865-1908) argued that the problem with the Muslims was their backwardness and resistance to social change. “Perfection,” he wrote, “is not to be found in the past, even the Islamic past; it can only be found, if at all, in the distant future. The path to perfection is science, and in the present age it is Europe which is most advanced in the sciences and therefore also on the path to social perfection.”
Europe is ahead of us in every way, and it is not true that while they are materially better than us we are morally better. The Europeans are morally more advanced; their upper and lower classes, it is true, are rather lacking in sexual virtue, but the middle class has high morals in every sense, and all classes alike have social virtues. Educated in law in France and a judge by profession, Amin became famous for his campaign for the emancipation of women. His call on women, in his 1899 book entitled Tahrir al-Mar’ah (The Emancipation of Women), to take off the traditional Islamic head cover, which he believed obscured their intellectual as well as physical abilities, invited angry response from the ulama of late-nineteenth-century Egypt. He responded to his critics in 1906 with a book entitled Al-Mar’ah al-Jadidah (The Modern Woman). Amin’s contemporary Ahmad Lutfi Al-Sayyid (1872-1963) was similarly eager to leave Islam behind. Religion, Islamic or not, was relevant to his thought only as one of the constituent factors of society. Seen as a leading figure in the national movement in Egypt, Al-Sayyid made a significant impact on the agendas of social and educational institutions in modern Egypt. A lawyer and a judge by profession, he served in successive Egyptian governments in various positions, and his ideas first found a platform when he became chief editor of Al-Jaridah in 1906. In 1925, he was appointed dean of Egyptian University and, three years later, education minister. Moving back and forth between the government and the university, he was appointed minister of foreign affairs in 1946 and, immediately afterward, deputy prime minister.
But the most important of the indigenous Muslim secularists, by far, was Ali Abdel Raziq (1888-1966), a graduate of Al-Azhar and Oxford whose key work appeared one year after the abolition of the caliphate in 1924. This work Al-Islam wa Usul al-Hukm: Bahth fil-Khilafah wal-Hukumah fil-Islam (Islam and the Fundamentals of Governance: A Thesis on Caliphate and Government in Islam) turned out to be one of the most controversial works in modern Islamic history. In it, Raziq denied the existence of a political order in Islam and claimed that the Prophet had never established one, that it had not been part of his mission to found a state. In turn, Raziq’s work became a main source of ammunition in the vigorous campaign, launched by ‘secularists’ in later times, against the validity of Shariah. The book pioneered the idea of rejecting conventional interpretations and replacing them with innovations based mostly on Orientalists’ opinions and writings on Islam.
But the pioneers of Arab secularism founded the principles of their thought on a number of incorrect assumptions. They likened Islam to Christianity and assumed it to be just another religion that could, or even should, be restricted to the spiritual sphere of human life. They assumed Islam’s spiritual authority hindered progress and prohibited freedom of thought, and should therefore be prevented from interfering in temporal matters. But these assumptions about Islam’s conflicts with logic or science were merely extrapolations from the Euro-Christian context. The presupposition that Islam and Christianity held identical positions on the freedom of thought and the emancipation of the mind led to the conclusion that, just as Europe had rid itself of the influence of religion as a prelude to progress, the Arabs needed to constrain Islam. And Westernization was said to be the sole means of modernization, which further blurred the distinction between secularization and modernization.
What the secularists have advocated has been pursued with varying intensity across the Muslim world since the start of the twentieth century. Secular nationalist elites took over from the colonial authorities and claimed to embark on a quest for progress, development, and industrialization. In territorial states created within artificial borders, mostly by colonial power at the turn of the twentieth century, Islam has been nationalized, marginalized, and suppressed in the name of reaching out to modernity and catching up with the advanced world. If anyone is in doubt, consider the achievements of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk of Turkey (1881-1938), Ahmad Sukarno (1902-1970) and then Suharto of Indonesia (1921-2007), Habib Bourguiba of Tunisia (1903-2000), Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt (1918-1970), Houari Boumedienne of Algeria (1925-1978), Hafiz al-Asad of Syria (1930-2000), and Saddam Hussein of Iraq (1937-2006).
What do they share in common? They are secularist dictators who succeeded in building huge corrupt bureaucracies and failed miserably in their fiscal and industrial policies.
Throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, Arab writers, who could see salvation in nothing short of espousing European modernity, failed to recognize that Islam is a religion that continues to shape and influence the lives of its adherents, who believe its values and principles are aimed at liberating mankind, establishing justice and equality, encouraging research and innovation, and guaranteeing freedom of thought, expression, and worship.
Like their nineteenth-century Muslim forebears, many contemporary Arab intellectuals believe that Islam is not incompatible with modernization. We argue that the scientific and technological underpinnings of modern civilization are reducible to categories of knowledge and practice that Muslims can learn and benefit from without having to give up their cultural identity. We also believe that Islam is consistent with republican and democratic forms of self-rule.
Indeed, today Arab secularists routinely try to justify the suppression of democratic trends. Their attitude toward the aborted Algerian legislative elections is illustrative. The victory of the Islamic Salvation Front was a clear indication that the majority of the Algerian people sought a change after three decades of enforced secularization. Free democratic elections have proved secularization to be unpopular with the masses.
Fearing defeat, contemporary secularists appealed to the army to intervene. They cheered as tanks crushed the ballot boxes and as thousands of citizens were apprehended and jailed in detention camps set up in the desert. They claimed they were protecting democracy from the majority, because according to them the majority could not be trusted.
Islam is a divinely ordained set of commandments, values, and directives. Its claims are not incompatible with those of science, technology, and democratic self-government. Its appeal is profound and profoundly popular. And it is not liable to be vanquished anytime soon by a form of secularism that has been foisted by colonizers and despots on Muslims in order to weaken, if not destroy, the basis of our social order, and render us colonisable and controllable.
Thursday, March 26, 2009
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Satu lagi perkara yang suka aku lakukan ketika bercuti tempoh hari ialah menonton filem-filem allahyarham Tan Sri P. Ramlee di Astro Prima (105). Baik pagi ataupun petang, siang ataupun malam. Bagiku, aku tidak pernah merasa jemu menonton filem-filem beliau walaupun ada sesetengah teman mentertawakanku bila mengetahuinya. Pada pandanganku filem-filem P. Ramlee banyak unsur sosialnya walaupun sesetengahnya diketengahkan dalam bentuk jenaka komedi. Lihat sahaja cerita Bujang Lapok. Filem itu banyak menggambarkan keadaan masyarakat Melayu Singapura ketika itu. Sama seperti Datuk A. Samad Said menceritakan masyarakat Melayu Singapura dalam novelnya Salina. ‘Kampung Kambing’ adalah gambaran dan kiasan keadaan sosio-ekonomi masyarakat Melayu ketika itu. Mungkin perkara sebeginilah yang perlu ditelaah oleh seniman-seniman muda masa kini.
Monday, March 23, 2009
Berkumpul untuk menikmati kelapa muda [dalam istilah kami ialah kelapa ‘degan’]. Masing-masing begitu teruja untuk menikmatinya!!
Harith yang tidak sabar untuk merasai kenikmatan kelapa muda hasil tangan pakcunya!! :P Tidak sabar rasanya untuk meniti waktu hingga ke Oktober ini, untuk menyambut anak buahku yang ke sembilan. Pastinya chomel seperti ………. :D
Dan kini aku telah kembali bertugas. Tugasan pertama yang diberikan padaku adalah mengajar semester pendek yang akan datang ini. Subjek SOCA 2410 Stratifikasi Sosial (Social Stratification) dan SOCA 3310 Masalah-Masalah Sosial (Social Problems). Tidak sabar rasanya untuk bertemu bakal murid-muridku. Pastinya ia suatu pengalaman yang mengujakan!! :P
Thursday, March 5, 2009
Sebagai hadiah seminggu yang penuh dengan stress, I got this ‘body balance’ problem. I feel like floating every time I walk or sit. Macam mat pit pas amik heroin rasanya. Hehehehehehehe. So I went to see my family doctor kat Muar, Dr. Mohamad Taslim (Ahli Dewan Undangan Negeri [ADUN] Johor kawasan Maharani dari Parti PAS). Hasil pemeriksaan rapi aku disahkan yang blood circulation tak sampai ke otak. Pasal tue lah duk melayang-layang. And aku tak tanya pun apa sebabnya. Tak kuasa aku nak layan. Just amik ubat and makan. Memang rasa cukup tak selesa yang amat sangat. The best part ubat tue asal makan ajer mesti tido. So kejenyer aku membutalah 24 jam. Bangun solat, makan and kemudian tido. Betol-betol mendugungkan badan. Hehehehehehe……
Dalam waktu-waktu yang stress dan tidak selesa tue (maklumlah aku nie kan tak sabar sampai ader orang cakap aku nie impatient of time!) what I did to ease the feeling ialah dengan melihat gambar-gambar Harith.
Wednesday, March 4, 2009
It seems that the affirmative stance of Islam on scientific inquiry and method created a basic attitude of receptivity to modern/Western influences in the spheres of education, the legal profession and the judiciary. Notwithstanding the many questions that were asked as to whether Western secular methods should be accepted in Islam’s traditional center’s of learning, that resistance has gradually diminished and significant changes have been made to educational curricula and methods in Islamic schools and universities. Reforms of this kind continued to be undertaken even decades after the end of colonial rule in some Muslim countries.
Public education in Muslim countries, including scientific education, was brought by colonial powers who replaced the Islamic educational system that prevailed earlier, or else the new methods were superimposed on an under-layer of the traditional system that still remained operative. The Western approach to education basically precluded religion from the purview of science and led to inevitable conflict with it. The product of that combination was duality and bifurcation between the old and the new, a colonial legacy which persists to this day in the educational system of many Muslim countries. It has proved difficult to blend the two systems into an integrated whole, despite the fact that policy makers in Muslim countries have often tried to achieve that.
The Western scientific approach to liberal education can be seen in the 1946 Harvard Committee Report entitled General Education in a Free Society, which divides knowledge into three categories: natural sciences, humanities, and social studies. General education is expected to develop certain capabilities of the mind which are “to think effectively, to communicate thought, to make relevant judgments [and] to discriminate among values.”
Effective thinking is described as having three phases: logical, rational and imaginative. Logical thinking is applicable to practical matters such as whom to vote for and whom to befriend; it is also the ability to extract universal truths from particular cases and infer the particular from the general. It is manifested in the ability to analyze a problem and recombine its relevant elements with the help of imagination.
By rational thinking, the Report means the ability to think at a level appropriate to a problem. The Report adds that making relevant value judgment involves the ability of the student to bear a whole range of ideas upon the area of experience. “Discrimination among values” means the ability to distinguish various kinds of values, aesthetic, moral and intellectual and then to commit oneself to such values in the conduct of life.
The Report excludes metaphysical knowledge and religious studies from the sphere of knowledge, and confines the attention of educationists to a concept of man for whom belief in God or even pursuit of knowledge beyond the domain of the senses does not have any special significance. One commentator noted that by ignoring religious studies the Report failed to appreciate the effect of religion on personality and the direction that effective thinking might take as a result of the impact of religion on the whole person.
The view that Islam subordinates science to the teaching of religion finds support in Professor Seyyed Hossein Nasr who wrote that by contrast to the Western world which views the science of nature to be mainly concerned with “quantitative aspects of things,” and science is closely identified with technology and its applications, Islamic science “seeks perfection and deliverance.” To understand it requires placing oneself within its perspective as a “science of nature which has a different end, and uses different means from those of modern science.” The ultimate aim of Islamic science, Nasr added, has always been to relate the corporeal world to its basic spiritual principle which seeks to unite the various orders of reality. “The arts and sciences in Islam are based on the idea of unity” and its aim is to show the inter relatedness of all that exists. In contemplating the unity of the cosmos, man may be led to the unity of the Divine principle, of which the unity of Nature is the image. Professor Nasr’s views have been met with some reservation, as one of his critics noted: “For me the true worth of science lies in helping us to understand nature ... We need science and technology not to make us more spiritual, moral and ethical...[but] to make us more productive” and enable us to subdue and manipulate nature. I also have some reservation over the statement that Islamic science has different ends and uses different means compared to modern science. For I started the basic theme of this essay with a hypothesis that the inductive method, being the principal means and tool of modern science, is equally accepted in the Islamic theory of knowledge, be it the arts, the natural sciences or medicine. Soroush is of the view that modern science explains the world as if it was not created by a god, not denying his existence, but rather finding no need to postulate it. It is thus assumed that even if there were a god, science would nonetheless be able to explain the world without relying on his existence. Soroush has thus acknowledged a degree of disharmony between religion and science but added that the tension which exists between them need not be exaggerated.
Secularism is widely regarded as one of the tools, and also a major contribution, of modern science, which stands at odds with spirituality and religion. Yet it is interesting to note that secularism has penetrated public education in the Muslim world especially during the colonial rule and ever since. Secularism is defined as the deliverance of Man “first from religious and then from metaphysical control over his reason and language.” Secularism and modernization both subscribe to a fundamental belief in rationality and scientific thought: Just as Nature is separated from the will of God, Man is ‘freed’ from the restrictive demands of religion. It would be difficult to claim that Islamic thought can accept secularism as such without some reservations. Yet certain aspects of secularism have been adopted in the Arab world and brought about considerable transformation in its institutions of learning, the judiciary and the status of religious scholars and ulama. It is also manifested elsewhere in the replacement largely of fuqaha’ by lawyers, and of religious teachers by trained teachers in modern schools, especially when the kuttab/maktab, the Qur’anic schools, were transformed into modern schools on the Western model, even though the process was gradual and uneven. One of the reservations that may be noted here is as follows: Muslims have adopted many of the premises of secularism without, however, isolating religion from public life. This may be said to be manifested in many of the formal constitutions of Muslim countries which recognize Islam either as the state religion or accord other forms of recognition to its validity and acceptance.
The changes that took place in public education and Islamic institutions of learning were on a wider scale in other parts of the Middle East compared to Egypt, where for various reasons, al-Azhar kept its control over primary education. In the Maghreb, French colonialism divided the education system into a modern sector closely modeled on the French system and another, older sector, based on the kuttab. The transformation was extended with the replacement of the madaris, which used to teach the fiqh, the Qur’an, the hadith and elements of Arabic, by universities applying modern curricula. Drastically revised curricula were later, and somewhat reluctantly, introduced by institutions like al-Azhar, and Zaytuna, perhaps less drastically in the former. But Zaytuna was transformed so much that reduced its status from a university to what is now a part of a modern university, known as the Faculty of Religious Studies. Changes in al-Azhar were not as radical as the new faculties, and their revised curricula still remained under the umbrella of the old al-Azhar principles and traditions.
Turkey under Kamal Ataturk had imported Western secular education without even attempting to reform the traditional system. Indonesia, and Malaysia, although Muslim majority countries, almost uncritically accepted secularism or else remained non-committal to the idea of a reformed Islamic educational system beyond retaining religious education as a subject in the curricula of their national schools. Both countries have in the meantime retained their traditional madrassas, some of which have been expanded, and to some extent reformed, in recent decades.
These changes led to a shift from a perception which saw public affairs, society and education through the prism of religion, to one that bore the imprint of modernity, or nahdah (awakening), that implied openness to further modernization. Changes were often accompanied by social upheavals that took place in Arab and Muslim societies far over a century that affected their education system and the judiciary more than most. The body of ulama was displaced from the leading places it had occupied in public life. The introduction of legal codes in many fields that were previously governed by the fiqh texts added to the marginalized status of the ulama. Formal constitutions introduced on the eve of colonialism in many Muslim and Arab countries were yet other instrument of secularism which articulated the ideas and foundations of the Western nation state in these countries.
The basic harmony of faith and reason is also manifested in the Qur’an through a series of exclusions which seek to clarify the correct from the misleading means and avenues of knowledge. These are manifested in at least four contexts, which may be summarized as follows:
(a) Rejection of conjecture (al-zann) vis-a-vis certitude (al-yaqin)
This is a basic guideline that the Qur’an advocates not only in religious disputation but also in the context of learning, testimony and adjudication, and indeed in most other areas of human relations. Although certainty remains the ideal standard of knowledge, conjecture that inclines toward probability is nevertheless accepted as a basis of judgment in practical human affairs (mu’amalat), such as in court decisions that are often based on zann, for want of certainty, in order to facilitate resolution of disputes among people.
The Qur’an precludes conjecture and probability as a basis of belief, as faith must be based in conviction, which precludes zann. To this effect the text takes its deniers to task, for their blind faith in what is no more than conjecture: “... they follow not aught but conjecture, and surely conjecture avails nothing against the truth” (al-Qur’an 53: 28). Conjecture in this verse, as in many other verses of the Qur’an (al-Qur’an 10: 36; 6:116), is used in contradistinction to knowledge (‘ilm, yaqin), and it is ‘ilm acquired through hearing, seeing and reason that command acceptance. This is what the believers are instructed in another verse to “...follow not that of which you have no knowledge ('ilm). Surely the hearing and the sight and the heart are all accountable” (al-Qur’an 17: 36).
(b) Rejection of passion and untrammelled desire (hawa’)
Qur’anic references to hawab occur in contradistinction to correct guidance and truth. Thus it is provided in an address to the Prophet-King David: “O David! We made you a vicegerent in the earth so that you judge among people with truth, and follow not the passion that sways you away from the path of God” (al-Qur’an 38: 26).
Confusion that can be caused by passion, whether consisting of love, hatred or anger etc., can be so powerful as to obfuscate rational judgment. The basic message of this verse is that the best qualified of judges, even prophets, are not immune to the influence of hawa’. Equally clear is also the point that knowledge and truth must be pursued and vindicated through reasonable methods that are not influenced by personal sentiment and passion. The extensive influence of hawa’ is elsewhere indicated in the Qur’an, which provided in an address to Prophet Muhammad: “Have you seen (the predicament of) one who chooses for his god his own passion? Would you then be a guardian over him?” (al-Qur’an 25: 43).
Passion can dominate a person’s outlook totally in which case truth and reason can have but little place in his order of priorities. The Prophet Muhammad has been repeatedly warned as to the little or no impact his teachings could make on such persons. This evidence sustains the conclusion that rationality is a means to knowledge, discovery of truth, and justice only when it is not tainted by the vagaries of hawa’.
(c) Rejection of blind imitation
Islam’s outlook on reason is also based on its intrinsic merit that is inspired by nothing less than conviction, as opposed to blind imitation of the custom and legacy of the past. The objectivity of reason is to be ensured by its independence from conventional practice which does not necessarily provide correct knowledge and guidance. The past must be judged in the light of reason and rejected if it is found misleading. To this effect, the Qur’an has recounted the attitude of its deniers and the typical response they have given to the Prophet Muhammad: “Nay, we follow the way of our ancestors- even if their ancestors did not know nor were they rightly guided” (al-Qur’an 5:104; also 2:170). This was also the response that Prophet Abraham and many other prophets received from idol-worshipers but the text retorted it in such terms: both you and your ancestors were clearly misguided (al-Qur’an 21:52; 7:70; 11:87). These references to past events and prophets are made with a view to underline certain continuity of values, and in this instance, also to confirm that knowledge and truth stand on their own merit independently of custom and convention of the past.
(d) Rejection of oppressive dictatorship
The Qur’an takes to task those who indiscriminately obey arrogant dictators who are themselves averse to enlightenment and truth. Thus it is provided that the plea of those who say on the Day of Judgment: “O our Lord! Surely we obeyed our princes and great men, but they misled us” (al-Qur’an 33: 66) will have no merit. This is because, as the text explains, they rejected the correct guidance when it was conveyed to them. In another verse, the text refers to the Pharaoh who misled his people: “We sent Moses with our signs and clear evidence unto Pharaoh and his chiefs, but they followed Pharaoh’s command which failed to give the right guidance” (al-Qur’an 11: 96). In another verse it is stated that the Pharaoh persuaded his people to make light (of Moses), and they obeyed him. They were none other but a wanton folk (al-Qur’an 43: 54).
People are thus advised to use their own judgment and distinguish between guidance and misguidance in the light of reason. This is because they themselves, and not their self-styled leaders, would ultimately be held responsible. The intrinsic value of truth and knowledge must therefore remain unaffected by the indulgent claims of oppressive men who often seek to subjugate others for their own selfish interests.
Muhammad ‘Abduh (d.1905) held that there is no necessary conflict between religion and science. Both are founded in reason, and both study natural phenomena, albeit from different angles. Since the Qur’an encourages the Muslims to study and investigate the universe, Islam should be considered as a friend, not the enemy, of science. ‘Abduh also observed that there was nothing against true Islam in modern civilization and science, provided that Islam was rightly understood and rightly expressed.
In saying this ‘Abduh emphasized those Islamic tenets and principles which are fundamental to Islam and are not meant to be of local and temporary application.