Friday, 27 June 2008

Whither Islamization of Knowledge?

Last month, I had the honour of attending an event graced by two former Rectors of the International Islamic University Malaysia - Professor (Dato') Dr. Abdul Hamid AbuSulayman, and (Tan Sri) Professsor Dr. Muhammad Kamal Hassan. As a former student, and now academic member of the university, hearing the words of wisdom from both of these monumental figures in the history of the university brought back many sweet memories, but unfortunately also provoked many regretful critical inquiries.

After going through the psychologically torturing period of identity vs. identity confusion, it was during my undergraduate studies at IIUM that I believe I found myself. Prior to that, I was constantly searching for the right composite of idealism to be embraced, knowing not what is worth striving for, and ignorant of what is profound and mundane.

What had truly facilitate the process was my introduction to the debate on Islamization of knowledge (IOK). Reading the writings of Muslim intellectual giants such as Al-Faruqi, Al-Attas, Fazlur Rahman, Mawdudi, Hossein Nasr etc had altered significantly my perception of life's challenges and crystallised my views on what one's life is worth dedicating to.

Knowledge is the key, and to Islamise it is the mechanism to bring the Muslim ummah back to the path of glory and far away from the threat of destitution. IOK is the process to de-Westernise knowledge, to revive the heritage of Muslim scholarship, to harmonise revealed knowledge and modern sciences, to free the Muslim minds from mental colonisation... all these and many more.

Many students of IIUM of my generation were captivated by all these ideas. We were 'brainwashed' of course through the many debates, talks and seminars on different spectrums of IOK. Not satisfied with the events organised by the university, some of us even got together to organise our own forum - IOKY (Islamization of Knowledge Youth Club). We were an underground club (I don't think it was ever registered under STADD) yet in our bi-monthly sessions on Friday nights at ECONS 1.5, guest speakers who had graced our meetings include both brother Rectors, Professor AbuSulayman and Professor Kamal Hassan, Dr. Sano Koutoub (now Professor and Deputy Rector of IIUM), Professor Syed Muhammad Naquib Al-Attas (former Director of ISTAC), Professor Hashim Kamali (former Dean of ISTAC), Dr. Ibrahim Zein (now Professor and Dean of ISTAC), Dr. Louay Safi (now Executive Director of ISNA), Dr. Hazizan Mohd Noon (now Dean of the Kulliyyah of IRKHS), and Dr. Abdul Aziz Berghout (now Professor and Director of CCAC)

I can still see the enthusiastic faces of my dear brothers Marwan Altalib, Mustafa Kamal, Adli Abdul Wahid, Hassan Gonzales, Zaid Assagoff, Mahfuth Khamis, Brima Sylla and many others who regularly attended the sessions. One can see it in their eyes that they were all deeply passionate about IOK regardless of which IOK orientation they believe in or which scholar whose view they most respected.

What is IOK now to IIUM students? I have been an academic member at the university for more than four years now and what I have seen during this time is indeed very worrying. Yes, Islamization is now officially part of the philosophy of IIUM, embedded in the catchy term Triple I-CE (Integration, Islamization, Internationalization and Comprehensive Excellence). And I am quite certain a great majority of current IIUM students would be able to recall this having been compelled to memorise it during Ta'aruf Week.

But beyond recalling the term, is there anything substantial? Are they curious of the history of the development of IOK? Have they even heard about (let alone read) books such as 'Islam and Secularism' and 'Crisis in the Muslim Minds'? Do they know who are the pioneers of IOK? Have they even heard the name Al-Faruqi and Al-Attas before?

All I can say is, whenever I talk about IOK in any of my classes, the number of blank faces that I see staring at me is just truly, truly depressing.


ijad said...

salam... apa khabar...

Mohamad Zaki Samsudin said...

wa'alaykum salam

tahniah, saudara adalah pengunjung rasmi yang pertama dalam blog ini. terima kasih.

Arafah Zahrah said...

salam sir, in my opinion knowledge itself is islam. it does not matter who get it first whether muslim scholars or western scholars. we all allah's creation as well as muslims or non muslims, of course we are brothers and sisters although they did not declare their loyality to allah. as a muslim, of course everything we see, perceive and understand through 2 sources which are quran and sunnah because as prophet said no one would go astry if you follow quran and sunnah ( if am not mistaken). deep in my heart, i really doubt about islamization of knowledge. am sorry but it is true. as a muslim, u do not take everything as it, because in quran we are asked to be critical of everything so, same goes with the knowledge we adopting from west. because in my view point, if u give any piece of knowledge to western scholars, certainly, they will investigate to find the validity and reliability of that does not mean that they westernise the knowledge they took it from muslim scholars... if like that??? when we going stop all these war!!! even knowlege cannot find any similarities and agree upon pity
finally, am sorry. it s great reading ur opinion.

Zaki Samsudin said...

wa'alaykum salam.

there was no need for you to apologise.

indeed, if the purpose of IOK is to merely glorify Muslim scholars as the first to do this and the first to do that... it would be meaningless. however, when IOK is taken as an approach to harmonise revelation and science, and to inspire critical evaluation from the Islamic perspective information from various fields, IOK must be seen as both important and necessary. i agree, in the West critical evaluations are even more extensive and extremely thorough. but their philosophy of critical inquiry could be quite different. as Muslims, through IOK, information is evaluated through the prism of Islam (with a Tawhidic paradigm and consciousness of halal and haram), but in the West it could be entirely subjective.

you have indeed raised a very important issue which i should try to write about more later inshaAllah.

JazakAllahu khayr!

Rausyanfikir said...

Im not from UIA but Im ready to carry the mantle of IOK insyallah once I have become a scholar. Count me in.

adli.wahid said...

Assalamu alaikum bro,

Your post reminds me of the good old days :-). I miss of all of you brothers!


Shreya said...

Salam brother,

I've been in IIUM since 8 years ago. I can imagine and feel everything you've written down here. Coincidentally, I'm doing my research on implementation of Islamization in the university. I am at the phase of data analysis.

I want to share with you and the other commentors here, that only after extensive reading of al-Attas, Faruqi, etc's literature plus experiencing the process in the classrooms, that i can finally understand and appreciate IOK. It was a personal experience, which was indeed a beautiful, meaningful and satisfying one, alhamdulillah!

The thing is, there are a lot of people who misunderstood IOK. It is not about Islamizing the West, or Islamizing what is already Islamic. It is nothing at all about what Arafah Zahrah mentioned. It is about the roots of discpilines and we can only get the point if we go back to the philosophical-historical level. If you only see the cover, you will tend to misunderstand it.

"You'll see it when you believe it." -Wayne Dyer

Alkautsar said...


firstly, very thankful to you bro by giving a brief explanation and opinion on IOK..
Im a student of IIUM, taking master degree of edu. i do agree with our comment on your students that knowing little on the IOK.
It is embracing that, before, i also have no idea on what IOK is and what the purposes it be developed until im taking philosophy of islamic education and searching about the purpose of IOK.
Yes, cannot deny that we be introduced with the triple ICE, but it not enough to bring the IOK issue into mind.
Therefore, in my opinion, IOK should be well known to all students publicly in order to them familiarize with it and have some idea on what it is all about. it is very crucial issue as it is reflecting our identity as Muslim Ummah.
thank you...May Allah bless all the effort to glorify Islam..barakallahufikum..

Imtiyaz Yusuf said...

As a former direct student of Prof. Faruqi, this year I was invited to give keynote to IIUM Alumni club in Thailand. I asked them who was the founder of IIUM, I got blank stares. So much for much ado about Islamization or Islamicization about which I heard a lot during my visit to IIUM during Ismail al Faruqi conference.

At that conference, I remarked that IOK is not an ideology and Prof. Faruqi was not the Marx of IOK. He was a critical scholar, who once said that, "he did not want to reinvent the wheel." O, boy, I was taken to task by the great professors of IIUM.

Imtiyaz Yusuf
Mahidol Univ