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Kuala Lumpur
4 October 2023 (Wednesday)

Review of the Islamization of Human Knowledge

Mumtaz Ali, Muhammad. 2014. Issues in Islamization of Human Knowledge: Civilization Building Discourse on Contemporary Muslim Thinkers. Kuala Lumpur: IIUM Press

Since late 20th century, the catchphrase Islamization of knowledge has been used in contemporary Islamic philosophy in order to reconcile Islam and modernity. Starting from that, a lot of scholars and philosophers who did a research and provided the definitions and explanation on what the Islamization of knowledge is all about. One of the books that discuss on the issue of Islamization of knowledge is entitled, Issues in Islamization of Human Knowledge: Civilization Building Discourse of Contemporary Muslim Thinkers written by Muhammad Mumtaz Ali.

A little introduction of the author, Muhammad Mumtaz Ali is a professor in the Department of Usuluddin and Comparative Religion, Kulliyyah of Islamic Revealed Knowledge and Human Sciences in International Islamic University Malaysia. It is important to note that, this book has been awarded as the winner of Nation Book Award in 2014- category Contemporary Islamic Thinkers. 

This book offered a sincere contribution by expounding on and organising central themes, inherent within the field of Islamization of Human Knowledge, that were so far scattered. The author presented Islamization of Human Knowledge as a universal and people-oriented perspective and asserted that it should not be perceived as a mere religious and parochial discourse. The central theme of this book is focusing on the methodology concept of Islamization of Human Knowledge, that were thoroughly discussed in an intellectual discourse with four contemporary thinkers (ideologist) in this field; Kamal Hassan, Syed Muhammad Naquib al-Attas, Islmail al-Faruqi and AbduHamid Abu Sulayman.

The view of the four thinkers above can be summarized below:

  • Kamal Hassan

He prefers to use the term of Islamicisation rather than Islamization. Despite the slight change in its spelling, Kamal Hassan feels it conveys a more relevant meaning. According to Kamal Hassan, the term Islamization is more suitable to use if we refer it to the act or effort or process of making or wanting to make any human’s knowledge, discipline, idea, system, theory or methodology that comply or be in conformity with the values and norms of Islam. However, the term ‘Islamicisation’ that was derived from the Islamic term, is felt appropriate in non-Muslim context such as non-Muslim sources, countries, societies, or culture where there is no contravention of Islamic Creed, Law or Ethics and is in harmony with Islamic standards. Moreover, according to Kamal Hassan, a proper education system that is both relevant for our time that is comprehensive and holistic in taking into consideration all aspect of society, offering a projected sustainable development that should be developed based on the Islamic worldview. This would bring unity to knowledge that is both revealed and acquired through intellect, religion and science and thus, forge the foundational principles of education. In this way, reform in the education system would strengthen the link between this world and the hereafter.

  • Syed Muhammad Naquib  al-Attas.   

Al-Attas did not use the phrase Islamization of Knowledge but he favoured the term of “Islamization of Present-day Knowledge”.  He focused on the reformulation of present-day knowledge because he argued that the real problem lies with it. He suggested the De-westernization of knowledge as a prerequisite to Islamization of Knowledge. According to him, the rationale here is that knowledge means recognition and acknowledgement based on truth and certainty. For example, man recognize who is his creator. Al -Attas discussed about the secularism and secularization that happened in the Muslim world and he argued that to comprehend the real danger of secularism and secularization, one need to understand thoroughly both Islam and modern Western philosophical thought.

  • Ismail al-Faruqi

Al-Faruqi argued that all the discipline developed in the modern West had a specific methodology in truth and knowledge as compared to Islamic methodology, the view of truth and knowledge. Therefore, he argued that the need for Islamization of modern knowledge such as humanities, the social sciences and the natural sciences must be reconceived and rebuilt in order to give a new Islamic base and assigned new purposes consistent with Islam.

  • AbdulHamid AbuSulaymen

He is one of the most important figures in history of the contemporary global Muslim scholarship. He debated about the real methodological issues in Islamization of Knowledge and he realized that the issues in Islamization of Knowledge should not be dealt in isolation from those relating to Islamic thought and its methodology. He also mentioned that Islamization of Knowledge belongs to Muslim Ummah and therefore it must be taken seriously by everybody, expert as well as non-expert.

Mumtaz Ali decided to discuss these eminent thinkers views about Islamization of Knowledge separately rather than making a comparison in order to identify main issues debated by each of them. As the result, the author found out that most of the scholars focused more on the ideological, conceptual and metaphysical framework of Islamic methodology rather than on a systematic, focus oriented, elaboration of the methodology. The author also discusses about the need for improvement in methodological thought by following the fundamentals of Islam as embodied in the Quran and Sunnah. In my opinion, the author used a very high academic language but still understandable. Overall, this book is very valuable in providing the views regarding issues of Islamization of knowledge. The way the author list down the chapters also make the readers easily understand the content of the book. 

From the reading of this book, I can understand that most of the scholars and philosophers had agreed upon the significant of Muslims to practise Islamization of knowledge. All the information and explanation had clearly provided the importance of Islamization of knowledge in the perspective of Muslim itself. Therefore, as a Muslim, this reformation of knowledge in integration of the Islamic world view are easily can be accepted by Muslim. I believe that every Muslim, already have their own objective and their own purpose of life in this world.

Islamization of Knowledge is very important to guide human life and teach them to the right path. Islamization of knowledge can balance between Islam and modernity. The tremendous efforts are already given by Muslim scholars and philosophers to properly develop the Islamization of knowledge. However, without proper understanding, I believed that Muslims can tend to be in confusion and it may lead to misunderstanding. This is not only due to the modern knowledge but also the failure to appreciate the Islamic teachings as formulated in Al-Quran and Sunnah.

Besides that, we should set a good example as a Muslim to the other non-Muslim so that they can view Islamization of knowledge as something that worth to practise and learn about in various branch of knowledge and sciences.

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