Islamization of Knowledge: From Ismail al-Faruqi to Seyyed H. Nashr

This article aims to explain the three Muslim scholars' concept of the Islamization of knowledge.5 min


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Muslim scholars have debated the concept of Islamization of knowledge for the last 30 years. Naquib al-Attas, a contemporary Malaysian philosopher, coined this phrase while speculating on the relationship between Islam and secularism (Dzilo, 2012, p. 247). 

Secularism is a way of life determined and pursued by man based on his reasoning, desires, and aspirations, even though his reasoning frequently clashes with his desires and wishes (Maiwada, 1997, p. 277).

Secularism poses a threat to Muslims in many areas, including science. Secularism has spread throughout the Muslim world since the West colonized Islamic countries. The Muslim life system is influenced by Western culture and the ways of thinking. 

Muslims accept anything from the West without first filtering it. Everything from the West is considered modern, whereas everything from Islam is considered ancient. Hence, Naquib al-Attas argued that secularization is a significant danger to knowledge, which requires disintoxication (Abaza, 1999, p. 211).

On this basis, Muslim scholars proposed the concept of Islamization of knowledge in order to free Muslims from the constraints of a secular perspective. Among them are Ismail al-Faruqi, Seyyed H. Nashr and Naquib al-Attas. 

This article aims to explain the three Muslim scholars’ concept of the Islamization of knowledge. Before becoming acquainted with them, it is critical to define the Islamization of knowledge.

Baca juga: Tauhid Akademik: Diskursus Polemik Epistemologi

What is the Islamization of knowledge?

Muslim scholars have introduced some definitions of Islamization of knowledge. Hasan Dzilo writes that the Islamization of knowledge can be defined as the adaptation of certain forms of knowledge to the content of Islamic science or the struggle to strengthen the position of Islamic science within the context of current knowledge, including its various perspectives and points of view (Dzilo, 2012, p. 247).

Imad al-Din Khalil introduced another definition. According to Imad al-Din al-Khalil, the Islamization of Knowledge entails engaging in intellectual pursuits such as examination, summarization, correlation, and publication from an Islamic perspective on life, humanity, and the universe. 

Abu al-Qasim Hajj Hammad proposed the exact definition. The Islamization of Knowledge, according to Hajj Hammad, is the breaking of the link between human civilization’s scientific achievements and postulated philosophy’s mutations, so that science can be employed through a methodological order that is religious rather than speculative (Al-Alwani, 2005, p. 27).

As a result, the Islamization of knowledge is an attempt to incorporate Islamic values or an Islamic perspective into how we see the world, science, nature, and others. So that knowledge is not dry and only focuses on positive law from a secular standpoint. 

Islamization of Knowledge: From Ismail al-Faruqi to Seyyed H. Nashr

Sayyed Hossein Nasr (b.1933) was among the first philosophers to propose the concept of Islamization of knowledge (Dzilo, 2012, p. 248). He is an Iranian-American philosopher and traditionalist. He was educated in both traditional and modern methods. 

In his early years, he became acquainted with the ideas of prominent thinkers from both East and West. His thought was influenced by at least three milieus, namely Sufism, Shi’ism, and Persia. He was born into a Sufi family and thus had a fascination with and affiliation with Sufi Orders. 

Shi’ism, the predominant type of Islam in Iran, has also influenced his thought. Nasr is listed as a member of the Shi’ah-affiliated Husayniyyat Irshad. As we all know, Persia is the birthplace of classical Islamic sciences such as Islamic philosophy, logic, and mathematics, which are still taught in traditional educational institutions (Widiyanto, 2016, p. 197).

Nasr is such a very prolific scholar. He published several writings, such as An introduction to Islamic cosmological doctrines (1964), Islamic science: an illustrated study (1976) and knowledge and the sacred (1980) (Dzilo, 2012, p. 247).

Asfa Widiyanto states that Nasr’s works are based on the premise that Islam is a complete order for individuals and society. Thus, Nasr seeks the foundations underlying the formation of Islamic science. 

Modern science is in crisis, or, to put it another way, it denies Sapientia, an essential component of Scientia Sacra. Science is not neutral or westernized; once this premise is accepted, Islamic science can be developed. 

The biggest problem that Nasr highlights is that modern man has lost sight of the eternal, abandoning it to worship the concept of progress and rebel against heaven. Hence, Nasr frequently employs the Sufism perspective to analyze the current state of modern society and to provoke his idea of the need for a science that will liberate humanity (Widiyanto, 2016, p. 199).

Baca juga: Gairah Islamisasi dan Kemunduran dalam Islam

In other words, Nasr defines Islamization of science as incorporating aspects of Sufi values into science so that it is worldly and has an afterlife orientation.

Another scholar concerned about the Islamization of knowledge is Syed Muhammad Naquib al-Attas. He was born in Bogor, Indonesia, on September 5, 1931. His ancestors can be traced back over a thousand years to the Ba’ Alawi Sayyids of Hadramaut and Imam Hussein, the Holy Prophet’s grandson (PBUH). 

His maternal ancestors included saints, scholars, and savants, one of whom was Syed Muhammad al- Aydarus, the teacher and spiritual guide of Syed Abu Hafs Umar Ba Syaiban of Hadramaut, who initiated one of the Malay world’s most prominent scholars, Nur al-Din al-Raniri, into the Rifaviyyah Order. His mother, Sharifah Raquan al-Aydarus, was from Bogor, Indonesia, and descended from the Sundanese royal family of Sukapura. 

Al-Attas published some works such as Some Aspects of Sufism as Understood and Practised Among the Malay’s, The Oldest Known Malay Manuscript : A 16th Century Translation of the Aqai’d of al-Nasafi, The Mysticism of Hamzah al Fansuri, A Commentary on Hujjat al-Siddiq of Nur al-Din al-Raniri (Abaza, 1999, 199).

Syed Naquib Al-Attas argue that the Islamization of knowledge can be accomplished in two ways. The first step is to separate Western culture and civilisation’s key elements and concepts. The second is to include Islamic elements and critical concepts in every branch of science relevant today, in other words, incorporating Islamic values into scientific elements (Sholeh, 2017, p. 219).

The concept of ‘Islamization of knowledge was eagerly put into practice by al-Faruki soon after Naquib al-Attas introduced it in his Islam and secularism (first impression in 1978), which should not come as a surprise given his sensibility. 

This is particularly clear in his book Islamization of knowledge (proceedings of the conference on Islamization of knowledge, 1988), which served as the foundation for many projects in the United States (Dzilo, 2012, p. 248).

Al Faruqi, in contrast to al-Attas, believes that the Islamization of knowledge is done in such a way that the concept of monotheism becomes the foundation of science. 

Al-Faruqi described the essence of monotheism in science knowledge as; 1) Tawhid / Oneness God. According to Al-Faruqi, something that is one or contains divine elements. The essence of everything is one; 2) Alignment of Islamic and scientific truths. In Islam, the truth comes from revelation and reason, as long as it does not contradict Islamic principles while processed by human reason. 

The concept of truth that exists in science, which is based on reason (rationality) and experience (empiricism), must be integrated with the concept of Islamic truth, which is based on belief through revelation (the Qur’an) (Sholeh, 2017, p. 219).

These are some Muslim scholars’ views on the Islamization of science. According to the explanation above, the Islamization of knowledge is not a one-way street. 

In his conception, Nasr emphasizes aspects of Sufism, al-Attas emphasizes Islamic values, and al-Faruqi emphasizes monotheistic values. However, they both believe that science must be integrated with Islamic and truth values, which rely not only on rationality but also on revelation, the Qur’an.

References

Abaza, M. (1999). Intellectuals, Power and Islam in Malaysia: S.N. al-Attas or the Beacon on the Crest of a Hill. Archipel, 58(3), 189–217. Retrieved December 4, 2022, from https://www.persee.fr/doc/arch_0044-8613_1999_num_58_3_3541

Al-Alwani, S. T. J. (2005). Issues in Contemporary Islamic Thought. International Institute of Islamic Thought. Retrieved December 8, 2022, from http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.2307/j.ctvk8w1ww

Dzilo, H. (2012). The concept of ‘Islamization of knowledge and its philosophical implications. Islam and Christian–Muslim Relations, 23(3), 247–256. Retrieved December 8, 2022, from http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/09596410.2012.676779

Maiwada, D. A. (1997). Islamization of Knowledge: Background and Scope. American Journal of Islam and Society, 14(2), 275–282. Retrieved December 8, 2022, from https://www.ajis.org/index.php/ajiss/article/view/2242

Sholeh, S. (2017). Islamisasi Ilmu Pengetahuan (Konsep Pemikiran Ismail Raji Al-Faruqi dan Syed Muhammad Naquib Al-Attas). Al-Hikmah: Jurnal Agama dan Ilmu Pengetahuan, 14(2), 209–221. Retrieved December 9, 2022, from https://journal.uir.ac.id/index.php/alhikmah/article/view/1029

Widiyanto, A. (2016). The Reception of Seyyed Hossein Nasr’s Ideas within the Indonesian Intellectual Landscape. Studia Islamika, 23(2), 193–236. Retrieved December 4, 2022, from http://journal.uinjkt.ac.id/index.php/studia-islamika/article/view/3002

Editor: Sukma W.

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Ph.D student in Islamic Studies at Universitas Islam Internasional Indonesia (UIII).

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