Paper Presented At The 6th World Conference On Islamic Education, Capetown South Africa 19-25 September 1996 by Dr Omar Hasan Kasule, Sr.; MB ChB, MPH, DrPH (Harvard) Professor of Medicine, IIUM & Director, Education Projects Bureau, PO Box 70 Jalan Sultan 46700 Petaling Jaya Selangor Darul Ehsan Malaysia Fax (603) 757 7970


There are 2 parallel and largely contradictory systems of education: the traditional Muslim system and the imported European system. Graduates of the 2 systems speak different languages, use different terminologies, and have contradictory and competing world-views. Graduates of the traditional system have limited understanding or interaction with the contemporary society. Graduates of the European system are generally not well grounded in the Islamic sciences and have limited self-confidence in their Islamic intellectual heritage and identity.  Duality of the education system is associated with duality of knowledge and its disciplines: the sciences of religion, uluum al deen, versus sciences of the world, uluum al dunia. The Consequences of the duality of education and discipline are divided loyalties, confusion in the minds of students,  and intellectual schizophrenia of the ummah’s educated elites. The following attempts at integration of the 2 systems have been partially successful: (a) introduction of European disciplines at traditional universities such as Azhar (b) introduction of traditional disciplines at modern universities such as the international Islamic universities in Islamabad and Kuala Lumpur (c) Islamic full-time schools in UK, USA, South Africa and other countries. The limited success is due to relative failure to address basic intellectual and conceptual issues to enable development of complete curricula and writing text books reflecting Islamic paradigms. The above attempts have in some ways been a continuing manifestation of duality only this time occurring in one building. Islamization of disciplines of knowledge is presented by this paper as the prescription for the crisis of duality.



Islamization of knowledge has become a very popular term and has taken on an identity of its own such that the semantics are debated without dealing with the underlying concepts. Islamization is a process of recasting the corpus of human knowledge to conform with the basic tenets of aqidat al tauhid. When we talk about Islamic or Islamized knowledge we should be careful not to imply that there is knowledge that is not Islamic. All true knowledge whatever its kind and source is Islamic. Islamic knowledge has no time or space constraints because Islam is universal being suitable for every place and time. Islamized knowledge will be for the benefit of all humanity and not monopolized by Muslims. The process of Islamization does not call for re-invention of the wheel of knowledge but calls for reform, correction, and re-orientation. Islamization is an evolutionary and not revolutionary movement. To avoid any further semantic confusion the term ‘reform of disciplines’ will be used subsequently in this paper.



Discipline reform is the most important item on the agenda of contemporary Islamization movement. Successful reform must have the following characteristics: pro-active intellectual effort, academically and methodologically rigorous, objective, and has practical consequences. The long-term vision is accelerated growth of objective, universal knowledge that is beneficial to all humanity and allows a harmonious interaction of humans with their physical, social, and spiritual environment. The practical mission is conceptual transformation of the paradigms, methodologies, and uses of disciplines of knowledge to conform to tauhid. The immediate goals are to de-Europeanize basic paradigms of existing disciplines and thus change them from being parochial to being objective and universal, reconstruct paradigms of disciplines using Islamic universal guidelines, reclassify disciplines of knowledge, reform the methodology of research, encourage growth of knowledge through research, and inculcate morally correct application of knowledge



Reform does not imply that all what was in the discipline was un-Islamic. There are many good and true things accepted by Islam in many of the modern disciplines. Reform is not theologizing knowledge since Islam is universal and all-embracing; it does not seek to parochialize knowledge and tailor it to a particular culture or place. The reform we have in mind is of paradigms, methodology and uses of knowledge and not its contents. Content is changing so rapidly that reforming it is clearly futile.



The following approaches have been used and have not succeeded because they did not address the core issues of the paradigms and methodology of disciplines: 'Insertion' of Qur'anic verses and hadiths in an otherwise European piece of writing, searching for scientific facts in the Qur'an, searching for Qur'anic proof of scientific facts, searching for Qur’anic scientific miracles, searching for parallels between Islamic and European concepts, using Islamic in place of European terminologies, adding supplementary ideas to the European corpus of knowledge, and adding Islamic subjects to European school or university curricula. The possibility of  discipline reform by spiritual reform of the student, scholar, or researcher has also been suggested at one time or another.



The following are the main areas in which discipline reform will be undertaken: classification of disciplines, epistemology, and methodology. These will be achieved in an ambiance that emphasizes revival of ijtihad and research, motivation to excel in knowledge, and inculcates correct attitudes to the use of knowledge especially science and technology.



The Qur’an is very central to the discipline reform process but must be used correctly. The Qur'an is not a text-book of any discipline although it has data and facts on various disciplines. The Qur’an gives general principles that establish objectivity and protect against biased research methodology. The Qur’an creates a world-view that encourages research to extend the frontiers of knowledge and its use for the benefit of the whole universe



The following steps must be followed by anyone, individual or teams, involved in the reform process: (a) Grounding in Islamic sciences: basics of usulal fiqh,  ulum al Qur'an and ulum al hadith, (b) reading Qur'an and sunnat with understanding of the changing time-space dimensions while at the same time knowing limitations of literal reading and interpretations, (c) clarification of basic epistemological issues and relations: wahy and aql, ghaib and shahada, ‘ilm and iman, (d) Islamic critique of basic paradigms of various disciplines, (e) Islamic reviews of existing text-books and teaching materials to identify deviations from the tauhidi episteme, (f) cumulation of published research, (g) publication and testing of new school text-books, (g) publication of new text-books and other teaching materials, (h) establishment of specialized research institutions, and (i) developing applied knowledge in science and technology from basic knowledge.



The following is the order of priority for discipline reform: natural sciences, social sciences, humanities, applied sciences and technology, and Islamic sciences. Natural sciences are trend-setters both in the field of methodology and social change. Social sciences will be easier to reform because they have now largely adopted the empirical methodology of the natural sciences. Humanities need to be recast using the Qur’anic methodology of analyzing the growth and decline of human civilizations and societies. Islamic sciences became fossilized over the centuries when ijthad was limited; they need a major revival. They will have to be purged of hellenic, judeo-christian and other influences and will have to be rebuilt directly on the basis of the Qur’an and authentic sunnat. These important sciences will have to be approached taking the time-space dimension into consideration.



You must develop commitment to the discipline reform process. You must master your discipline well; you can not reform or improve what you do not know. If you did not get a traditional Islamic education endeavor to get the minimum essential knowledge of usul al fiqh, Qur’an and hadith methodology. Critique your discipline on the basis of tauhid and the universal and perennial values of Islam. Orient your research and teaching to Islamization priorities. Write and publish your ideas and experiences. Net-work with others who hold similar views and are engaged in similar endeavours. Teach and inspire others to take up the challenge of educational reform.





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Professor Omar Hasan Kasule September 1996