Presentation at the 12th Ta’aruf and Intellectual Discourse Program, Port Dickson 15-17 May 1997 by Prof Dr Omar Hasan Kasule, Sr. Deputy Dean for Research and Post-graduate Affairs, Kulliyah of Medicine


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.


The concept of Islamization of knowledge is not new in Islam. The 3rd century AH witnessed a process of Islamizing Greek knowledge with much enthusiasm. The process was not without its pitfalls that have been recorded in history. Modern scholars working on Islamization of their disciplines will benefit from the previous experience to avoid repeating many of the mistakes.


The early Islamization process started with astronomical, physical, biological, and mathematical sciences. It later led to development of the disciplines of theology (kalaam) and Islamic philosophy as counterparts to Greek concepts. The early Muslim scientists like us today felt the problem of dichotomy of knowledge keenly and tried to bridge the gap with varying success. They not only tried to Islamize foreign knowledge but also embarked on developing new knowledge through research.


The recent Islamization movement had its earliest beginnings in the 14th century when several Muslim thinkers wrote about the cultural and intellectual invasion of the ummat promoted by an imposed and foreign education system. The responses to this invasion varied. Some just rejected the European education system and European sciences altogether. Some Accepted them whole-heartedly. Some others accepted them with reservations their argument being that they could be de-Europeanised.


The First World Conference on Islamic Education held in Makka in 1397 AH/1977 AD was a major event in the Islamization movement. The Conference succeeded in defining the problem of dichotomy or duality of knowledge and recommended several general approaches to its solution. Follow-up conferences that elaborated practical approaches to solve the problem were held at Islamabad in 1400 AH/1980 AD, Dhakka in 1401 AH/1981 AD, Jakarta in 1402 AH/1982 AD. The movement thereafter appeared to lose momentum and a sense of direction. A fifth conference was held in Cairo in 1985 and a 6th one in Capetown in 1996.


Practical steps to Islamize knowledge were undertaken in this period. Many Islamic elementary and secondary schools were established with the aim of making their curricula reflect the teachings of Islam. Islamic universities were also established in Malaysia in 1983, Niger, Uganda, and Islamabad. These were essentially modern universities modelled on the European model within an Islamic context.


Specialised institutions were set up to spear-head the Islamization process. The most well known being the International Institute of Islamic Thought registered in the US in 1981.It has held many conferences and published many books to publicise the concept of Islamization.


The experience of IIIT illustrates the difficulties and challenges of Islamization. From its inception, IIIT set itself the task of producing textbooks for the various disciplines of knowledge that would present the Islamic perspective. The process required mastery of both the European disciplines of knowledge and the traditional Islamic sciences. This would be followed by a critical analysis of both. The results of the analysis would be applied to the practical realities in the ummat in order to produce a new synthesis that would be in text-books used in schools and universities. It was expected that the student who would use the new text-books would develop a new mind-frame in an intellectual-cultural context that would facilitate solving the ummat’s outstanding problems and to contribute to growth of human knowledge. This simplified schemata could not be executed easily because there was a lot of preparatory work that needed to be done. IIIT therefore books on background material needed to prepare the ground for the Islamization project as shown in the bibliography. It held seminars and colloquia to discuss specific issues. A major problem encountered was lack of  intellectual manpower capable of contributing to the project. There are few scholars in the ummat who have enough grasp of both the classical Islamic and modern European disciplines to be able to make an original contribution. The few who are available are so busy in day-to-day political and social problems of their countries that they have little time or energy for scholarly work. The summary of the IIIT’s experience over the period 1981-1997 is that the process of Islamization is larger and more complicated than had been anticipated.



Discipline reform is the most important item on the agenda of the 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


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.


Classification of disciplines in most universities reflects the European world-view and epistemological assumptions. Some form of re-classification will be needed to reflect tauhidi assumptions.


An Islamic epistemological thought must be developed from the Qur’an, the sunnat, and the ummatic intellectual experience over the past 14 centuries.


The methodology of research must be reformed to remove all sources of bias.


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 process of discipline reform is wont to be mis-understood. 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.


Wrong approaches to discipline reform have occurred and these have given the whole process a bad reputation. 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. Whereas it is possible for a scientist to be good, it is difficult for him to change his discipline and turn it around.



The following steps must be followed by anyone, individual or teams, involved in the reform process: (a) grounding in Islamic sciences: basics of usul al 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 priorities among disciplines: 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.



The challenge: what can you do as an individual?: 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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ANONYMOUS. Towards Islamization Of Disciplines: Proceedings Of The Third International Conference Of Islami Thought On The Islamization Of Knowledge At Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia 1984. International Institute Of Islamic Thought Herndon 1989


ANONYMOUS. Islamization Of Attitudes And Practices In Sciene And Technology: Proceedings Of A Workshop Held At IIIT In Herndon Virginia USA In 1987. International Institute Of Islamic Thought Herndon 1989


ABUSULAYMAN, Abdulhamid. The Islamic Theory Of International Relations. International Institute Of Islamic Thought Herndon 1992


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NASR, SH. Philosophy, Literature, And Fine Arts. Islamic Education Series. Hodder And Stoughton/King Abdul Aziz University, Jeddah 1982


SAMI, Muhamad Abdus And Muslim Sajjad.Planning Curricula For Natural Sciences. Institute Of Policy Studies Islamabad 1983


SAWI, Abdul-Jawwad M. AS-. Proposed Medical Reseaarch Projects Derived From The Qur’an And The Sunnah. Makkah, Saudi Arabia: Muslim World League Press, 1992


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ZINDANI, Abdul-Majeed A. (Etl Al.) Human Development As Described In The Qur’an And The Sunnah. Makkah, Saudi Arabia: Muslim World League Press, 1992

Professor Omar Hasan Kasule Sr. May 1997