Lecture to Post-graduate Students Association held at Tabari Conference Room on 6th September 1998 3.00 pm by Prof Dr Omar Hasan Kasule, Sr.  Deputy Dean Kulliyah of Medicine

Definition of creativity

Creativity is looking at issues from a different and new perspective. It is necessary for societal growth because circumstances are always changing and it is necessary to evolve new approaches to deal with new situations. Creativity is a complex phenomenon and not just one isolated trait in an individual. We all can see the manifestations and results of a creative mind but we may not fully understand the mechanisms involved. Creativity is a type of divergent thinking as opposed to convergent thinking. Divergent thinking takes the broad picture in view and tries to combine pieces of information and experiences to make a new synthesis. Convergent thinking is focused on a few pre-determined interests and concerns. Creativity has three components: expertise, imaginative thinking, and intrinsic motivation. All are necessary. A knowledge base and expertise whether general or specialised is indispensable to a creative thinker. Ignorance and creativity can not meet. An open, imaginative and exploratory mind is needed for the divergent thinking in creativity. There must exist an inner drive to be creative. There are many humans who have the basic knowledge and intellectual tools to be creative but are not because they do not have the requisite motivation.


Creativity is a potential that may be exploited to be productive or can be neglected to decay. Individuals and communities who foster creativity and encourage it get stronger than those who stifle or neglect it. Creativity is the essence of human civilization and development. Creativity and innovative approaches to new decisions are a necessity for building and improving human civilization. Blind  following is condemned and is associated with backwardness. Human civilization can be viewed as a race between creativity and fossilization of the mind. The creative individuals or societies overcome the less creative ones. However the tempo of creativity is not maintained for long. Those who were once creative, become bureaucratic and fossilized in their ways and eventually lose out to new societies that are more creative


Creativity (ibda') and innovation (bid'a)

A clear conceptual distinction must be made between creativity as a positive phenomenon and innovations in religious fundamentals that must remain fixed for all times and all places. Creativity is called for and in encouraged in all human endeavors. It is however forbidden and is severely condemned in matters of faith (aqida) and established religious practice (ibadat). The rationale for this is that human society and human civilisation can not survive unless they have some fixed fundamentals understood by everybody. If these fundamentals did not exist, the license to be creative would be carried to the extremes of continuous contradictions, change of direction, and anarchy. Once a state of anarchy sets in even creativity can not exist.


Creativity in the Qur'an and sunnah

The Qur'an severely condemns blind following of ancestors and other authority figures  (2:170, 5:104, 7:28, 10:78, 21:53, 26:7, 31:21, 43:22, 43:23). This should not be understood to encourage irresponsible rebellion. Following leaders is needed for social stability but the Qur'an puts the onus on the follower to make sure he or she knows what is being followed and why. The intellectual passivity of just following anything moving is what is condemned. Once following is not blind it becomes critical. The follower will be able to think of alternatives once he is critically thinking about what he is following. Thus cultural or civilisational renewal is possible.       


The Qur'an has also encouraged the use of reason 'behold! In the creation of the heavens and the earth; in the alternation of the night and the day; in the sailing of the ships through the Ocean for the profit of mankind; in the rain which Allah sends down from the skies, and the life which He gives therewith to an earth that is dead; in the beasts of all kinds that He scatters through the earth; in the change of the winds, and the clouds which they trail like their slaves between the sky and the earth (here)  indeed are Signs for a people that are wise'. Qur'an 2: 164


Omar Ibn al Khattab was a strong  leader but he was not a dictator. He encouraged his followers to take initiatives and to be pro-active. He is reported to have said: " The most sagacious man is he who displays his own initiative, when he has no directives from his superior to fall back on, or who, without holding back, gives expression to his own views."


Khalid Ibn al Walid was an example of initiative. He demonstrated creativity of khalid:proceeding to seize opportunity and not waiting for khalifah's instructions. He was most creative at Uhud, Yarmouk, and other battles.


Concepts in creativity

Five concepts need definition to make subsequent discussion easier: cognition, critical thinking, language, concept, reasoning, and problem-solving. Cognition is a basic intellectual function that involves collection, storage, retrieval, and use of information. Thinking is manipulation and transformation of information in memory. Critical thinking is an advanced form of thinking that reviews the merits and demerits of different ideas and reaches a conclusion. It is a pro-active process that involves several thinking processes many of which are not yet well defined. It requires listening carefully, identifying questions, formulating questions, formulating criteria for arguments, organizing thoughts, noting similarities and differences, deduction,  logical inferences, and  value judgments. Language is a sequence of words. Language is needed in the creative process as verbal symbols for ideas and also to communicate ideas with others involved in the process. Concept is used to refer to a group of objects, events, and characteristics. Conceptual thinking is an advanced form of thinking that manipulates concepts and not their components. Reasoning is an attempt to draw conclusions from facts. It was developed into the systematic science of logic that Muslims learned from the ancient Greeks. The Muslims improved and developed the science although it later created problems of its own in the Muslim intellectual heritage. It is not however certain that valid human thinking follows the formal rules of logic that were developed. Even in daily life we see that thinking may not be as systematic or formalised as he mathematical rules of logic would want us to believe.


Creativity as an intellectual rational process

Creativity is an intellectual exercise. It requires cognitive ability, a free uninhibited thinking style, an exploratory and prepared mind. It is pro-active and does not come about by chance. Creativity usually requires more than average intelligence. Creativity involves advanced forms of reasoning. Ideas generated must be put in order and relations between them must be established. Both syllogisms and analogies are used to reach conclusions. Rules of formal logic are useful in developing ideas but you can get along without consciously following them. Human thinking is not always rational; many times it is irrational. The bottom-line is however being functional and reaching a workable conclusion and getting the job done.


Creativity as an emotional intuitive process

A lot of creative ideas and works of great value in the arts are products of intuitive outbursts of creativity. However such creativity does not come out of the blue. A mind that is busy and is engaged in certain areas of endeavor is the one that can be creative intuitively. Creative writers and artists describe their work experience as more emotional than intellectual involvement. Many aspects of the creative process are intuitive. The creative thinker may not remember or even describe all the logical steps followed in reaching a valid conclusion.


Creativity and personality

Personality affects creativity. Creative people are temperamental, have wide social relations, are flexible, spontaneous, enjoy independent judgment, are open to new ideas, and tolerate ambiguity. High creativity manifests as spontaneity, rebellion and non-conformism. Low creativity is associated with caution and insecurity. A creative mind thrives in a chaotic rapidly changing environment; it is challenged and it responds. A non-creative mind prefers stability and harmony.


Three personalities in Islamic history illustrate the relation between personality and creativity: Omar Ibn al Khattab, Khalid Ibn al Walid, and Ahmad Ibn Taymiyah. A study of their biographies is recommended for any Muslim interested in understanding creativity. Common traits among them were: courage to stick out their neck and state a new opinion without fear of censure if it were wrong, ability to look further and wider than others, a clear understanding and involvement in the practical issues of daily life, and very strong unconventional personalities. The three of them were also original persons. They were themselves and did not try to emulate any outward appearance. Their behavior was consistently a true reflection of their personalities as shaped by heredity and their environment.


The Arab bedouin needs to be discussed here because of the impact of environment on personality and hence creativity. He lived in a harsh environment that required constant creativity to deal with the daily uncertainties of life and therefore had to be very creative. The open desert environment where the shackles of custom and government were limited and where individual freedom to think and act were very strong created a recipe for a creative mind that could not be found in the settled and conventional communities of the cities. What the bedouin lacked was the knowledge of fundamentals so that he may release his or her creative energies to building a civilisation. Those who have studied such communities would speak of the 'bedouin intuition' with much respect. The western thinkers of the 18th and 19th centuries referred to this in a derisive way as 'the noble savage' which romanticised an otherwise serious matter. Omar Ibn an Khattab was indeed right when he referred to the beduins as the raw material of Islam in his famous words: uswikum bi al a'arab khairan fainahum aslu al arab wa madat al islam'. The same idea is conveyed in the hadith of the prophet : khiyarukum fi al jahliyat khiyarukum fi al Islam idha fakihu'. Ibn al Khaldoon's 'cycle of civilisation' can be explained that the bedouin with a personality able to be creative invades the city and in the first period is productive in building a civilisation by combining his creativity with the knowledge and experience found in the city. As he becomes sedentary he loses the creativity, settles down to follow the routine and weakens. Another wave of bedouins then invades the city and the cycle is repeated.


Tools of creativity

Creative thinking uses and is enhanced by lateral thinking.  Lateral thinking is stepping aside and looking at a problem from different angles and different perspectives. This helps generate a variety of alternative solutions one of which will be the ideal solution. A creative mind could see a way in which two apparently contradictory situations can be reconciled and use is made of each of them. Creativity requires hard-work, perseverance, non-conformist thinking, and flexibility. Creativity is associated with having initiative and dynamism. Creative individuals always seize and exploit opportunities when they present. The less creative will think of exploiting an opportunity too late. Creativity is associated with resourcefulness. Creativity requires a knowledge base. It can not occur out of the blue or in a spontaneous way. Use of language is a highly creative process. A human can generate an infinite number of sentences.


Stages of the creative process

The creative process goes through 5 stages: definition of the problem, incubation, illumination, and verification. The decision to define and solve problems is the first step in constructive creativity. Any creative efforts not directed at specific and definable actual life problems is either a waste of time or may lead to dangerous irresponsible conclusions. There are so many problems in the world that we can not afford to spend scarce intellectual resources on flimsy issues that have no practical significance. A lot of intellectual confusion in the ummah occurred when people started arguing (jadal) in non-essentials. Incubation of ideas is the second  stage of creative thinking. This is a period of time when ideas are given time to mature. Ideas are sieved, connections between different ideas and aspects are explored. At the end of this period some concrete alternatives are elaborated but these are not yet the final solutions. Illumination occurs automatically and without much planning. Out of being absorbed in thinking about a problem, a sudden realization of the solution appears. Illumination involves guidance and mercy of Allah (SAW) and the subconscious mind. Verification of conclusion validity is necessary to check in a rational way the insights reached through illumination.





Brain storming is a group creative process that can generate many new and innovative ideas. It takes place in four stages: stating the purpose, setting ground rules, conducting the session, discussing the ideas generated, and reaching conclusions. You must state the purpose of the brain-storming exercise from the very start. Set ground rules for brain storming to make sure everybody understands what is needed. Aim at quantity of ideas and not quality. Suspend judgment of ideas, your aim is to collect all views and make a selection at the end. Do not criticize any ideas because this may discourage voicing of some ideas that may be the real break-though. No questions should be raised during the stage of generating ideas. All ideas generated must be written down. Conduct the session with firmness to achieve its purposes but with enough flexibility to let everybody participate positively. Give everybody a turn to speak. If people are reluctant to speak they could alternatively be asked to write down their ideas. Discuss the ideas generated and try to select the most suitable ones. Reach tentative conclusions and plan for a follow-up meeting


Barriers to creativity

Many may not believe it that the human new-born is the most creative person on earth. The innate creativity persists in the neonatal period through early childhood and perhaps late childhood. Only a luck few are able to sustain this creativity into adolescence. The baby is curious and is fascinated by all what is going on in the environment. It wants to touch and feel every thing. No stimulus is ever ignored. There is reaction to every environmental stimulus. There is also a lot of pro-active exploratory interaction with the environment. What happens to turn this baby into a passive adult who has lost curiosity, who accepts bad things as they are and lacks the intellectual courage to think of alternatives, who thinks of himself as a prisoner of custom and precedence and is comfortable as a prisoner? The explanation is found in the way society deals with the baby and child and eventually extinguishes all flames of creativity. Parents want things to be neat and organised in the home. The word 'no' is used thousands of times more than the word 'yes' or 'go ahead'. The child finds himself from whatever initiative they undertake. This is of course for their protection from danger or harm but it is overdone and it kills initiative and with it a sense of creativity. There is a discernible difference in creativity between individuals who grew with nervous and over-protective parents and those who grew up in more democratic homes where parents encouraged children to explore and gave them more words of encouragement and not the familiar 'no'.


School systems in most countries emphasize conformism and discourage creativity since the latter will require more teacher resources than usual. Troublesome children at school usually drop out of the system and may become criminals and social misfits. Some of their criminal activities indicate a degree of creativeness and intelligence that society could have used in a better way of the school had room for the independent-minded and creative children.


 The second burst of creativity at adolescence is also stifled by most communities who look at it as adolescent rebellion against the established order. The result is a rebellious adolescent who goes on to undertake adventures harmful to himself and the society or a 'good' and 'conforming' adolescent who grows into an adult who plays safe by following custom and never entertains any creative adventures.


Political and other authorities want stability and business as usual. They will crack down hard upon any one trying to be creative because the new ideas may disturb the social order that exists. Thus creative thinkers either end up in prisons or in mental asylums to protect society from being infected by new ideas. Thus the human in most societies in prevented from being creative at al stages of his life.


There are other barriers to creativity that are within the individual. Creativity is inhibited by lack of technical expertise, fear of censure, and lack of autonomy in decision-making. The human tendency to stick to the familiar stifles creativity. While creativity leads to finding new and better approaches to problem-solving, you must avoid the temptation of perpetual change with no stability between changes.


There are measures that you can take to improve your creativity. Make sure there is an objective and a goal behind change. Look at things in different ways. Encourage new ideas: minimal criticism of new ideas - give credit for new ideas where it is due. Take risks by taking a stand and standing up to be counted.


Innovations and their diffusion

It is useless to be creative without being able to diffuse or spread the new ideas so that they may be applied in practice. Diffusion is a special type of communication that is concerned with the diffusion of an innovation through certain channels. Some active measures will have to be taken to spread an innovation. A new and good idea does not automatically sell itself. Four factors determine the diffusion of innovations: (a) the nature of the innovation (b) the communication channels used (c) the time frame (d) and the social system which determines receptivity. The innovation itself has attributes that affect its diffusion and adoption: (a) relative advantage (b) compatibility (c) complexity (d) triability (e) observability. The channels of diffusion may be people acting as change agents, the written word, or other forms of mass communication. There are people in any society who are opinion leaders and can act as change agents. Others listen to and follow them. When they adopt an innovation it is likely that many others will flow suit. The time dimension in diffusion is very important. There could be initial opposition or excitement about the innovation at the start. These initial reactions may plateau off with time or get completely forgotten. Over the long run good innovations get accepted imperceptibly until they become common currency. People can be divided into several categories according to their propensity to adopt new innovations: (a) early adoptors (b) early majority (c) late majority (d) laggards. Innovations may have desirable and undesirable consequences. Some consequences of innovations are direct whereas others are indirect. Consequences of an innovation may be anticipated or may not be. There are barriers to diffusion of innovations that we have to be aware of and deal with


Understanding ijtihad as a creative process

This session discusses the uses of ijtihad as an intellectual problem-solving tool. It goes beyond the narrow fiqhi definition. The term ijtihad is normally used to refer to just one type of ijtihad, ijtihad al fuqaha. The technical fiqhi definition of ijtihad is striving to the utmost to discover the law from the texts. The motivation of ijtihad could be to discover the ruling from the texts or to solve a problem. Qiyas is the main aspect of fiqhi Ijtihad. The concept of ijtihad has been expanded to be more embracing. For our purposes in this chapter we will take only one aspect of ijtihad, qiyas, and apply it to situations outside the narrow confines of fiqh. Ijtihad is not different from ordinary problem-solving. It is not an ivory-tower exercise. deals with practical real issues and not hypothetical issues. Ijtihad is unique in giving freedom of thought and creativity in religious matters. Unlike normal problem-solving, conclusions of valid ijtihad are religiously-binding. Ijtihad has an intellectual dimension besides the practical one. The basic principles can be generalised to deal with intellectual issues that may not be directly related to fiqh. Ijtihad was very active in the first 3 centuries of Islam. There was decline after that which was said to be due to closure of ijtihad necessitated by fear that it would be exploited by corrupt rulers and ulama al salatin. We feel that an alternative explanation was that after the first three centuries society was fossilised in the intellectual and social dimensions. There was nothing new to provoke ijtihad. At the time of Ibn Taymiyah there were many momentous events that called for new ijtihad and it happened. The 15th century is now witnessing renewed ijtihad because of new challenges.


Types of ijtihad: fardi & Jamai- shuuri. Types of Ijma: (a) Ijma of all people (b) Ijma of secial groups: rulers, scholars (c) Ijma as a result of tashawur (this involves ijtihad). Modes of ijtihad: (a) stay close to nass (b) use qiyas (c) use maqasid al sharia where there is no nass. Types of qiyas: (a) Qiyas al shabaha (b) Qiyas an illa (c) Qiyas al Man'a

Ijtihad relates to growth of civilization and culture. Wahy gives guidelines within which human mind can be creative. Must have academic freedom so that corrupt governments can not control them


Priorities for ijtihad today: Politics, Economics (banks & investments), Women, and the Penal code


Creativity requires divergent thinking but too much questioning with no clear purpose leads to deviation: "Narrated Anas b Malik: Allah's Apostle ( may peace be upon him ) said, " People will not stop asking questions till they say, this is Allah, the Creator of everything, then who created Allah" Bukhari 9:293, hadith # 399


Omar’s instructions on Ijtihad: “ It is reported from Shuriah that Hazrat Umar wrote him: When a litigation comes before you, give decisions regarding it on the basis of the Book of Allh, and if a dispute comes which is not to be found in the Book of Allah and if a case may come before you which is not there in the Book of Allah and the sunnah of  Messenger of Allah, settle it according to that thing on which the people may form consensus; and should a dispute come before you that it is neither in the Book of Allah nor in the sunnah of the Messenger of Allah nor anyone may have talked about it, then act on anyone of the two things you like. In another tradition of his own it says that if you wish, advance further and exert to form a personal opinion, and should you wish to recede, recede, and I consider receding better for you.”


Order to pray asr in bani quraidha: different interpretations: Narrated Ibn Umar : On the day of Al-Ahzab ( i.e. Clans ) the Prophet ( may peace be upon him ) said, " None of you Muslims ) should offer the Asr prayer put at Banu Quraiza ('s place ) The Asr prayer became due for some of them on the way. Some of those said, " We will not offer it till we reach it, the place of Banu Quraiza," while some others said, " No we will pray at this spot, for the Prophet ( may peace be upon him ) did not mean that for us." Later on it was mentioned to the Prophet ( may peace be upon him ) and he did not berate any of the two groups"  Bukhari 5:306-307, Hadith #445


Examples of ijtihad by Omar: (1) Salat in maqam Ibrahim Baqara: 125 (2) Hijab Ahzab: 53 (3) Badr prisoners of war Anfal: 67-68 (4) Salat on Munafiqin Taubah: 84 (5) Return of Arab captives (6) Suspension of the hadd for stealing (7) Hadd of 80 lashes for drinking alcohol  (8) Prevention of mut'ah marriage (9) Stopping sadaqa to prophet's relatives (10) Stopping sadaqa for muallafat al qulub (11) Control overuse of talaq by considering 3 talaqs at once as being final (12) Suspension of hadd in case of necessity (13) Maximum period of military service is 4 months (14) Refusal to write the hadiths (15) Refusal to divide the conquered lands (16) Cutting down the tree of baiyat al ridwan when people prayed under it


Purpose of research- and how to set up research institutions.


Fields of research


Methodology of research. Information and conclusions.


Dissemination of research.


A Hypothesis is a formal statement of a researcher's educated guess about how two or more variables are related. Sample: Sample is persons or objects who participate in a research project. they are generally desired to reflect the characteristics of the larger similar group or population that the sample represents. The scientific method (systematic and verifiable): structure of the scientific method (1) establish problem: observation - reports - previous research (2) hypothesis: define variables - state assumptions that can be tested to determine their accuracy (3) methodology: study design: longitudinal or cross sectional - sample - questionnaire design (4) data collection (5) analysis (6) interpretation and conclusions (7) generalizations

Professor Omar Hasan Kasule September 1998