Friday, 18 May 2012

The Decline of Knowledge and the Rise of Ideology in Muslim World

A Brother from HAKIM shared this:

by Dr. Joseph Lumbard, "The Decline of Knowledge and the Rise of Ideology in Muslim World" in Islam, Fundamentalism and the Betrayal of Tradition (Indiana: World Wisdom, 2009) 

Some excerpts from the book:

"Not only have many Muslim thinkers demonstrated a shallow understanding of non-Islamic elements, they have also distorted the religion itself. In attempting to reconstruct and reinterpret the Islamic tradition in light of the perceived achievements of the times, modernist thinkers of the past, such as Sayyid Aḥmad Khān, Muḥammad ʿAbduh and Jamāl al-Dīn Afghānī abandoned the rigorous intellectual discernment of traditional Islamic intellectuality - the first outright, the others with more subtlety. They lost sight of their intellectual traditions and unwittingly surrendered the ground of intelligence to a secular humanist tradition, whose ideologies they tried to foist upon other by reading them into their own traditions or simply by adding the adjective "Islamic"


Though each has different players with different shades of emphasis, both stringent reformism and liberal modernism constitute artificial limitations of traditional Islamic knowledge inspired by the influence of secular ideologies. This has led to the inversion of Islamic thought and the destruction of Islamic civilization. As Seyyed Hossein Nasr writes, "In trying to render back to Islam its power on the stage of history, many of these movements have disfigured the nature of Islam itself."


Liberal modernist Muslim thinkers and radical reformist activists are two sides of the same coin. Whereas medieval thinkers like Ghazālī were able to analyze and utilize tools from outside influences, radical reformists reject them outwardly while submitting inwardly, andmodernists attempt to patch them onto the fabric of Islam, some claiming that they have been a part of that fabric all along. Both movements represent a subversion of traditional values and teachings from within the Islamic tradition. In an effort to transform Islamic civlization,each has in fact hastened the onset of the very illnesses they sought to ameliorate. Rather than contemplating and evaluating Western civlization through the Islamic intellectual tradition, modernists have embraced many tenets of Western though out of a deep sense of inferiority - a sense which results from mistaking the power of Western nations for the truth of Western ideologies. Finding these movements within their midst, the reformists have retreated to fanatical adherence and pietistic sentimentalism. The modernists fail to offer solutions because they only provide intermediate solutions which are fideistic and voluntaristic at best. But such a response cannot provide lastings solutions to the challenges posed by the West, beacuse these are at root intellectual challenges which demand an intellectual response.


The choice of great thinkers from whom one seeks guidance is not limited to a narrow definition of "orthodoxy", but extends to all those Islamic thinkers, Sunnī and Shīʿī, who have tried to lend clarity to the understanding of reality enjoined by the Qurʾān and ḥadīth. Those intellectuals who have been chosen for this essay are but few luminaries from an extensive tradition one which continues into our own day and is now showing signs of new life. In order for the malaise of the Islamic world to be fully addressed and the radical reform movements to be brought back into the fold of the Islamic tradition,the iḥsānī intellectual tradition needs to be accorded its proper place in a way of life that is fully and truly Islamic. In applying the principles of Islam to the modern world, whileavoiding the passionate rhetorical battles which rage around them, the representatives of this tradition exemplify this saying of Abū Saʿīd b. Abī 'l-Khayr:

"A [true] man is one who sits and rises among others, sleeps and eats, and interacts with others in the bazaar, buying and selling, who mixes with people, yet for one moment is not forgetful of God in his heart."

But such a path is not achieved by focusing upon reform of the world, of Islam, or of one's nation. It is first and foremost a reform of one's self."


For preview:

Short comments:
Same points as raised by Prof. Al-Attas although Prof. Al-Attas have more gravitas in explaining those in his seminal works such as Risalah Untuk Kaum Muslimin and Islam and Secularism.

For further explication of such topics can be attained in WISE of HAKIM:

1st Semester

  • Module 1: The Worldview of Islam: A Brief Overview
  • Module 2: The Place and Role of the Holy Qur'an and Sunnah
  • Module 3: The Nature and Reality of Man
  • Module 4: The Cosmos as the Created Book
  • Module 5: The Nature and Purpose of Knowledge
  • Module 6: The Meaning and Experience of Happiness

  • 2nd Semester

  • Module 7: The External Problems of the Muslims: The Challenges of Western Culture
  • Module 8: The Threats of Secularization towards the Natural World, Politics and Values
  • Module 9: The Internal Problems of the Muslims: The Corruption of Knowledge, the Loss of Adab and the Rise                     of False Leaders
  • Module 10: The Islamization of Contemporary Knowledge and the Dewesternization of Thought and Language
  • Module 11: Ta'dib as the Concept of Education in Islam
  • Module 12: The Advent of Islam in the Histories of the Western and Malay Worlds

  • 3rd Semester

  • Module 13: Epistemology
  • Module 14: Islamic Pyschology
  • Module 15: Islamic Theology
  • Module 16: The Study of Religion: Its History and Philosophy
  • Module 17: Philosophy and Ethical Theory
  • Module 18: The Philosophy of Science
  • Module 19: Tafsir, Ta'wil and Hermeneutics
  • Module 20: Usul Al-Fiqh: Siyasah Shar'iyyah
  • Module 21: Usul Al-Fiqh: Maqasid Al-Shari'iyyah
  • Module 22: Ethics and Leadership
  • Module 23: The Study of Malay Civilization: Its Philosophy and The Role of Islam
  • Module 24: Contemporary Islamic Thought
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