Taha Jabir Al Alwani

The Islamization of Knowledge: Yesterday and Today

Within the Islamization of Knowledge school, the idea of the Islamization of Knowledge has always been understood as an intellectual and methodological outlook rather than as an academic field, a specialization, an ideology, or a new sect. Thus, the school has sought to view issues of knowledge and methodology from the perspectives of reform, inquiry, and self-discovery without any preconceptions, doctrinal or temporal constraints, or limitations on its intellectual horizons. The school is keenly aware of the workings of time on ideas as they pass from stage to stage and mature and is therefore the first to say that the Islamization of Knowledge is not to be understood as a set of axioms, a rigid ideology, or a religious movement. Rather, in order to comprehend the full meaning of the term, it must be viewed as designating a methodology for dealing with knowledge and its sources or as an intellectual outlook in its beginning stages.

Some Remarks on the Islamic and the Secular Paradigms of Knowledge

By the time secularist thought had succeeded, at an intellectual level, in challenging the authority of the Church, its roots had already taken firm hold in western soil. Later, when western political and economic systems began to prevail throughout the world, it was only natural that secularism, as the driving force behind these systems, should gain ascendency worldwide. In time, and with varying degrees of success, the paradigm of positivism gradually displaced traditional and religious modes of thinking, with the result that generations of third world thinkers grew up convinced that the only way to “progress” and reform their societies was the way of the secular West. Moreover, since the experience of the West was that it began to progress politically, economically, and intellectually only after the influence of the Church had been marginalized, people in the colonies believed that they would have to marginalize the influence of their particular religions in order to achieve a similar degree of progress. Under the terms of the new paradigm, turning to religion for solutions to contemporary issues is an absurdity, for religion is viewed as something from humanity’s formative years, from a “dark” age of superstition and myth whose time has now passed. As such, religion has no relevance to the present, and all attempts to revive it are doomed to failure and are a waste of time.

Taqlid and Ijtihad

From the second hijri century until the present day, the reality, the essence, the rules, the conditions, the premises, the means, and the scope of ijtihad have remained a source of debate engaging some of the Islamic world's greatest theologians, scholars of al usul and fuqaha: This debate has also been enriched by proponents of the view that the door of ijtihad was closed and that the fiqh left by the Four Imams obviated the need for any further ijtihad, as well as by those who claimed that this door was still open and that the existing fiqh was not sufficient to guide the contemporary Muslim world.

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