Islamization of Knowledge

The Islamization of Social Sciences in Nigeria: Problems and Prospects

The Islamization of social sciences is part and parcel of developing and promoting knowledge that conforms to the norms of Islam. This can be attained by motivating scholars to develop scholarship using an Islamic perspective through the introduction of new social science courses based on Islam, Islamizing (i.e., rearticulating along Islamic lines) existing conventional social science disciplines, and promoting the movement of Islamic attitude to knowledge.

The Islamization of Knowledge undertaking in Nigeria can be traced to the period of the Sokoto Jihad leaders, whose scholarly writings covered such aspects of life as politics, economics, and medicine. However, with the passage of time and, more especially, with the coming of the British colonialists and the concomitant infiltration of western scholarship, the Islamization of Knowledge pioneered by the Jihad leaders gradually began to fade. At first, the North opposed vehemently the spread of the western system of education, because it was linked with Christian missionary  propaganda (Fapohunda 1982). As such, the emirs of the North and their subjects stood firmly against this alien system, a stance that accounts for the disparity in western education between the South, that had welcomed it, and the North.

Unfortunately, like most other Muslim countries, Nigeria continues to suffer from the colonial legacy of the West. In particular, its elites are the worst victims of colonization of mind by the West’s so-called secular ideology. Its education and other systems of life continue to be based largely on the structure of that secular ideology.

Education is the single most important instrument for grooming and channeling a society in the desired direction. To rescue Muslim societies from the yoke of western secular civilization and to reestablish Islamic civilization requires the decolonization of the secularized minds and spirits of the elites as well as of Muslim intellectuals (the ulama), professionals, and political leaders, on the one hand, and the training of young people in Islamic knowledge and education, on the other. In order to return the society to the Islamic system of life, the first task is the Islamization of the educational system (both formal and informal) for the Muslims and the Islamization of the country’s ulama.

Fortunately, with the recent Islamic resurgence in many Muslim nations, including Nigeria, efforts are being made by many scholars to revive the past glory of Islam. One of these efforts is the Islamization of Knowledge in several Nigerian universities, especially Usmanu Danfodiyo University. It is our intention in the rest of this paper to highlight the efforts made so far in this direction and to pinpoint a number of key impediments confronting the Islamization of the social sciences.

Islamization of Social Sciences: The Journey So Far

The most significant effort in the Islamization of the social sciences in Nigeria is traceable to the year 1985, when the country convened its first international seminar on Islamic economics, which was organized by the Department of Economics, Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Sokoto. Scholars from all over the world attended and presented papers. A number of recommendations were given by the participants on how to develop the discipline of economics, as well as other social science disciplines, along Islamic lines.

Immediately after the seminar, a program for the Islamization of Knowledge was introduced by the university. It involved the Islamization of several disciplines in the faculties of arts and Islamic studies, law, social sciences, and administration. For example, the department of management studies has introduced two Islam-based courses in its undergraduate syllabi: Islamic business ethics and Islamic banking. Two courses have also been introduced into its postgraduate MBA program: the Islamic financial system and public duties in Islam. The department of economics offers courses on various fields of Islamic economics, such as Islamic banking, development in an Islamic framework, Islamic welfarism, and the economics of production, distribution, and consumption in Islam. A number of Islam-based undergraduate courses have also been introduced into the political science and sociology departments.

As the pioneer in this endeavor, it is essential at this juncture to examine the efforts made by the authorities of Usmanu Danfodiyo University, especially during the second term of the then vice-chancellor, Mahdi Adamu (1985/861988/89 sessions).

The Syllabi: As indicated above, several Islam-based courses were introduced, in addition to the conventional courses, in the departments of economics, management studies, sociology, and political science. All of these departments are located within the faculty of social sciences and administration. In addition, the contents of several conventional courses were enlarged through the addition of numerous Islam-based topics. Thus the Islamization of social science undergraduate and postgraduate programs in Usmanu Danfodiyo University was achieved through two broad perspectives: the introduction of entirely new Islamic courses and the inclusion of Islamic topics within the syllabi of conventional courses. The beauty of this approach is that while students will have the singular advantage of acquiring new insights from their academic pursuits by registering for these Islam-based courses, they will compete with their counterparts in other institutions, for they are still required to register for all the conventional courses approved for them by the National Universities Commission.

Recruitment and Training of Staff: In December 1988, fifteen new staff members (mostly graduate assistants) were recruited to foster the Islamization of social sciences. Approximately twenty new staff members were also employed for the purpose of promoting the Islamization of their disciplines. The funds used in recruiting these new staff members were sought and obtained largely from the Islamic Education Trust, based in m a , and the International Institution of Islamic Thought, based in the United States.

A special postgraduate training program, designed and approved by the university, sought to enable these young scholars to gain and develop scholarship in Islam and Islamic perspectives of various branches of human knowledge. The reasoning behind this was that this acquired knowledge would equip them with the skills and confidence needed to teach the existing Islam-based courses in their respective disciplines and to Islamize and develop the disciplines of Islamic knowledge. The basic components of the training program are Islamic studies and Shari'ah courses, workshops on the Islamization of Knowledge, Arabic language courses, and selected conventional courses on each student's particular discipline. The basic procedure used for training staff members is to send them for a Masters or a Ph.D. degree in either Islamic economics, sociology, and political science if possible, or for conventional programs in their respective disciplines. Later on, students in the second group will receive additional training in Islamic studies, the Shari'ah, and Arabic at Usmanu Danfodiyo University. So far, all staff members have completed their postgraduate studies successfully.

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