Islamization of Knowledge

Assumptions Concerning the Social Sciences: A Comparative Perspective

This paper comprises three major sections. The first section discusses modern social assumptions concerning the existence of human beings and their societies. It also explains the impact of these assumptions on organizational theory. The second section explores Islamic assumptions concerning these same two elements and explains a major attribute of Islamic organizations. The third section compares the above-mentioned assumptions of modern social science to those of Islam and illustrates that knowledge-transfer creates its own organizational and social problems.

Modern Social Science Assumptions: Human Existence and Society

In reviewing the modern science of human existence and society, Burrell and Morgan (1979) state that the relevant assumptions in this area can be viewed in the light of two strands of thought: nominalism and realism. Nominalism indicates that no real world structure exists outside of the individual’s concepts, ideas, and thoughts. This implies that reality is constructed by individuals and leads them to experience multiple realities (Lincoln and Guba 1985). Societies and external existants to individuals are merely names perceived individually (Taylor and Bodgon 1979). Societies, therefore, consist of individuals who have real existence and, without them, there would be no societies (Behechti and Bahonar 1990). According to nominalism, knowledge about multiple realities is gathered from individuals themselves.

Nominalism leads individuals to Underestimate and neglect external reality as a separate source of information and knowledge (Williams 1972; Al-A'ali 1991). Organizational theory, based on nominalism, seems to be limited to one single way of thinking. This limitation hampers individuals and organizational students seeking to question the viability of theories in relation to their reflection of neglected and external reality (ibid.). Thus Al-Mede (1984) explains that any organizational theory based on the above assumptions is incapable of change, for it is not characterized by open-endedness.

Realism assumes that there is an objective reality in isolation of individuals. The laws and rules of this external reality can be discovered and studied. These rules are applied to the study of phenomena associated with human beings (Burrell and Morgan 1979). Individuals, therefore, a not assumed to have real existence (Behechti and Bahonar 1990; Muthahari 1986). Knowledge, according to realism, is generated by conducting scientific research that uses and is based on an objective, detached stance (Burrell and Morgan 1979). Bachlard (1962) explains that naive realism assumes that labels used to describe an issue, situation, object, or person reflect its/his/her real nature. Though objective reality agrees with naïve realism on the existence of external objective reality (Lincoln and Guba 1986), it adopts a different method for learning about the same reality (Bachlard 1962).

Objective reality believes that it is possible to accumulate knowledge about natural phenomena by applying the rules of scientific methods. These methods are based on a detached observer position that seeks to understand social phenomena in terms of relationships between variables (ibid.).

Whyte (1965) explains that the above realism stances have led to the development of certain organizational values and ethics. These stances assume that an objective reality exists in isolation of individuals. Accordingly, the existence of individuals is an extension of the existence of other objects (Ekhechti and Bahonar 1990; Muthahari 1986).

Whyte (1965) further explains that the development of certain organizational values and ethics is assumed to be miversa and leads to the development of an "organization man." The ethics and values of this "organization man," according to Whyte, stifles creativity, for these same values are not questioned by individuals. Al-Meraie (1984) adds that the existence of unquestioned values and morals underlying organizational theories have led to limiting the same theory by one style of thinking, which is characterized by rigidity and a closed mind.

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