Islamization of Knowledge

Towards a Unified Approach to the Shari'ah and Social Inference

Forging a new methodology capable of analyzing complicated social phenomena on the one hand, and facilitating the derivation of rules and concepts from divine revelation on the other, is one of the paramount concerns of contemporary Islamic scholarship and the sole concern of this paper. In dealing with this concern the paper pursues two main themes. First, an attempt is made to underscore the need for reestablishing revelation as a primary source of social theorizing. Second, a primordial model of a unified methodological approach for analyzing both revealed texts and social phenomena is outlined.

The first difficulty confronting any attempt to develop an alternative methodological approach, especially one rooted in Islamic ontology, lies in the exclusion of divine revelation from the realm of science. This exclusion originated within the confines of western scientific traditions due to internal conflict between western religious and scientific communities. While revelation and science were never perceived as mutually exclusive in the Islamic scientific tradition, modern Muslim scholars cannot ignore the fact that divine revelation is out of place in contemporary scientific activities. Thus we choose to begin by exploring the grounds for recognizing revelation as a major source of scientific knowledge.

The campaign against revealed knowledge, which led to its exclusion from western science, consisted of two phases: a) revelation was equated first with ungrounded metaphysics and established as a rival knowledge in contrast to knowledge deemed as true by reason (Locke 1977), and b) it was then asserted, a la Kant (1969), that scientific activity should be confined to empirical reality, since human reason cannot ascertain transcendental reality. We argue that scientific activity presupposes metaphysical knowledge and is even impossible without transcendental presuppositions. In addition, we contend that the truth of revelation is rooted in empirical reality and that the quality of evidence supporting revealed truth is of no less caliber than that justifying empirical truth.

Metaphysical Presuppositions of Empirical Knowledge

To begin with, the effort to separate religious (metaphysical) truth from scientific truth is mistaken and untenable, for knowledge of the physical is rooted in the metaphysical and the latter is not altogether divorced from the former. To appreciate their interconnectedness, one has to remember that science and scientific activity are the result of a specific ontology that relates an individual's scientific endeavor to the environment and furnishes their motivational basis. Put differently, scientific activity presupposes several assertions about the nature of existence, the truth of which must be acknowledged prior to any engagement in empirical studies. Among these metaphysical assertions, the following three are stressed: a) the natural world is governed by laws that endow the behavior of natural objects with order and regularity; b) laws governing natural order are rational and thus discoverable by human rationality; and c) knowledge is an important human value and is superior to ignorance.

These transcendental principles, presupposed by all scientific activity, form the foundation of the scientific tradition, even though they cannot be examined by those methods currently accepted by the modern western scientific tradition. However science, as a vocation, owes its existence to such transcendental principles.

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