Islamization of Knowledge

Actualization of Islamization of Knowledge: What Role for Islamic Research Libraries?


Islam as a religion and a complete way of life enjoins all Muslims not only to seek for knowledge but also to utilize and impart it in accordance with its tenets. Basically, Islam considers knowledge in its entirety as universal, but what matters is its epistemology, methodology and usage. This is why at the early stage of Islam; education aimed not only at the spiritual development of an individual but also his intellectual, emotional, social, economic and physical well being. Consequently, the early scholars of Islam were intellectually sound in all aspects of human life. With the passage of time, however, the urge for Muslims to seek for knowledge declined. This was further compounded by colonialism as a result of which Muslim traditional Islamic institutions were dominated by secularism.

The surge for Islamization of knowledge emerged having realized the gross inadequacies of the western/secular educational system, which aimed  only at outward development of individuals. As the move to Islamize knowledge intensified, a lot of problems were confronted which caused bottlenecks to the actualization of the set goals. Now the questions are: what are the purposes of the Islamization of knowledge? What are the problems militating against actualization of the Islamization programme? And most importantly, what roles can Islamic research libraries play in order to ensure the actualization of the Islamization of knowledge? This paper is intended to answer the above questions, and it ends by proffering some suggestions for the actualization of the Islamization project.

Historical Background

Essentially, Islamization of knowledge is as old as Islam itself. This is so because right from the beginning of the revelation received by the Prophet (S.A.W.) Allah (S.W.T.) commanded him to read, to seek for knowledge and to make use of the pen. He said:
Read in the name of thy who created, Created man from a clot of blood. Read: and thy Lord is the Most Bounteous, Who teaches (the use of) the pen. Teaches man that which he knew not. (Qur’an 96:1-5)
The above verses presupposed that there was something to be read and acquired in line with Allah’s injunction and there was something to be written.  “Knowledge”’ includes science, self knowledge and spiritual understanding.1  Historically this did not only mark the beginning of Islamization of knowledge but also laid the foundation for Librarianship.
 During the prophet’s lifetime, he devoted his time to spreading the message of the love for knowledge and wisdom. He organized classes in order to teach his companions lessons not only pertaining to the spiritual aspect but also other spheres of life. This was thus beautifully and elaborately described by Ahsan thus:

He (Prophet) organized a national education system and established its various sub-departments for the teaching of languages, commerce and business administration, industrial education and training, agricultural education and research, physical education and defense and strategic studies… This educational system was the first approach of its kind in the history of Arabic Peninsula…In the prophetic educational system various aspects of environmental education (e.g.) irrigation system, agricultural techniques, plantation, range management, pollution as well as corruption were important parts of the curricula of agricultural and religious education. This system functioned effectively, centuries after this death.2

As a result of the prophetic attitude to the spread of knowledge, there was a radical speed in the illumination of intellect, research and thought, among his disciples, which even paved way for the progress of other civilizations.

During the reign of the four rightly guided Khalifs, the prophetic legacy of scholarship was perfectly retained. Ali (A.S.) the fourth Caliph emphasized the spread of science and knowledge, culture and intellectual ability as one of the merits to be pursued and achieved by every Muslim government. This legacy was generously guarded and upheld up to the period of the Umayyad and Abbasid Khalifat. 

However, with rapid expansion of Islam and influx of foreign culture in Muslim countries, some aspects of un-Islamic practices began to manifest in their institutions and centers of learning. This became more pronounced after the colonization exercise. In fact, after the colonization, the colonialist planted their western style of schools to enhance and perpetuate foreign colonial domination at the expense of the traditional Islamic schools.

In Nigeria, the Islamization of knowledge process began with the Islamic revivalism led by Shaykh Usman dan Fodiyo. In this period, Muslims were enjoined and encouraged to seek  knowledge in all aspects of human endeavours. The Jihad leaders themselves were reputed for the profundity of scholarship. They wrote a lot of books on politics, economics, medicine, sociology, astronomy, poetry, etc. To buttress this point further; Mikailu noted that:

The Islamization of knowledge undertaken 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 medicines.3
 It was also revealed by Aguolu4 that the intellectual works of Sokoto Jihad leaders centered on law, poetry, philosophy and religion. He however observed that French and German imperialism proved highly deleterious to the intellectual and cultural growth of Northern Nigeria in Islamic perspective.

 Why Islamization of Knowledge?

Having spent decades in blind adoption of secular/western system of education, and having experienced the adverse consequences of moral degeneration, economic degradation, educational backwardness and intellectual sterility, particularly amongst youths, contemporary Muslim intellectuals realized that there was no alternative to transforming the epistemology and methodology of knowledge to be in consonance with Islamic tenets.

The secular education imparted is observed to be causing a lot of problems rather than solving them as a result of the spiritual vacuum and discord between material and spiritual development. Maidugu5 observes that the contemporary secular educational system has failed in providing the much-needed solution to the multiplicity of problems facing mankind today because they have ignored the value centered nature of human behaviour. Commenting further on the above issue, Baba eloquently sums it up:

Knowledge that is taught in most learning institutions today is fragmented and dualistic in nature. Secularism separates knowledge of science from that of the divine one…In non-religious schools, science and human science subjects are taught as value-free, leaving religious knowledge to be taught only as a residuals subject. Divine knowledge is not developed according to the concept of din. This has resulted in the formation of fragmented worldview and no integration takes place. The effect of this does not only perpetuate secular-oriented human resource development but also the nature of development approaches modeled on the secular and western worldview.6

As the western style of education continues to undermine religion, secularism has not only eaten deep into our cultural heritage but has also been at work in our society today.

Precisely, if one compares the above discussion with what practically obtains in our society today, particularly in the institutions of higher education, one cannot but conclude that as long as we continue to patronize secular educational system, our society will continue to dwell in adverse crises which no human ideology can address. This is because the greatest problems of mankind are not those, which can be solved in any laboratory, nor can they be addressed by any human system of government.  As more and more Muslims became aware of the defects of an educational system based on a secular, western prototype, the demand in the light of Islamic educational philosophy and value increased. Having realized the overwhelming effects of the secular system of education, the only solution is to evolve an educational system, which is in conformity with Islamic philosophy as suggested by many scholars. According to Shehu7 the way out of the present predicament is to provide an approach, which does not compromise the fundamentals of Islamic faith in anyway, nor sacrifice its values, ideals, goals and teachings. An approach, which does not retard the intellectual and scholarly progress of Ummah. It should be an approach that is comprehensive and penetrating. This is particularly essential because Islamization of knowledge aims at rectifying existing imbalance to help each pupil attain an overall and balanced development in the physical, spiritual, intellectual, social, emotional and moral domains.

Therefore, the purpose of Islamization of knowledge is to maintain conscience within mankind so that through his thought and social attitudes, man remains faithful to immortal truth as conveyed by the Qur’an and contribute to keep his soul ever pure and participate in the social, economic, political, cultural and moral development of the people. Alwani8 posits that to ensure a balanced understanding of reality, Islamization of knowledge is an epistemological and civilization necessity, not only for the Muslims but for humanity in general. Islamization of knowledge may be considered a solution to the global crises of contemporary thought as it provides a credible and viable response to our vital needs today for its philosophy aims at promoting scholarship with Islamic elements in all disciplines.

Impediments To Actualization Of The Islamization Of Knowledge.

Apparently, there are numerous impediments militating against the actualization of Islamization of knowledge programme. For a clear understanding of the problems, it is pertinent to enumerate and discuss them briefly.

i. Effects of colonialism on Muslims.
In all colonized Muslim nations according to Baba9 the colonialist devised well thought-out and well-planned strategy to ensure that the Euro-Christian legacies were well established thereby consigning the traditional Islamic education to deterioration. This was because it was the colonialists’ plan to keep Islamic education out of touch with reality and modernity. They established the so-called secular schools a view to perpetuating not only secular oriented human resource development but also to fashion the developmental approaches to conform with the secular worldview. Consequently, most of those who attended secular schools were brainwashed and corrupted, as their thoughts, attitudes and visions were modeled to be in line with secular worldviews. Having spent most of their lives in this situation therefore, it is very difficult to redirect their minds to see vision and accept the mission of Islamization of knowledge programme wholeheartedly. This is because in the secular school according to Watson:

They have learnt that they must keep any Religious convictions they have firmly under wrap. Only secular conviction can be safely aired because these are presumed to be objective, fair and balanced.10

ii   Acute shortage of Islamically oriented educational institutions.

Related to the above, colonialism did not only lead to the stagnation of the traditional Islamic education system, but also led to the corruption, decline and decadence of the Muslim institutions of international repute. For instance, prior to colonialism, Al-Azhar of Egypt, Al-Zaitunah of Tunis, Al Ma’had Al-llmy of Sudan and many others were highly reputable centers of Islamic education. But as time passed by, colonial intrusion westernized and secularized these institutions. Even though these institutions are in Muslim countries today, they are quite comparable with those in the West in terms of moral laxity, godlessness and manifestations of other dehumanizing practices. Today, Muslim world lacks highly reputable Islamically oriented tertiary institutions where researchers in natural sciences, social sciences, medical sciences and other aspects of human knowledge are seriously conducted, tested, certified and implemented. As such, Muslims solely depend on secular education for advancement. They also depend on western curriculum, research findings, technology and medical facilities . Husain and Ashraf emphatically warned that:
Unless Muslims scholars get together to create their own schools of Social Sciences and Humanities and rise to challenge the hypothesizing of Western scientists who ignore the operation of the Divine Will in Nature, the time is not far off when Muslim societies will be as ’permissive’ as Western societies are and Islam will be safely preserved only in Book-form in the Qur’an and Hadith.11
The longer the Muslims continue to depend on others for their developmental needs, the more the actualization of Islamization of knowledge will continue to be a mirage.

iii  Acute shortage of Islamically oriented teachers/researchers.
Lack of Islamically well versed and committed teachers, researchers and other professionals in all fields of human endeavours is another problem.  Umar12, the Director of the International Institute of Islamic Thought Outreach Department Yola, lamented that Muslims do not have enough Doctors, Muslim nurses, Muslim engineers, Muslim journalists, Muslims lawyers, Muslim judges, Muslim university professionals, accountants, economists, etc. The few Muslim teachers and researchers who are deeply concerned with Islamization of knowledge are workers in secular oriented institutions or research centers. Hence, they do not have enough time to devote to the Islamization programme as a result of their work schedules.

iv. Lack of Islamically oriented curriculum.
As there is acute shortage of institutions, teachers and researchers so also there is no well though out, well designed and programmed curriculum which will serve as a basis for the realization of the Islamization of knowledge programme from nursery to tertiary level. As Shehu13 posits that the task of Islamization of knowledge involves all the conventional levels of education right from nursery up to the Universities in order not to subject Muslim children and youth  to alien and sometimes atheistic concepts, there is a pressing need to work out goal-oriented curriculum for all levels of education from nursery to tertiary institutions to serve as a guide in the instruction, evaluation and actualization of the task ahead.
 Unfortunately, however, even in some institutions like Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Sokoto where some Islamically oriented courses were incorporated in the Social and Management Sciences, the National Universities Commission (NUC) Accreditation Committee viewed them as unconventional and thus suggested for a review in order to revert to the so-called conventional ones. Needless to say that the success of any curriculum depends on the availability of Islamically oriented educational institutions, teachers and researchers in all spheres of human endeavour.

v. Dearth of well-equipped Islamically oriented laboratories.
This is another impediment militating against the success of the Islamization of knowledge programme. There is dearth of well-equipped laboratories established by Islamization programme, especially in medical and natural sciences. Too much reliance on the West has made Muslims incapable of producing their chemicals and laboratory equipments. There is also a dearth of qualified laboratory scientists capable of ensuring the success of the Islamization of knowledge project.

vi   Inadequate Funding
Inadequate funding is identified by Sulaiman14 as one of the problems militating against the progress and success of the Islamization of knowledge. This problem is not limited to Nigeria only but all over the Muslim world. In fact all other problems stem from this. This is because money is needed to train and employ qualified staff, money is needed to provide laboratories and libraries and money is needed to sponsor and conduct researches.
Currently, most of the conferences, seminars or staff training carried out by Islamization of knowledge project were sponsored by individuals or some organizations such as Islamic Education Trust (IET) based at Minna, Nigeria and International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT) based in the United States of American. As such, the Islamization of knowledge project lacks adequate financial backing for its actualization. Unless, there is adequate financial support to cater for the needs of the programme, its success will continue to falter. In Nigeria, the degree of acceptance, participation of women, lack of support from the traditional Ulama etc are some of the challenges facing the Islamization of knowledge movement as observed by Mikailu.15

vi. Acute shortage of coordinated library and information services.

 Basically, the success of any educational transformation depends on well-planned, well-organized and well-coordinated library services. In short, one of the determining factors of the success of any educational programme is the extent to which it has developed its information systems at various levels to achieve its goals. This is because information is indispensable in human progress and development. In most of the Islamic institutions or centers, their libraries are not accorded the priority they deserve. They are not well stocked with current, relevant and well-researched materials such as textbooks, journals, these and other reference materials in all subjects necessary for the advancement of human knowledge. Where libraries exist their collections are few and narrow in content and coverage.
Similarly, there is dearth of professional librarians to man and provide services to scholars and researchers involved in the Islamization of knowledge. Most of those who could be termed as library staff are only those who voluntarily agree to look after the library’s collections. Except in some places, most of the libraries have no full time and qualified staff to make any meaningful contribution to the Islamization programme. 
Having discussed the impediments to the Islamization of knowledge, now the question is, what roles can the Islamic research library play in order to ensure the actualization of the Islamization of knowledge? The roles are outlined and discussed below:

The Role Of Islamic Research Libraries In The Actualization Of The Islamization Of Knowledge
The specific roles, which Islamic research libraries can play in the realization of Islamization of knowledge are  examined below: -

     i     Conservation of  Knowledge 

 One of the earliest and most fundamental responsibilities of the library is preservation of recorded knowledge. Therefore, it is the duty of Islamic Research Libraries to identify different kinds of materials, acquire, process and organize them for use. Since the most important goal of the Islamization of knowledge is to redirect the existing knowledge to be in line with Islamic philosophy, the library can help greatly in realizing this by rationally and systematically accumulating all kinds of records that embody the ideas and knowledge of the past and present. It is the duty of the library to ensure that whatever findings and discoveries are made, they are acquired, processed, organized and made available to users for Islamization. It is also the duty of the library to jealously and perpetually preserve the Islamized knowledge for the needs of the present and future generations.

ii. Educational Agency.

As stated earlier, for any educational or intellectual revolution to succeed, the services of the library are indispensable. One cannot expect an expedient excellent intellectual revolution without the support of a well-equipped and well-staffed library. Aguolu opines, that “Libraries are the hubs from which all intellectual activities radiate to all academic and research programmes.”16 This is because there is a strong correlation between the adequacy of library collections and success of educational programme. Islamic research libraries must therefore possess rich collections of books, journals, encyclopedias and other types of information resources in all disciplines to be able to meet the information and bibliographic needs of their users.
Since Islamization of knowledge aims at all levels of education, libraries could make provision for all levels in order to groom the young generations not only to cope with the demands of the Islamization, but also to meet the challenges of the changing world.

iii. Information Agency.

Information services are very vital for any human progress. It is the duty of Islamic research libraries to ensure that right information in current scientific and technological researches are made available to users at the right time. All libraries are expected to provide an effective information service to users. Ready access to information is indispensable to human advancement. The right information provided when it is needed, and where it is needed, improves the ability of an individual, a business, a government agency, or some other kind of organization to make informed decisions.
In essence, current information is needed in order, to abreast oneself with current development in his area. It is the duty of the Islamic research library to scrutinize, refine and sift all kind of information with a view to separating grains from the chaff before it is made available to users.

iv. Agency for Research.

Research is simply a systematic study of a subject with a view to discovering new facts or ideas in order to increase the sum of human knowledge. Through the use of Islamic research libraries services, new knowledge can be discovered and rediscovered, organized and preserved in order to pave way for future researches. Researchers usually commence their study by examining what others have done. Islamic research libraries should provide adequate bibliographical apparatus such as guides to literature, subject bibliographies, abstracting and indexing services, journals, and directories of researches completed or in progress. It is the duty of the research libraries to identify the diverging bibliographic and information requirement of researchers in all disciplines from arts, humanities, social sciences, natural sciences and technology with a view to not only ensuring complete Islamization but also guaranteeing its sustainability. Oli17 suggests that to meet the research needs of the Islamization programme, libraries should continue the powerful Islamic tradition of acquiring and assimilating the existing knowledge and stimulating the creation of new knowledge for advancement of the world Muslim community. This will ultimately lead to the production of relevant textbooks for all levels, scholarly journals, research reports, handbooks and other research and reference materials, which will subsequently pave way for the production and reproduction of new knowledge.

A Cultural Agency.

Culture denotes the ideas, beliefs, customs or ways of life that are accepted by people in a society. In other words, culture is a way of life that incorporates ideological, social, moral and intellectual element peculiar to a particular group of people. The cultural role of Islamic research libraries is very central to the actualization of the Islamization of knowledge programme. The libraries should acquire materials that promote Islamic cultural heritage. They should provide materials to de-colonize the minds of the Muslims, imbuing in them with the love and appreciation of their cultural heritage and giving correct perspective about themselves, their abilities and achievements. The libraries should also assist in understanding and controlling the environment through the provision of appropriate scientific and technological information generated within and outside the Muslim environments. By embarking on a sustained programme for documentation of traditional values, and for promoting new literatures pertinent to Muslims aspirations, the libraries become potent tools for Islamization project. The cultural role of the library is pertinent because Islam has its own worldview of human affairs and Islamic literature naturally will reflect this worldview. What is needed is a totally new and radical approach by Muslim librarians to ensure strict acquisition, preservation and dissemination of materials which are compatible with the dynamic Islamic worldview with a view to restoring the lost glory of Islamic cultural heritage.

vi. Agency for Translation.

One of the greatest contributions the libraries can make is by embarking on translation of materials published in various languages. In the early days of Islam, Umayyad and Abbasid caliphates embarked on aggressive translation of ancient Greek and Roman bequests  whether they were secular or theological in order to Islamize and apply it in solving problems. Today, Islamic research libraries can embark on translation of materials published in German, Russian, Chinese, Japanese, French, among other languages, in order to contribute to human knowledge. As the proliferation of all types of records in diverse languages increases, it will be difficult for the researcher  with the data in his field. He has to depend considerably upon the libraries to meet his needs. This can only be achieved through embarking on translation services. 
In order to ensure most accurate and most reliable translation, there is the urgent need to train multilingual and multidisciplinary, Islamically conscious and committed librarians. There is the urgent need for language training to achieve language proficiency. This is required for ensuring a thorough understanding of the literature that is  published in other languages which are vital in the Islamization of knowledge process.  
Suggestions for Improvement.

Based on the above discussions, the following suggestions are proffered for improvement.
1. All Islamically oriented institutions and research centers should be provided with well-stocked and well-staffed libraries.
2. Library staff without relevant qualifications should be sponsored to go for in-service full-time or part-time training locally or overseas.
3. Continuing efforts by teachers, researchers and other specialist religious groups to publish materials that adequately take account of religious perspective should be encouraged and supported by religious communities themselves.
4. Donation of materials and funds should be solicited from philanthropists, publishers, etc. in order to improve the services of the libraries.
5. Library and Information Science should be Islamized with a view to producing Muslim librarians who will contribute significantly to the actualization of Islamization of knowledge programme.


From the foregoing, it can be seen that during the golden age of Islam, Muslims clearly played a significant role in the growth of intellectual heritage of mankind in all human endeavours. Regrettably however, the contemporary Muslims seem to have been  left behind intellectually, scientifically, technologically and economically to the disadvantage of the entire Ummah.
 In the present situation where information is a vital tool for the economic, scientific and technological development, it is imperative for the Muslim world to pool their resources towards Islamization of knowledge for the benefit of Islam and the progress of Muslims. The Islamic research libraries have a significant role to play in this regard.
Notes And References
1. Ali, A. Yusuf  The Holy Qur’an Text, Translation and Commentary. Maryland: Amana Corporation, 1992. p. 1672.
2. Ahsan, M. “Environment, Human Security and Islam: A Case study of Pakistan” in Muslim Education Quarterly, Cambridge: The Islamic Academy, 2004 Vol. 18 No. 3   p. 55.
3. A.S. Mikailu, “Islamization of Social Science in Nigeria: Problems and Prospects”. The American Journal of Islamic Social Sciences, Herndon: The Association of Muslim Social Scientists and The International Institute of Islamic Thought, 1995,  Vol. 12 No. 1, P. 102.
4. C.C. Aguolu, Libraries, Knowledge and National Development: Inaugural Lecture Series, No. 45, Maiduguri: University Press, 1989. p. 20
5. A.A. Maidugu, “The Islamization of Economic Science: The Need for a Paradigm Shift” in  Al-Ijtihad: The Journal of Islamization of Knowledge and Contemporary Issues, Kano : International Institute of Islamic Thought , 2001, Vol. 12 No. 1 pp. 102-108.
6.  S. Baba, “Integrated Knowledge in the Tauhidic Curriculum”  in Muslim Education Quarterly. Cambridge: The Islamic Academy, 2001, Vol. 17. No. 3,  p. 15.
7. S. Shehu,  Islamization of Knowledge: Conceptual Background, Vision and Tasks. Kano : Technical Imaging: 1998, p. 35
8.  J.J. Al-Alwani, “Islamization of Knowledge: Yesterday and Today”.in The American Journal of Islamic Social Sciences. Herndon: The Association of Muslim Social Scientists and The International Institute of Islamic Thought, 1995 Vol. 12 No. 1, pp. 81-101
9. S. Baba, op .cit. p.15
10.  M. Watson, “Privileging Secularism: Meeting the Challenges for Religious Education” in Muslim Education Quarterly, Cambridge: The Islamic Academy,  2000, Vol. 17, No. 2,  p.8
11.  S.A.Husaini, &  S.A.Ashraf, Crisis in Muslim Education. Jedda: King Abdulaziz University. 1979, p. 32. 
12. B.A. Umar “Scholars Lament Dearth of Muslim Professionals”, in Daily Trust, 2004. Vol. 9  No. 72 Tuesday Oct. 12, 
13.  S. Shehu, . Op. cit.  p. 71
14.  S. Sulaiman,  “An Appraisal of Islamization of Knowledge Programme in Nigeria” in Al-Ijtihad: The Journal of the Islamization of Knowledge and Contemporary Issues. Kano: International Institute of Islamic Thought., 2001, Vol. 2 No. 1,
15.  A.S. Mikailu,  op. cit. p. 105.
16. C.C. Aguolu,  op. cit. P. 37.
18.  M. Oli, “Islam, Knowledge and Librarianship,” in A. Khurshid,  (ed), Library Education Across the Boundaries of Culture:  A Festchrist edition, Karachi: Dept. of Library Science, 1981,  pp. 55-70.


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