Islamization of Literature: Origin, Present Context and Some Proposals

Paper presented at a workshop on Islamic Epistemology & Curriculum Reform
2-3 May, 2008, Islamic University Kustia

In and out of the globe, Islam, as a complete code of life, does not leave any issue out of its scope. So very naturally, it takes a special interest in literature because literature, in the most popular definition, is an artistic expression of life. Islam, like literature, deals with all aspects of life, and therefore, as a significant human concern, literature has been duly treated in Islam from its very beginning. It is known that the ancient Arabs, who were of incredible poetic sense, questioned the authenticity of the holy Quran because of its charming language and artistic expression of its themes and style. The Quranic verse was the most significant the language of the holy Quran penetrated the stone like hearts of the unbelievers and made them feel the truth and peace of Islam. They got alarmed and threw an open challenge of debate to the Prophet. As a result an idealistic and aesthetic debate took place on the supremacy of Islam and other contemporary beliefs. It is notable in this regard.that our prophet (sm) encouraged Hassan bin Thabit (R), a famous contemporary poet, to use poetry in order to highlight and defend Islam and the Muslims amid the turmoil of poetic crossfire. In fact, our beloved prophet(sm) was the mastermind who used to supply his poets with necessary thematic and factual information and tips to win the contests.

So, the basic principles of Islamization of Literature found a solid ground and a literary structure from the intellectual conflict and competition between two camps. But though it emerged during the earliest days of Islam it was not flourished as a popular trend of literature as it could be. Consequently, it lost its significance and intellectuality as well as the literary and artistic potentiality. So, over the next few centuries, Muslim literary activities continued flourishing with some sort of secular characteristics. However a good number of writers and critics continued creating literature in pursuit of Islamic ideology, but their efforts, according to many critics, had not enough artistic qualities because they did not maintain two dimensional objectives- such as ideological objective and artistic accountability.

In 1952 Sayyed Kutub, a renowned Islamic scholar, called upon the Ummah, for the first time, to utilize the Quranic versification and style of presentation for the reconstruction of our literary approaches. Because the literature of other languages enriched with western philosophies and ant-Islamic elements, was leaving a serious impact on Islam, the Muslims. In fact, their contents, the themes and the inherent philosophical messages are hostile and contradictory to Islamic ideology. Moreover, such literary works are creating a serious intellectual confusion and a harmful socio-cultural synthesis resulting into a perverted and decayed Islamic identity. So in that crucial period of time Sayyed Kutub suggested a close and aesthetic reading of the holy Quran. Later on some distinguished scholars - namely Abul Hasan Ali al-Nadawi, Nagib al-Kilani, Abdul Basit Badar, Imad aI-Din aI-Khalil, Abdur Rahman Rafat al-Basha and others welcome the concept coining a new name, "Islamic Literature" for the movement. They take initiatives to promote this concept, because trom the ancient time to the present literature has been serving a great purpose as a successful and sophisticated medium of establishing and popularizing a philosophy, doctrine or ideology. This new movement is, thus, a consequential step of Islamization of Literature and an endeavor to revive the literary legacy of the Muslims.

This movement refers to some outputs and proposes some contexts of research and recommendations. These are briefly mentioned below:

The expected outputs of islamisation of literature are:
- Eradication of intentionally created conflict between literature and religion.
- Creation of a positive and harmonious co-existence between the artist and his or her beliefs or values.
- Protection of the standard and values of art and literature from degradation.
- Enable us to fulfill the demand of time, because islamization of literature ensures a balanced and human friendly art and literature

Steps proposed for Islamization of literature:
- Utilizing the opportunity of both print and electronic media by writing articles, features, and broadcasting debate and talk shows on the topic.
- Encouraging the creative writers to practice the concept in writings (poetry, drama, novels, short stories etc).
- Establishing different forums and organizations to get more people connected with the concept.
- Involving the learned people of the world to establish the concept as a better means of literature.

Some proposals to reform the existing curriculum of the Department of Arabic Language and Literature:
- Long term programs to create an Islam- friendly academic atmosphere in the department as well as in the faculty to ease and materialize the reformation.
- Selection of some literary texts that will represent Islamic values and aesthetic outlook.
- Introduction of a special course at MA levels. The course design may be as follows:

Course title-Islamization of Literature: Theory and Practice.

Selected readings:

  1. Islamization-definition, nature and scope, origin and development.
    - Contemporary thinkers and their writings on the concept.
    - Comparison of Islamic and western epistemology.
  2. Islamization of literature-background definition, nature and scope, problems and prosepects.
    -Present context and contemporary development of the issue.
    -Literary works dealing with Islamic culture and ideology.
    -Selected texts: (It may include)
    -Short story:

Amid the multi-faceted cultural and intellectual aggressions by the western world Islamization of Literature deserves our full care and attention. it has become a must for a better and well-balanced world. The practice of this concept the aesthetic entity and glorious cultural legacy of Islam this trend should be nartured, developed and established worldwide.

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