بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

نحمده ونصلى على رسوله الكريم

A Learning Society: Issues and Challenges to Learners, Educators and Planners – an Islamic Perspective

Muhammad `Uthman El-Muhammady

[this article was first published in our previous website at Geocities in September 2004]

This paper- God willing- will argue for the successful implementation of a knowledge and learning society and also life of quality in the holistic sense and not only in certain aspects of both, because Islam as a tauhidic  ‘weltanschauung’ stands for the realization of total human needs, seeing man in terms of, firstly his theomorphism, and then secondly  his social , collective and civilizational needs.

Firstly we should be clear about  our understanding of the notion of knowledge society as it is understood in current cultural discourse. What is “knowledge society”?

As an example concerning one part of the Muslim World, in a recent report about developing ‘a knowledge society’  in the Arab world, it is stated in the Arab Human development report 2003: building knowledge society 2003

[means that] the Arab states should also encourage greater interaction with other nations, cultures and regions of the world, [urging] “[o]penness, interaction, assimilation, absorption, revision, criticism and examination cannot but prompt creative knowledge  production in Arab societies.[this report done ] by a group of distinguished Arab scholars and opinion leaders, is at once descriptive and perspective, with bold recommendations for change and analysis of the current state of education, scientific research, the media, the publishing industry, culture encompassing religion, intellectual heritage and the Arabic language, and other building blocks of a “knowledge society” in the Arab states.

It is observed that The Arab Human Development report 2003 (AHDR2003 ) which is the second of a planned four-part series which will also cover the issues of freedoms and political institutions, and gender imbalance and the empowerment of women in the 22 Arab states. The first Report (AHDR 2002 ), issued a year ago, outlined the most important development challenges facing the Arab states at the beginning of the third Millennium. The Egyptian renowned journalist Muhammad Hassanain Haikal said AHDR 2002 signaled the region’s “last chance to join the trip to the future.”(2)

There are a number of important points in the report touching upon “information society”.

The report is observed as: “Written into every line is the unwavering conviction that reform efforts, which genuinely serve the region’s interests must be initiated and launched from within.” Yet the construction of a viable “knowledge society” requires effective economic, social and political institutions, Khalaf emphasizing “The missing links are.. smothered by ideologies, societal structures and values that inhabit critical thinking, cut Arabs off from their knowledge rich heritage and block the free flow of ideas and learning”

It goes on to describe it: ” The report proposes a strategic vision that could support a creative renaissance buttressed by the “five pillars” of an Arab Knowledge society guaranteeing the key freedoms of opinion, and assembly through good governance bounded by the law.” A climate of freedom is an essential prerequisite of the knowledge society,” affirms the report and argues that “It is also imperative to end an era of administrative control and the grip of security agencies over the production and dissemination of knowledge and the various forms of creative activity that are the foundations for the knowledge society in Arab states.”(3)

In one international; conference last year (2003) dealing with the topic of engineering ‘knowledge society’ the organizers noted that:

«Engineering the Knowledge Society» (EKS)[involve] «Information technology supporting human development» Information Technology (or Information and Communication Technology) cannot be seen as a separate entity. Its application should support human development and this application has to be engineered.

What has to be taken into account when engineering the Knowledge Society? The Conference will address:

Lifelong Learning and education, e-inclusion, ethics and social impact, engineering profession, developing e-society, economy and e-Society.

o       What actions have to be undertaken to realize a human centered Knowledge Society? The presentations in this World Summit parallel event will reflect the active stance towards human development supported by ICT expressed in its title. A Round Table session will provide concrete proposals for action.(4)

In the Forum on «Engineering the Knowledge Society»  the topics covered are:

o       Education

Lifelong Learning in the Knowledge Society

Collective intelligence and Capacity building in the Information Society – Social Engineering of the Knowledge Society

  • The e-Society Repository: An Open Tool to Build a Human Information Society
  • Preserving Information – Orality, Writing and Memory in a Human Society
  • Towards an indigenous Vision for the Information Society
  • Vulnerabilities of Information Technologies and their impact on the Information Society
  • Professional Deontology [i.e.theory on duties], self regulation and Ethics in the Information Society
  • Development in the Field Software Engineering Professionalism, standards and Best Practice
  • The Role of Professional Society in the Information Age
  • Managing ICT Skills Profiles
  • Enabling ICT Adoption in Developing e-Societies
  • Sustainable Development and Information Society (From Rio to Geneva
  • Impact of Future Technology on Society
  • Telemedicine for medical Capacity Building in Developing Countries:Experiences and Lessons Learned in Mali
  • Understanding and interpreting the Drivers of the Knowledge Economy
  • Networked Economy – Effects on organizational Development and the Role of Education
  • Beyond Information Society: the Revolution of non-tangible Assets Social Engineering of the Internet in Developing Areas

Recently it is observed, in relation to the term: “knowledge society” or “information society” or whatever; it is stated that:

“We in Western Europe can probably agree that we have left the industrial society. What, then, have we entered instead? Information society, service society or knowledge society are, I guess, the most commonly used designations for the stage we currently are in. What designation we think is right very likely depends on where we are.”(5)

And, further, it is observed :

“Journalists would say information society; McDonald’s would say service society. “Where you stand depends on where you sit,” as the British are fond of saying. It is a question of what you value the most, for none of them – information, service or knowledge – are anything new. They have always existed and will probably always exist; but other phenomena – agriculture, industry – have tended to dominate the interpretation of reality.”

And:

“Hence it is not so much a matter of objective truth as of what interpretation is the most fulfilling when we have to choose the designation for the current conditions. Knowledge society can be a very suitable designation for most societies in Western Europe. It is naturally a matter of definition when a society has become a knowledge society. The easiest criterion is perhaps the price per pound of a nation’s export. The higher it is, the more knowledge there is in the product.”

It is also stated : “Calling Western Europe a knowledge society the fact that we don’t want to compete with the 3rd world – at least not on the 3rd world’s premises – and it assumes an increasing amount of knowledge in the products. We don’t even have to go very far. If there are to be room for the new EU members, we must necessarily ‘escape’ into a higher knowledge content in our products”. (6)

The we come to the question of what is “a learning society”?  It is seen in a number of perspectives. Among others it is seen as: Notions of the learning society gained considerable currency in policy debates in a number of countries since the appearance of Learning to Be:

If learning involves all of one’s life, in the sense of both time-span and diversity, and all of society, including its social and economic as well as its educational resources, then we must go even further than the necessary overhaul of ‘educational systems’ until we reach the stage of a learning society. (Faure et al 1972: xxxiii)

The notion has subsequently been wrapped up with the emergence of so called ‘post-industrial’ or ‘post-Fordist’ societies and linked to other notions such as lifelong learning and ‘the learning organization’ (see, in particular, the seminal work or Argyris and Schon 1978). It is an extra-ordinarily elastic term that provides politicians and policymakers with something that can seem profound, but on close inspection is largely vacuous. All societies need to be charactized by learning or else they will die!( in ” the theory and rhetoric of the learning society” in http://www.infed.org/lifelonglearning/b-lrnsoc.htm )

The writer Donald Schon concerning what is called  the loss of the stable state stated his views in his work  providing an early view on the matter, defining it, giving his contribution  (1963, 1967, 1973). He provided a theoretical framework linking the experience of living in a situation of an increasing change with the need for learning.

“The loss of the stable state means that our society and all of its institutions are in continuous processes of transformation. We cannot expect new stable states that will endure for our own lifetimes.

“We must learn to understand, guide, influence and manage these transformations. We must make the capacity for undertaking them integral to ourselves and to our institutions.

“We must, in other words, become adept at learning. We must become able not only to transform our institutions, in response to changing situations and requirements; we must invent and develop institutions which are ‘learning systems’, that is to say, systems capable of bringing about their own continuing transformation. (Schon 1973: 28)

One of his  innovations was to explore the extent to which companies, social movements and governments were learning systems – and how those systems could be enhanced. He suggests that the movement toward learning systems is, of necessity, ‘a groping and inductive process for which there is no adequate theoretical basis’ (ibid.: 57). The business firm, according to Donald Schon’s argument , was a striking example of a learning system. He charted how firms moved from being organized around products toward integration around ‘business systems’ (ibid.: 64). He made the case that many companies no longer have a stable base in the technologies of particular products or the systems build around them.

Then he  went on with Chris Argyris to develop a number of important concepts with regard to organizational learning. Of particular importance for later developments was their interest in feedback and single- and double-loop learning.

However, as Griffin and Brownhill (2001) have pointed out three other earlier conceptions of the learning society also repay attention.

Another writer to be noted  is Robert M. Hutchins writing on  the learning society. Hutchins, in a book first published in 1968, argued that a ‘learning society’ had become necessary. Education systems were no longer able to respond to the demands made upon them. Instead it was necessary to look toward the idea that learning was at the heart of change. ‘The two essential facts are… the increasing proportion of free time and the rapidity of change. The latter requires continuous education; the former makes it possible (1970: 130). He looked to ancient Athens for a model. There:

education was not a segregated activity, conducted for certain hours, in certain places, at a certain time of life. It was the aim of the society. The city educated the man. The Athenian was educated by culture, by paideia. (Hutchins 1970: 133)

Slavery made this possible – releasing citizens to participate in the life of the city. Hutchins’ argument was that ‘machines can do for modern man what slavery did for the fortunate few in Athens’ (op. cit.).

To the writer of this present paper, in the perspective of the Islamic tradition we can see the madinan prophetic model as representing every  clear example of this module of education not being a segregated activity but rather integrated into the very rhythm of life, and then further making it sacred as struggle in the path of Allah, and those who die in its path they die as martyrs in the path of Allah. (See the Chapter on Book of Knowledge of Ihya of al-Ghazali rd).

Torsten Husén, technology and the learning society. Torsten Husén argued that it would be necessary for states to become ‘learning societies’ – where knowledge and information lay at the heart of their activities.( ibid)

In relation to this concept of the “learning society” there is also the phenomenon of what is called  ‘knowledge explosion’. It is stated that ;”Among all the ‘explosions’ that have come into use as labels to describe rapidly changing Western society, the term ‘knowledge explosion’ is one of the most appropriate. Reference is often made to the ‘knowledge industry’, meaning both the producers of knowledge, such as research institutes, and its distributors, e.g. schools, mass media, book publishers, libraries and so on. What we have been witnessing since the mid-1960s in the field of distribution technology may well have begun to revolutionize the communication of knowledge within another ten years of so. (Husén 1974: 239)(ibid).

We can observe that Husén’s approach was futurological (where Hutchins was essentially based on classical humanism). The organizing principles of Husén’s vision of a relevant educational system have been summarized by Stewart Ranson (1998) and included:

Education as something becoming a lifelong process.

The big issue is that education will not have any fixed points of entry and ‘cut-off’ exits. It will become a more continuous process within formal education and in its role within other functions of human life.

It  will take on a more informal character as it becomes accessible to more and more individuals. In addition to ‘learning centers’, facilities will be provided for learning at home and at the workplace, for example by the provision of computer terminals apart from the conventional media available in the society.

In this new scenario formal education will become more meaningful and relevant in its application in life and work.

It is stated ‘[t]o an ever-increasing extent, the education system will become dependent on large supporting organizations or supporting systems… to produce teaching aids, systems of information processing and multi-media instructional materials’ (Husén 1974: 198-9)

Husén’s vision was based ‘upon projections from current trends in communications technology and the likely consequences of these for knowledge, information and production’ (Griffin and Brownhill 2001: 58. Significantly, these predictions have largely come true.(ibid)

Roger Boshier, adult education and the learning society. Boshier argued for an integrated model of education that allowed for participation throughout a person’s lifetime. Influenced by more radical and democratic writers like Freire, Illich and Goodman, and his appreciation of economic and social change, Boshier looked to the democratic possibilities of a learning society.

When we turn to current explorations of the learning society it is possible to discern the various strands developed by these writers: technological, cultural and democratic. (The philosophical underpinning of these models is discussed by Griffin and Brownhill 2001). However, it is the technological that appears to have become dominant in many policy documents.

There are a number of salient points which can be taken into consideration about the current models of the learning society. Among these points are (ibid):

The learning society can be seen  as an aspiration and as a description It is seen as something that is necessary if states and regions are to remain competitive within an increasingly globalized economy.
It may be sought after as a means of improving individual and communal well-being.-with  three key strands in  discourses around the notion of a learning society in which there is a shift from a focus on the provision of learning opportunities to one on learning.
The first is portrayed as a product of modernism,
the third as exhibiting a typically post-modern orientation.
The second strand, with its emphasis on markets, economic imperatives and individual achievement, has been argued as something which  currently dominates the scenario.
an educated society, committed to active citizenship, liberal democracy and equal opportunities.
supports lifelong learning within the social policy frameworks of post-Second World War social democracies. The aim is to provide learning opportunities to educate adults to meet the challenges of change and citizenship. This has happened in Europe.
A learning society is a learning market, enabling institutions to provide services for individuals as a condition for supporting the competitiveness of the economy.
This supports lifelong learning within the economic policy framework should be adopted by  governments
The aim being a market in learning opportunities to be developed to meet the demands of individuals and employers for the updating of skills and competences.
Support for this conception has to come also from employers’ bodies and modernizing policy think-tanks  in response to economic uncertainty. The usefulness or performativity of education and training becomes a guiding criterion.
learning society is one in which learners adopt a learning approach to life, drawing on a wide range of resources to enable them to support their lifestyle practices. This supports lifelong learning as a condition of individuals in the contemporary period to which policy needs to respond. This conception of a learning society formulates the latter as a series of overlapping learning networks…  and is implicit to much of the writing on post-modernity with its emphasis on the contingent, the ephemeral and heterogeneity.
It can be  argued that the  learning society idea can provide us with a helpful way of making sense of the shifts required in the context of the profound changes associated with globalization and other dynamics of social and economic change of the present scenario in human affairs.(ibid).

The above features concerning a learning society are in harmony with the Islam ideal and tradition, and they provide opportunities as well as challenges –whichever way we look at them- to learners, educators, and polici makers.

In the talk entitled : “Knowledge Work and Knowledge Society The Social Transformations of this Century” Peter F. Drucker, with whose important name  this term ‘knowledge society” is closely linked, on May 4, 1994(7) made a number of important observations.

In talking about the emergence of the “knowledge workers”, and hence from the “the knowledge society”, Peter Drucker observes:

“These are unprecedented developments, profoundly affecting social structure, community, government, economics and politics. What is even more astonishing and even less precedented is the rise of the group which is fast replacing both history’s traditional groups and the groups of industrial society; the group which is fast becoming the center of gravity of the working population; the group, incidentally, which is fast becoming the largest single group (though by no means a majority) in the work force and population of post-industrial society and in every developed country: knowledge workers.

Concerning the emergence of ‘knowledge society’ he says:

“Knowledge workers, even though only a large minority of the work force, already give the emerging knowledge society its character, its leadership, its central challenges and its social profile. They may not be the ruling class of the knowledge society, but they already are its leading class. In their characteristics, their social positions, their values and their expectations, they differ fundamentally from any group in history that has ever occupied the leading, let along the dominant position.

“In the first place, the knowledge worker gains access to  work, job and social position through formal education.

[In stressing the importance of formal education for access to work and social position he states]“A great deal of knowledge work will require high manual skill and substantial work with one’s hands. An extreme example is the neurosurgeon. The neurosurgeon’s performance capacity rests on formal education and theoretical knowledge. Absence of manual skill disqualifies one for work as a neurosurgeon. Manual skill alone, no matter how advanced, will never enable anyone to be a neurosurgeon. The formal education that is required for knowledge work is education that can only be acquired in and through formal schooling. It cannot be acquired through apprenticeship.

He continues speaking in the same vein about the strong points of such a society with the necessary preparations in knowledge and the infrastructure: first implication of this is that education will become the center of the knowledge society and schooling its key institution. What knowledge mix is required for everyone? What is quality in learning and teaching? All these will, of necessity, become central concerns of the knowledge society and central political issues. In fact, it may not be too fanciful to anticipate that the acquisition and distribution of formal knowledge will come to occupy the place in the politics of the knowledge society which acquisition and distribution of property and income have occupied in the two or three centuries which we have come to call the Age of Capitalism.

He goes on giving his observations on this issue:

“Paradoxically, this may not necessarily mean that the school as we know it will become more important. For, in the knowledge society, clearly more and more of knowledge, and especially of advanced knowledge, will be acquired well past the age of formal schooling, and increasingly, perhaps, in and through educational processes which do not center on the traditional school, e.g. systematic continuing education offered at the place of employment. But, at the same time, there is very little doubt that the performance of the schools and the basic values of the schools will increasingly become of concern to society as a whole, rather than be considered professional matters that can be left to the educator.

And then concerning the image and character of the educated person in the “knowledge society” he observes:”We can also predict with high probability that we will redefine what it means to be an educated person. Traditionally and especially during the last two hundred years at least in the West (and since about that time in Japan as well) an educated person was someone who shared a common stock of formal knowledge what the Germans called Allgemeine Bildung and the English ( and following them, the nineteenth- century Americans) called the liberal arts. Increasingly, an educated person, will be someone who has learned how to learn, and throughout his or her lifetime continues to learn, especially in and out of formal education.

And concerning the dangers in the concept of the educated person as previously understood he observes: “There are obvious dangers to this. Society can easily degenerate into one in which the emphasis is on formal degrees rather than on performance capacity. It can easily degenerate into one of totally sterile, Confucian-type Mandarins a danger to which the American university, particularly, is singularly susceptible. It can, on the other hand, also fall prey to overvaluing immediately usable, practical knowledge, and underrate the importance of fundamentals and of wisdom altogether.

And considering the possible danger of new class conflict in the new scenario he states: “This society, in which knowledge workers dominate, is in danger of a new class conflict: the conflict between the large minority of knowledge workers and the majority of people who will make their living through traditional ways, either by manual work, whether skilled or unskilled, or by services work, whether skilled or unskilled. The productivity of knowledge work still abysmally low will predictably become the economic challenge of the knowledge society. On it will depend the competitive position of every country, industry and institution within society. The productivity of the non- knowledge services worker will increasingly become the social challenge to the knowledge society. On it will depend the ability of the knowledge society to give decent incomes and with them dignity and status to non-knowledge people.

He observes that  in the past no earlier society  faced such challenges as mentioned above.

Concerning the new opportunities in the new society open to all , he states:”Equally new are the opportunities of the knowledge society. In the knowledge society, for the first time in history, access to leadership is open to all.

“Equally, access to the acquisition of knowledge will no longer be dependent on obtaining a prescribed education at any given age. Learning will become the tool of the individual available to him or her at any age if only because so much of skill and knowledge can be acquired by means of the new learning technologies.

And further:

“Another implication is that the performance of an individual, an organization, an industry or a country in acquiring and applying knowledge will increasingly become the key competitive factor for career and earnings opportunities of individuals; for the performance, if not the survival of the individual organization; or of an industry, and for a country. The knowledge society will inevitably become far more competitive than any society we have yet known for the simple reason that with knowledge being universally accessible there are no excuses for nonperformance. There will be no poor countries. There will only be ignorant countries.

He continues giving his observations on the new developed society with the challenges and opportunities as follows:

“The same will be true for individual companies, individual industries, and individual organizations of any kind. It will be true for the individual, too. In fact, developed societies have already become infinitely more competitive for the individual than were the societies of the early twentieth century let alone earlier societies, those of the nineteenth or eighteenth centuries. Then most people had no opportunity to rise out of the class into which they were born, with most individuals following their fathers in their work and in their station in life.

He would like too use the term ‘knowledges’ for the new phenomenon in this new development in human culture. He says:“I have been speaking of knowledge. But the proper term is knowledges. For the knowledge of the knowledge society is fundamentally different from what was considered knowledge in earlier societies, and, in fact, from what is still widely considered knowledge. The knowledge of the German Allgemeine Bildung or of the Anglo-American liberal arts had little to do with one s life work. It focused on the person and the person s development, rather than on any application both nineteenth-century Allgemeine Bildung and liberal arts prided themselves on having no utility whatsoever. In the knowledge society, knowledge basically exists only in application.

And arguing for the new form of knowledge in terms of application, he observes:”Knowledge in application is, by definition, highly specialized which was why Plato s Socrates some 2500 years ago, refused to accept it as knowledge and considered it mere techne, that is, mere skill.

And concerning some knowledge requiring a limited amount of knowledge compared to others, he observes:

“Some knowledge work requires a fairly limited amount of knowledge examples are some paramedical technologists, the X-ray technologist, the technologist in the clinical laboratory, or the pulmonary technologist. Other knowledge work requires far more advanced theoretical knowledge, e.g., most of the knowledge work required in business, whether in market research; in product planning; in designing manufacturing systems; in advertising and promotion; in purchasing. In some areas the knowledge base is vast indeed, as in neurosurgery and in a good many areas of management, e.g., managing a major hospital, a big and complex university, or a multinational enterprise.

“Whatever the base, knowledge in application is specialized. It is always specific, and therefore not applicable to anything else. Nothing the X-ray technician needs to know can be applied to market research, for instance, or to teaching medieval history.

Concerning the central work-force in  the knowledge society, he observes:

“The central work force in the knowledge society will, therefore, consist of highly specialized people. In fact, it is a mistake to speak of generalists. What we mean by that term, increasingly, will be people who have learned how to acquire additional specialties, and especially to acquire rapidly the specialized knowledge needed for them to move from one kind of work and job to another, e.g., from being a market researcher into general management, or from being a nurse in a hospital into hospital administration. But generalists in the sense in which we used to talk of them are becoming dilettantes rather than educated people.

“This too is new. Historically, workers were generalists. They did whatever had to be done on the farm, in the household and in the craftsman s shop. This was true of the industrial worker as well. Manufacturing industry only expanded and became dominant when it learned to take the specialized skill out of the work. This was when it converted the skilled craftsmen of preindustrial times into the semiskilled or unskilled machine operator of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

Concerning knowledge workers as specialists, he states:

“But knowledge workers, whether their knowledge be primitive or advanced, whether there be a little of it or a great deal, will, by definition, be specialized. Knowledge in application is effective only when it is specialized. Indeed, it is more effective the more highly specialized it is. This goes for the technicians, e.g., the person who services a computer, an X-ray machine or the engine of a fighter plan.1 But it equally applies to work that requires the most advanced knowledge, whether research into genetics or astrophysics or putting on the first performance of a new opera.

“As said before: the shift from knowledge to knowledges offers tremendous opportunities to the individual. It makes possible a career as a knowledge worker. But it equally presents a great many new problems and challenges. It demands for the first time in history that people with knowledge take responsibility for making themselves understood by people who do not have the same knowledge base. It requires that people learn and preferably early how to assimilate into their own work specialized knowledges from other areas and other disciplines.

“This is particularly important as innovation in any one knowledge area tends to originate outside the area itself. This is true in respect to products and processes where, in sharp contrast to the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, innovations now tend to arise outside the industry or process itself. It is true just as much in scientific knowledge and in scholarship. The new approaches to the study of history have, for instance, come out of economics, psychology and archeology all disciplines that historians never considered relevant to their field and to which they had rarely before been exposed.

HOW KNOWLEDGES WORK

Concerning this he observes:”That the knowledge in the knowledge society has to be highly specialized to be productive implies two new requirements: 1. knowledge workers work in teams; and 2. knowledge workers have to have access to an organization which, in most cases, means that knowledge workers have to be employees of an organization.

“There is a great deal of talk these days about teams and team work. Most of it starts out with the wrong assumption, namely, that we never before worked in teams. Actually, people have always worked in teams very few people ever could work effectively by themselves. The farmer had to have a wife, and the farm wife had to have a husband. The two worked as a team. Both worked as a team with their employees, the hired hands. The craftsman also had to have a wife, with whom he worked as a team he took care of the craft work, she took care of the customers and the business altogether. Both worked as a team with the journeymen and apprentices. The present discussion also assumes that there is only one kind of team. Actually there are quite a few.2 But until now the emphasis has been on the individual worker and not on the team. With knowledge work being the more effective the more specialized it is, teams become the actual work unit rather than the individual himself.

Concerning the importance of team-work in the new society and the importance of new kinds of teams for various kinds of work he states: “The team that is being touted now as the team I call it the jazz combo team is only one kind of team. It is actually the most difficult kind of team, and the team that requires the longest time to gain performance capacity.

“We will have to learn to use different kinds of teams for different purposes. We will have to learn to understand teams and this is something to which, so far, very little attention has been paid. The understanding of teams, the performance capacities of different kinds of teams; their strengths; their limitations; the trade-offs between various kinds of teams, thus, increasingly, will become central concerns in the performance of people.

And in this new scenario the individual knowledge worker has got to learn the capability to be able to switch over to new kinds of teams :“The individual knowledge worker will also have to learn something that today practically no one has learned: how to switch from one kind of team to another; how to integrate one s self into a team; what to expect of a team; and, in turn, what to contribute to a team.

“The ability to diagnose what kind of team a certain kind of knowledge work requires for full effectiveness, and the ability, then, to organize such a team and integrate oneself into it, will increasingly become a requirement for effectiveness as a knowledge worker. So far, it is not taught or learned anywhere (except in a few research labs). So far, very few executives in any kind of organization even realize that it is their job, to a large extent, to decide what kind of team is needed for a given job, how to organize it and how to make it effective. We are now in the very early stages of work on teams, their characteristics, their specifications, their performance characteristics and their appraisal.

“Equally important is the second implication of the fact that knowledge workers are, of necessity, specialists: the need for them to work as members of an organization. It is only the organization that can provide the basic continuity which knowledge workers need to be effective. It is only the organization that can convert the specialized knowledge of the knowledge worker into performance.

“By itself, specialized knowledge yields no performance. The surgeon is not effective unless there is a diagnosis, which, by and large, is not the surgeon s task and not even within the surgeon s competence. Market researchers, by themselves, produce only data. To convert the data into information, let alone to make them effective in knowledge action, requires marketing people, sales people, production people and service people. As a loner in research and writing, the historian can be very effective. However, to produce the education of students, a great many other specialists have to contribute people whose specialty may be literature, mathematics or other areas of history. This requires the specialist to have access to an organization.

“This access may be as a consultant. It may be as a provider of specialized services. For the overwhelming majority of knowledge workers it will be as employees of an organization full-time or part-time whether it be a government agency, a hospital, a university, a business, a labor union or hundreds of other types of organizations. In the knowledge society, it is not the individual who performs. The individual is a cost center rather than a performance center. It is the organization that performs. The individual physician may have a great deal of knowledge. But the physician is impotent without the knowledge provided by a host of other scientific disciplines, i.e., physics, chemistry, genetics, etc. The physician cannot function without the test results produced by a host of diagnosticians that run the imaging machines whether X-ray or ultrasound, making and interpreting blood tests, administering brain scans, etc. The hospital is the lifeline to the physician. It administers the services to critically ill patients, and provides the physical and/or psychiatric rehabilitation without which there would be no full recovery. To provide any of these services, whether the electrocardiogram, the analysis of the blood samples, the magnetic resonance imaging or the exercises of the physical therapist, physicians need access to the organization of the hospital, that is, to a highly structured enterprise, organized to operate in perpetuity.

Then concerning what he calls the ‘employee society’ he observes:

“The knowledge society is an employee society. Traditional society, or, society before the rise of the manufacturing enterprise and the blue-collar manufacturing worker, was not a society of independents. Thomas Jefferson s society of independent, small farmers each being the owner of his own family farm and farming it without any help except that of his wife and his children, was never much more than a fantasy. Most people in history were dependents. But they did not work for an organization. They were working for an owner, as slaves, as serfs, as hired hands on the farm; as journeymen and apprentices in the craftsmen s shops; as shop assistants and salespeople for a merchant; as domestic servants, free or unfree, and so on. They worked for a master. When blue-collar work in manufacturing first arose they still worked for a master.

“In Dickens s great 1854 novel of a bitter labor conflict in a cotton mill (Hard Times), the workers worked for an owner. They did not work for the factory. Only late in the nineteenth century did the factory rather than the owner become the employer. And only in the twentieth century did the corporation, rather than the factory, then become the employer. Only in this century has the master been replaced by a boss, who, himself, ninety-nine times out of a hundred, is an employee and has a boss himself.

“Knowledge workers will be both employees who have a boss, and bosses who have employees. Organizations were not known to yesterday s social science, and are, by and large, not yet known to today s social science. The great German sociologist, Ferdinand Toennies (1855-1936), in his 1888 book Gemeinschaft und Gesellschaft (Community and Society) classified the known forms of human organization as being either community, which is organic, and fate, or society, which is a structure and very largely under social control. He never talked of organization. Nor did any of the other sociologists of the nineteenth or early twentieth century. But organization is neither community nor society, although it partakes of some characteristics of each. It is not fate. Membership in an organization is always freely chosen. One joins a company or a government agency or the teaching staff of a university. One is not born into it. And one can always leave one could only emigrate from traditional communities. It is not society, either, especially as it does not embrace the totality of its members. The director of market research in a company is also a member of half a dozen other organizations. She may belong to a church, to a tennis club, and may well spend especially if an American five hours a week as a volunteer for a local nonprofit organization, e.g., as a leader of a Girl Scout troop. Organizations, in other words, are not true collectives. They are tools, i.e., means to an end.

“There have been earlier organizations. The professional military as it arose after the seventeenth century was an organization; it was neither a society nor a community. The modern university, as it emerged after the foundation of the University of Berlin in 1809, was an organization.

“Faculty members freely joined and could always leave. The same can be said for the Civil Service as it arose in the eighteenth century, first in France, then on the European continent, and finally in late nineteenth century in Great Britain and Meiji, Japan (though not until 1933 or World War II in the United States). But these earlier organizations were still seen as exceptions. The first organization in the modern sense, the first that was seen as being prototypical rather than exceptional, was surely the modern business enterprise as it emerged after 1870 which is the reason why, to this day, most people think of management, that is of the organi-zation s specific organ, as being business management.

With the appearance of the knowledge society and the society becoming a society of organizations he observes:“With the emergence of the knowledge society, society has become a society of organizations. Most of us work in and for an organization, and we are dependent for our effectiveness and equally for our living on access to an organization whether as an organization s employee or as a provider of services to an organization, as a lawyer, for instance, or a freight forwarder. More and more of these supporting services to organizations are, themselves, organized as organizations. The first law firm was organized in the U.S. a little over a century ago until then lawyers practiced as individuals. In Europe there were no law firms to speak of until after World War II. Today, the practice of law is increasingly done in larger and larger partnerships. It is also true, especially in the U.S., of the practice of medicine. The knowledge society is a society of organizations in which practically every single task is being performed in and through an organization.

Concerning the question what is an employee, he  remarks as follows:

“Most knowledge workers will spend most if not all of their working life as employees. The meaning of the term is different from what it has been, traditionally and not only in English but in German, Spanish, or Japanese as well.

“Individually, knowledge workers are dependent on the job. They receive a wage or salary. They are being hired and can be fired. Legally, each is an employee, but, collectively, they are the only capitalists. Increasingly, through their pension funds and through their other savings (e.g., in the U.S. through mutual funds), the employees own the means of production. In traditional economics and by no means only in Marxist economics there is a sharp distinction between the wage fund all of which goes into consumption and the capital fund. Most social theory of industrial society is based, one way or another, on the relationship between the two, whether in conflict or in necessary and beneficial cooperation and balance. In the knowledge society, the two merge. The pension fund is deferred wage and, as such, a wage fund. It is also increasingly the main source of capital, if not the only source of capital, for the knowledge society.

“Equally important, perhaps more important: in the knowledge society the employees, that is knowledge workers, again own the tools of production. Marx s great insight was the realization that the factory worker does not and cannot own the tools of production and therefore has to be alienated. There was no way, Marx pointed out, for the worker to own the steam engine and to be able to take the steam engine with himself when moving from one job to another. The capitalist had to own the steam engine and had to control it. Increasingly, the true investment in the knowledge society is not in machines and tools. It is in the knowledge of the knowledge worker. Without it, the machines, no matter how advanced and sophisticated, are unproductive.

“The market researcher needs a computer. But increasingly this is the researcher s own personal computer, and a cheap tool the market researcher takes along wherever he or she goes. And the true capital equipment of market research is the knowledge of markets, of statistics, and of the application of market research to business strategy, which is lodged between the researchers ears and is their exclusive and inalienable property. The surgeon needs the operating room of the hospital and all of its expensive capital equipment. But the surgeon s true capital investment is the twelve or fifteen years of training and the resulting knowledge which the surgeon takes from one hospital to the next. Without that knowledge, the hospital s expensive operating rooms are so much waste and scrap.

“This is true whether the knowledge worker commands advanced knowledge like the surgeon, or simple and fairly elementary knowledge like the junior accountant. In either case, it is the knowledge investment that determines whether the employee is productive or not, rather than the tools, machines and capital the organization furnishes. The industrial worker needed the capitalist infinitely more than the capitalist needed the industrial worker the basis for Marx s assertion that there would always be a surplus of industrial workers, and an industrial reserve army which would make sure that wages could not possibly rise above the subsistence level (probably Marx s most egregious error). In the knowledge society the most probable assumption and certainly the assumption on which all organizations have to conduct their affairs is that they need the knowledge worker far more than the knowledge worker needs them. It is the organization s job to market its knowledge jobs so as to obtain knowledge workers in adequate quantity and superior quality. The relationship increasingly is one of interdependence, with the knowledge worker having to learn what the organization needs, but with the organization also having to learn what the knowledge workers needs, requires and expects.

“Because its work is based on knowledge, the knowledge organization is altogether not one of superiors and subordinates.

Using the symphony orchestra as the prototype for the new situation, he remarks:“The prototype is the symphony orchestra. The first violin may be the most important in the orchestra. But the first violinist is not the superior of the harp player. He is a colleague. The harp part is the harp player s part and not delegated to her by either the conductor or the first violinist.

“There was endless debate in the Middle Ages about the hierarchy of knowledges, with philosophy claiming to be the queen of knowledges. We long ago gave up that moot argument. There is no higher knowledge and no lower knowledge. When the patient s complaint is an ingrown toenail the podiatrist s knowledge controls, and not that of the brain surgeon even though the brain surgeon represents many more years of training and gets a much larger fee. Conversely, if an executive is posted to a foreign country, the knowledge he or she needs, and in a hurry, is the fairly low skill of acquiring fluency in a foreign language something every native of that country has mastered by age two without any great investment. The knowledge of the knowledge society, precisely because it is knowledge only when applied in action, derives its rank and standing from the situation and not from its knowledge content. What is knowledge, in other words, in one situation, e.g., the knowledge of Korean for the American executive posted to Seoul, is only information, and not very relevant information at that, when the same executive a few years later has to think through his company s market strategy for Korea. This, too, is new. Knowledges were always seen as fixed stars, so to speak, each occupying its own position in the universe of knowledge. In the knowledge society, knowledges are tools and, as such, dependent for their importance and position on the task to be performed.

“One final conclusion: Because the knowledge society perforce has to be a society of organizations, its central and distinctive organ is management.

“When we first began to talk of management, the term meant business management for large-scale business was the first of the new organizations to become visible. But we have learned in this last half-century that management is the distinctive organ of all organizations. All of them require management whether they use the term or not. All managers do the same things whatever the business of their organization. All of them have to bring people each of them possessing a different knowledge together for joint performance. All of them have to make human strengths productive in performance and human weaknesses irrelevant.

“All of them have to think through what are results in the organization and all of them have to define objectives. All of them are responsible to think through what I call the theory of the business, that is, the assumptions on which the organization bases its performance and actions, and equally, the assumptions on which organizations decide what things not to do.

“All of them require an organ that thinks through strategies, that is, the means through which the goals of the organization become performance. All of them have to define the values of the organization, its system of rewards and punishments, and its spirit and its culture. In all of them, managers need both the knowledge of management as work and discipline, and the knowledge and understanding of the organization itself, its purposes, its values, its environment and markets, its core competencies.

“Management as a practice is very old. The most successful executive in all history was surely that Egyptian who, 4,000 years or more ago, first conceived the pyramid without any precedent designed and built it, and did so in record time. Unlike any other work of man, that first pyramid still stands. But as a discipline, management is barely fifty years old. It was first dimly perceived around the time of World War I. It did not emerge until World War II, and then primarily in the United States. Since then, it has been the fastest growing new function, and its study the fastest growing new discipline. No function in history has emerged as fast as management and managers have done so in the last fifty to sixty years, and surely none has had such worldwide sweep in such a short period. Management, in most business schools, is still taught as a bundle of techniques, e.g., budgeting or organization development. To be sure, management, like any other work, has its own tools, and its own techniques. But just as the essence of medicine is not the urine analysis, the essence of management is not technique or procedure. The essence of management is to make knowledges productive. Management, in other words, is a social function. And, in its practice, management is truly a liberal art.

Without going further, we can mention  a number of points about the understanding of this knowledge society. Among these are:

  • the discovery and the intensive use of the new technology, the information and communication technology (ICT)
  • the necessity for greater interaction with other nations, cultures and regions of the world
  • the necessity for an attitude of openness, interaction, assimilation, absorption, revision, criticism and examination which will prompt creative knowledge  production in  societies
  • the attitude of society characterized by being descriptive and perspective, with readiness for positive change and  involving  analysis of the current state of education, scientific research, the media, the publishing industry, culture encompassing religion, intellectual heritage and the use of the national  language, and other building blocks of a “knowledge society”
  • people should be educated to be concerned about construction of a viable “knowledge society” which in turn requires effective economic, social and political institutions, involving solutions for negative attitudes and situations related to ideologies, societal structures and values that inhabit critical thinking, which cut off Muslims and others from their knowledge rich heritage and block the free flow of ideas and learning
  • People should be trained and educated so that they will be involved actively in the production and dissemination of knowledge and the various forms of creative activity that are the foundations for the knowledge society in the country..
  • the discussion about knowledge will involve  “engineering the ‘knowledge society’,  which may involve the issue of   Information technology supporting human development , since,  Information Technology (or Information and Communication Technology) cannot be seen as a separate phenomenon in human culture; it should be seen as a tool for helping human development and has  be taken into account when engineering the Knowledge Society.
  • This will involve  issues of life-long learning,   e-inclusion, ethics and social impact, engineering profession, developing

e-society, economy and e-Society.

And the question: What actions have to be undertaken to realize a human centered Knowledge Society? Is of utmost importance for the realization of the objective.

In relation to quality of life, we can begin to see this issue in relation to concept of knowledge which is of collective obligation (fard kifayah). Imam al-Ghazali  observes in the ‘Ihya’ as follows:((8)

(COMPULSORY DUTY ON COMMUNITY)

Know, 0 dear readers, that learning about the duties are divided into two categories – those which are connected with religion and those which are not so connected. The religions learning are those which came from the Holy Prophets and in which there is no question of intellect, and the learnings that are not connected with the religion are Mathematics, Medicine etc. They are of three kinds – praiseworthy, blameworthy and permissible. The sciences which are necessary for progress in the world are praiseworthy, such as Medicine, Mathematics etc. These are Farz Kifayah or binding on the community as a whole. Fard Kifayah is such compulsory duty without which no nation can go on in this world. If a man at least acquires such learning or science in a town or locality, all other people in the town or locality get absolved from its sin. If, however nobody learns it, all will be transgressors. The sciences which should be learnt for agriculture, administration, industry, horticulture, weaving etc. are Fard Kifayah. To be expert in such learnings is not Fard Kifayah. The learnings which are blameworthy are sorcery, talismanic science juggling, gambling and the like. The branches of knowledge which are permissible are poetry, history, geography, biology etc.

All learning connected with the religion is praiseworthy, but when any other learning is mixed with any of them, it  becomes sometimes blameworthy. The praiseworthy branches of learning comprise sources and branches helpful and supplementary to those disciplines of learning. They are therefore of four kinds.

1) Sources of religious learning are four in number (a) the Book of God, the Sunnah or usages of the Holy Prophet, the unanimous opinions of Muslim jurists (Ijma) and the sayings of companions. Ijma is the third source of Islam as it shows the path towards the usages of the Prophet. The first source is the Quran and the second is the Sunnah. The fourth source is the sayings of the companions because they saw the Prophet, witnessed the coming down to revelations and they saw what others did not see through their association with the Prophet.

2) Branches of learning of religion are drawn from the sources not according to the literal meaning but according to the meaning adduced by the mind, thereby writing the understanding as indicated by the following Hadith: A judge shall not sit in judgment when angry. This means that he shall not pass judgment when he is pressed by calls of nature, hunger and disease. The last thing is of two kinds. One kind relates to the activities of the world, such as the books of law and is entrusted to the lawyers and jurisprudent; and the other kind relates to the activities of the hereafter. The latter is the science of the conditions of the heart and of its praiseworthy virtues and blameworthy evils.

3) The third is the sciences helpful to the praiseworthy sciences such as the science of language and grammar which are necessary to know the Quran and Sunnah. They are not themselves religious education. They were not necessary for the Holy Prophet as he was illiterate.

4) The fourth kind is the supplementary sciences and is connected with pronunciation of words and different readings and meanings, such as tafsir, knowledge of revocation of verses, books on authoritative transmission, biographies of illustrious companions and narrators of traditions.

These are the religious learning and are praiseworthy and as such Fard Kifayah or binding on the community as a whole.(9)

In discussing the importance of knowledge in relation to human life, al-Ghazali states in the Ihya’ as follows:

“The affairs of this world do not become orderly except through activities, but the human activities are divided into three categories. 1) The first category includes four fundamental activities without which the world can not go on in order. (i) Agriculture for raising food stuffs for maintaining lives, weaving for manufacturing clothes, architecture for building houses and government for regulating human relations for living in peace and harmony. 2) The second category includes such activities as are helpful to the above mentioned activities, such as iron crafts or ploughs for cultivation, instruments for spinning and weaving clothes and other implements. 3) The third category includes such activities as are supplementary to the principal industries previously mentioned, such as eating, drinking, making dresses, sewing clothes.
”These activities are necessary for human habitation just as the various organs of the body are necessary for up-keep of the human body. The organs of the body also are divided into three categories – 1) The fundamental organs, such as heart, liver and brain. 2) What is helpful to these principal organs are stomach, veins, and back-bone without which they can not function. 3) What is supplementary to the above two categories for perfection are nails, fingers, eye brows etc. Out of these three categories, the most noble are the fundamental things, out of which the most noble is government on account of which peaceful habitation becomes possible. For this reason, experienced and expert men are necessary to run the government.

Administration is divided into four classes.

  1. The first class is the highest as it is the government of the prophets and their jurisdiction spread over the public and private matters of the people.
  2. Next is the administration of temporal rulers over the public matters of the people and not their private matters.
  3. Next is the administration of the learned and the wise over the people in the matter of the religion of God as they are the heirs of the prophets. It involves thoughts of the privileged few.
  4. Next is the administration of the preachers which involves the thoughts of the common men. After the administration of the prophets, the most noble is the diffusion of knowledge whereby the people are saved from evil and destructive habits and are led towards fortune and constructive virtues.

This is the goal of knowledge and education.

Intellectual activities are more excellent than the other activities, because the excellence of an activity is known by three things –

  1. by examining the natural qualities of a man by the help of which an activity is recognised. For instance, acquisition of knowledge is better than learning a language as knowledge can be acquired by intellect, while language can be learnt through the sense of hearing. As intellect is better than the sense of hearing, so knowledge is better than language.
  2. By examining the extent of human usefulness, for instance, agriculture is superior to the craft of a goldsmith.
  3. By observing the excellence of a business, for instance, the business of a goldsmith is better than that of tanning hides.

Knowledge also has got the above three qualities.”

The inculcation of the various useful sciences will lead to the preservation of which will be instrumental in the preservation of the fundamentals of human life in the Islamic discourse on philosophy of law or jurisprudence (usul al-fiqh).

In discussing the five necessities in human life which are considered as the five aims preserved by the sacred law are  termed as the al-kulliyat al-khamsah or also termed as the daruriyyat al-Shatibi mentions religion, self,  intellect, progeny, wealth.In the al-Muwafaqat (I.38,II.10, IV.27)  the author mentions the necessities in the following order:  religion, life (nafs), progeny, wealth, and intellect.  In the al-I’tisam (II.179 and al-Muwafaqat II.299)  the mention is in the following order: religion, life, progeny, wealth, and intellect.Al-Zarkashi mentions these in the following order: life, wealth, progeny, religion, and intellect.Al-Ghazali in the al-Mustashfa, I.258 mentions these in the order: religion, life, intellect, progeny, and wealth.Al-Ghazali’s  opinion seems to be more acceptable. Whatever the order is, the issue of progeny and its importance is accepted by scholars of Islamic jurisprudence. Abdullah Darraz in his commentary of the al-Muwafaqat II.153 mentions that the view of al-Ghazali is adopted  by most scholars. Hence, in the matter of these daruriyyat the matter of religion is the first, then life, then the intellect, then progeny, then wealth.

Therefore we can state that these are the necessities of life determined by Islamic discourse in its philosophy of law.

In relation to this, we can find reformulation of such needs in the duties of the caliph in the Sunni  theory of the caliphate.This is clear  the Al-Ahkam al-Sultaniyyah of al-Mawardi.(10)

These duties include: the preservation of the religion according to the original principles;  carrying out justice between parties involved in litigations in the state; the implementation of the laws and regulations of the religion  including punishments for crimes;  preserving the security of life for women in families so that people can carry out their business of looking for livelihood in peace; safeguarding the boundaries of the country so that people are secured; collecting revenue for the state according to the proper rules and regulations; putting proper people in charge of their duties in the state so that proper functioning of the  administration is maintained; paying of salaries in the proper time neither too late nor too early; carrying out the jihad in cases where situations demand; and inspecting the administration so that all run smoothly.

To these can be added the other duties of the state which are for the welfare of the subjects.

Then concerning “human rights” which constitute the essential aspect of human quality of life in Islam, there are several observations which can be made. Among these are as follows:

We can begin with several basic concepts of the Islamic worldview. Since God is the absolute and the sole master of men and the universe, and since He has given each man human dignity and honor, and breathed into him something of His own spirit, it follows that men are essentially the same. In fact, the only differences between them are such artificial ones as nationality, color, or race. Thus, all human beings are equal and form one universal community that is united in its submission and obedience to God.

And we can observe that at the centre of this universal brotherhood is the Islamic confession of the oneness of God and that, by extension, includes the oneness and brotherhood of humanity and hence an Islamic state may be established anywhere. While the state is geographically limited, the human rights and privileges granted to humanity by God are not. The Qur’an states that these are universal and fundamental, and that all individuals are to enjoy and observe them under all circumstances-including war-regardless of whether he is living in the geographical confines of an Islamic state or not:

The Qur’an asserts clearly:

O believers, be you securers of justice, witness for God. Let not detestation for a people move you not to be equitable; be equitable-that is nearer to God-fearing.(11) (5:8)

And then from  the last sermon of the Prophet in the Farewell pilgrimage in the year before his demise we can learn a number of important matters; among these are:human blood is sacred in any case and cannot be spilled without justification. Violating this rule is equivalent to killing all of humanity.

The text of the sermon is as follows:

After praising, and thanking Allah (The One True God) the Prophet began with the words:

“O People! lend me an attentive ear, for I know not whether after this year I shall ever be amongst you again. Therefore, listen carefully to what I am saying and Take These Words to Those Who Could Not Be Present Here Today.

“O People! just as you regard this month, this day, this city as Sacred, so regard the life and property of every Muslim as a sacred trust. Return the goods entrusted to you to their rightful owners. Hurt no one so that no one may hurt you. Remember that you will indeed meet your Lord, and that he will indeed reckon your deeds.

“Allah has forbidden you to take usury (interest), therefore all interest obligations shall henceforth be waived. Your capital is yours to keep. You will neither inflict nor suffer any inequity. Allah has Judged that there shall be no interest and that all the interest due to Abbas ibn ‘Abd al-Muttalib (Prophet’s uncle) be waived.

“Every right arising out of homicide in pre-Islamic days is henceforth waived and the first such right that I waive is that arising from the murder of Rabiah ibn al-Harithiah.

“O Men! the unbelievers indulge in tampering with the calender in order to make permissible that which Allah forbade, and to prohibit which Allah has made permissible. With Allah the months are twelve in number. Four of them are holy, three of these are successive and one occurs singly between the months of Jumada and Shaban.

“Beware of Satan, for the safety of your religion. He has lost all hope of that he will be able to lead you astray in big things, so beware of following him in small things.

“O People! it is true that you have certain rights with regard to your women but they also have rights over you. Remember that you have taken them as your wives only under Allah’s trust and with His permission. If they abide by your right then to them belongs the right to be fed and clothed in kindness. Do treat your women well and be kind to them for they are your partners and committed helpers. And it is your right that they do not make friends with anyone of whom you do not approve, as well as never to be unchaste.

“O People! listen to me in earnest, worship Allah, say your five daily prayers, fast during month of Ramadan, and give your wealth in Zakat (obligatory charity). Perform Hajj if you can afford to.

“All mankind is from Adam and Eve, an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also a white has no superiority over black nor a black has any superiority over white except by piety and good action. Learn that every Muslim is a brother to every Muslim and that the Muslims constitute one brotherhood. Nothing shall be legitimate to a Muslim which belongs to a fellow Muslim unless it was given freely and willingly.

“Do not therefore do injustice to yourselves. Remember one day you will meet Allah and answer your deeds. So beware, do not astray from the path of righteousness after I am gone.

“O People! No Prophet or Apostle Will Come after Me and No New Faith Will Be Born. Reason well, therefore, O People! and understand words which I convey to you. I leave behind me two things, the Qur’an and my Sunnah (i.e., sayings, deeds, and approvals) and if you follow these you will never go astray.

“All those who listen to me shall pass on my words to others and those to others again; and may the last ones understand my words better than those who listen to me directly.

“Be my witness O Allah, that I have conveyed your message to your people.”

As part of this sermon, the Prophet recited them a Revelation from Allah which he had just received and which completed the Qur’an, for it was the last passage to be revealed:

This day the disbelievers despair of prevailing against your religion, so fear them not, but fear Me (Allah)! This day have I perfected for you your religion and fulfilled My favor unto you, and it hath been My good pleasure to choose Islam for you as your religion (Surah 5, Ayah 3).

The sermon was repeated sentence by sentence by Safwan’s brother Rabiah (RA), who had a powerful voice, at the request of the Prophet and he faithfully proclaimed to over ten thousand gathered on the occasion. Toward the end of his sermon, the Prophet asked “O people, have I faithfully delivered unto you my message?” A powerful murmur of assent “O Allah, yes!”, arose from thousands of pilgrims and the vibrant words “Allahumma na’m” rolled like thunder throughout the valley. The Prophet raised his forefinger and said: “Be my witness O Allah, that I have conveyed your message to your people.”(12)

Then again the Qur’an states to the effect:

Whose slays a soul not to retaliate for a soul slain, nor for corruption done in the land, should be as if he had slain mankind altogether.(13)

It is not permissible to oppress women, children, old people, the sick or the wounded. Women’s honor and chastity are to be respected under all circumstances. The hungry must be fed, the naked clothed, and the wounded or diseased given medical treatment regardless of their pro- or anti-Muslim sentiments and activities.

In Islam, human rights are granted by God, not by kings or legislative assemblies, and therefore they can never be taken away or changed, even temporarily, for any reason. They are meant to be put into practice and lived, not to stay on paper or in the realm of unenforceable philosophical concepts or United Nation declarations. Every Muslim is required to accept them and recognize the people’s right to have them enforced and obeyed. The Qur’an states that: Those who do not judge by what God has sent [while denying its validity] down are the disbelievers (14)

Human Rights in an Islamic State

Concerning the security of life and property, we have seen in the Prophet’s address during his final pilgrimage,that  he had proclaimed: “Your lives and properties are forbidden to one another till you meet your Lord on the Day of Resurrection.” He also had stated : “One who kills a man under covenant (i.e., a non Muslim citizen of a Muslim land) will not even smell the fragrance of Paradise.”

Concerning the protection of honour, the Qur’an does not allow one’s personal honor to be abused:; the Qur’an clearly states: “O You who believe, do not let one set of people make fun of another set. Do not defame one another Do not insult by using nicknames. Do not backbite or spear? ill of one another” (15)

And concerning sanctity and security of human privacy, the Qur’an guarantees this right.It says:” Avoid having suspicion, for some suspicion is  a sin.And do not spy on one another  and let not some of you  backbite others…” (16)(49.12)and “do not enter  houses which are not yours’  until you have asked for the permission thereto  and given greetings of peace to the inmates. “(17)

As for personal freedom, Islam guarantees this, and it prohibits the imprisonment of any individual before his guilt has been proven before a public court. This means that the accused has the right to defend himself and to expect fair and impartial treatment from the court.

The Qur’an also prohibits tyranny against people through the spread of their misdeeds to others. This is mentioned clearly in the Qur’an: God does not love evil talk in public unless it is by some one who has been injured thereby. In Islam, as has been stated earlier, an individual’s power and authority is a trust from God. This is an awesome responsibility for a person, for he must use this trust in a way that is acceptable to God or else suffer the consequences.

The heavy responsibility involving power and authority has been  acknowledged by Abu Bakr, who said in his very first address when he was made the first caliph of Islam: “Cooperate with me when I am right, and correct me when I commit error. Obey me so long as I follow the commandments of Allah and His Prophet, but turn away from me when I deviate.”

Concerning freedom of expression , we can observe that Islam allows complete freedom of thought and expression, provided that it does not involve spreading that which is harmful to individuals and the society at large. For example, the use of abusive or offensive language in the name of criticism is not allowed. In the days of the Prophet, the Muslims used to ask him about certain matters. If he had received no revelation on that particular issue, they were free to express their personal opinions.

Freedom of Association:

The formation of associations, parties, and organizations is allowed, on the understanding that they abide by certain general rules.

Freedom of Conscience and Conviction:

The Qur’an states: There should be no coercion in the matter of faith. Totalitarian societies of all ages have tried to deprive individuals of their freedom by subordinating them to state authority This condition is equivalent to slavery, the only difference being that physical slavery has been replaced by mechanisms of control that allow the individual no freedom of choice Islam forbids such a practice.

Protection of Religious Sentiments:

Along with the freedom of conviction and freedom of conscience, Islam guarantees to the individual that his religious sentiments will be given due respect and the nothing will be said or done which may encroach upon his right.

Protection from Arbitrary Imprisonment:

Islam states that each individual is responsible only for his own actions. Therefore, he cannot be arrested and imprisoned for the offenses of someone else. We read in the Qur’an: “No bearer of burdens shall be made to bear the burden of another”.

The Right to Basic Necessities of Life:

Islam recognizes the right of the needy to demand help from those who are more fortunate: And in their wealth there is acknowledge right for the needy and the destitute.

Equality Before the Law:

Islam gives its citizens the right to absolute and complete equality in the eyes of the law.

Rulers Are Not Above the Law:

According to the Islamic concept of justice, absolutely no one is above the law, for all men are equal. This point was made in a very dramatic fashion by the Prophet himself. One day, a woman belonging to a high and noble family was arrested in connection with a theft. The case was brought to the Prophet with the recommendation that she be spared the mandated punishment for theft (amputation of the hand). The Prophet replied: “The nations that lived before you were destroyed by God because they punished the common man for their offenses and let their dignitaries go unpunished for their crimes. I swear by Him Who holds my life in His hand that even if Fatima, the daughter of Muhammad, had committed this crime, I would have amputated her hand.”

The Right to Participate in the Affairs of State:

In the Qur’an, we find the statement And their business is (conducted) through consultation among themselves (18).This procedure is known as shura, which is usually translated as “consultation.” In practice, it means that the executive head of the government and the members of the assembly should be elected by free and independent choice of the people. However, the leader is not bound to follow the decision that results from this deliberation.

Lastly, Islam seeks to achieve the above-mentioned human rights and many others through the provision of certain legal safeguards, but primarily through calling upon individuals to transcend their lower animal-like instincts so that they can go beyond mere ties fostered by the kinship of blood, racial superiority, linguistic arrogance, and economic privilege Islam urges man to move on to a plane of existence where, by reason of his inner excellence, he can realize the ideal of the brotherhood of man(19)

Concerning “ knowledge society” there are a number of observations which can be made. These are:

  • Muslims should understand accurately  the nature, characteristics and objectives of “knowledge society”  in the current cultural discourse.
  • They should take stock of the situation and see where they stand and understand what are their strengths and weaknesses.
  • Muslims should prepare themselves so that they can perform their task in the new “knowledge society” making the best use of the tools available in the new information and communication technology, with the internet, the intra-net, the e-mail, and whatever is available.
  • They should master the secrets of the trade in the new technology so that they are not duped. The Prophet s.a.w. has said that a person who knows the language of another people he cannot be fooled by them. The knowledge of the tongue of a people does not merely mean langiuage of communication in the ordin ary se4nse, but the present writer would like to suggest even the most up-to-date technical  and scientific language and  philosophy,  so that we are not duped in any way.Imam al-Ghazali rd says in the ‘al-Munqid’ that a person who can evaluate one form of knowledge is one who understands that knowledge, and goes beyond that knowledge so that, if he is knowledgable enough, he is capable of giving a    critique of that knowledge or an aspect of it.
  • And the government has prepared infrastructure  for this venture and is encouraging and supporting development in this arena.
  • Of course knowledge society for us is not merely society promoting  skills in commerce, economics, and administration, [including for war for defending the nation and the ummah], but also for understanding about God, his doctrines and rules in human life, as well as understanding and preserving our identity as  Muslims, Malays, Malaysians, in Asean, in the world community , within the matrix of the ummah.
  • Knowledge for us comprises of Divine and Prophetic Wisdom for our guidance, then the knowledge from human experience and the intellect, supported by evidences from the human senses and wisdom from collective history.

Concerning quality of life, we can observe a number of points, among others, as the following:

  • Life quality must relate to the human body, spirit, and intellect. Hence in Islam the basic necessities of life preserved by Islam are; life, religion, intellect, wealth, progeny, wealth, and honour.
  • Hence shelter, food and drink, clothing, family life, communal  and societal life.
  • The state have certain functions relating to: life, intellect, religion, wealth, progeny, wealth and honour, relating to facilities in health, education, law, economic planning, the implementation of law, guaranteeing rights, and cultural milieu, including the media. All these are reflected in the administration of the state with the various ministries and departments, and government related organizations and bodies.
  • In the present cultural setting this is aided by the non-governmental organizations
  • The integrity of the nation should be monitored  by the National Integrity Board.
  • Life quality  includes within its purview, apart from matters relating to education and cultural matters, the provision of good roads, power supply, water supply, and now supply of broadband access to the electronic superhighway for informations, data, systematic knowledge, communication, and we can say,  within the balanced perspective, even   wisdom.
  • Of course, we cannot forget the question of national security and integrity.
  • Finally the quality of life in Islam is determined by the three categories of needs of man: the absolute necessities (al-daruriyyat), the important needs (al-hajjiyyat), and the ones which make life pleasant (al-tahsinat) which has been well explained by Dr Yusuf al-Qaradawi.(20) Wallahu a’lam.

==

Notes:

(1) http://www.arabicnews.com/ansub/Daily/Day/031020/2003102009.html

(2) ibid.

(3) ibid.

(4) http://www.ngi.nl/docs/bureau/FlyerXP3.pdf

(5) of http://www.cifs.dk/scripts/artikel.asp?id=847

(6) ibid.

(7) http://www.ksg.harvard.edu/ifactory/ksgpress/www/ksg_news/transcripts/drucklec.htm

(8)  http://www.ghazali.org/ihya/english/ihya-vol1-C1.htm

(9) http://www.ghazali.org/ihya/english/ihya-vol1-C1.htm

(10)Al-Ahkam al-Sultaniyyah,chapter on the contract of the imamah and other categories of duties concerning the administeration of the State.Al-Ahkam al-Sultaniyyah, of al-Mawardi, Dar al-Kutub al-‘Ilmiyyah, Beirut, Libnan, 1985, p.18.See also in http://feqh.al-islam.com/Display.asp?Mode=0&MaksamID=1&DocID=9&ParagraphID=16&Diacratic=0

(11) (5:8)

(12) ( http://www.cyberistan.org/islamic/sermon.html )

(13) (5.32).

(14) (5:44).

(15) ( 49: 1 1-121.)

(16) (49.12)

(17) (24.27).

(18) (42:38).

(19) ( http://www.iad.org/books/WAMY10.html.)

(20) In his Fiqh al-Awwaliyyat.

Concerning the neglect of the fiqh of priorities, Dr Yusuf writes:

The Neglect of the fiqh of Priorities Among many Muslims

The problem with many groups of the Islamic Awakening advocates is that the fiqh of priorities is nonexistent to them, as they often seek the secondary before paying attention to the principal, try to examine the particulars before grasping the generalities, and hold to the controversial before familiarizing themselves with the established. It is a pity that we ask for instance about the blood of a gnat, and do not care about the shedding of Al-Hussein’s blood, or fight for nafila, while the. people have wasted the faridas, or quarrel over a form, regardless of the content.

This is the situation today for Muslims in general. I see millions making the umra [minor pilgrimage] every year in Ramadan and other months and others making hajj for the tenth or even the twentieth time: if they saved the money they spent on these nafilas, they would accumulate thousands of millions of dollars. We have been running around for years trying to collect one thousand million dollars for the Islamic Philanthropic Institution, but have not collected a tenth, or even one- twentieth or one-thirtieth, of that amount. If you ask those performers of supererogatory umra and hajj to give you what they would spend on their voluntary journeys so that you may direct it to resisting Christianization or communism in Asia and Africa, or to combating famine here or there, they will not give you anything. This is a long-time ailment that no heart doctor has ever been able to cure.

The fiqh of priorities requires that we know which issue is more worthy of attention, so that we may give it more effort and time than we give others. The fiqh of priorities also requires us to know which enemy is more deserving of directing our forces and concentrating our attack against him, and which battle is more worthy of waging, for people are divided into several kinds in Islam’s eye, as follows:

There are the Muslims, the unbelievers and the hypocrites.

Unbelievers have in their ranks the pacifists and the militant. They also include those who only did not believe, and those who did not believe and also blocked the path to Allah [before those who believed].

Hypocrites include those of the lesser hypocrisy and those of the greater hypocrisy.

With whom do we start, then? Which area is more worthy of work? Which issue is more deserving of attention?

The fiqh of priorities requires that we know the time-limited duty so that we may treat it properly and not delay it and thus waste a chance that may not present itself again until after a long time, if it ever does.

A poet admonishes us about the value of time by saying: “Avail the chance, for a chance, If unavailable, becomes a grief. Our Arabic adage also says: “Do not put off today’s work till tomorrow”.

When Omar Ibn Abdel-Aziz was once advised to postpone some chore to the next day, he replied, “I am already tasked by a day’s work, how will I feel if I have two days work to do tomorrow? ”

A wise saying by Ibn-Ata is “There are certain duties with plenty of time given for their fulfillment, so they could be cautioned within the time-limit, but there are, besides, time-limited duties that, if out of time, are irredeemable, for with every new time there is a new duty and a new task demanded by Allah”!

Imam Al-Ghazali and the fiqh of Priorities

In his book “Al Ihiya”‘, Imam Al-Ghazali criticized those who were content with worship and did not pay attention to the | ranks of deeds. He said: “Another group is keen on nafilas but not as keen on faridas. We see some of them very pleased with the duha [forenoon optional] prayer and tahajjud “nighttime optional prayer] and other nafilas, but they find no pleasure in the farida’s, nor are they as keen on performing the farida prayers early in their time. They forget what the Prophet narrated from the Qudsi hadith [inspired by Allah the Almighty to His Messenger]: “Nothing that my slaves shall do to bring themselves closer to me shall be better than doing what I have ordered them to perform [as faridas]” (Al-Bukhari). Neglecting the order of prominence in good deeds falls under evil conduct. An individual may even find himself obliged to do only one of two compulsory things, or forced to do two things with a very limited time for one and ample time for the other: if he does not preserve their order, then he is deceived. “The similar instances are countless, for obedience and disobedience [of the commands of Allah] are both obvious. What is really ambiguous is giving precedence to some forms of obedience over others, such as giving prominence to faridas over nafilas; to individual duties over collective duties to a collective duty with no one to fulfill it over that fulfilled by other people; to the more important individual duties over those which have a lesser importance, to what cannot be postponed over what can be postponed; and to the needs of one’s mother over those of one’s father. The Prophet was asked, “Who is more entitled to be treated with the best companionship by me?” He replied, “Your mother”. And the man said, “Who is next?”, and the Prophet said, “Your mother”. And the man asked again, “And who is next”? and the Prophet said, “Your mother”. And the man asked for the fourth time, “And who is next?” and the Prophet said, “Your father”. And the man further asked, “And who is next?” and the Prophet replied, “The closest and then the closer of your relatives.”). A person should devote his companionship by the closeness of relationship. If two of his kins are of the same degree of relation, then he should help the one who needs help more, and if they need help equally then he should help the more pious of them.

“Similarly, if someone cannot meet the Costs of spending on his parents and making a pilgrimage at the same time, he should not make the pilgrimage because if he does, he would be acting in ignorance, for he should give the rights of his parents precedence over pilgrimage. In this case, he will be giving prominence to a religious duty over another religious duty that is of a lower rank.

Moreover, if someone has an appointment and the time for jumua [Friday congregational prayer] comes upon him, then he has to go to the prayer. If he goes to his appointment, he will be committing an act of disobedience [to Allah], even though the fulfillment of the appointment is, as such, an act of obedience.

Someone may also find some najasa [impurities] on his garment and speak roughly to his parents on that account. While najasa is unacceptable, hurting the parents is also unacceptable, and caring to avoid hurting the parents is more important than caring to avoid najasa.

“The examples of the combination of tabooed deeds and of compulsory duties are countless. He who neglects the order of Priorities in any of them is certainly deceived”

(ttp://www.witness-pioneer.org/vil/Books/Q_Priorities/.)

——-

*Originally a paper, now with additions and modifications, to be tabled in the conference organized by UPM on 30th September, 2004, which was  previously presented in the Seminar organized by Sultan Iskandar Institute of Johor on the 19th of May 2004, Kuala Lumpur (11th Leadership Seminar of the Southeast Asian Centre of Enviromental and Urban Management (SEACEUM), Hotel Istana, Kuala Lumpur.)

The writer is currently Very Distinguished Academic Fellow, ISTAC, IIUM.

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