Prof Hashim Kamali’s Religious Pluralism Reconsidered


Muhammad ‘Uthman El-Muhammady (a student of Islamic Thought)

In Hashim Kamali’s essay “Islam’s Religious Pluralism in Context” (NST 8 Feb 2011) a number of points was raised, hence the following response from this student of Islamic thought. Firstly it is stated that “whether Islam accepts religious pluralism as opposed to mere religious plurality…[m]uch depends, it seems, on how one understands religious pluralism and then the three Quranic verses that chatacterise Islam”. The three verses cited by him are: the verse meaning “surely the religion before Allah is Islam (submission to His will) (3:19)”; and the verse “whoever seeks other than Islam as a religion, it will not be accepted from him (3:85)”; and “this day I perfected your religion for you, completed My favour to you, and chose Islam to be your faith (5:3)”. These are often cited as evidence that Islam is the only true religion and only those who follow Islam shall be saved.

As a student of Islamic thought the present writer notices that Prof Hashim Kamali does not note the position of the classical commentators concerning those verses as well as the position of ijma’ or the consensus of the scholars on the matter of the finality of Islam in sacred history; he also does not mention the position of the Prophetic Traditions on the matter.

Secondly, he goes on to state that “Mainstream Quran commentaries consider Islam in these verses to be the exclusive name for the religion revealed to the Prophet Muhammad. But Islam is also the primal religion of submission preached by Adam to all his posterity who accepted God as their Lord, as in the divine invocation: “Am I not your Lord? They said: yes we do testify (7:172).”

Then he states “All humankind then, before time began, professed Islam in its widest sense of submission. Understood in this way, the verses recognize the validity of every religion that requires submission to God’s will. This understanding of Islam also tallies with the essence of universality that Islam manifests in its own messages, values and objectives”.

The question which emerges from such position is: is it valid to conclude (as being done by Prof Kamali) from the primordial situation of “[a]ll mankind then, before time began, professed Islam in its widest sense of submission” that “the verses recognize the validity of every religion that requires submission to God’s will” without qualification? It is necessary for Prof. Kamali to provide support for such a position from Muslim classical scholarship so as to make this in line with the mainstream position of the scholars of sacred scholarship of the umma; otherwise that will be presenting highly personal position resting only on personal credibility of Prof. Kamali as an individual, plus the untold spiritual risks with all that this implies.

Then related to this are a number of issues like:what about the mainstream position of the naskh or abrogation of dispensations with the advent of the Qur’anic revelation, apart from those elements endorsed therein? And are the Qur’anic critiques of those other dispensations count for nothing assuming that all come under that which ‘requires submission to God’s will’? It is a very challenging conclusion indeed coming from Prof. Kamali.

Third, then Prof Kamali goes on to mention the position of Toshiko Izutsu who, to him, “has convincingly demonstrated that in several Quranic verses Islam can be taken to present every previous revelation as a way of submitting, and that such verses present Islam as a universal religion. The first to declare himself a Muslim in the Quran is the Prophet Noah: “I was commanded to be among the submitters (muslimin) (10:72).” Concerning Abraham: “His Lord said to Abraham: submit. He said I submit to the Lord of the worlds” (2:31). The succeeding verse recounts that both Abraham and Jacob advised their sons: “Allah has chosen the religion for you. So do not die except in a state of submission (muslimun).”

The question is: does the mention of the verses about Noah, Abraham, and Jacob being involved in ‘previous revelation as a way of submitting’ (and the relevant verses manifesting Islam ‘as a universal religion’ validate those dispensations after the advent of the Qur’anic revelation? Granted the spiritual validity of the dispensations of those prophets (in mainstream position they are Muslims, bringing Islam in their times) but again, in line with progressive revelation, each prophet with his ummah and time, yet, again, what about the doctrine of the naskh , as stated before this, or abrogation of dispensations after the coming of Islam brought by Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him)?

Further, other related issues are: what about the position of the Qur’an as muhaiminan ‘alaihi (5:51) ‘guarding it [the meanings in religions] in safety [so that religions do not swerve away from the correct position]’- and hence its critiques of certain positions among the People of the Book?

And next, related to the above position, what about the Muslims, the people of the Qur’an who are to be witnesses unto mankind just as the Messenger is witness for Muslims? (2:143; 22:78) So Muslims have to stand by their guidance in the Qur’an and ‘give testimony’ in case others swerve from the true path? If Muslims advocate pluralism in Prof Kamali’s sense, they cannot be witnesses anymore; they become the camp-followers of others. Answers to such questions will suggest spiritual and intellectual ‘inadequacy’ of the position of religious pluralism.

The position taken by the Dalai Lama in relation to this issue is sincere and laudable. He says for him the truth is Buddhism for the Muslim it is Islam, for the Christian it is Christianity; but he is on excellent terms with all with respect (and cooperation wherever there are avenues for this as is shown by his activities).

Fourth, Prof Kamali further observes “Every prophet of the Judaeo-Christian tradition has thus taught a different mode of submission to God. If Islam is taken to mean submission in the Quran rather than an institutionalised creed, it would pave the way for “a very eloquent understanding of religious pluralism, one wherein all revelations throughout history are seen as different ways of giving to God that which is most difficult to give — our very selves”.

The question which emerges from the above is if every prophet ‘of the Judaeo-Christian tradition’ (to the Qur’an they are prophets and they are Muslims) ‘taught a different mode of submission to God’, yet they taught tauhid, with no elements of departure therefrom, with only certain differences in the sacred law, and they are spiritually valid in their cycles of prophecy, how can it be concluded that the Islam which they brought ‘would pave the way for ‘a very eloquent understanding of religious pluralism, one wherein all revelations throughout history are seen as different ways of giving to God that which is most difficult to give – our very selves”? Then, again, can we separate that ‘submission’ with the institutionalized creed? Do we separate the ‘submission to God’ from the institutionalized creed of the religion? In Islam, is the ‘institutionalized creed’ wrong? If we apply this to mainstream Islam, is the ‘institutionalized creed’ of Ash’ari wrong or if not wrong at least not in keeping with the submission to God? Is the institutionalized (as happened in history) understanding of the sacred law of the four schools ‘wrong’? It is helpful if Prof.Kamali clarifies these points for the sake of clarity for readers.

Prof Kamali further observes that “ imaan (faith) which rests at the heart of Islam occupies a much larger space in the Quran, occurring hundreds of times, whereas Islam occurs on only eight occasions. Imaan consists of a state of mind, manifested in the testimonial of the faith (kalimah shahadah), whereas Islam consists mainly of conduct — as in the Five Pillars of the faith”.

Fifth, this is followed by Prof Kamali with his observation: “Submission is sometimes said to be the very first step, but perhaps a shallow one if it is not espoused by imaan — as indicated in the following verse: “The Bedouin say: we believe (aamanna); say to them ‘you do not believe’. Rather say ‘we have surrendered (aslamna), for imaan has not permeated your hearts… (49:14).”

To the present writer, it is alright that the issue is although iman ‘occupies a much larger space’ and ‘Islam consists mainly of conduct’ yet both must be in the believer; the iman again must be in conformity with the established creed, not merely vague personal belief about something supernatural, but the belief which has been established in this community, as found expressions in the works of the scholars of sacred scholarship, and also Islam has already been established; history has shown that Islam as the institutionalized religion has been recognized as valid, until the end of time. There has been no accepted view in this religion that pluralism has valid space for it. Personal opinions cannot be a substitute for the position which has been taken by ijma’ after the Qur’an and Sunnah.

Sixth, finally the theological position of Prof Kamali does not reflect authentically the mainstream Sunni discourse. He observes: “In the context of theology, religious pluralism is treated under the three headings of exclusivist, inclusivist and pluralist. The exclusivists believe that only their faith is true and all others are false; the inclusivists hold that their faith is true and others are included in it in some sense. The pluralists maintain that all faiths are true and show different paths to the same reality.” To say with the pluralists that all faiths without qualifications are true is unQur’anic and a highly personal statement. The Islamic position, that of the Qur’an and the Sunnah, is that the religions of the prophets are all true and valid for their cycles of prophecy, and with the advent of the shari’a of Muhammad peace and blessings be upon him they are superseded by his shari’a. That is the Quranic meaning of the statement of him coming as the ‘seal of the prophets’(33:40) acknowledging them and the validity of their dispensations. Other positions are Qur’anically indefensible. To disseminate this would open the floodgates of infidelity. God forbid.

Then seventh, Prof Kamali observes what he states as ‘the Quran is clearly expressive of the inclusivist impulse of Islam: Say, we believe in God and that which has been sent down to us and to Abraham and Ishmael, Isaac and Jacob… to Moses, Jesus and the Prophets from their Lord; we make no distinction whatsoever between them, surrendering as we do unto Him (lahu muslimun) (3:84). But he does not provide the authoritative commentators’ view on the meaning of the verse, and is satisfied with his personal view on the meaning of the verse. If he keeps that to himself, may be there are understandable reasons for such a position; but to express this for the Muslim public, that is something alarming indeed.

Then, eighth, the next observation of Prof. Kamali is laudable. He states “If the essence of religious pluralism is recognition, coexistence and cooperation with people of different religious persuasions within the same society, then Islam is pluralist. Lexicological accuracies apart, no civilisation in history has in fact demonstrated a more resolute commitment to pluralism than Islam.”

So also the following statement from him: ‘For not only the Quran but also the renowned constitution of Madinah are affirmative on religious pluralism. Article 25 of this document proclaimed the “Migrants, the Helpers-Muhajirun, Ansar and the Jews as one ummah”, and left open the possibility for others to join them in the spirit of unity and goodwill.

To him this is: “categorical evidence of Islam’s inclusivity and openness — also illustrating the Prophet’s judicious pragmatism at the expense almost of semantic accuracy. For ummah by definition signifies unity in faith, yet the Prophet went beyond that in the interest evidently of social harmony and cohesion.” Yet, to the present writer, it is necessary to add that ‘the ummah’ in the document, as found in the Sirah of ibn Ishaq, is used to mean the collectivity of people in the city-state of Madinah under the Prophet (peace be upon him) and not the theological meaning of the term. So the Madinah document is not about ‘religious pluralism’ in the sense understanding “of different paths leading to one reality” but about plurality of religions in Madinah.

Then, ninth, concerning the Quran recognizing the existence of other faith systems, including the worship of idols there is the verse in surah al-Kafirun (109:6) meaning: “to you is your religion and to me, my religion”. As for salvation in the Quran it is granted to Muslims, and all those who believe in God and do good deeds when they accept the prophets and finally Muhammad with his advent (2:4; 2:62; 5:69). It is necessary for us to state the authentic position of the religion of Islam and then promote cooperation among people of goodwill and practice the ethics of differences (including linguistic ethics) and not to sweep differences under the carpet. This will avoid spiritual confusion and serve genuine understanding.


Yang benar

Muhammad Uthman El-Muhammady (27 Feb 11)


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.”


“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 )

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.


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)


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.




(2) ibid.

(3) ibid.


(5) of

(6) ibid.




(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

(11) (5:8)

(12) ( )

(13) (5.32).

(14) (5:44).

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

(16) (49.12)

(17) (24.27).

(18) (42:38).

(19) (

(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”



*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.

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

نحمده ونصلى على رسوله الكريم



To those who love I present Sunni intellectual way

In the Malay World beloved land far away

Embracing all countenance of knowing traditional and rational way

All manner of knowing – divine and human mental sway

Guaranteeing Truth acts honour and man’s worthy way

In globalization values and morals withering away


Knowledge begins as lights from One Most Knowing

Then touching universal reason – manifesting revealing

Descending to human recipient prophetic receptacle receiving

Moving then unto human reason purified being

Crystalizing as pearls treasure in Sunni way of knowing

Combining in totality traditional and rational path perceiving


Within this ocean dive the learned in sacred sciences

From the Companions the blessed to ones like Ash’aris

Continuing with Baqillani to al-Ghazali and al-Razi

Truly including al-Shafi’I and the mujtahids all Sunnies

Therein ibn Khaldun among learned in rational sciences

Also Suyuti up to Waliyullah al-Dihlawi


In Sunni World here there is al-Raniri ‘Abd al-Rauf also al-Fansuri

Also al-Falimbani again al-Banjari  again Yusuf Makasari

Continuing with Daud Ahmad and Zain al-Fatani

Rows of them the learned divines of the Sunnies

Presenters of the creed, sacred laws, morals, rationality, spirituality

In constellation stars in knowing among Sunnies


Sunni frame in knowing total harmonizing

Capable of salvation for morals and heart realizing

Curing the malady of minds confused in fever suffering

So many suffering seriously yet choosing the way of covering

Sunni way giving safety in faith values and morals in behaving

Facing fatal trials while globalizing


Only through these truth in faith be solved

Including about God in servitude devotions involved

Values on good and evil in life resolved

As in the adage ‘life is based on customs followed

Customs based on Sacred Law hallowed

Sacred law based on Scripture obeyed’


Through their intelligence pearls of knowledge more than thousand years

Strength for handhold human intelligence anchored on sustained views

Giving conviction confidence to man in cultures with conflicts

In age of postmodern culture clashing without ends

In age when power of Satan serenading false melodies

Come we take shelter for safety under shades


In culture of dialogues we need certainty

The axis determining truth direction and equity

Without Sunni mode of knowing constituting truth sustainability

We drift away to the coasts of destruction cultural calamity

Sans meanings sans directions sans identity

Bereft of honour enemies victorious we in bankruptcy


Together in this meeting in Bangi we arrive at the decision

Determine Sunni frame of knowing guaranteeing salvation

Combining within it the welfare of the world and eternal salvation

Enhancing philosophy of knowing in religion and worldly life estimation

Combining works of reason the senses with guidance of revelation

That is the path the one only with acts saving civilization


Come we save the Malay World this Sunni region

We choose the frame for way of knowing for saving the religion

Facing the West those against reality of human welfare

Empowering all strength from revelation prophecy and human reason

Combined within it sharpness in intellectual penetration, taqwa and morals in iman

Realizing the life of a servant of the One being His vicegerent


This is the path one only coming from the One Creator

Teaching mankind life of devotion not in disobedience

Providing the way good and evil values stable with power

Way of life civilization complete ready

Combining strength of reason the heart and senses

Bestowing manner of knowing securing life of safety and success


From God we make supplications for blessings and clemency

Our gathering bestowed with guidance and mercy

So that this will recur in the land showered with mercy

In the Nusantara with history promoting learning in plenty

This being continuous guidance for the region for the Community

Guidance in the age when civilization and culture ravaged by infamy


Composed by the Roving Preacher of the Malay World 23rd of August 2001

Composed in English – the Second Conference of Islamic Thought UKM 6th Oct.2009.

To be recited in the Bilik Senat UKM on 6th Oct 2009



Muhammad ‘Uthman El-Muhammady[1]

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

نحمده ونصلى على رسوله الكريم

This paper argues that the Malay-Indonesian World should maintain its adherence to and benefit from the ethical, spiritual, intellectual and cultural guidance of the Islamic mainstream Sunni discourse which has for so long been the core of its culture and civilization apart from its adherence to the local customary practices. This mainstream universal Islamic discourse can be seen as to be represented by the  four universal themes of Islamic intellectuality: the theological, crystallizing in the Ash’ari-Maturidi theological school; the spiritual, ethical and philosophical stance in the school of al-Ghazali and those like him; in the modern world that of Sai’d Nursi; the legal crystallizing in the  legal narratives of the mujtahid imams; for the Malay World that of Imam al-Shafi’i, and finally the cultural and civilizational crystallizing in the Khaldunian discourse; in the modern era that of Malik Bennabi which can be considered as the prolongation of  the Khaldunian discourse. Then there should be the additional relevant input from the best intellectual and cultural experience of the modern world. This is for a number of most pressing reasons: for maintaining the guaranteed eternal saving truths of the Islamic message, for intellectual homogeneity, for ethical, moral and spiritual stability, for performing the stable foundation of the ummatic civilization, and, of course, for facing the onslaught of philosophic and ethical modernity and postmodernity – Allah willing – without losing out. Issues and perspectives involved in these themes will be considered.


What is meant by mainstream intellectual discourse of Islam here is that religious discourse of the great majority of scholars of Islamic sacred scholarship covering various fields of learning: like Qur’anic and its sciences, the traditions and its sciences, the classical theology in kalam, discourse on spirituality in tasawwuf, the legal discourse in classical fiqh, including the new legal rulings made by the jurists and included into this discourse on historical and civilizational issues. This discourse is characterized by the intellectual stance of understanding revelation and prophecy through the mediation of the epistemological construct and its methodology throughout the centuries. This position is fundamentally related to a number of principles determining the nature of this discourse: the Absolute Being,  being al-Haqq,[2] the Absolute Truth, He Being on the Straight Divine Axis,[3] He being the Preserver (al-Muhaimin)[4] [of beings, things, meanings], then the Qur’anic revelation itself as muhaiminan ‘alaihi[5] being guardian over fundamental meanings of Divine Revelation in history, the principle of consensus in the verse on sabil al-mu’minin,[6] the role of the mujtahids,  the existence  and function of consensus (ijma’),  the appearance of the mujaddids at the head of Muslim century.[7] Then the prophetic guarantee about the continuous existence of a group in my community who will be prominently victorious on the truth until the Day of Judgment, those who differ from them will not be able to harm them.[8]

Mainstream theological discourse[9] preeminently  means the accepted theological discourse of figures like al-Ash’ari, al-Maturidi, al-Tahawi, Imam Abu Hanifah, Imam Shafi’i, al-Baqillani, al-Baghdadi, Imam al-Haramayn, al-Ghazali, al-Razi and so on until the spread of the theological texts of Umm al-Barahin, Jawharah of al-Laqqani and so on within the mainstream discourse. This covers fundamental discussions of God, Divine Nature, Attributes, Acts, manifestations in sacred history, prophecy, its function reality and nature, the angelic world, its nature, functions, revelation, the prophets and messengers, their reality, nature and functions, the hereafter, its reality, nature and function, the divine governance expressed in Divine Decree and Pre-Measurement. These realities remain, and will not cease to be. The discussions and proofs can come from revealed texts, human reasoning, the realm of nature, science, Quantum Theory, whatever. But they shall continuously be, and will not cease to be; in the nature of things, as has been so well stated, in the nature of things, it is the human who must conform to the Divine and not the Divine to the human, with all the attending intellectual and spiritual consequences.

In the domain of spirituality, the mainstream discourse in this  field is guided by  discourses of figures like Junaid al-Baghdadi, al-Qushairi, al-Ghazali, with his magisterial Ihya,  al-Jilani, al-Shadhili, and others and for those who can appreciate their real position within the ambiance of this discourse, Ibn ‘Arabi and Jalal al-Din Rumi (provided their statements are understood while anchored to the moorings of this mainstream discourse).[10] These works portray not philosophical systems but results of spiritual witnessing and not mere mental speculations of the thinker in the modern provincial sense of those who have lost their sense of the sacred and the transcendent. In modern times the work of Sa’id Nursi does provide guidance in this domain-him being a figure with a masterly grasp of mainstream classical discourse, intimate knowledge and understanding of science and technology, with authentic spiritual vision and realization, and intense educational and social activism.

In the domain of spiritual ethics, again the above figures with their discourses do guide those who are the adherents of the mainstream discourse in their ethical life in the most profound way. The spiritual ethics of al-Qushairi can be seen in his Risalah al-Qushairiyyah that of al-Ghazali of course is in the Ihya’, the Minhaj al-‘Abidin, the al-Munqidh min al-Dadal and at the deepest level, can be found in the al-Madnun (which is being edited by our young scholar al-Akiti, at the University of Oxford). The philosophical views of al-Ghazali can be seen in the Tahafut al-Falasifah and Maqasid al-Falasifah.

In the domain of Islamic sacred law, mainstream discourse is found in the views of the mujtahid imams of the four schools and their adherents. All this is relevant for contemporary times. For the Malay World the Shafi’i school is the dominant legal school which is being loyally adhered to, with a number of minor departures in some details of the law.[11]

In the domain of culture and civilization, mainstream discourse can be found in the works of Ibn Khaldun (the Muqaddimah), and those of Malik Bennabi. The  diverse subjects discoursed in this sacred community[12] is reflected in al-Fihrist of Ibn Nadim,  the  Kitab al-Sa’adah of Tashkopruzade, discussed in al-Muqaddimah of Ibn Khaldun, with the technical terms elucidated in such works, among others as the monumental Kashshat Istilahat al-Funnun of ‘Abd al-Razzaq al-Tahanawi.[13]


When we come to the question of the position of Islamic mainstream discourse in the Malay World, we find that this has been discussed in an engaging manner in that important work Modern Trends in Islamic Theological Discourses in Twentieth Century Indonesia: A Critical Survey by Fauzan Saleh[14] We can touch on some of the important issues in the work later. The other work Islam and the Malay-Indonesian World by Peter Riddell[15] gives very summarized situation of the Islamic discourse in the Malay-Indonesian World, of course with no special focus on the notion of mainstream intellectual discourse as such. Nevertheless it is a useful work giving a summary of the intellectual situation. Only that the present writer feels other dimensions from the Malaysia scene should addressed.

We have  seen this mainstream discourse in the Malay-Indonesian World in the theological texts like Matan al-Jawharah of al-Laqqani, the Bidayatul Hidayah of Shamsuddin  of Acheh, the elaborations of texts of Umm al-Barahin and others, the texts ranging from the simple Faridah al-Fara’id of Ahmad al-Fatani to the possibly most   massive theological work Ward alZawahir of Shaikh Daud al-Fatani, then ‘Aqidatul-Najin of Shaykh Zayn al-‘Abidin al-Fatani and others. The mainstream position in theological domain is also reflected in the Tuhfah al-Raghibin of Shaykh Arsyad al-Banjari dealing with various deviationist groups which are at variance with the accepted mainstream discourse of the community.[16]

In relation to this discussion on mainstream discourse and its realization in the Malay World there are a number of concerns like the following:

  • Rejection of ta’wil for mutashabihat elements in the Qur’an and Sunnah, whereas the salaf also did use ta’wil[17] whenever necessary; not using ta’wil will make certain expressions not understandable to the  common believer; so the  choice is between tafwid submission and acceptance, leaving the meanings and reality to Allah or ta’wil for the common man of belief to avoid  leading people to heresy of attributing attributes of creation to God.
  • The intellectual attitude of rejection of the use of elements from philosophy in theological discussions considering this as bid’ah; mainstream position permits its use whenever necessity demands; reasoning has to use tools, like logic, terms or  jauhar, arad – like now substance, accidents, atoms, quarks, electrons and etc even though the Prophet saw did not use it for obvious reasons to person of sound reason. Use of logic has been considered as part of the meanings of the hadith which reads wisdom is the lost property of the believer, wherever he finds it he is most entitled to it by al-Munawi in his commentary of the Jami al-Saghir of al-Suyuti.
  • The accusation that there is rejection of philosophy totally, leading to intellectual sterility, something not compatible with the intellectual aspirations of a man like al-Ghazali and others like him.
  • Division of tauhid into various categories such as tawhid rubiyyah, uluhiyyah and asma’ wa al-sifat in total isolation, hence leading to the attribution of  shirk to tawassul and so on; a stance not found in mainstream discourse, with  the practical consequences in history and life. The Qur’anic verses taken as proofs for this stance are not valid (al-‘Ankabut, 65) etc.
  • The claim of some quarters that  secularism has prevailed  in the Malay World  and elsewhere in the Muslim World leading to wholesale apostasy, collective apostasy etc, what are the implications? The  coming of the British to Malaya brought secularism and etc (with the theologico-spiritual  consequence with Turkey as an exception, with her Principles of Kemalism)
  • See the concept of secularism as defined by George J. Holyoake.[18] “Secularism is the study of promoting human welfare by material means; measuring human welfare by the utilitarian rule, and making the service of others a duty of life. Secularism relates to the present existence of man, and to action, the issues of which can be tested by the experience of this life – having for its objects the development of the physical, moral, and intellectual nature of man to the highest perceivable point, as the immediate duty of society: inculcating the practical sufficiency of natural morality apart from Atheism, Theism, or Christianity: engaging its adherents in the promotion of human improvement by material means, and making these agreements the ground of common unity for all who would regulate life by reason and ennoble it by service. The Secular is sacred in its influence on life, for by purity of material conditions the loftiest natures are best sustained, and the lower the most surely elevated. Secularism is a series of principles intended for the guidance of those who find Theology indefinite, or inadequate, or deem it unreliable. It replaces theology, which mainly regards life as a sinful necessity, as a scene of tribulation through which we pass to a better world. Secularism rejoices in this life, and regards it as the sphere of those duties which educate men to fitness for any future and better life, should such transpire.”[19] To the present writer of this paper this has nothing to do with Malaysia and many other Muslim countries, with the exception of Turkey, which has made secularism as her state philosophy.[20]
  • The rejection of classical theology and metaphysics under the influence of postmodernism,  deconstructionism etc, rejection of rigid definitions in theology, of iman-kufr dichotomy, truth-batil  etc considered as ‘irrelevant confrontations’ in intellectual discourse.

In the  domain  of spirituality we have seen the  writings of Shaikh Abd al-Samad al-Falimbani with his Sayr al-Salikin and the Hidayah al-Salikin and others Kan al-Minan Sharah of Hikam Abi Madyan by Shaykh Daud al-Fatani, the translation of Minhaj al-‘Abidin of al-Ghazali by Shaykh Daud al-Fatani and others, then the  writings of Shaikh Yusuf of Maskasar (in Arabic and some already translated into Indonesian  for example by Tudjimah) and other works reflecting mainstream position in spirituality, away from deviationist  leanings.

So with the mainstream epistemological construct in the Malay World, together with its methodology and tools, this remains intellectually and spiritually valid until the present; and all this include matters like revelation, prophecy, human reason and experience, within a system teaching man dimensions of knowing. Other data of knowledge – including contemporary findings and useful interpretations – can be incorporated within it and there is no intellectual necessity for abandoning this intellectual construct in seeking for a better one as alternative for us simply there is no better one. And there is no question of looking for an alternative either, because this is not a matter of looking for something like clothing for the sake of novelty; this is a question touching the substance of the human spirit and intellect.

For example, the epistemological construct of Shafi’i in law and the philosophy of law, has not been intellectually invalidated; new matters should be incorporated into it, new keys can be found for unraveling its discussions, but the framework is valid. The spiritual, ethical and philosophical construct of al-Ghazali is still valid and legitimate; it has never been successfully invalidated intellectually and spiritually; in fact we are indebted to him for such profound discussions on religious matters starting from the philosophical, ethical, spiritual and metaphysical, ranging from al-Munqidh, Tahafut, al-Ihya then Mishkat al-Anwar then al-Madnun.[21]

In fact there is no question of substituting new epistemological constructs to take the place of those narratives, simply because critiques  against them has failed to provide convincing arguments for such substitutions, all the more so those arguments has not been based on authentic understanding  of the previous constructs which are considered as to have been invalidated or intellectually obsolete.

Arguments of being jumud or static and unchanging, stagnant, can be leveled against individuals and certain institutions but not against the authentic expressions of the mainstream discourse itself. So when the issue is seen in the context of the total construct, there is no valid argument against the construct or the discourse itself. Granted there is the necessity for re-understanding the discourse; but there is no argument invalidating it.

The argument about Islamic theology being based on Greek philosophy, or infused with Greek influence, this has to be looked at closely. First Islamic theology in the sense of usul al-din is based on the Qur’an, Hadith, ijma’, and elaborations of those who are knowledgeable in Islamic learning. The theological conclusions are not based on hurried speculations but based on the Qur’an and Sunnah as well as ijma’. Logic was accepted for systematic reasoning and disciplined thinking and writing; that is why al-Munawi the traditionist calls it as one of the meanings of the hadith about the lost property of the believer (dallatul-mu’min).For example the use of such terms as jawhar and ‘arad by Imam Shafi’i for example, this shows the imam’s exposure to the intellectual currents of his day. For us now we should also not be unaware of Quantum Theory in physics etc.

There are other arguments against mainstream theological discourse, arguments against ilm al-kalam quoting the imams as being against this field itself such arguments against kalam are based either on prejudicial interpretations of their statements (Shafi’i’s statements and others against kalam) not in accordance with the context of those statements themselves. For example their statements are not blanket statements covering all of ilm al-kalam, for instance as explained by Imam al-Ghazali, but those which lead people astray  from the correct theological position of mainstream  discourse.

Arguments of bid’ah: arguments against matters seen as reprehensible innovations; yet   when examined in the light of objective mainstream discourse they will be found to be hasty conclusions, immature reasoning, misdirected or not based on thorough understanding of the issues; or just pure fanatical adherence to a certain view closing the mind against other views, coupled with the attitude of rejecting the ethics of differences taught by the imams of the community. Hence the necessity for education in the objective total mainstream discourse legitimized by consensus as well as for education in the etiquette and ethics of handling differences.

Arguments against madhhab: arguments against the emergence of and adherence to the madhhabs in fiqh, usul al-fiqh with their methodologies, if looked deeper into the relevant issues, will speak for their intellectual and positive strength rather than the reverse.

Arguments of backwardness of the community supposedly caused by Islamic sacred sciences: when examined objectively both from the point of view of the authentic expressions of the sciences themselves and the manifestations of such so called impacts will be found to have been half-truths; and many of such matters of such questions are results of half-truths.

Arguments  concerning the negative impact of Sufism on the ummah, apart from the practice and wrongful understanding of that science as explained by the Sufis themselves,  when  scrutinized objectively will be proven to have  been grounded on imperfect or insufficient understanding of that field of discipline, from the authentic original sources, and legitimized in mainstream discourse.

Arguments of Batiniyyah influence in Islamic spirituality: usually are arguments by selected instances, not taking into consideration the total perspective of spirituality; usually they are persuaded by   prejudicial interpretations of data and not objective.

Then arguments against Sufism as pantheism (even by a figure like Iqbal) and others are not based on the authentic understanding of the issues by the recognized Sufis themselves, but rather on prejudicial interpretations of “outsiders” even if these happen to be Muslims, but who have lost real contact with their own tradition and have lost intellectual and cultural confidence vis-à-vis that tradition. So there is the intellectual and spiritual necessity for re-learning this tradition seriously. Of course there is no measure between the spiritual witnessing of the Gnostics (knowers in God) (arifin bi’Llah)   and mere philosophical speculation of the Western pantheists of the 19th century West. But with the loss of real spiritual perspective the arguments carry weight for some writers, including Muslims who have been schooled in that alien intellectual ambiance.

Arguments of extraneous influences on Sufism not from Islamic sources is not based on authentic understanding of the  sources and its intrinsic history, but rather on intellectual fashion influenced by Western scholarship of a certain kind, with the position of always seeing “influences” in things and thoughts, whenever appearances of superficial  similarities are observed,  without considering the inward reality of the ummatic civilization and the dynamics of revelation and the life in the sacred, spiritual illumination, for instance as discussed in Risalah al-Qushairiyyah and even the Muqaddimah of Ibn Khaldun, Qut al-Qulub and Kitab al-Ta’arruf of al-Kalabadhi, among others. Only later some Western scholars have revised some of their views like Arberry and Massignon. This is not to forget also, of course, the works of Martin Lings and others in his group.

Concerning arguments against the authenticity and the history of the text of the Qur’an and the hadith, this has been done by our scholars based on painstaking research into the original sources, including newly found manuscripts, which support the mainstream position of Muslim scholars. Hence the negative position taken by Ignaz Goldziher and Joseph Schacht in such matters has been given the necessary responses by scholars like Hamidullah, Zubayr Siddiqi, Mustafa al-Siba’i, and Mustafa al-A’zami. Yet those   who prefer to choose the path of taqlid in relation to the views of such scholars still   follow those exploded views; among them can be mentioned Mohammed Arkoun of Paris.

In relation to this discussion on mainstream discourse and its realization in the Malay World there are a number of concerns like the following:

  • The claim of some quarters that  secularism has prevailed  in the Malay World  and elsewhere in the Muslim World leading to wholesale apostacy, collective apostacy etc…what are the implications? The  coming of the British to Malaya brought secularism…etc (with the theologico-spiritual  consequences… with Turkey as an exception, with her Principles of Kemalism)
  • See the concept of secularism as defined by George J. Holyoake.[22] “Secularism is the study of promoting human welfare by material means; measuring human welfare by the utilitarian rule, and making the service of others a duty of life. Secularism relates to the present existence of man, and to action, the issues of which can be tested by the experience of this life – having for its objects the development of the physical, moral, and intellectual nature of man to the highest perceivable point, as the immediate duty of society: inculcating the practical sufficiency of natural morality apart from Atheism, Theism, or Christianity: engaging its adherents in the promotion of human improvement by material means, and making these agreements the ground of common unity for all who would regulate life by reason and ennoble it by service. The Secular is sacred in its influence on life, for by purity of material conditions the loftiest natures are best sustained, and the lower the most surely elevated. Secularism is a series of principles intended for the guidance of those who find Theology indefinite, or inadequate, or deem it unreliable. It replaces theology, which mainly regards life as a sinful necessity, as a scene of tribulation through which we pass to a better world. Secularism rejoices in this life, and regards it as the sphere of those duties which educate men to fitness for any future and better life, should such transpire.”[23] This has nothing to do with Malaysia and other Muslim countries, with the exception of Turkey, which has made secularism as her state philosophy.
  • There are matters of spiritual and intellectual concerns which should be addressed effectively and seriously.
  • The rejection of epistemological authority in the classical sense.
  • The position of taking the Qur’an as product of history and culture like other documents in human history.
  • Rejection of hadith, as a product of culture, “projection backwards” theory.
  • The rejection of classical theology and metaphysics under the influence of postmodernism,  deconstructionism etc, rejection of rigid definitions in theology, of iman-kufr dichotomy, truth-batil  etc considered as “irrelevant confrontations” in intellectual discourse.
  • Rejection of traditional notion of  wahy,  nubuwwah.
  • Existence of two parallel system Sharia courts And civil courts now being addressed with various degrees of success and failure in Muslim countries.
  • Rejection of schools of Islamic jurisprudence and the claim of ijtihad, the rejection of taqlid or following qualified scholarship  in Islamic legal discourse by “reformists”, “reformers” as compared to the conservative traditionalists
  • Kaum Tua-Kaum Muda  controversy of the  1950s and 1960s –coming back under the name of Salafi movement
  • The rejection of  classical legal schools of jurisprudence under the influence of thinking along postmodernist lines in Indonesia,  manifested in the intellectual trend of Norcholish Majid, Ulil Abshar Abdalla etc, influence of Arkoun e.g the essay in Liberal Islam A Source Book edited by Charles Kurzman. Thinking that Islamic fiqh is product of culture like other human laws (not infallible , change with the times etc if understood literally, unreservedly then).
  • The notion that Islamic sacred law is a product of culture and history like any other aspects of human discourse being  products  of history and culture, hence  time-bound and space-bound
  • The people-ulil-amri relationship of classical discourse being replaced by neo-Kharijie position of  the position of rebellion against authority etc
  • The interpretation of the verse wa man lam yahkum[24] etc leading to rebellion against authority.


  • Back to mainstream discourse  with education, da’wah, social  work, dissemination of  publications in mainstream discourse.
  • Heal relationship between the ulil-amri and the people.
  • Cooperation of all quarters- the authorities,  the media, educationists, professionals.
  • Enhance  mainstream discourse through writings, seminars, workshops,  blogs, etc
  • Formation of networking for promoting mainstream discourse.
  • Research and translations, publications in relation to works on mainstream discourse. Mention can be made of the Islamic Text Society of United Kingdom which is publishing such texts in English.[25]
  • Mention can be made of conferences by YADMI-YADIM in Indonesia and Malaysia  since around four years ago leading  to the acceptance of the position that : the Malay World must continue  with mainstream discourse of the People of Tradition and the Community, enhancing this position, taking this discourse as creed, epistemology and civilizational framework. Wal-hamdulillah Rabbi al-‘alamin.

In conclusion it can be suggested that there is certitude, clarity, stability, and coherence in this discourse; and traditional sources tell us in such matters traditional sources only do matter- this is the discourse that is guaranteed to be victorious till the end of time and be sustainable in the intellectual and spiritual sense to the end of early time. Hence  there is the absolute necessity for re-understanding of and  adherence to as well as being enhanced by the four intellectual poles of mainstream discourse: Ash’ari-Maturidi theological discourse, with suitable additional  materials; the Ghazalian spiritual, ethical and philosophical discourse,  with suitable additional materials (in modern times with additional materials from the writings of Badiuzzaman Said Nursi); the Shafi’e legal discourse, and that of  other mujtahids etc, with suitable  additional materials;  the Khaldunian discourse with suitable additional materials in cultural and civilizational discourse (in modern times  with additional materials from the  works of Malik Bennabi).

Wallahu a’lam.

[1] This paper is prepared for the Second International Seminar On Islamic Thought, organized by the National University of Malaysia on 6th October 2009. The author is Very Distinguished Academic Fellow, at the International Institute of Islamic Thought and Civilization, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; Board of Directors at the Integrity Institute of Malaysia.

[2] One of the Beautiful Perfect Divine Names of the Asma’ al-Husna

[3] Reference to the verse to the effect Truly my Lord is on the Straight Path (Sirat al-Mustaqim)

[4] Al-Muhaimin being one of the Asma’ al-Husna. Al-Hashr, 23.

[5] Reference to the Qur’anic verse  to the effect standing as a guardian over it (Scripture) determining what is true therein hence its  statements about the Jewish and Christian traditions, correcting their positions in fundamental matters (al-Ma’idah, 48.Tr Tafsir al-Rahman, English version, JAKIM, 2008).

[6] With reference to the verse al-Nisa’,115.

[7] With reference to the tradition related in Abu Daud, “Truly Allah will raise up at the beginning of every century one (reviver man yujaddidu) who will revive the religion of this community.”

[8] Hadith Muslim: (رواه مسلم في كتاب الإمارة، باب قوله صلى الله عليه وسلم: ”لاتزال طائفة من أمتي ظاهرين على الحق لا يضرهم من خالفهم” حديث .1926). And hadith Muslim (أخرج مسلم عن معاوية قال سمعت رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم  يقول :لا تزال طائفة من أمتى قائمة بأمر الله لا  يضرهم من خذلهم أو خالفهم حتى يأتى أمر الله وهم ظاهرون على الناس))

[9] The spiritual and intellectual ‘temper’ of this discourse has been well summariseby by ‘Abd al-Qahir al-Baghdadi in his al-Farq bain al-Firaq, Dar al-Kutub al-‘Ilmiyyah,n Beirut,  n.d. especially pp 239- 286, among others. The positions taken can be gleaned from from previous texts of  Imam Abu Hanifah, al-Shafi’I, al-Tahawi, al-Ash’ari, al-Baqillani, al-Juwaini,   with differences in some details; followed later in texts of al-Ghazali, al-Razi, al-Sanusi, al-Laqqani,  Shah Waliyullah al-Dihlawi and so on.

[10] One example of seeing Ibn ‘Arabi  anchored to the mainstream discourse  can be done for instance as elucidated, among many others,  in easily accessible and  very useful and informative article ‘Shaykh Muhyi al-Din Ibn Arabi in the site with the necessary references.

[11] Like the payment of cash for ‘zakat fitrah’  and other matters especially in relation to economic and financial transactions.

[12] Of course  we are not forgetting the monumental work of Carl Brockelmann the well known GAL with the  supplement volumes.

[13] Kashshaf Istilahat al-Funun A Dictionary of the Technical Terms used in The Sciences of the Musalmans, edited by Mawlawies Mohammad Wajih, Abd al-Haqq and Gholam Kadir under the superentendance  of Dr Aloys Sprenger , M.D., Ph.D. and Captain W.Nassau  Lees, LLD. Published by The Asiatic Society of Bengal, under the series of Bibliotheca Indica, A Collection of Oriental Works, Old Series,   printed at W.N.Lee’s Press, 1862.

[14] Publisher: Brill, Boston, 2001.

[15] Horizon Books, Singapore, 2003 (reprinted from 2001 edition)

[16] Concerning the contents of this work this can be dseen in the paper presented by the present writer entitled Pendidikan dan Da’wah oleh Syaykh Muhammad Arsyad al-Banjari (r.a.) presented in the Regional Seminar On Shaykh Muhammad Arshad Al-Banjari – Seminar Serantau Sheikh Muhammad Arsyah al Banjari – at Banjarmasin, South Kalimantan from 4th October  2003. This conference was organized jointly by ABIM, DBP Malaysia, IAIN Antasari Banjarmasin, Majlis Ulama Propinsi Kalimantan Selatan and Badan Pengelola Masjid Raya Sabil al-Muhtadin with the cooperation of  Fakulti Bahasa Moden dan Komunikasi Universiti Putra Malaysia, Akademi Kajian Ketamadunan dan Persatuan Ulama Kedah. Important data among others are accessed through the good offices of our late Brother  Tuan Haji Wan Mohd Shaghir bin Abdullah, who has managed to gather much materials  with so much labour of love. Kaththara’Llahu amthalah. Amin.

[17] For example the ‘leader of the Salaf generation’ al-Tabari uses ta’wil for a number of mutashabihat verses of the Qur’an in his tafsir.

[18] In the work  Principles of Secularism by George Jacob Holyoake,1870, 3rd edition revised, London, Austin & Co, 17, Johnson’s Court Fleet Street.

[19] Chapter III p.11.

[20] There is even the intellectually indefensible stance stating that Mu’awiyah –Allah be pleased with him- was the one who started secularism in Islamic history, and that the Umayyad dynasty was a ‘secular government’. Subhana’Llah. Where are the thought-categories of our people in the ummah based on the pervasive ‘ahkam khamsah’? We seemed to have borrowed an alien thought-category to the point ofd losing grasp of our own.

[21] Recollecting a private discussion with our brother Dr al-Akiti of Oxford about a month ago in Kuala Lumpur.

[22] In the work  ‘Principles of Secularism’ by George Jacob Holyoake,1870,3RD edition, revised, London:Austin & Co, 17, Johnson’Court, Fleet Street..

[23] Chapter III p.11.

[24] Al-Ma’idah: 47, 48, 50 the understanding of which should be referred to mainstream theological discourse and exegesis, and not personal musings.

[25] The present writer recently presented a paper ‘The Sustainability of the Translation Field: The case of Mainstream Islamic Intellectual Discourse’,(18th August, Hotel Park Royal, Penang, 11.00-12,00 noon) ; it is published  in proceedings of the 12th International Conference On Translation 2009 entitled, The Sustainability of the Translation Field, eds.Hasuria Che Omar Ph.D, Haslina Haroon, Ph.D., Aniswal Abd.Ghani, Ph.D., published by Persatuan Penterjemah Malaysia, 2009 pp.22-27; it is accepted as one of the 5 plenary papers.




  • We can envisage man as being at once endowed with the faculties of the heart and the potentialities of the intellect and the development of both determines the personality of the total man and the quality of the inner and outer life which emerges forth from the educational process involved.
  • The development of the intellect can be seen in the educational process which develops the rational faculty (the ‘aql) seen as the ray from the total Intellect which touches the human subject making him capable of conceiving of the absolute and the relative, the necessary and the contingent, the substance and the form, the kernel and the outer shell, quality and quantity, the beginning and the end of things. This determines the blessedness and the meaning of existence and life and also the final ends for the human subject.
  • The development of the heart (the qalb of the Qur’an and the Islamic Tradition) determines the success of the educational process leading to the emergence of the human spiritual core   characterized by clarity and breadth of spiritual vision, the purity of character and the realization of the virtues, the life of spiritual and devotional collectedness freeing the human subject from the woes of mental feverishness and agitation, and hence leading the development of the total man characterized by serenity of spirit and clarity of perception.
  • This message is clear from the statement of the Qur’an to the effect: “Verily We have apportioned for the Hell Fire many from among the jinn and mankind, they have hearts (qulub, the plural of qalb) but they do not understand, they have ears but they do not hear, they have eyes but they do not see, they are like cattle, (in fact) they are worse in misguidance”.
  • This is envisaged clearly in the Islamic tradition from the saying of the Prophet of Islam – peace and blessings be upon him – “Verily there is in man  a lump of flesh, if it is sound, then the whole person (al-jasad) is sound, if it is unsound, the  whole person is unsound, verily it is the heart”. This heart refers to the spiritual and intellectual core of the human personality the development of which results in the proper and balanced development of the total human personality.
  • The empowerment of the heart in this tradition is seen in the process of imparting the total fundamental truth contained in the Islamic testimony meaning “There is  no deity except Allah (the Absolute), and Muhammad is the envoy of Allah”. The first statement refers to all truths about the Absolute, the second about the Prophet, and also by extension about the whole cosmic manifestation in so far as the prophet symbolizes the total cosmic manifestation
  • From this fundamental and saving truth taught  and hence realized man will be able to see all other relative and contingent truths in the balanced perspective, therefore placing him on the Divine Axis, freeing him from dissipation and spiritual and intellectual rebellion against his own pristine primordial nature in which God has moulded him
  • From this realization, the rational and quantitative sciences and all the branches of arts taught will be placed  in an integrating focus in the epistemology leading to the wholesome development of the deep hearted man of pure faith, and virtues, the intellectual man of action struggling for the salvation of himself and his nation and community – in fact for the whole of mankind, seeing that the fundamental and saving truth is meant for all mankind
  • The combination of knowledge as integral to human right actions is clear from the prayer taught by the Prophet – peace and blessings be upon him – when he says: ”O Lord,  show us the truth as truth and make us put it into practice, and show us the false as false and make us avoid it”. Hence knowledge is not merely known but to be made a part of the practice in the human personality.
  • This  combination of profound faith and purity of morals, masterly grasp and understanding of the sciences and the arts – to the suitable level of the person concerned – together with the expertise of the seasoned worker, will prepare the citizen of the nation and the world for facing life challenges of the millennium – together with globalization, God willing. This is our collective vocation in education – even more in the tertiary level, since error at this level spells far-reaching negative consequences for our national cultural and intellectual development
  • In short, the educational ideal is such that it actualizes in the individual the intellectual, moral, spiritual and physical potentialities in helping to develop our culture and civilization in accordance with our world-view, epistemology and axiology, based on our belief in God, and that we are capable of maintaining this identity and we play our role in determining the directions of the globalization process, God willing.
  • Hence, when we come to the university at the undergraduate level this ideal must be clearly focused in exposing the students  to their subjects of study. They must be trained to be men of faith and strong morality and character, and they must be educated to be committed to the idealism of gaining strong mastery of their subjects, together with the necessary expertise in the subjects concerned.
  • The more advanced levels of education and research in the arts and the sciences prepare the specialists for their various fields necessary for the advancement of civilization, the total welfare of man, and the survival of our cultural and civilizational identity in this age of globalization and borderless world.

Ibn Khaldun (rh) on the functions of  the crafts, writing and thinking:

In relation to the  functions of writing, thinking and experience in the process of moulding the development of the human substance, we find the statements of Ibn Khaldun rh in the “al-Muqaddimah” enlightening; he says:

We have already mentioned in the book that the rational soul (the thinking and rational aspect of the soul) exists in man only potentially. Its transformation from potentiality into actuality is effected first by new sciences and perceptions derived from the sensibilia, and then by the latter acquisition (of knowledge) through the speculative power. Eventually it becomes to be actual perception and pure intellect. Thus it becomes a spiritual essence, and its existence then reaches perfection.

Therefore it is necessary that each kind of learning and speculation should provide (the rational soul) with additional intelligence. Now, the crafts and the habit of (the crafts) always lead to the obtainment of scientific norms, which result from the habit. Therefore any experience provides intelligence. The habits of the crafts provide intelligence.  Perfect sedentary culture provides intelligence because it is a conglomerate of crafts characterized by concern for the (domestic) economy, contact with one’s fellow men, attainment of education through mixing with (one’s fellow men), and also administration of religious matters and understanding the ways and conditions governing them. All these (factors) are norms (of how to do things) which, properly arranged, constitutes scientific disciplines. Thus, an increase in intelligence results from them.

In this respect writing is the most useful craft because, in contrast to the (other) crafts, it deals with matters of theoretical, scientific interest. This is explained through (the circumstance) that writing involves a transition from the forms of the written letters to the verbal expressions in the imagination, and from the verbal expression in the imagination to the concepts (underlying them), which are in the soul. The writer, thus, goes from one indication to another, as long as he is wrapped up in writing, and the soul become used to the constant (repetition of the process).  Thus it acquires the habit of going over from the indications to the things meant by them. This is what is meant by intellectual speculation, by means of which the knowledge (hitherto) unknown sciences is provided. As the result of being accustomed to the process of going (over from the indications to the things indicated by them) people acquire the habit of intellection, which constitutes an increase in intelligence and provides an additional insight into affairs and a shrewd understanding of them …

Concerning the position of man and the importance of his faculty of thought Ibn Khaldun says:

It should be known that God distinguished man from all the other animals by an ability to think which he made the beginning of human perfection and the end of man’s noble superiority over existing things.

This comes about as follows: Perception-that is consciousness, on the part of the person who perceives, in his essence of things that are outside his essence – is something peculiar to living beings to the exclusion of all other being: and existing things. Living beings may obtain consciousness of things  that are outside their essence through the external  senses God has given them, that is, the senses of hearing, vision, smell, taste, and touch. Man has this advantage over the other beings that he may perceive things that he may perceive things outside his essence through his ability to think, which is something beyond his senses. It is the result of (special) powers placed in the cavities in his brain. With the help of these powers man takes the pictures of the sensibilia, applies his mind to them, and thus abstracts from them other pictures. The ability to think is the occupation with pictures that are beyond sense perception, and the application of the mind to them for analysis and synthesis. This is what is meant by the word af’idah “hearts” in the Qur’an. “He gave you hearing and vision and hearts” (Al Qur’an Surah 16: Ayat 78). Af’idah is the plural of fu’ad. It means here the ability to think.

In his view the ability to think has its degrees.  Concerning these degrees he states:

The ability to think has several degrees. The first degree is man’s intellectual understanding of the things that exist in the outside world in a natural or arbitrary order, so that he may try to arrange them with the help of his own power.  This kind of thinking mostly consists of perceptions. It is the discerning intellect, with the help of which man obtains the things that are useful for him and his livelihood, and repels the things that are harmful to him.

The second degree is the ability to think which provides man with the ideas and the behaviour needed in dealing with his fellow men and in leading them. It mostly conveys apperceptions, which are obtained one by one through experience, until they have become really useful. This is called the experimental intellect.

The third degree is the ability to think which provides the knowledge, or hypothetical knowledge, of an object beyond sense perception without any particular activity (going with it).  This is the speculative intellect. It consists of both perceptions and apperceptions. They are arranged according to a special order, following special conditions, and thus provide some other knowledge of the same kind, that is, either perceptive or apperceptive.  Then they are again combined with something else, and again provide some other knowledge.  The end of the process is to be provided with the perception of existence as it is, with its various genera, differences, reasons, and causes. By thinking about these things, (man) achieves perfection in his reality and becomes pure intellect and perceptive soul. This is the meaning of human reality.

Then he goes on to explain that the world of things that come into being as the result of action, materialize through thinking.  He says:

It should be known that the world of existent things comprises pure essences, such as the elements, the things resulting from their influence, and the three things that come into being from the elements, namely minerals, plants, and animals.  All these things are connected with divine power.

It also comprises actions proceeding from living beings that happen through their intentions, and are connected with the that God  has given them. Some of their actions are well arranged and orderly. Such are human actions.  Others are not well arranged and orderly.  They are the actions of living beings other than man.

This is because thinking perceives the order that exists among the things that come into being either by nature or through arbitrary arrangement. When it intends to create something, it must understand the reason or cause of that thing, or the conditions governing it, for the sake of the order that exists among things that come into being. (Reason, cause, conditions) are, in general, the principles of that particular thing, since it is secondary to them, and it is not possible to arrange for something that comes earlier to come later, or for something that comes  earlier to come late or for something that comes later to come earlier.  Such a principle must have another principle to which its own existence is posterior.  This (regression) may go on in an ascending order (from principle to principle), or it may come to an end.

Now, when man, in his thinking, has reached the last principle on two, three, or more levels, and starts the action that will bring the (planned) thing into existence he will start with the last principle that has been reached by his thinking. Thus, (that last principle) will be the beginning of action. He, then, will follow things up to the last element in the causal chain that has been the starting point of his thinking activity.

Then he illustrates this thinking procedure leading to purposive action by giving the example of a person building a shelter for himself.  He says:

For instance, if a man thinks of bringing into existence a roof to shelter him, he will progress in his mind (from the roof) to the wall supporting the roof, and then to the foundation upon which the wall stands. Here, his thinking will end, and he will then start to work on the foundation, then (go on to) the wall, then (to) the roof, with which his action will end. This is what is meant by the saying:

“The beginning of action is the end of thinking, and the beginning of thinking is the end of action.”

Thus, human action in the outside world materializes only through thinking about  the order of things, since things are based upon each other. After (he has finished thinking) he starts doing things. His thinking starts with the last thing that comes last in the causal chain and is done last. His action starts with the first  thing in the causal chain, which thinking reaches last. Once this order is taken into consideration, human actions proceed in a well-arranged manner.

Then he goes on to explain the actions of animals which are not ordered because they have no thinking capacity to perceive the order of things, perceiving only with the senses without the connecting link of thought. Hence they are subordinate to human actions (hence they are aubjugated by mankind). Ibn Khaldun says:

Now the things that come into being that are of consequence in the world of existent things are those that are orderly. Those that are not orderly are secondary to them.  The actions of animals, therefore, are subordinate to (orderly human actions). (Consequently, their services are forcibly utilized by man. Thus, human actions control the (whole) world of things that come into being and all it contains. Everything is subservient to man and works for him. This is what is meant by the “appointing of a representative” mentioned in the Qur’an:” I am appointing a representative on earth”. (Surah AlBaqarah: Ayat 30). (Hence, nations of orderly actions can dominate other nations not so orderly, societies with orderly actions can dominate those which are not so orderly and so on (El-Muhammady).

He then goes on to explain further the eminence of man because of the thinking faculty.  He states:

The ability to think is the quality of man by which human beings are distinguished from other living beings.  The degree to which a human being is able to establish an orderly causal chain determines the degree of humanity. Some people are able to establish a causal nexus for two or three levels. Some are not able to go beyond that. Others may reach five or six. Their humanity, consequently, is higher. For instance, some chess players are able to perceive (in advance) three or five moves the order of which is arbitrary. Others are unable to do that, because their mind is not good enough for it. This example is not quite to the point, because (the knowledge of) chess is a habit, whereas the knowledge of causal chain is something natural.  However, it is an example the student may use to gain an intellectual understanding of the basic facts mentioned here. (Rosenthal tr. II.406, 411 ff).

After this he goes on to explain how experimental intellect is developed in social and civilizational life, followed by the rise of religious and rational sciences in Islam.

This spirit of intellectual inquiry as a part of religious has led to the emergence of the mosque-universities, the madrasas, the nizamiyas, and so on, which became the forerunners of the universities of Europe. By reason of this spirit of inquiry there emerged men of learning in the arts and the sciences like Ibn Sina, al-Biruni, al-Ghazali, Ibn Rushd, Umsar Khayyam, al-Idrisi, ar-Razi, and many others whose works had been studied by Europeans.

It is natural that the impetus to thinking given by the revelation of the Quran and the tradition of the Prophet led to the emergence of the intellectual culture of Islam, which further led to the rise of the Renaissance of Europe.

The influence of Islam on Western intellectual culture:

In connection with the subject of the relationship between Islam and the West -especially with reference to the emergence of intellectual culture of Europe initiated with the profound aid of Islam– the HRH The Prince of Wales has accurately portrayed the situation:

…We have underestimated the importance of 800 years of Islamic Society and Culture in Spain between the 8th and the 15th centuries. The contribution of Muslim Spain to the preservation of classical learning during the Dark Ages, and to the first flowering of the Renaissance, has long been recognized. But Islamic Spain was much more than a mere larder where Hellenic knowledge was kept for later consumption by the emerging modern world. Not only did Muslim Spain gather and preserve the intellectual content of ancient Greek and Roman civilization, and made a vital contribution of its own in so many fields of human endeavour – in science, astronomy, mathematics, algebra (itself an Arabic word), law, history, medicine, pharmacology, optics, agriculture, architecture, theology, music.

Averroes and Avenzoor, like their counterparts Avicenna and Rhazes in the East, contributed to the study and practice of medicine in ways from which Europe benefited for centuries afterwards.

Islam nurtured and preserved the quest of learning. In the words of (Prophet’s) tradition “the ink of the scholar is more sacred than the blood of the martyr”.  Cordoba in the 10th century was by far the most civilized city of Europe.  We know of lending libraries in Spain at the time of King Alfred was making terrible blunders with the culinary arts in this country. It is said that the 400,000 volumes of its ruler’s library amounted to more books than all the rest of Europe put together. That was made possible because the Muslim World acquired from China the  skill of making paper more than four hundred years before the rest of non-Muslim Europe .many of the traits on which Europe prides itself came to it from Muslim Spain. Diplomacy, free trade, open borders, the techniques of academic research, of anthropology, etiquette, fashion, alternative medicine, hospitals, all came from this great city of cities. Medieval Islam was a religion of remarkable tolerance for its time, allowing Jews and Christians to practice their inherited beliefs, and setting an example which was not, unfortunately, copied for many centuries in the West. The surprise, ladies and gentlemen,  is the extent to which Islam has been a part of Europe for so long, first in Spain, then in the Balkans, and the extent to which it has contributed so much towards the civilization which we  all often think of, wrongly,  as entirely Western. Islam is part of our past and present, in all fields of human endeavour. It has helped to create modern Europe.  It is part of our own inheritance, not a thing apart. (

In connection with the contribution of Islam to the Renaissance – and hence to the modern world – it is stated:

It is well to recall that Islam not only caused Islamic civilization to develop but also enabled the European Renaissance to take root and grow. The time when Islam was most strongly established was also the time when art, culture and literature flourished, whether in Spain or, later under the Ottomans, the Safavids, and the Mughals, Christian Europe was enveloped in darkness until Islam came to the Iberian Peninsula. For centuries Islam fed Greek, Sanskrit, and Chinese ideas into Europe. Slowly and steadily Europe began to absorb those ideas. In England, France, Germany, and Italy society began to explore literature and art with a new perspective; thus the seeds of the Renaissance were sown …

(Akbar S. Ahmad, “Living Islam”, p. 15. In

The influence of Islamic intellectual culture on Europe is very much emphasized by Dr Hans Koechler in his paper entitled “Muslim Christian Ties in Europe: Past, Present, and Future” (September, 1996 in Kuala Lumpur). He says eloquently and cogently:

It is a historical fact that the shaping of a genuine European intellectual life in the Middle Ages was the result of the flourishing Islamic civilization in Spain.  During five centuries – from the eighth to the thirteenth century exactly – the history of world civilization was that of Islam. In comparison to the Christian civilization of Europe at that time, Islamic civilization was much more refined and enlightened. Over a crucial period of roughly two hundred years Europe’s encounter with Islamic civilization enabled it to develop its skills in all scholarly and scientific fields, particularly those of philosophy, medicine, astronomy, chemistry and mathematics. It is one of the greatest achievements of Muslim scholars in the Middle Ages to have preserved the treasures of ancient Greek philosophy and science for posterity. Christian scholars only came to know about the concepts of Aristotelian metaphysics through the Arab philosophers in Spain and their translators and commentaries. The Arab philosopher Ibn Rushd (Averroes), born in Cordoba in 1126, exercised the biggest influence through his commentary on Aristotle. The Arab school (Universities) in Cordoba, Seville, Granada, Valencia, Toledo attracted great number of Christian scholars.  Great Christian thinkers of that time, such as Albertus Magnus, Roger Bacon, Thomas Aquinas, William of Ockham, Gerbert of Aurillac, later to become Pope Sylvester II , to mention only a few, developed their intellectual skills in those centres of learning”. (

Concerning further intellectual influence of Islam on Europe, especially in studies and research relating to medicine, he writes:

The “Great Library of Europe” in Toledo (in Islamic times) -where in 1130 a school of translation was founded- attracted students and researchers from all over Europe. Arab-Islamic medical science had an enormous impact on the development of the medical discipline in Europe. The first professors of medicine at the newly established European universities in the 12th century were all former students of Arab scholars. The basic work of the most famous medical scholar, Ibn Sina (Avicenna), al-Qanun (Canon medicinae) was taught in all major European faculties of medicine over six centuries. As late as 1587 King Henry III of France established a chair for Arabic language at the College Royal in order to promote medical research in France….

Concerning developments in other fields he writes:

Similar influences on the development of scientific methods can be traced in the fields of mathematics, astronomy, chemistry, architecture, music and industrial techniques. The Arab astronomer al-Battani (Albatenius, 858-929) authoritatively disproved the Ptolemaic dogma of heliocentrism long before Copernicus published his famous treatise De revolutionibus orbium coelestium in the 16th century. The Roman period of European art was deeply indebted to Islamic architecture particularly in Spain. Without going  into further detail one can rightly state that the Islamic civilization – that flourished in the South of Europe until the late 12th century and its universal achievements even surpassed the earlier contribution of the Roman Empire to the development of civilization – awakened Europe from its “dogmatic sleep” in the Middle Ages and thus prepared an early European Renaissance in the sense of an enlightened, rational, non-dogmatic world vision.

Then he goes on to explain the unfortunate prejudiced attitude of Europe towards Islam and Muslims which makes objective intellectual and civilizational dialogue difficult, in spite of what has happened throughout the centuries.

Before concluding this brief talk, as a student of Islam and Islamic thought, I humbly would like to submit the following for our collective consideration as Muslims and as citizens on Malaysia in this Malay World; and this has been mentioned many times on several occasions:

  • One, the primacy of the Islamic Sunni world-view and epistemology which must be kept in mind and understood up to the relevant degree as an intellectual perimeter for structuring of thought
  • Two, among Muslims, the primacy of the Sunni theological framework which should be upheld in the Malay World, for spiritual and theological stability and authenticity, keeping in mind all the relevant developments necessary for contemporary intellectual and theological guidance
  • Three, in matters pertaining to the Islamic Sacred law-the Shari’ah – the Shafi’I Sunni school is upheld, together with the necessary additions of legal decisions made pertaining to contemporary issues
  • Four, in matters pertaining to Islamic spirituality and ethics, the Ghazali corpus should be the source for guidance, together with the necessary additions made by reason of the demands due to changes in culture and thought.
  • Finally, the “Muqaddimah” of Ibn Khaldun should be utilized in matters for cultural and civilizational empowerment, together with additions made whenever necessary because of developments in contemporary culture and thought

From all the above it is clear that intellectual culture must be fostered to the maximum degree at all costs – of course without losing sight of the integral nature of knowledge combining with high degree of spiritual awareness and moral excellence – beginning with the schools and then reaching its zenith in the university.  It is here, if we understand Ibn Khaldun correctly, that humanity reaches the peak of its intellectual and human perfection, for humanity is perfected through the perfection of the intellectual function. This is done not only for extrinsic reasons for survival and development in the conventional sense, but also for the intrinsic reason due to the demands of the nature of man and the prerequisite for his blessedness and meaningful existence. And this can succeed only – Allah willing – with synergistic cooperation of those concerned: the teachers, students, administrators, funders, the government, and in fact the whole nation.

Wallahu a’lam.




The present paper suggests, with caution, that the Khaldunian intellectual discourse is of utmost importance-among other discourses of this category of universality- in helping Muslims in maintaining their civilizational and spiritual-cum-intellectual identity and authenticity while grappling with some of the present issues in the intellectual, cultural and civilizational fields. This is relevant especially in matters pertaining to Islamic tawhidic world-view, epistemology, axiology, education, culture and socio-political exigencies. Hence in in-depth and serious study of this discourse is intellectually and absolutely necessary.

His Life:

Before going to his ideas it may be pertinent for us, at least to refresh our memory with the salient features of his life, educational background, and activities, in the age and the environment in which he lived. He is- Allah has mercy on him- Wali al-Din ‘Abd al-Rahman bin Muhammad bin Muhammad bin Muhammad bin al-Hasan bin Jabir bin Muhammad bin Ibrahim bin ‘Abd al-Rahman bin Khaldun. According to his own account his ancestors originated from Hadramaut, Yemen. And through another line, his ancestor is traced, based on the record of Ibn Hazm, through his grandfather, who was the first to enter Andalusia, back to Wail bin Hajar, one of the oldest Yemeni tribes; he is undoubtedly of Arab origin. (1)

He was born in Tunis on the 27th of May 1332 (Ramadan 1, 732), started his traditional education befitting his family situation and status, first at the hands of his won father, memorising the Qur’an, learning grammar, sacred law, tradition of the Prophet, rhetoric, philology, and poetry; he mentions his teachers in his autobiography. He continued with his education until the time of the great plague which swept over countries from Mauritania to Samarkand, causing him to lose his parents and his professors; then he had occasion to enter public life when ibn Tarafkin, the king of Tunis made him the seal bearer of Sultan Abu Ishaq, who was his captive. He was then a youth under twenty. (2) With this appointment he came to know the inner workings of court politics and the weaknesses of governments. Then he had the opportunity to leave Tunis.

When Tunis was attacked by Abu Zaid the Emir of Constantine in 1352 A.D. (713 A.H.), the city was defeated, and ibn Khaldun escaped to Aba where he lived with the al-Muwahhidin; then he went to live in Biskra. Then in Morocco Sultan Abu Enan who had recently settled on the throne of his father was on his way to conquer Algeria, hence ibn Khaldun went to Tlemcen to meet him, and he noted that was so honoured by ruler; later he was appointed by the Sultan as a member of his Council of the ‘Ulama, and later he was made one of his secretaries and seal bearers. He could resume his studies during his stay at Fez with some of the principal scholars who came to the city from Andalusia and other cities of North Africa. At that time he was twenty-two years old, and his intelligence, force of character, great ambition, determination and sense of honour of belong to a prominent family spurred him to seek success in life; hence he was involved in active political life for about thirty years. He was imprisoned for his intrigues, and then he was released.

The political situation was tense and ibn Khaldun was involved in intrigues, and later he was appointed as Chief Justice and he proved great ability in his duties; unfortunately he lost favour with the Sultan because of rivalry with high officials of state. Ibn Khaldun was involved in a number of intrigues, and finally he requested that he would go to Andalusia.

In Andalusia ibn Khaldun established cordial relationship with Sultan Muhammad of Granada; among Sultan Muhammad’s party was Ibn al-Khatib who developed close friendship with ibn Khaldun, and in his attempt to restore his throne in Granada through an agreement with the Christian King Pedro the Cruel, when the latter delayed the fulfillment of the agreement Sultan Muhammad appealed to ibn Khaldun for assistance from Wazir Omar, and ibn Khaldun assisted him; ibn Khaldun was even entrusted to care for Sultan Muhammad’s family in Fez. The wazir then granted Sultan Muhammad Ronda and the surrounding country, and Sultan Muhammad continued to make efforts to recapture his throne in 1361 A.D. (763 A.H.) and then recalled his wazir ibn al-Khatib.

The mission of ibn Khaldun to Pedro the Cruel was successful, and Pedro offered ibn Khaldun a position for his service, and the return of his family’s former estate at Castile, but the latter refused the offer. (3). Then ibn Khaldun asked the permission of Sultan Muhammad and went to his friend Abu Abdullah when he recaptured his at Bougie. Thus ibn Khaldun became the Hajib of Sultan of Bougie, involving the “management of all the affairs of the state and the exclusive organization of the relations between the Sultan and hius subjects”(4). When the city was defeated by Abul ‘Abbas in 767, ibn Khaldun submitted the city to him; then he went to live in Biskra. Finally he retired to a far outpost south of Constantine, Fort Salama. Here, at the ripe age of forty-five with peaceful life, he started to write his famous masterpiece al-Muqaddimah. Then when Sultan Abul ‘Abbas went to capture Tunis, he took the opportunity to return to his native city looking for reference works. Then when political intrigues were not in his favour, he left North Africa (1382 A.D./784 A.H.) never to return. (5)

After a difficult sea voyage He arrived in Alexandria in October 1382 A.D. (Shaaban 784 A.H.) when he was fifty years old; in Cairo, then the center of Muslim learning of the east and the West, he was welcomed by students and scholars; his fame had already preceded his arrival in the city; he lectured at Al-Azhar and other established institutions. In this period he had the opportunity to meet Sultan Zahir Barquq who appointed him to a teaching post, as a professor, at the Kamhiah school.(6)He was also appointed as a Maliki judge and tried to fight against corruption and favouritism, and then because of conspiracies against him he was relieved from his post, and this coincided with disaster in which his family and his wealth all perished in the storm before reaching the port. Then after his pilgrimage, he was appointed to the teaching post, lecturing on hadith, especially on the Muwatta’ of Imam Malik. During this time ibn Khaldun spent his time lecturing, studying and finishing his book on universal history. Then fourteen years after leaving the post of Maliki judge he was again appointed to the post because of the death of the judge, then again he was relieved of his position because of intrigues.

When ibn Khaldun was in Damascus, while following the company of the Sultan of Egypt, and when the Sultan had to return to Egypt, ibn Khaldun had to meet Tamerlane; Tamerlane was so impressed by him that he asked him to join his court, but ibn Khaldun left him on good terms, after getting favourable terms for the people of Damascus.

According to Walter Fischel there were six topics discussed between ibn Khaldun and the conqueror:

1.                  The Maghrib and ibn Khaldun’s land of origin;

2.                  Heroes in history;

3.                  Predictions about future events;

4.                  The Abbaside Caliphate;

5.                  Amnesty and security ‘for ibn Khaldun and his companions’

6.                  Ibn Khaldun’s intention of staying with Tamerlane. (7)

When Ibn Khaldun returned to Egypt he was restored to his post as the Maliki judge, and because of the stormy situation he was dismissed and reinstalled three times in five years. He died on Wednesday, 17th March 1406 A.D.(25th Ramadan 808 A.H.), and was buried in the sufi cemetery outside bab an-Nasr while he was at the age of seventy-four years.(8)

His Works:

Concerning his works, it is suggested that they can be categorized into the historical and the religious; into the historical category of course is to be included the Kitab al-‘Ibar or universal History which has survived until the present day. Another one is lost, that is history work written specifically for Tamerlane, as mentioned in his autobiography. Then his religious works are Lubab al-Mahsul (Summary of the Result), a commentary on usul al-fiqh poem, and a few which, among others is Shifa’ al-Sa’il (Healing of the Inquirer). (9)

His masterpiece, the Muqaddimah which is the introduction to his universal history can be divided can be divided into six parts; and this division is clear from the division of the work itself. In the translation of F. Rosenthal, in volume one the chapters covered are: introduction, dealing with excellence of historiography, appreciation of various approaches to history, different errors made by previous historians, something about why these errors do occur.

Book One of the Kitab al-’Ibar about the nature of civilization, Bedouin and settled life, the achievements of superiority, gainful occupational, ways of making a living, the sciences, crafts, and all the other things that affect civilization, the causes and reasons thereof.  Then preliminary remarks.

The scope of the discussion of the masterpiece of ibn Khaldun-with the chapter headings dealing with the various subjects – is put as an appendix at the end of this essay.

Relevance of Khaldunian Discourse in the Views of Some Scholars:

James Kalb, is of the view that the seminal work, al-Muqaddimah, was composed by Ibn Khaldun

“…as a thinker who grappled with circumstances similar in important ways to the social and political situation now evolving in the West. He was superbly qualified for his task, with a vigorous and unconventional mind and a knowledge of politics and history that came from descent from an ancient family with distinguished political and scholarly traditions, profound study, and a varied life of public service and a political adventure as a courtier, jurist, and statesman in Islamic centers from Spain to Damascus. He was admired by scholars and by the most ruthlessly practical of men; Pedro the Cruel and Tamerlane wished to make uses of him, while Granada’s greatest writer, ibn al-Khatib, wrote his life and honoured his learning and literary skill”. (10).

The same writer gives an evaluation of ibn Khaldun’s intellectual discourse in the following words:

His work reflects a mind attracted to practical politics, to scholarship, and to mysticism. After failing in efforts to promote public good, he turned to scholarship in an attempt to understand the past and explain the necessity that seemed to govern events. As an intense participation in the affairs of a great civilization irreversibly in decline, he was acutely aware of what was and what should be, and neither confused the two, or attempted to encompass one in the other. (11)

Further, seeing the relevance of Khaldunian intellectual discourse in illuminating the cultural and social changes taking place, he says:

To-day’s mixing of peoples, cultures and ideologies, whether resulting from world trade and immigration or improved communication and social fission, is moving our world closer in important ways to the one Ibn Khaldun knew than the more cohesive one with which we have long been familiar. Such changes will affect our politics profoundly in ways his writings can illuminate for us (12).

Apart from this he adds:

The gifts of the past may not be ours forever. Common loyalties make a people, and the common culture and history that support a people’s identity are needed to make loyalties endure. Success in transplanting a British society to America and absorbing European immigrants into it is no sign that the American civic order will survive abandonment of a common or at least dominant identity; a social setting like the one ibn Khaldun knew will be the more likely consequence. Immigration and the end of national boundaries could bring about similar results within the European Union by replacing ordered diversity with bureaucratically – administered chaos. While such things are not inevitable, powerful tendencies favour them, and a clearer understanding of what the resulting society would be like and how it could come about may be useful. Ibn Khaldun’s thought is an aid to such understanding. (13)

Another recent estimation of Khaldunian intellectual discourse is from an American writer, Jude Wanniski from Supply -Side University; he states in his web-site:

When I learned Arnold Toynbee believed that ibn Khaldun had produced the greatest work on social science to come from the mind of man, I had to assume his was at least in the top five. Toynbee is of course is one of this century’s giants in historiography. After reading through a small piece of Khaldun’s work, I have to admit I awed by the man’s genius. How could I have spent so much of my life in politics without being led to him before? Ronald Reagan like to quote Khaldun on the issue of taxation-that they are low at the beginning of empires and high at their end … Ibn Khaldun is not an Arab neo-Platonist as his world view subsumes theirs and is an original one not previously expressed in the world. This singular breakthrough not only is awesome, but practically evidence of divine inspiration … What we will consider … are selected fragments from the sixth book (of the Muqaddimah-uem) of his philosophy of history. My aim simply is to allow you to be impressed with him and have you appreciate the foundation he presents, on which you can build your won designs of the way the world works. The following passages are presented with what at first seems almost childlike simplicity, until you realize he is building this foundation brick by brick, with seamless logic (followed by the passages dealing on the origins of society) (14)

At the of the several pages containing quotations from the Muqaddimah in the F. Rosenthal translation concerning such topics as “Origins of Society” (Book I Chapter I p.181),  “Origins of State”, “State and Society”, Vol. II p. 264), “Political Sanctions” (vol. I, p. 345), “Social Solidarity is based on Kinship” (vol. I. p. 235, vol. I. p. 236), “Proximity and a Common Life as the Basis of Solidarity” (vol. I. p. 332), “Solidarity in Tribes” (vol. I. p. 223), “Transition From Tribal To Village and City Life and Consequent Weakening of Solidarity” (vol. I. p. 237), “Solidarity in Cities”, (vol. II. p. 267), “Solidarity is the Basis of Sovereignty” (vol. I. p. 252), “Solidarity is the basis of Kingship” (vol. I. p. 278), “Once State is Established Solidarity Becomes Superfluous” (vol. I. p. 279) he states clearly:

In 700 years, nothing has really changed in how societies are continuously being shaped, about the nature of solidarity and sovereignty.

Then straightaway he applies this to the US situation vis-à-vis the rest of the world; he states:

Now that the United States is solely at the top of the global power pyramid, we can almost imagine the dynamics that will flow from this fact into the next century. The US is the global sovereign power .All other heads of state are as chieftains (Ar. “sheikhs” -uem) of their national tribes. It is an intricate maze to organize, though, with many hundreds of languages and myriad religions, sects, ethnicities, national identities. It will take great skill to organize these over the next several centuries. (15)

The same writer (“unofficial adviser to the Bush administration” as mentioned in his web-site) goes on citing passages from the Muqaddimah like passages on “Opposition of Tribes and bands” (vol. I, p.295), “Nature of Kingship”, (vol. I, p.337), “Concentration of Authority” (vol. I. p.299), “Need of the King for A Bureaucracy” (vol.II.p.1), “Changes in the Composition of the Bureaucracy” (vol.vol.II.p.40), “Natural Ages of the State” (vol.I.p.306), “Transition From Nomadic To Sedentary Forms” (vol.I.p.309), “Growth of Luxury” (vol.I.p.300), “Luxury and Power” (vol.I.313), “Growth of Docility” (vol.I.p.301).

In relation to these passages cited, he comments as follows:

(After mentioning the past lectures on sovereignty, kinghip) Think now of the United States as the Global Sovereign, pondering how to manage 180 or more separate nations. Think each (country in the world now-uem) as a tribe or band, some of whom will always be trying to outwit the sovereign, all of whom will resist being stripped off some measure of independence. It becomes clear we have barely begun to think through the architecture of a new world order built around our kingship. Remember, the following was written six centuries ago. (16)

In relation to the passage about “The Need of the King for Bureaucracy” since the King cannot act alone but has to act and govern through a bureaucracy he says:

In this passage think of the United States needing a bureaucracy (to dominate the world-uem) which obviously suggests the United Nations-JW (17)

And in relation to the Khaldunian quotation (vol.II.p.1):

He whom God has chosen as a ruler must protect his community from external aggression, preserve order, and enforce the laws, in order to prevent the encroachment by any one on the rights of others. He must protect property by making the highways secure .He must seek to promote the interest of his subjects and hence, in order to facilitate transactions and make it easier for his subjects to earn their livelihood, inspect foodstuffs, weights, and measures, to prevent adulteration or fraud. He must, too, test the coinage which they use, in order to prevent counterfeiting…

He adds the remarks:

It is the United States which must set the unit of account…JW (18)

Then in relation to the following directive in Khaldunian discourse necessitating bureaucratic and military actions of the sovereign:

Know then, that the ruler requires both a civilian and a military establishment to aid him in carrying on with the affairs of the state. At the beginning of the dynasty, when the rulers are consolidating their power, the need for military  power is greater than that for a civilian bureaucracy ; for the civilians are mere servants, carrying out the orders of the king, whereas the military are his partners and fellow workers .The same is also true of the period of decline of a dynasty , when old age has weakened social solidarity  and caused the population to decrease , as we said before; in such a case too, the need for soldiers , for the purposes of defence, makes itself as urgently  felt as it had been during the period of consolidation of the state. In both those stages, then, the sword plays a more important part than the pen, and the military enjoy more prestige and wealth, and are granted richer fiefs than the civilians..

He notes revealingly:

In the period ahead, perhaps for a decade or two, while the world is getting used to U.S. sovereignty. We must bear the expense of maintaining the military, until it is clear the “tribes” will accept our sovereignty. JW (19)

We can see this at present (2003) happening in the world in the global scene.

In relation to the validity and relevance of Ibn Khaldun’s discourse in theorizing about culture, John W. Bennet states:

“(In citing the impressive development of ‘anthropological’ ideas outside the publicized European channels he states after mentioning ibn Battutah and al-Muguaddisi (al-Maqdisi)) …Ibn Khaldun is probably the best known, due to one complete translation of his major work (Rosenthal 1958) and an excellent contemporary analytical presentation of his theories (Mahdi 1957). Khaldun is the only scholar with a modern view to antedate the 19th century;-there are some intimidations in Vico for the early 18th century (Bergin & Fisch 1960, pp. xxiii, iiii; 47), but they do not approach the clarity and modernity of Khaldun…(20)

And in appreciating the views of ibn Khaldun on theorizing about culture and civilization, and their relevance in discourse he states:

Khaldun had a word for culture; he recognized and theorized about cultural differences; he distinguished culture from society and primitive culture from civilization; and had a clear theory of the roots of culture in human biological needs and engagement with the environment…

Of equal relevance are the circumstances out of which Khaldun’s theory emerged. He lived most of his life as a kind of 14th century Harry Hopkins – an intellectual attached to rulers of various sections of the Western Muslim Empire. He had observed the disparity between Islamic orthodoxy and the social realities of the empire, and became deeply critical of the failure of Islamic history to portray this disparity, and to present reasons for the cultural differences existing between the many peoples of the empire. He developed a theory of what he called, in direct translation, ‘the science of culture’ as the explanatory element in historical scholarship…This objective led him, as already noted, to an exposition of a theory of culture with both historical and functional orientations. (21)

Hamou Amrouche in “Algeria’s Islamic Revolution People Versus Democracy?” (22) mentions the relevance and accuracy of the observations of Ibn Khaldun – mentioning the idea adopted from him by Albert Hourani – concerning the stability of regime depending upon the combination of three factors. He states:

To understand fully “the apparent paradox of stable and enduring regimes in deeply disturbed societies” Albert Hourani adapted an idea from ibn Khaldun and suggested that the stability of a regime depended upon a combination of three factors. It was stable when cohesive ruling group was able to link its interests with those of powerful elements in society, and when that alliance of interests was expressed in a political idea which made the power of the rulers legitimate in the eyes of society or at least a significant part of it.

Then he goes on to show how it materialized during the Boumedienne regime. He says:

These three major ingredients undoubtedly sustained Boumedienne’s regime, since a monolithic army allied itself with the peasants and the workers —the forces vives of the nation— and expressed this alliance with Arabo-Islamism, the ‘national constants’, and socialist ideology…

Then in relation to one proposed Graduate Seminar in 2003, Prof Ronald Judy explains the relevance of Khaldunian discourse in the current political climate in the Muslim World related to the emergence of two types of movements. He says about the Seminar (23):

Our focus will be on how specific moments in the institution of knowledge afford a glance at the dialectic between the state and what might be designated as civil society. This dialectic was most thoroughly theorized by Ibn Khaldun in the fourteenth century.. Its importance for us to-day, however, stems from the fact that the Khaldunian model of agency has come to be a touchstone for two contemporary movements of Islamic resistance to transnational capitalism .On the one hand, Khaldun’s principle on entropy has been utilized by such “integrationist” as Sayyid Qutb, at-Turabi, al-Madani, and a Ghanoushi to explain the failure of Pan-Arab secularism and legitimate their projects of social reforms based on sharia (discourse of jurisprudence). On the other hand, Khaldun’s theory of religion as ideology has enabled thinkers like Muhammad al-Jabarti, Fatima Mernissi, and Ibrahim Shukry to engage in a legitimate reformulation of Islam that retains the project of social justice, in the broadest sense, without relying on a theory of law based on a homogeneous collective identity. Both these applications of Khaldun presuppose a concept of civil society as a space of resistance between domination and subjugation, and that the possibility of successful resistance lies in this difference’s being institutionalized as a revolutionary mode of knowledge production …

In the essay entitled “The Future of the Social Sciences”, Renate Holub writes about Ibn Khaldun’s discourse in history and the science of society and culture, and its relevance, while discussing the role of Vico and others:

No doubt Vico was not the first thinker to reflect on social facts that pattern order and disorder. For one, ibn Khaldun (1332-1406), the fourteenth century historian, statesman, and jurist, in the tradition of the Islamic enlightenment from the Tunisian shore of the Mediterranean, studied the history of dynastic regimes since the inception of Islam.The regions he covered ranged from the Oxus to the Nile, and from the Tigris to the Guadalquivir. He detected patterns of behaviour which either added to social cohesion, or participated in its disintegration .In his Muqaddimah (1377), he concluded trhat ruling groups sustain their power by a sense of solidarity, or ‘asabiyyah, which unites both rulers and ruled. Asabiyyah, both a structure of consciousness and a structure of feeling, which via education and socialization assumes the power of a habitus, or a spontaneous common sense, obtains as long as the ruling groups refrain from attempting to gain exclusive control over all sources of power and wealth. However, as soon as the ruling groups gain such exclusive control, conflict breaks out. The old regime will soon be displaced by a new dynastic regime. Order, followed by disorder, produces new orders in ibn Khaldun’s cyclical understanding of the political histories of regions under Muslim majority control. (24)

Then he mentions Nicolo Machavelli (1469-1527) who appeared about a century after ibn Khaldun who “studied the role of social facts in patterns of order and disorder…”(25).

In relation to the situation in Turkey and the question of facing Western civilization among the intellectuals, the use of certain aspects of the Khaldunian discourse has its relevance in providing certain elements of the intellectual constructs for such an engagement. The situation is portrayed in the following terms:

“(Concerning the intellectual movement in Turkey which sees Islam not only as a religion but also as a civilizational apparatus to be discovered and applied)…Necip Fazil Kisakurck, founder of the Great Oriental Movement and the monthly journal of the same name, is the forerunner of this group. Since 1943, and in more than 80 books, notably Bab-I Ali and the Ideological Web, he has argued that both the scholastic structure of the madrasa education which produced the type of ulama which could not meet the challenge of westernization during the late Ottoman period, and modern secularistic educational establishments set up after the tanzimat reforms and the Young Turk revolution are incapable of meeting the need of a contemporary dynamic Turkey. Only when Islam is seen as a civilization and its parameters rejuvenated in a contemporary form in their totality can Turkey really progress. Cemil Meric taking cue from Kisakurck, analysed the notion of civilization with profound sophistication and dissected the western civilization with the ability of a master surgeon. In From Civilization to Umran he uses ibn Khaldun’s notion of umran to argue for the reconstruction of the physical and intellectual apparatus of Islamic civilization…. (26)

In Turkey also, there is Dr Fahri Kayadibi who appreciates the discourse of education in its various aspects. In the short but important essay he argues that in matters of education the views of Ibn Khaldun are relevant for our age. (27)

He agrees with a number of points in the Muqaddimah about education, namely: the importance of imparting information to students according to their level of comprehension; he says this is done by teaching them the main principles of the information and the sciences involved in a brief manner, taking into consideration the capacity of the students. As time goes on more elaborations are made gradually, so that the students will mature in the subjects taught. According to him the revision should be done three times over. To ibn Khaldun this is the correct method.

Then he stresses the importance of not forcing the students to memorise their lessons; otherwise they will be lazy. Other points mentioned are: that the subjects should not be taught in broken sequence because the integrated nature of the subject will not be understood, and the mastery of the subject will take a longer time than otherwise the case.

Other points touched are: two subjects should not be taught at the same time, because this will lead to confusion; the necessity of not being too strict with students; the usefulness of traveling to meet authoritative scholars for furthering one’s education; the importance of practical education as opposed to mere theorization;  the importance of cultivating high degree of skill in education; ibn Khaldun uses the term ‘malakah’ for this high degree of skill in education, knowledge and crafts.

In his conclusion he states:

Ibn Khaldun has emphasized the importance of science, education and teaching. He foresees science and education as an inseparable part of prosperity. According to him, the real difference between mankind and other beings is the power of thought. Science and art are born from open–minded thought and the intricate learning of the principles of all issues. Ideas emerge from those who have the curiosity and the desire to investigate what is unknown. From this situation, the issues of education and teaching arise.

He advises teachers to teach in a comprehensive manner and to gradually teach subjects in stages, moving from easier to the more difficult. Memorisation should be avoided (except in the relevant cases which are unavoidable – uem). He emphasizes that teaching methods should be simple and not complicated. He states that the teaching of subjects should not be in broken sequences or else the subject  .He states that the teaching of subjects should not be in broken sequence or else the subject will become scattered and forgotten. Also, aggressive behaviour towards children will turn them off from lessons, create laziness, making them unwilling learners as well as negatively affecting their behaviour.

Education should consist of theory and practice. Education should be revised and repeated until a good level is attained. He also declares that learning and teaching sciences require skill and that the teachers of these sciences should be knowledgeable in their fields. These clearly defined issues of ibn Khaldun are still relevant for educational issues of contemporary times. (28).

Addessalam Cheddadi in his important essay “Ibn Khaldun”, originally published in Prospects: the Quarterly Review of Comparative Education, (Paris UNESCO, International Bureau of Education, vol. XXIV, no1/2.1994, p. 7-19 discusses a number of important issues related to education, based on the Muqaddimah. The points mentioned are: the life-long nature of Islamic education; the all-important issue of the reproduction of values in the individual; the concept of the ‘asabiyyah, and its role in social cohesion, and how it relates to education; and then the necessity of man to learn from tradition, otherwise it will take too long a time to learn on one’s own developing the ‘empirical intelligence’ from experience; the inculcation of values through education and socialization; the importance of reputation in doing things so that ‘coloration of the soul’ will take place, engendering ‘habitus’ (‘malakah’) in knowledge, values, attitudes, and acts, including skills in crafts and learning, intellectual and linguistic skills, or even ‘malakah’ in spirituality and faith.

He dwells also on the development of the various ‘intellects’ in the person, the ‘empirical intellect’ developed by experience and experimenting,, the ‘theoretical intellect’ developed by theorization, the ‘discerning intellect’ for discerning the differences in things. (29) In this essay author leaves out the discussion on the importance of ‘added intellect’ (‘al-‘aqlul mazid’) which marks the superiority of a civilization in terms of intellectual worth.

Then in relation to economic life and the relevance of Khaldunian discourse in the issue of taxation, among others, there is a discussion on it in “Rise and Fall: ibn Khaldun and the Ethics of Taxation”, Chapter 15 in: the topic of “Advancing Economic Thought” (See

Reflecting on his later years in Cairo, then the wealthiest city, the writer states:

In his later years ibn Khaldun returned to public life with a move to Cairo. Here, in what was then the Arab world’s largest and wealthiest city, he performed the occasional services for the Egyptian sultan, while also working as a professor and a judge. He died just as a new political power – Ottoman Turkey – was establishing its dominance throughoutt the Arab world in ways that his own historical theory had predicted. (30)

Concerning the sharp observation of human economic life and the resulting “division of labour” and “specialization”, he quotes with approval the statement of ibn Khaldun, which, to him has ‘a surprisingly modern flavour’. This:

…a single individual is incapable of satisfying his needs by himself, but must cooperate with other members of society. The product of such cooperative labour will exceed by far the needs of the group. Thus, in the production of wheat, for example, we do not see each individual providing for his own needs; rather we see six or ten persons cooperating: a blacksmith, a carpenter to repair tools; an ox-tender, a man to plough the soil, and another to reap the grain; and so forth for the different kinds of agricultural work, each man specializing in one operation…. Thus the inhabitants of a more populous city are more prosperous than their counterparts in a less populous one. (Cited from Charles Issawi, An Arab Philosophy of History, (London:John Murray, 1950) p.92-93.)(31).

Then while mentioning the fact that other writers had already touched on the issue of specialization of labour, like the Greek writer Xenophon, yet he states that “…no one before ibn Khaldun had appreciated the central importance of labour specialization in determining living standards. This realization allowed him to make yet another striking insight. A dynasty’s wealth, he noted, cannot be identified solely with money, since gold and silver ‘are only minerals and products having exchange value’. It would take several centuries before Ibn Khaldun’s realization would be fully incorporated in conventional economic thought.”(32)

In relation to taxation he quotes the views of ibn Khaldun with approval. He quotes:

In the early stages of the state, taxes are light in their incidence, but fetch in a large revenue … As time passes and kings succeed each other, they lose their tribal habits in favour of more civilized ones. Their needs and exigencies grow…owing to the luxury in which they have been brought up. Hence they impose fresh taxes on their subjects…[and] sharply raise the rate of old taxes to increase their yield…But the effect on business of this rise in taxation make themselves felt. For business men are soon discouraged by the comparison of their profits with the burden of their taxes…Consequently production falls off, and with it the yield of taxation…(33)

After discussing the mechanism of taxation and describing what he calls as “The Laffer Curve” using the Khaldunian theory, and assessing it, he gives his view about the relevance of the Khaldunian theory. He states:

Ibn Khaldun’s view of taxation offers a useful example of how an economic concept can be reapplied in an entirely different setting. As insightful as this view undoubtedly was for the times he lived in, it might not seem to be applicable to the modern age of democratic governments. After all no elected government would ever raise tax rates beyond the point where tax revenues would fall. Or would they? In fact, this question was part of a recent controversy in economics, which had important practical ramifications. During the 1970s, a group of economists developed a theory known as supply-side economics, which concentrates on the ways in which government actions can affect incentives for private citizens to work, save, and invest…. (34)

In giving his final view defending the Khaldunian theory on taxation, the writer states:

…But the modern version of Ibn Khaldun’s theory is far from fully discredited. All economists recognize its potential validity; with empirical studies suggesting that tax revenues and tax rates begin to move inversely in the range of a 70 percent tax rate. Also, recent debates over tax rates have brought a greater awareness of how public policy can affect private economic incentives. In a world where national borders are becoming less important, governments must keep tax rates relatively low or face loss of investment, jobs, and tax revenues to other countries. Ibn Khaldun’s original insight – made over 600 years ago – therefore continues to act as an important constraint on governments, in a world far different from his own. (35)

Further Aspects of the Relevance of The Khaldunian Discourse:

Without going into the intricate philosophical implications of modernity or post-modernity, the present paper would like to argue for the relevance of the Khaldunian intellectual discourse, in relation to the Muslim world in general and the Malay World in particular, in a brief manner, on a number of accounts:

Firstly, this intellectual discourse is of the utmost importance in relation to the act of maintaining our identity as Muslim civilization, with our world-view, epistemology, and axiology, in relation to education, politico-social order, and civilizational and ummatic identity, all based on the tawhidic paradigm.

Secondly, in building our strength in the spiritual, intellectual, technological and scientific domains so that we are not only on the receiving side, but we are also the creators of all these in our own way in the global scene.

Thirdly, in facing the process of globalization, and maintaining our identity, at the same time we can present the tawhidic image of compassion, the really ‘insani’ image of civilization and culture, with the strong culture in its aspects as a function of ummatic compassion, not divorced from it.

Fourthly, this Khaldunian discourse is of utmost importance in helping us to regain again the solidarity based on the correct understanding of the ‘asabiyyah principle within the ummatic ambiance and its function in the ummatic brotherhood-not a substitute for it- so that we can overcome and solve this ‘asabiyyah crisis as mentioned by Prof. Akbar Ahmed (36). Inadequate understanding of this principle and confusing it with secular nationalism, with the attending consequences in social and political action and conflicts, has brought and is bringing catastrophe in the Muslim Community. The late Said Nursi of Turkey-May Allah shower His mercy on him- has called it “positive nationalism”. (37):

Positive nationalism arises from an inner need of social life and is the cause of mutual assistance and solidarity; it ensures a beneficial strength; it is a means for further strengthening Islamic brotherhood.

This idea of positive nationalism must serve Islam, it must be its citadel and armour; it must not take the place of it. For there is a hundredfold brotherhood within the brotherhood of Islam which persists in the Intermediate Realm and World of Eternity. (38)

In all these-with Allah’s grace- the Khaldunian intellectual discourse can help us abundantly provided we are prepared to let the intellectual flow of the discourse to have an impact on us- giving us “al-tadhakkur” as the Qur’an teaches it.

In the Malay World, apart from the above, the seminal idea and principle of ‘asabiyyah is of paramount importance in dispelling popular rejection of ‘asabiyyah based on inadequate understanding, hence affecting national, even regional unity and strength. In the long run, this understanding is for the relative homogenization of the region, much needed for the intellectual and cultural stability of the area for ummatic development and progress in future. (39)

Now to the evidences of the above positions from the discourse in the Muqaddimah.

First the relevance of the discourse in relation to our world view, epistemology, axiology, education, intellectual development, politico-social order and ummatic identity in the discourse, which are not out of date in the fundamentals.

In relation to the tawhidic word-view and thinking about the causes to the ultimate, of which the human mind is incapable, harming itself, he states:

If this is clear, it is possible that the ascending sequence of causes reaches the point where it transcends the realm of human perception and existence and thus ceases to be perceived. The intellect would here become lost, confused, and cut off in the wilderness of conjectures. Thus, (recognition of the) oneness of God is identical with inability to perceive the causes and ways in which they exercise their influence, and with reliance in this respect upon the Creator of the causes who comprises them. There is no maker but Him. All (causes) lead up to Him and go back to His Power. We know about Him only in as much as we have issued from Him. This is the meaning of the statement on the authority of a certain truthful person (al-siddiq) “The inability to perceive is perception”.

Then talking about tawhidic world-view relating to the “state” of soul, he states in the continuing passage:

Such (declaration of the) oneness of God does not merely refer to faith, which is affirmation based upon judgment. It belongs to the talk of the soul. Its perfection lies in its acquisition in a form that becomes an attribute of the soul. In the same way, the object of (all human) actions and divine worship (‘al-ibadat’) is acquisition of the habit of obedience (‘malakah al-ta’ah’) (note the word: ‘malakah’-uem) and submissiveness and the freeing of the heart from all occupations save the Worshipped Master, until the novice on the path of God becomes a holy person (‘rabbani’) (40)

Then he talks about the difference between “state” of the soul and knowledge; he says:

The difference between ‘state’ and knowledge in question of dogma  (‘al-‘aqa’id’) is the same as that between talking (about attributes) and having them. This may be explained as follows: many people know that mercy to the orphans and the poor brings (a human being) close to God and is recommendable. They say so and acknowledge the fact. They quote the sources for it from the religious law. But if they were to see an orphan or a poor person of the destitute classes they would run away from him and disdain to touch him, let alone show mercy to him, or any of the higher ‘stations’ of sympathy, affection, and charity. Their mercy for the orphan was the result of having reached the station of knowledge. It was not the result of the station of ‘state’ nor of an attribute of theirs. Now, there are people who, in addition to the station of knowledge, and the realization of the fact that mercy to the poor brings (a human being) close to God, having attained another, higher ‘station’, they have attained the attribute and habit of mercy (‘ittisaf bir-rahmah wa malakatiha) (note the wording “malakah of rahmah” – uem). When they see an orphan or a poor person, they approach him and show him (mercy)…(41)

Then concerning divine worship and the question of getting the noble qualities, he states:

It should be known that in the opinion of the Law Giver (Prophet Muhammad s.a.w.) perfection with regards to any of the obligations he has imposed (upon Muslims) requires this (distinction)  (between knowing something as knowledge only and the higher station of possessing the quality involved – uem). Perfection in matters of belief depends on the other knowledge, that which results from the possession of (the se matters) as an attribute. Perfection in matters of divine worship depends on acquisition of (these matters) as an attribute, on real (knowledge) of them.

Divine worship and its continuous practice leads to this noble result. Muhammad says concerning the principal act of divine worship “My consolation lies in prayer…Prayer for Muhammad was an attribute and  ‘state’ in which he found his ultimate pleasure and consolation. How different is the prayer of the people! …

It is clear from all the statements we have made that the object of all (religious) obligations is the acquisition of a habit (‘malakah’) firmly rooted in the soul, from which a necessary knowledge results for the soul. It is the (recognition of the) oneness of God, which is the (principal) article of faith and the thing through which happiness is attained. There is no difference whether the obligations of the heart or those of the body are concerned in this respect. (42)

Then he elucidates the other articles of belief; he says:

It should be known that the Lawgiver (Muhammad s.a.w.) described to us this first degree of faith which is affirmation. He specified particular matters he charged us to affirm with our hearts and to believe in our souls, while at the same time acknowledging them with our tongues. They are the established articles of the Muslim faith. When Muhamnmad was asked about faith he said: “(Faith is) the belief in God, His angels, His scriptures, His messengers, the Last day, and the belief in predestination, be it good or bad”. (43)

Such are the articles of faith in ilm al-kalam, and he endorses this.

Thus, in this way he relates the tawhidic worldview with its impact on human belief, divine worship, character, soul, and actions, as well as values. This discourse is very logical, persuasive and convincing. It is relevant now just as it was relevant before. And from his discourse we know that he defends mainstream tawhidic Islamic world-view with all that it implies, and not the divergent views of the innovators which had appeared in Islamic history. This is a position which is the conviction of the majority of the Muslims throughout history until to-day, and this is the world-view which will be the intellectual defence against the intellectual deformity of modernity and post-modernity, apart from the intellectual innovations within the Community itself.

Concerning matters relating to the concept of knowledge and matters of like nature, including the development of knowledge in human civilization, we can briefly say that he endorses knowledge which are related to religion and that which is of intellectual nature. He begins the 6th Chapter of the Muqaddimah with the discussion on human capability to think. Concerning man’s ability to think and its relationship to perception, he states (44):

It should be known that God distinguished man from all the other animals by an ability to think which He made the beginning of human perfection and the end of man’s noble superiority over existing things.

This comes about as follows: Perception, – that is consciousness, on the part of the person who perceives, in his essence of things that are outside his essence-is something peculiar to living beings to the exclusion of other being and existent things. Living beings may obtain consciousness of things that are outside their essence through the external senses God has given them that is, the sense of hearing, vision, smell, taste, and touch. Man has this advantage over the other beings that he may perceive things outside his essence through his ability to think, which is something beyond his senses. It is the result of (special) powers placed in the cavities of his brain. With the help of these powers, man takes the pictures of the sensibilia, applies his mind to them, and thus abstracts from them other pictures. The ability to think is the occupation with pictures that are beyond sense perception, and the application of the mind to them for analysis and synthesis. This is what is meant by af’idah “hearts” in the Qur’an: ‘he gave you hearing and vision and hearts’ Af’idah ‘hearts’ is the plural of fu’ad .It means here the ability to think (45).

Then he goes on talking about the first degree of thinking of the discerning intellect (al-‘aqlul al-tamyizi), the second done by experimental intellect (‘al-‘aql al-tajribi) learning by experience, the third the speculative intellect (‘al-‘aql al-nazari’) giving out knowledge by thinking without practical application, and so on in the theoretical plain, until man becomes perfect in his reality, becoming pure intellect; this is human reality. (46) Then he goes on talking about the thought process and how that relates to human actions, and how that thinking leads man to perfection and success.

Then he talks about the emergence of the traditional and the rational sciences in an integrated manner, giving the summary of the sciences then available in human civilization in a unified way, giving their strong points, features, and also weak points.

He speaks about the Qur’an ic sciences, the traditions, fiqh, usul al-fiqh, Sufism, and Arabic studies; he speaks of the various intellectual sciences like logic, philosophy, medicine, astronomy, and the rest, as mentioned in the summary above.

All in all he speaks as representing the Islamic intellectual tradition; even while giving his views which appear as original, he is speaking on behalf of tradition and not going against Islamic intellectual tradition.

His views about the appearance of intellectual sciences and the crafts in urban settled civilization, and his concept of ‘added intelligence’ (‘al-‘aqlul mazid’) is indeed interesting and revealing, showing his grasp of the relationship between settled urban civilization and the appearance of intellectual sciences and technical skills, with the attending consequences in the development of culture. He talks of ‘al-‘aqlul-mazid’ as developed in settled civilization making some groups of people being so advanced intellectually and artistically.

His emphasis of ‘malakah’ is another point of importance in relation to intellectual culture and technical and scientific and linguistic skills. The word ‘malakah’ is used by him to mean established habit in the human personality; he applies it to linguistic, intellectual and mechanical skills. That is why he speaks of ‘malakah’ in language, writing, doing things in the physical and mechanical sense, as well as ‘malakah’ in spirituality and spiritual devotions and ethical qualities in the personality and the soul. And this ‘malakah’ is to be obtained by training, repetition, actual act of doing things, thinking, in short by making intellectual, physical, technical, linguistic and spiritual activities, repeating again and again until these become established in the soul; it becomes, as it were, in the expression of the present like “swimming in water for fish and flying in the air for birds”. He even speaks of ‘malakah’ in ‘ibadah and matters of faith.

This discourse about thinking and intellectual culture, with the various modes of thinking, leading to various types of intellectual capabilities, in advanced settled urban centers of civilization, including fostering ‘al-‘aq al-mazid’, is indeed relevant for the present day Muslims in uplifting them to the intellectual awareness so urgently needed in facing the present global situation. This is the text which will help them to develop this awareness leading to the necessary action in remedying their situation in the intellectual and technological fields.

And in relation to the importance of developing strong well established customary practices in civilization which will ensure stability and strength, he says:

Sedentary people observe (a) particular (code of) manners (‘adab’) in everything they undertake and do or do not do, and they thus acquire certain ways of making a living, finding dwellings, building houses, and handling their religious and worldly matters (‘wa umur al-din wa al-dunya’), including their customary affairs, their dealings with others (wa ‘adatihim wa mu’amalatihim’), and all the rest of their activities. Thesse manners (‘adab’) constitute a kind of limitation which may not be transgressed, and at the same time, they are crafts (‘sana’i’) (that) later generations take over from the earlier ones. No doubt, each craft has a proper place within the arrangement of the crafts, influences the soul and causes it to acquire an additional intelligence (‘al ‘aql al-mazid’), which prepares the soul for accepting still other crafts. The intellect is thus conditioned for a quick reception of knowledge. (47)

Next, the present writer would like to comment favourably on his contribution on the concept of ‘asabiyyah or group feeling, which is originally based on blood relationship but later extended to other lasting relationship making people loyal to one another.

Of course this is not within the ‘asabiyyah which is prohibited by the Prophet in the tradition meaning ‘Not among us is he who calls people to ‘asabiyyah’ or ‘who dies in ‘asabiyyah’ (48). The ‘asabiyyah prohibited by the Prophet is defined in the tradition as ‘you help your brother in injustice’ (49). And in Islamic legal discourse, Imam al-Nawawi says that when a person loves his people and his group and family, that is not ‘asabiyyah (prohibited by the Prophet – uem) and hence if he is a witness his testimony for his people and friend is accepted by the court and not rejected. (50) This ‘asabiyyah can be synonym for “positive nationalism” of Said Nursi – may Allah shower His mercy on him – when he says: “Positive nationalism arises from an inner need of social life and is the cause of mutual assistance and solidarity, it ensures a beneficial strength; it means for further strengthening Islamic brotherhood.” (51) Ibn Khaldun himself cites in its support the tradition meaning “Allah has not sent a prophet but he is under the protection of the strength of his people (fi man’atin min qaumihi’)”. And he says when a prophet who is capable of doing things with miracles is still supported by Allah with the ‘asabiyyah of his people then we all the more need this support.

Hence this positive nationalism or ‘asabiyyah should be supported and encouraged so that effective reforms can be done within the Muslim society as a basis for seriolus and planned civilizational efforts.

Negative qualities:

Negative qualities which are likely to cause downfall of civilization should be avoided: loss of ‘asabiyyah by taking the necessary steps to stem the tide, succumbing to excessive luxurious life should be checked by invitation to life of moderation with religious and spiritual education and exhortation, life of ease should be checked by educating people in the life of discipline, intellectual laxity is to be checked by encouraging intellectual activity and excellence, life of immorality is to be checked by education, exhortation, example, law enforcement, and improvement in family values and neighbourly responsibility in the light of Islamic values. And excessive entertainment culture should be checked by providing alternative modules and education in healthy artistic activities.

Wallahu a’lam.


In conclusion this paper argues that the Khaldunian intellectual and civilizational discourse is of paramount importance for the present times –together with other mainstream Islamic discourses of that category-for helping Muslims to regenerate their identity and civilization while coming to grips with the present cultural and intellectual challenges of this age. The Khaldunian discourse giving helpful suggestions in the domains of world-view, epistemology, axiology, and civilizational guidance in the educational, social, and cultural arena plus the all important emphasis on intellectual culture and knowledge in an all-embracing view, nurtured in the tawhidic vision will be most helpful in the efforts towards such a goal of achieving “the most excellent” community.

Wallahu a’lam



*Paper presented at the Conference on Ibn Khaldun organized by the Department of History at the International Islamic University Malaysia, 23rd July 2003.

(1)               Concerning his life and thought, the following are useful: Mohammad Abdullah Enan, Ibn Khaldun His Life and Work, Muhammad Aqshraf, Lahore; Walter J. Fischel, Ibn Khaldun in Egypt, His Public Functions and Historical Research, 1382-1406, in A Study in Islamic Historiography, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1967; Charles Issawi, An Arab Philosophy of History: Selections from the prolegomena of Ibn Khaldun 0f Tunis (1332-140-6, Wisdom of the East Series, London, John Murray, 1950; Muhsin Mahdi, Ibn Khaldun’s Philosophy of History; A Study in the philosophic Foundations of the Science of Culture, London, George Allen and Unwin, 1957; Franz Rosenthal, trans. The Muqaddimah, An Introduction to History, By Ibn Khaldun, Bollingen Series, XLIII. Princeton, Princeton University Press, 1958;also see “Ibn Khaldun and Thucydides”, in Journal of the American Oriental Society, vol.92/Number 2/April-June 1972, pp. 250-270 (for which the present writer is grateful to Dr Muhammad Zainy Uthman of ISTAC UIAM); “Abd al-Rahman bin Muhammad ibn Khaldun (1332-1406/732-808) in http://cis-org/voices/k/khaldun_mn.htm; Dr A Zahoor, “Ibn Khaldun”,; also in; Ibrahim M.Oweiss, “Ibn Khaldun the father of Economics”,;”ibn Khaldun” in www.// “home-philosophers-ibn khaldun”,; “Letter from Cairo”,; “Economics of Ibn Khaldun”,;”History of Economic Thought”, .htm; “Political Science”, Prof.R.w.Cox,;”muslim-1;Great Muslim Scientists”, on ibn Khaldun http://www.//;Abd al-rahman ibn Khaldun the historian,; “Lessons from ibn khaldun”,;”ibn Khaldun’s Contribution to Social Thought”,;ibn Khaldun’s observation on history, empires,; “Ibn Khaldun His Life and Work”, by Muhammad Hozien –; Hassan Ali Jamsheer,”Ibn Khaldun (1332-1406). The Muqaddimah – History…”,; ”Rise and Fall Ibn Khaldun and the Effects of Taxation Chapter 15”,

(2)               Mohammad Abdullah Enan, Ibn Khaldun His Liufe and Work, pp.9-10.

(3)               ibid., p.34.

(4)               ibid,p.38.

(5)               “Abd al-Rahman bin Muhammad ibn Khaldun…”, ( )

(6)               Mohammad Abdullah Enan, op. cit., p.67.

(7)               Walter J.Fischel, Ibn Khaldun in Egypt…, pp.46- 49

(8)               ibid., 67-68.

(9)               Abderrahmane Lakhassi, “Ibn Khaldun” in History of Islamic Philosophy, edited by S.H.Nasr,  and O. Leaman (London:Routledge , “Abd al-Rahman bin Muhammad ibn Khaldun, footnote 26.

(10)           James Kalb, “Ibn Khaldun and Our Age”.

(11)           ibid.

(12)           ibid.

(13)           ibid.

(14)           From Jude Wanniski, “Ibn Khaldun and the Origins of Society”, Supply–Side University Economics Lesson #8 (

(15)           Ibid …

(16)           ibid. (11-19-99.html.)


(18)           ibid.

(19)           ibid.

(20)           John W. Bennet “Comments on ‘Renaissance Foundations of Anthropology’, originally appeared in American Anthropology, 68:215-226, 1991, then in

(21)           ibid.

(22)           See in

(23)           “Graduate Seminars in Cultural and Critical Studies Fall 2003” in /Seminars.htm

(24)           In

(25)           ibid.

(26)           In “INQUIRY. Refloating the Intellectual Enterprise of Islam”, in

(27)           in “Ibn Khaldun and Education”, in

(28)           ibid.

(29)           See in

(30)           ibid.

(31)           See

(32)           ibid.

(33)           Cited in Issawi, op.cit, cf.ibid.

(34)           ibid.

(35)           ibid.

(36)           Akbar Ahmed, “Ibn Khaldun’s Understanding of Civilizations and the Dilemmas of Islam and the West To-Day” (


(38)           ibid.

(39)           Incidentally the “Malay” concept in the present understanding is not racist but rather cultural and civilizational, because being “Melayu” is: being a Muslim, speaking Malay and practicing Malay customs. This is very much asking to ‘asabiyyah principle of ibn Khaldun, even though originally concerned with blood relationship then later extended to other relationships of long standing in life.

(40)           Al-Muqaddimah, tr Rosenthal vol. 3, pp. 38-39.

(41)           ibid., p. 40.

(42)           ibid. p. 41.

(43)           ibid.p. 43.

(44)           Muqaddimah, tr. F. Rosenthal, vol. 2, pp. 411ff.

(45)           ibid. vol.2. p. 412.

(46)           ibid.2. p. 413.

(47)           ibid.2. p. 432.

(48)           hadith no. 7657 in the Kanz al-‘Ummal of Muttaqi al-Hindi.

(49)           ibid. hadith no. 7654.

(50)           See Raud al-talibin vol.IV on witnesses and their conditions.



Nahmaduhu wa nusalli ‘ala Rasulihil-Karim




Bi’awnika Ya Latif! Due to certain historical circumstances destiny has made it that Malaysia has been given the tremendous task of forging harmonious collective life among its inhabitants consisting of various religious and cultural groups, especially during the post-merdeka period. The citizens of the country consisting of representatives of such diverse civilizations as Muslims, predominantly Malays, Buddhists, predominantly Chinese, then Christians, Hindus, Sikhs, and others, have to live with each other as neighbours. Compared to many societies with such multi-religious and multi-cultural nature, our country, due to the wisdom, tolerance and the spirit of giving –and take of its leaders, has emerged as a successful one. History has proved it clearly, in spite of comments to the contrary from certain quarters which would like to see it otherwise, for reasons known only to them.

There are challenges, of course, to improve upon the situation, so that that harmony will continue, and will improve, making the situation a better one, especially after September 11 with Islam being made the target of suspicion wherever there are Muslims. It is an unfortunate turn of events that a civilization which has been victimized a number of times in history with such devastations as the destruction of its civilization and “ethnic cleansing” of its adherents for a number of times with events in Spain and then the Crusades and recent events in modern times has now been stigmatized as “terrorist”, whereas others are not so stigmatized, in spite of terrorism having been perpetrated by some of its adherents.

Track record of a high degree tolerance of this civilization has been historically proven in the Muslim period in Spain, with Christians and Jews living in harmony with Muslims, with the Jews achieving their golden period, never achieved again thereafter, and non-Muslims living in harmony during the Ottoman period with the “millet” system, should give some lessons for people of the present times. The recent comments by the Secretary-general of the UN about the world organization and the acts of omission and commission of some countries should lead thoughtful and sincere people committed to ethics, morality and real human rights to reflect and do some introspective thinking before giving adverse comments about other nations. Recent events seem to suggest that humanity has not improved, if not to the contrary, in terms of practicing compassion and human brotherhood, in spite of all the rhetoric and talk about high-sounding noble values and aspirations.

Malaysia is a small country, and it has in its own way tried to put into practice the lesson of living in harmony and tolerance among such diverse cultural and religious groups as mentioned above. Of course there are so much more to be done, and by God’s Grace we hope to achieve much more in future. Those who would like to give adverse comments about our performance, we hope, will first set their own house in order, and then mention constructively, in the spirit of compassion among mankind, things which we should do to improve our situation. If this attitude is put into practice, the world would be a better place to live in. It is also in keeping with Christ’s “love thy neighbour…”, and the Prophet’s teaching about the brotherhood among the children of Adam and the creatures of God being figuratively “the family of God” (“iyal Allah”), and living according to the Tao in far eastern doctrine about the tao, of harmony with the way of heaven and earth, the harmony of the “yang” and “yin”. It is also in harmony with the disinterested action of the “Bhavadgita”.

There is the challenge of cool-headed dialogue among intellectuals and leaders of the cultural and religious groups, coming together, like the present one, with the idea of seeing the intellectual and spiritual contours of the various religions, so that the meeting points can be understood, not with the idea of blurring the real characteristics, the similarities and the differences, but with the idea of understanding where there are real differences, so that we respect the differences, and where there are similarities, so that we encourage the improvement in the similarities, for enhancing harmonious living. And this is done with intellectual seriousness and not with a false sense of superiority and disdain.

Then there is the necessity for respecting what can be called as “spiritual privacy” of the various collectivities; just as we have psychological privacy, privacy, in which we do not let out our secrets to people not relevant to it, the privacy of the body, in which we do not expose certain parts of the body, out of natural sense of modesty-barring aside people who already have lost this sense, for some reasons only known to them, the privacy of the bed-room in which we do not expose ourselves in that situation, barring aside other people who generate income from doing so, so there are spiritual aspects of privacy. The priest in the holy of holies has got to be alone there, cannot be disturbed in that spiritual privacy; the food in the Muslim yearly festival of sacrifice is of such a nature. This has got to be understood and respected, and this should not be construed as exclusive attitude as opposite of the inclusive attitude. Aspects of the Islamic sacred law fall into this category, and people who just have paper qualifications only, or know from personal readings only, should not comment adversely on these. Muslims are duty-bound not to do the same thing. The Qur’an teaches them not to vilify the objects of worship of others deemed not in harmony with the reality of the scheme of things from their perspective, for then they will vilify God worshipped by Muslims, and it becomes like they themselves are vilifying Allah. This serious attitude towards things deemed sacred should be inculcated; this is not about saying that things should be blurred so that people will think that things are all the same creating spiritual and intellectual confusion, creating more harm than good. This is about understanding things as they are and responding to them with spiritual and intellectual propriety.

There is the challenge of all the religions facing the phenomenon of cultural trivialization and gradual loss of cultural identity and values, and how they should unite to face this danger. What is meant here is the gradual loss of interest to understand the deeper implications of the teachings and practices of the religions, and concentrating on the paraphernalia, not attaching them to the inner core of the principles and values. And added to this there is the cultural trivialization and concentration on entertainment culture from foreign sources. The consequences are seen: for instance we see young people dying their hair yellow so that they look like some one who is an icon of the entertainment media; it is if they are ashamed of coming from their culture and looking in that way and with that colour. Then there are cases of elderly people in some cities committing suicide because they are no more cared by the young because the young would like them to abandon their houses and live in old folk’s homes; the world is a stage for the youthful; the elderly should be in old folk’s home. Respect and care for the elderly is disappearing. This is happening in the society. Some people mention that this is the influence of Hollywood culture. Only God knows. But this is a challenge which must be faced by all the religions and cultures, and they must face it together.

The various representatives of Asian cultures of the country have to face cultural domination of foreign cultural elements, and this will be cultural disaster for the rich heritage of diverse cultures of the country.

Then there is the consumerism culture: people are behaving as if they are worshipping the devil of a cult: a cult of buying things more than what they actually need just to be with the times as fashionable consumers. This is against all the teachings and values of the eastern cultures and civilizations. So some people say: the new cult is that the temple is the mega-mall, the rite is the shopping spree, the sacred things are the colour TV, the refrigerator, the air-conditioner, etc. The religions and cultures have to face this challenge together so that the principles and values are relevant and effective in moulding members of the society who are moral, disciplined, serious, respectful of others, hardworking, good, law-abiding citizens and patriotic. Other issues are side-issues when compared to this principal issues. Others from outside our country or culture should be heard in relation to our ultimate interests according to our philosophies, and not otherwise. Exceptions can be made in relation to universal issues agreed upon by all the nations as done by the UN. One example of things done by seeing our ultimate interest was the Malaysian economic step taken after the recent crisis in the region because of international manipulators of the currency.

The other aspects of the challenge are related to globalization; how global trends are making people more stressful; people are no more related to each other directly, hence their relationship is becoming more “faceless”, only communicating through gadgets, hand phones, etc., people are traveling more often, hence there is no more concept of neighbourhood and the traditional association, and stable relationship and respecting people because you “know” them really because you are living in the same neighbourhood, etc. People are becoming more and more rootless, more and more drawn into “the technological intoxicated zone”.

Then there is the challenge of post-modernism thinking which consists of the rejection of the grand narratives- the religions and the fundamental discourses, the rejection of absolute values and criteria about the truth and right and wrong, and the blurring of reality and the images. All these will lead to the withering away of the principles and values in the civilizations. There is the spreading of liberalism of the religions. This is emptying of the religions and civilizations from sacred and fundamental values, including family values. This has got to be faced squarely by all the religious traditions of the country. Other issues will appear as non-issues when seen in this fundamental philosophical perspective. This is the evil dragon which will swallow all and everybody. All have to get united to face this evil dragon.

The representatives of the various eastern civilizations in Malaysia have to be united in facing these challenges. The fundamental values about human relationships in the various traditions have got to be re-learned and their relevance seen in the present global perspective.

Then the country is also facing the global competition. The various religions have to help the leaders of the country to strengthen the survival of the identity and the economy of the country in the face of globalization onslaught, based on free and unbridled play of market forces; otherwise there will be another form of imperialism.

These are some of the challenges which the religious and cultural diversity of Malaysia has to face or is in fact facing now, and they must get united in forums and other ways so that such challenges are met with effectively. What is of utmost importance is the integrity of the various religions and cultures are preserved, the harmonious life continued, and improved upon, the cultural identity of the people is intact, the country is strengthened, its principles and values are realized, and differences are resolved through amicable discussions and consultations, without outside interference. With God’s grace the country and the people will survive well and with success in facing the global challenge.

Wallahu a’lam.