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The phrase Islamization of knowledge has been used in contemporary Islamic philosophy since the later 20th century to refer to attempts to reconcile Islam and modernity, specifically seeking for a way to adopt the scientific method in a way consistent with Islamic ethical norms.
The phrase "Islamisation of knowledge" was first used and proposed by the Malaysian scholar Syed Muhammad Naquib al-Attas in his book "Islam and Secularism" ISBN 983-99628-6-8 (first published in 1978).
It was also proposed by the Palestinian philosopher Ismail Al-Faruqi, in 1982, in response to what he called "the malaise of the ummah". He argued that by using tools, categories, concepts and modes of analysis that originated wholly in the secular West (like Marxism), there was a disconnect between the ecological and social reality of Muslim nations, and worse, a total inability to respect or even notice the violations of ethics of Islam itself. In his view, clashes between traditionalist ulema and reformers seeking to revive Muslim society with modern science and professional categories, were inevitable without the strong ethical constraints that applied to methods of early Muslim philosophy. He proposed therefore to revive those methods, restore ijtihad and integrate scientific method within Islamic limits.
A significant example of the movement to islamize knowledge is the International Institute of Islamic Thought, based in the US state of Virginia.
Al-Faruqi died in 1986, but his program has already had a profound effect, especially on Islamic economics, which operates under traditional zero-interest, participatory labor-capital structures, and supports stronger community control of land (as in the traditional practice of hima. These practices were already well on the way to revival before Al-Faruqi's work, however. Islamic banks remain a relatively minor force in world finance.
There are also debates on Islamic science and what it would mean to do science in a way that reflects the ethical teachings of Islam, and accept direction from the ijma on the priorities of such research. Al-Faruqi's analysis, called the "Islamization of Knowledge: General Principles and Workplan" remains the primary source for this program.
Calling it a 'burgeoning enterprize', Vali Nasr equals Islamization of knowledge project with the 'Thirld worldist world-view of sorts', which, in his opinion, 'is rooted in the reassertion of Muslim religious loyalties in the face of cataclysmic changes which have torn many Muslim societies asunder'. He argues that the project has mostly been shaped 'in the spirit of a political discourse than a level-headed academic undertaking'. It was pioneered by the self-styled thinkers with no expertise in the field they were trying to revolutionize. Rather than advancing Islamic knowledge, it has caused disjuncture between knowledge and faith in Islam. Critics[who?] argue that there are vast differences between the kind of ethics that are applied in the modern labour movement or the anti-globalization movement, for example, and those that would be applied by any believer in the literal interpretation of the Qur'an. Thus, any cooperation of modern ethical reformers and those seeking guidance from classical Islam would be doomed from the start.
There are, however, debates regarding Islamic feminism and ethics of technology wherein secular concerns (like vanity, consumerism, competing for attention, technological one-upmanship, runaway technologies) seem to often echo the terms of reference of a classical critique:
Catholic theology was well integrated with scientific knowledge from the time of Aquinas to the time of Galileo, and that too was a deliberate program. Critics suggest that this also demonstrates the futility of trying to inhibit scientific research with reference to any religious fundamentalism.
In modern times, Pope John Paul II called at times for restraining the sciences to work strictly within a Christian ethical framework, and respect the boundaries between what is known by faith versus reason - his "Fides et Ratio" and "Gospel of Life" make some points in common with Al-Faruqi, calling likewise for strong ethical limits and a curtailment of curiosity or "knowledge for knowledge's sake".