The Muslims that want to activate Islamics in thought and action are caught in a dilemma of the past and the present. The past may provide the genuine thought which is unfunctional in the present world whereas the present may supply the application technique but not the proper material.
As remarked in an earlier editorial (Editorial: Reverts - Enough Dawah?), the so-called educated Muslims, with few exceptions, are actually only half educated. The Muslims going through the learning of the Islamic sub-disciplines don't learn anything about the present world and hence can not make Islam functional in the present situation while the Muslims attaining professional knowledge from the present education system don't learn anything about the Islamic resources - the Quran and the Sunnah and thus they don't know what to present as Islam. Both 'Ulema' and 'Scholars' - the persons of intellect have this deficiency and therefore are not of much help for solving the problems of present society.
Blaming the 'Ulema' for not presenting Islam in the proper way should be finished now. The Scholars should become fully-educated and take the onus of Islamic research. The responsibility now squarely lies on their shoulders. They should come forward and co-operate with the 'Ulema' to bridge the gap between the two.
There are two types of the laws of Allah - Physical and Social. The physical laws are explicitly demonstrated in the working of the universal order including human physical life. The social laws are implicitly given by Allah in His Guidance given to the prophets (a) and in the final form the Divine Message, the Quran revealed upon the last Prophet Muhammad (s). Man has been ordained by Allah to rule over the world as His vicegerent. Man has been endowed with three faculties of sam'a (hearing), basar (seeing) and fu'ad (thinking and analysing) through which he can extract the physical laws from the natural and human phenomena and the social laws from the Divine Message. Man is compelled to discover the physical laws of Allah as there is no alternative. As far as the social laws are concerned, man is forced to find and follow divine guidance provided through the Message of Allah or to make his laws denying the existence of Allah-the Law-giver.
The present civilisation based on secular Western thought has been ruling over the globe for the last two centuries. It is based on man-made social laws. In the present age the advancement of science and technology without following the divine social laws has created a complex web of social and cultural problems that have engulfed the entire planet. Nuclear warfare, demographic trends, depletion of resources, energy problems and environmental problems are changing and becoming more and more complex day by day. Developments in micro-technology and genetic engineering now threaten to introduce fundamental change in society. Cybernetics and artificial intelligence are poised to introduce even more basic changes in our lives.
The lopsidedness, problems and complexities of life today is the result of man considering himself Master of the universe. Ignoring the divine social laws and devising by human speculation has created chaos and confusion. Another drawback is the present outdated educational system that has not trained people for the complex decisions and ethical choices that are required to be made by them. Our problems can not be solved by the conventional isolated linear cause-effect method. The complex social, cultural and technological issues need urgent solutions to stop destabilisation of the globe in which the Western and Eastern people, Muslims and non-Muslims all live. These need the Islamic solution for which genuine Islamic research is required.
It is a general myth that every research should be carried objectively to find solutions impartially without having any pre-conceived notion. But the stark reality is that pure, objective research can be carried out and objective findings obtained only by robots, not by human beings. Every human being has a view point, a world view and a purpose of living. Hence all research and findings are geared with the mental make-up of the researchers. A particular array of thought is developed that establish the view point of life. There are two basic views: Humanity itself is God or there is One Being-God. Man is totally free and capable of making the social laws or man has to look into the bases provided by his Creator. What is termed neutrality, in thinking or action, is the misnomer for god-less, man-made anarchy of human endeavour.
Research work is tied up with the educational system under which it is carried out. The present educational system is atheistic and hence it propounds the so-called neutral type of research without any bias. It is based on the notion that man is free to act as God without any control. This kind of research has a secular world-view. Islamic research is God-oriented research. It is linked with the directives of God. It goes with the Islamic world-view provided by Allah.
In the present context the foremost task ahead before an Islamic researcher is to develop a contemporary integrated Islamic system of thought and action that may present a genuine alternative and a better solution to the present dominant un-Islamic system. Islamic research, on one side, should start with the philosophical context and systematic analysis and, on the other hand, should also start simultaneously with the understanding of the Islamic sources - the Quran and the Sunnah.
Traditional Islamic research in the rigid disciplines and sub-disciplines as separate compartments of Quran, Hadith, Fiqh, Seerah and History is not going to be of much use in the contemporary situation. The fundamental principle and the classical theory of Islamic knowledge, the reality of the unity of all knowledge, should be adopted. There is the need for making research from multi-disciplinary and inter-disciplinary perspective. In this way the complex multi-dimensional, contemporary and future problems can be handled.
Islamic civilisation was undoubtedly the best manifestation of the supremacy of Islam but the most unique characteristic of Islam is its world-view based on absolute knowledge bestowed upon humanity by its Creator and Sustainer. The initial task of an Islamic research is to present a coherent and agreed upon world-view of Islam, based upon the Quranic concepts which are to be understood and made operational anew in the face of historical events, new social situations and new discoveries and innovations.
The procedure of Islamic research should be to first, to find the domain to which a contemporary problem belongs. Next, the basic concepts pertaining to this domain should be found from the Quran and formalised. Third, the researcher has to investigate the role these concepts played in the life of the Prophet (s). Fourth, from Islamic history, it should be found out how these concepts were made operational by previous Muslim societies. Last, multi- and inter-disciplinary analysis will lead towards contemporary insight into the concepts required to tackle the problem of the society. Thus the totalistic and dynamic approach of conceptual and multi- and inter-disciplinary analysis demands continuous research.
The summing up can be presented in the words of Ziauddin Sardar in 'Islamic Futures':
"The task is to elaborate the world-view of Islam, within a macro and micro-prospective, using the conceptual matrix to build models of viable futures and develop appropriate routes to put these models into, while being guided in this endeavour by the natural principles of complementricity, inter-connectedness and redistribution."
Let us remind ourselves of the ethics of Islamic research:
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