Friday, December 24, 2010

An Intellectual Discourse Session with Shaykh Dr. Afifi Al-Akiti

Muslim and Intellectual Challenges : Lesson From Islamic Tradition

Last night, in Shafie conference room IIUM, Syaikh Afifi al-Akiti came to give very special lecture on the topics of challenges facing by Muslim scholars in this modernity age.These challenges is very crucial, the duty to upbring the Islamic Tradition must be aware by every Muslim students.Without right worldview, any decisions we make will lead us to another disaster in Muslim civilization.Beleive it or not, you must understand the world first as whole, not only in very specific field that you were involved in.

Todays knowledge and academic subjects were full with secular philosophy programme that will take us more and more far away from the truth.Divide the sacred with the worldy life is not just very simple concept that you always heard from some people or some party.It's more complicated way that can influence you in your daily life without you realize it.Sometimes you yourself fight for it.It traps you in such way without accurate worldview!

What i want to share here is some of the substances that have been told by Syaikh Afifi last night.At the early session, Syaikh Afifi al-Akiti said about case of non- Muslim taught Islam in Oxford.Honestly he said, he feel very unfair for Muslim to be done like that because there are very clear unjustice compare to Jews and Christianic religion in Oxford.For Jews there are also from Jews who were taught the subject.Same goes to Christian.But when come to Islamic Studies,there are Non-Muslim who taught that subject in Oxford.

But Dr. Afifi said, we can't just only blame them for these scenario.These things happened because of our own weakness in Muslim society especially in intellectualism.We were left behind as a result of our own ignorance.We forgot our own tradition.We lack of knowledge about system of education that had been build by our late Muslim Scholars.The example Syaikh Afifi said, in Arabic country and most of Muslim country,their academic institutions were lack of 'tool knowledge' or in Malay we called it as 'ilmu alat'.We were denying the importance of 'ilmu alat' in order to compete with them.Lack of this 'ilmu alat' was a major factor of our failure to revive Islamic Civilization.This is the most major mistake done by our education system in most of Muslim countries.We left it behind and forgot it.We were very in deep of ignorance disaster.

Said Dr. Afifi, 'ilmu alat' is important in Islam as it also become one kind of conditon to become 'mujtahid'.To understand more about 'ilmu alat', please find correct people or 'tok guru'.Don’t just learn from who are not expert in this field.If not, our knowledge is not valid and were worried about leading to falsehood.

By conclusion of these 'ilmu alat' Syaikh Afifi said the case of Non-Muslim teach Islam in Oxford is not because of their discrimination at all.They are free society who are very strong to uphold free competition.Who can compete,he will get it without denying their abilities.The thing is we ourselves as Muslim lack of preparation to compete.It was not enough for us to only have good intention to change the world.But what we need to do is make ourselves prepare as whole and move as one society like the tradition build by our late Muslims' scholars.

Another thing that he had mention was about our failure as Muslim scholars (in this context students also included) to become 'mukallifin' or 'polymath'.'Polymath' or 'mukallifin' is the one who mastering all field of sciences or knowledge.We do not have people like our late Muslims' scholars such as Ibnu Sina,Ibnu Haitham and others.These phenomenon happened due to the education system that we have.Our modern education system including modern West education institution were taught students in the system of 'blinked specialization'.

This 'blinked specialization' made students to become only knew the subjects that in their very small particular field only.Engineering students does not know human sciences field.Medical students not knowing philosophy.More worse when these courses were divided more into very specific specialization such as chemistry engineering,communication engineering or aviation radar engineeering.What a small specialization were teach to students at the early stage without mention or apply the system that can make the students learn many field, many discipline and many courses for the sake of knowledge and not for the sake of JOB!In other words, MONEY!These situation is very crucial and made us left behind for years that we can’t calculate.To compete,we must get back into our own tradition system.

These blinked specialization scenario was also mention by Prof. Syed Muhammad Naquib al-Attas said Syaikh Afifi.Issue of blinked specialization said al-Attas made students cannot see the relation for every discipline in knowledge.They make it separated and look it as one not as whole.Syeikh Afifi said they do not know the 'nisbah' (what is happening as whole).Blinked specialization said Dr. Afifi is 'FITNAH' to knowledge like we can see today.

But he said, these thing are not true in Oxford or in other classic academic institutions in West.This is the barrier between modern education system and classical education system.In classical institutions, their students make cross the field or discipline.Such as an example, philosophy students after their graduate can become lawyer.Thats thing is common in there.

Another thing that Syeikh Afifi had mention is about the importance to know ' Mabadi 'Asyarah al-'Ilm ' or Ten Basic Principles or in Malay we called 'Asas 10'.Said Dr. Afifi, this 'Mabadi 'Asyarah' is not only apply in religion knowledge but also in other field and discipline of knowledge such as mathematic,physics,biology, economics and others.By applying it very well in all knowledge someone can become an expert in that particular field.Not only just knowing the surface.These 'Mabadi 'Asyarah' can make someone get off from the circle of blinked specialization.It become a method to master many sciences.At least after we apply first three principles we can know some knowledge enough for general.

After that, Syeikh Afifi also discuss about the problem of translation.The translation here means the abilty to make who don’t understand to understand.Make knowledge at the high level to be able understood by public for certain extend.This is the challenge facing by Muslim scholars nowaday.At the previous, they were failed to do this in order to make ummah move like one society and can understand the essential thing that become major succesful factor in our Golden Age.This failure is due to two factor.First is too specialization or blinked specialization and second is do not engage in public.To make public understand we need 'ilmu alat'.As an example of 'ilmu alat' is 'ilmu jaddal' (dialectic) which is very important and was teaching by ulama'.'Ilmu jaddal' teach how to argue the case.These knowledge was applied in classical universities but Muslim world lost it.Another example is like ‘ilmu mantiq’ (logic) and rethoric.

Up to this case, Syeikh Afifi told the story about Ibnu Sina who is very great Muslim scientist and had a lot of big ideas but lack of rethorical skill until his knowledge cannot be understood by public.Dr. Afifi told the audience the mazhab of science which Ibnu Sina belongs to is Aristotle.But his strength is he also can cross to anti-Aristotle or Gallolian mazhab which applied by Ibnu Haitham.By this ability to cross or not to trap in blinked specialization, Ibnu Sina can look knowledge as whole (worldview).He also was the first Muslim scientist come out with dalil aqli in all thing.

It was not complete to tell about Ibnu Sina without mention about Hujjatul Islam al- Imam al-Ghazali.Dr. Afifi said,he was one of the big 'fan' of Imam al-Ghazali.Al-Ghazali came to debate some issues in Ibnu Sina ideas.But Dr.Afifi said, al-Ghazali is not the one who make Muslim Ummah do not attach with science.It was totally wrong!Besides,he is the one who encourage Muslim to attach with science knowledge or other knowledge after religion.He is the one who lead to make learning other disciplines as 'fadhu kifayah' in Muslim community.The wrong image or perspective about Imam al-Ghazali and sciences knowledge must be abolish from our mind especially Muslim mind.The tradition that Al-Ghazali done can be one way to build again our Golden Age.

As a conclusion, these all are some of the importance substances during talk by Syeikh Afifi al-Akiti.In this writing i just wrote some of the points of his lecture.If you want to know him deeply, you can find the information by yourself.He is very special man.Just read his biodata and history will make you amaze at him.At the end he said, I do not have Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia(SPM).But now,he is the first Malay who were put in such position in Oxford University.His early education was taught by traditional ulama' in ‘pondok-pondok’ and ‘pesantren’.So who say we cannot be great by following our own tradition???Just think about it...