This work aims at constructing a theory of intellectual reform that accounts for cultural and structural factors, and the way they interact. Taking a dynamic approach, this paper focuses on the processes of reform and how each process has bearing on and is contingent upon other processes.
Key factors of intellectual reform are identified, which include sophistication of vision, intellectual vitality, perspective elaboration, diffusion into educational institutions, and literal versatility. In addition, they include institutional autonomy, organizational capacity, and financial resources. The paper identifies the internal dynamics within each of these factors, then shows how these dynamics interact with each other. The paper concludes with an application of the model to the Islamization of Knowledge effort, pointing to critical factors and bottlenecks that affected its course of development.
This paper develops a classificatory scheme of knowledge output: the philosophy level, the theory level, the model level, and the application level. I will use this scheme to illuminate on four, seemingly unrelated, issues: 1) While development is frequently seen as a mechanical process of low level structuration or culturation, this paper argues that it involves philosophical dimensions too. 2) Development involves drawing on the products of “advanced” nations. Using the suggested scheme shows that this is possible only at the lower levels of knowledge. 3) Sustained development requires first a theoretical base built along the lines of the Islamization of Knowledge logic. And 4) The concept of the Islamization of Knowledge is misinterpreted by casual readers as an out-right rejection of modern “scientific” output. This paper argues that the Islamization of Knowledge is a digestive process that calls for the interaction of world cultures guided by a specific philosophical prism.
If the title of this paper sounds confusing, then it is my duty to show that “development” is not a mundane practice that has no relation to philosophy, and that what is known as the Islamization of Knowledge is not an “armed-chair” discourse that has no bearing to reality.* And Since my duty is to solve a puzzle, some degree of simplification is inevitable. I apologize for the highly learned reader for treating an abstract subject at the level of concrete examples.
* I am using the term Islamization of Knowledge because of its popular use, although I think that it is confusing, inaccurate, and misleading.
Perceptions and ideas guide human action. Yet, action molds what is in the head too. The so-called Islamic revival talks about an “Islamic Thought” that steers its direction and forms its strategies. It is a distinguishable form of literature that mixes social criticism, moral admonition, and philosophical dictums, molded in an interpretation of Islamic textual sources (Hadith and Quran). The participants in this discourse are divergent, and so are its levels of sophistication. The purpose of this paper is twofold: First, to analyze the general tendencies of such a discourse, and second, to specify the mechanisms through which activism ideologizes the discourse and stands in the way of its maturity.
The terrain of this Islamic Thought can be mapped out by recognizing two dimensions: the approach of understanding sharia’ and activism type. As for sharia’ approaches, two modes of thinking occupy the Islamists: a mathhab-following mode, and a salafi mode. On the other hand, three forms of activism divide the field: (1) a movement with global claims and aspirations; (2) a movement with local aims and aspirations; and (3) an individualistic type of activism. These three forms intersect with the two modes of sharia’ thinking to produce an ecology of praxis.
Finally, the paper argues that such activist ideology plays a significant role in forming a habitat of thinking regarding Islamic issues. Therefore, the Islamic intellectual discourse finds itself obliged to answer the mandates put forth by activist ideologies. Lacking autonomy, the Islamic intellectual discourse became caught between the research-center and the think-tank orientations, failing to produce an elaborate from of knowledge that can adequately measure-up to modern intellectual challenges.