Secularism and the secular state have been subjected to severe criticisms by Muslims as well as by several scholars in the West. Many Western scholars argue that secularism not simply trivializes faith but is hostile to religious believers. It inhibits diversity and homogenizes the public domain. It has failed to accommodate community-specific rights and therefore is unable to protect religious minorities from discrimination and exclusion.
In the Muslim world, secularism was jolted with the establishment of the Islamic Republic of Iran. This was followed by the establishment of an Islamic state in Sudan. In 1991, the Salvation Front won the election in Algeria. Islamic movements emerged in Tunisia, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Chad, Senegal, Turkey, and in Afghanistan. The first Islamic republic was established in Pakistan in 1956.
Muslim scholars, for long, have expressed their concern about the negative aspects of secularism and have argued that Islamic cultural values offered more wholesome alternatives to modern society because they are grounded in a worldview which harmonises revelation and reason. The revivalists or reformers like al-Ghazali (d. 1111), Ibn Taymiyyah (d. 1328), and Ibn Khaldun (d. 1406) and those of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries such as Shah Wali Allāh al-Dihlawi (d. 1762), Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab (d. 1792), Uthman dan Fodio (d. 1817), and Ahmad Ibn Idris (d. 1837) are among the well-known reformers (Rahman, 1970; Voll, 1999). They differed in their approaches but their primary concern was with the socio-moral reform and reconstruction of Muslim societies based on the values promoted in the Qur’Én and Sunnah (Rahman, 1970, p. 640). Their regenerative activities are known as iṣlaḥ (reform), iḥyÉ’ (revival), tajdīd (renewal), ṣaḥwah (awakening) and the like.
These reformers upheld revelation as a source of guidance and the Islah-tajdid movements they led were based on the worldview of tawÍÊd, the unity and sovereignty of Allah (SWT). They followed tawhid for the proper growth and well-being of human beings as a vicegerent (khalÊfat AllÉh) and for the justly balanced community to be a witness to all people (al-Qur’Én, 2: 143). As servants of Allah (SWT), all human beings are to live in accordance with the revealed scheme of life. Rebellion against His will is surely the worst form of ingratitude.
Yet, many human beings forget or deny their roles as the vicegerents of Allah (SWT) on earth. They embark upon developing communities and societies according to their whims and caprices. To take part in such an endeavour constitutes a grave violation of man’s purpose of existence which incurs the displeasure or wrath (ghaÌab) of the Allah (SWT) the Creator, Cherisher and Sustainer of the universe. Under these circumstances, their search for a good society is bound to end in failure, self-destruction or collective misery. This has been pointed out in the Qur’Én (7: 94-100) as follows:
And never yet have We sent a Prophet unto any community without trying its people with misfortune and hardship, so that they might humble themselves;
Then We transformed the affliction into ease of life so that they throve and said [to themselves], “Misfortune and hardship befell our forefathers as well” – whereupon We took them to task, all of a sudden, without their being aware [of what was coming];
Yet if the people of those communities had but attained to faith and been conscious of Us, We would indeed have opened up for them blessings out of heaven and earth: but they gave the lie to the truth – and so We took them to task through what they [themselves] had been doing.
Can, then, the people of any community ever feel secure that Our punishment will not come upon them by night, while they are asleep?
Why, can the people of any community ever feel secure that Our punishment will not come upon them in broad daylight, while they are engaged in [worldly] play?
Can they, then, ever feel secure from God’s deep devising? But none feels secure from God’s deep devising save people who are [already] lost
Has it, then, not become obvious unto those who have inherited the earth in the wake of former generations that, if We so willed, We could smite them [too] by means of their sins, sealing their hearts so that they cannot hear [the truth]?
As for the true believers, they will always seek the guidance of Allah (SWT) in constructing a holistic civilization for the humanity as a whole. True believers are mindful of the pleasure and displeasure of Allah (SWT). They are committed to moral excellence, justice and the pursuit of goodness in this world and goodness in the Hereafter. To the true believers, the proper way to attain al-falÉÍ is to follow the holistic model of human development which fulfils all the material and non-material needs of human beings, families, communities, and the eco-system.
This is the message which is conveyed by the articles included in this issue of the International Journal of Islamic Thoughts.The first article by Md. Mahmudul Hasan deals with misogynistic tendencies found in the writings of many European philosophers and writers. He points out that philosophers and writers with the misogynistic tendency, such as Rousseau, Gregory, Fordyce, Milton, Pope, Swift, Byron, Southey, Nietzsche and others, are highly regarded in the Western cultural tradition which smacks of academic bias and speciousness. Instead of addressing the misogynistic tradition in Western culture, many commentators single out Islam for criticisms and attacks on the question of women’s status, and that without adequate knowledge and understanding of Islam. On the question of gender egalitarianism, Islam’s stand is far more superior to the philosophies propounded by the likes of the Western writers.
In the second article, Tahir El-Mesawi takes the discussion one step further. He analyses the global discourses on women and male-female relationships. He points out the lack of a much-needed fundamental ontological and ethical framework expressed by the doctrine of maqÉÎid al-sharÊ’ah. This doctrine provides a frame of reference transcending the self-centred individual that is being celebrated in feminist and gendered discourses. Tahir El-Mesawi underscores the need to rescue human nature from the onslaught of feminist discourses and suggests an Islamic ethico-legal and socio-political thinking inspired by the doctrine of maqÉÎid to face up to the different challenges and multiple dangers threatening in varying degrees all societies in the world. He emphasizes the need to recover the sense of womanhood and manhood as stemming from a common humanity governed by universal norms consonant with a God-fashioned human nature that transcends biological and mental differences without obliterating them.
Mohd Abbas Abdul Razak & Sayed Sikandar Shah Haneef argue that since the Renaissance, Western scholars have shifted their research on the man from a religious to a scientific one because spirituality cannot be scrutinized using science and scientific tools. By laying too much emphasis on the physical and social dimensions of man, Western scholars have overlooked the important role played by man’s spiritual dimension. By subscribing to Darwinism, Western scholars have reduced man to no more than an intellectual beast. Yet they are unable to find a solution to many of man’s psychological problems. Consequently, Muslim scholars and psychologists greatly emphasize the spiritual dimension of man. To them, the understanding of man will be incomplete without understanding the entity and nature of the human soul. Many Muslim scholars call to restore the spiritual dimension of man as a way to solve many issues related to man’s psychological problems, mainly in the area of mental health. Muslim scholars did not reject the Western ideas in toto. They adopted and adapted ideas taken from others with the proviso that such a scientific and innovative approach should be in harmony with their metaphysical framework (‘aqÊdah) and the value system.
The fourth article by Raudah Mohd Yunus highlights the relevance of Islamic teachings and principles in public health. She debunks the erroneous notion of Islam being an impediment to science and human progress. She argues that the Islamic approach to population health is balanced, scientifically sound and compatible with the foundations of public health. According to Islam, humans are at the centre of creation and carry the responsibility to establish order on earth and protect the welfare and interest of Allah’s creation. Humans are to uphold justice, promote virtue, prevent vices of all kinds, acquire knowledge and safeguard the larger contexts or environment in which health and health systems can easily flourish. The relevance of Islam to the foundations of public health and contemporary public health discourse necessitates a comprehensive understanding of the all-embracing idea and message of Islam.
The last article by Nor Jannah presents a brief survey on the integration efforts carried out by few contemporary key Muslim figures whose efforts have not been well-appreciated. She begins with a brief recapitulation of Imam al-Ghazali’s efforts at integration of revelation and reason as precedence. Based on information gained from the existing literature, Nor Jannah briefly recapitulates the integration efforts of such scholars as AbdulHamid AbuSulayman, Hamidullah, HAMKA, Mohd Kamal Hassan and four more.
Rahman, F. (1970). “Revival and Reform in Islam.” In P. M. Holt, Ann K. S. Lambton, & Bernard Lewis (Eds.). The Cambridge History of Islam (vol. 2: 632-656), London: Cambridge University Press.
Voll, J. O. (1999). “Foundations for Renewal and Reform: Islamic Movements in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries.” In John L. Esposito (Ed.), The Oxford History of Islam (509-547), Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Solihu, A. K. H. (2003). “Understanding the Qurʾan in the Light of Historical Change”, (Occasional Paper No. 54), Islamabad: Islamic Research Institute.