Displaying items by tag: Civilizational Islam
As the dawn of Ramadan settled its dust, Muslims should introspect whether they have attained the upmost objective of fasting as stressed in the Holy Quran, which is piety or taqwa. Also important is to question how piety could influence or cater for our social affairs.
A cursory survey of the concept throughout the Quran evinces that piety is significant in managing societies and resolving their ailments. Such social dimension of piety is apparent in a Quranic verse: "Had the people of those societies been faithful and mindful of Allah" (al-A'raf 7:96).
Piety promotes purposefulness. It is suggested that every action, be it individual or collective, needs to serve the divine purpose of obeying God's commands and abstaining from sinful acts. Fasting, for instance, aims to inculcate piety in the hearts of the believers.
Throughout the Quran, piety positively correlates with other core Islamic concepts such as faith, truthfulness and fear of God's disgrace. They are connected in a cumulative way in the sense that the increase of piety in an individual would uplift those qualities as well. On the other hand, lack of piety corresponds accordingly with sinful acts, transgression and practising usury.
Adopting the concept of interrelatedness as an aspect of piety, a person needs to be aware that their commissions and omissions would not only have positive and negative impacts on others, but more importantly, on their own individuality and spirituality.
There are multiple dimensions of piety highlighted in the Quran and the Prophetic traditions, including social relation and conciliation, daily conversation, as well as economic transaction. Such a multidimensional aspect of piety requires Muslims to maintain a correct equilibrium in behavioural values in their lives.
This would mean keeping the seemingly contradictory forces in life in a harmonious state, between spiritual enhancement and material fulfilment, moral sanctity and scientific advancement, as well as economic growth and environmental preservation.
As the Quran stresses, human beings are created as the best of forms (ahsani taqwim) as they are able to maintain such kind of balance (qawwam) in their lives. There are several positives for those committed to a pious life.
Among others are easiness of life affairs, being bestowed with beneficial knowledges and showered with blessings from heaven and earth. A pious person and society, in other words, unfailingly pay heed to the consequences of their actions.
Fulfilling purposefulness, interrelatedness, multi-dimensionality and emphasising consequences would suffice to categorise piety as a systemic concept. Therefore, the systemic characteristic of piety is vital to extend its function from an individual quality to an approach of catering to social affairs.
In the backdrop of pandemic and climate crisis, two major threats to human survival on the planet, realising not only individual, but also social piety through the systemic framework is indispensable.
Choosing sustainable and green lifestyles of properly sorting household wastes to be recycled, for instance, and following strict standard operating procedures during a pandemic would necessitate high individual and collective commitment.
To pursue such a commitment, society members individually and collectively should be mindful of the purpose of their actions in facing climatic and pandemic crises, to preserve life and livelihood, but more importantly, to fulfil God's guidance and command.
As balance is one of the aspects of piety, particularly in facing the multi-dimensionality of climate and pandemic catastrophes, it is thus crucial for individuals and the government to always put trust and priority in a win-win approach.
In sum, to ensure the effective control and sustainability of pandemic and climate crises combating measures and systemic social piety should be seriously considered as the backbone of new pandemic norms, sustainable practices, and relevant policies.
Without a spiritual bend and the right framework, the rules and regulations are just waiting to be breached.
The writer is a Research Fellow at the International Institute of Advanced Islamic Studies (IAIS) Malaysia.
Published in: The New Straits Times, Friday 21 May 2021
Malaysia is regarded by many as a quintessential state in which "prosperity thrives in diversity". Evidently, being one of the most ethnically and religiously diverse societies in the world does not stop Malaysia from being an essential regional economic player, and one of the most peaceful countries on earth.
In a famous quote, former prime minister Tun Abdullah Badawi proclaimed that "we do not want a situation in Malaysia where we have first-class facilities or infrastructure, but a third-class mentality".
Undoubtedly, the economic and infrastructural feats that Malaysia has achieved since the early 1990s would amount to nothing without an equally capable human capital to steer them. This central idea is reflected in Tun Abdullah's eight thrusts of human capital development policies:
a) To implement added improvement in the delivery system of education and training in order to remain qualitative and relevant with the need of time;
b) To strengthen the National School as the first choice school for the various races in Malaysia in order to promote national unity;
c) To narrow the gap in performance between schools in the urban and rural areas, that would include the upgrading of teaching quality infrastructure, facilities and the posting of experienced teachers to rural schools;
d) To develop higher learning institutions with an international level status, and to ensure that education and training at the tertiary level meet market needs;
e) To make available more opportunities and access to education and training and lifelong quality education at all levels;
f) Develop an innovative and creative society which has strong knowledge and ability in science and technology and the capability to acquire and utilise knowledge;
g) To strengthen national unity and develop a society with a progressive perspective, high-performance culture, noble value system and appreciation of tradition and heritage; and
h) To extend and orderly arrange forums, discussions and consultations between the government, private sector, parents and society in the development of human capital
In general, Malaysia has experimented with several nation-wide campaigns related to human capital-building. Among these are the Wawasan 2020 (1991-2020) campaign launched by Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad which envisioned Malaysia as a self-sufficient industrialised nation by the year 2020, empowered by a balanced, modern, and competent society, but deeply rooted in local values; and the Islam Hadhari (2004) campaign spearheaded by Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi in 10 points, emphasising the role of Islamic thought in deriving theories of good governance and integrity across all levels of society.
The then Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak, himself had introduced two programmes under his belt. First, was the 1Malaysia (2010-2018) programme that promoted working together beyond identity markers towards a shared vision of harmony, unity, and government efficiency. The second project was the TN50 (Transformasi Nasional 2050) initiative, which picked up from Wawasan 2020's deadline, and looked 30 years further with a special aim to sharpen Malaysia's global competitive edge in the spheres of economic development, citizen well-being and innovation.
More recently, the short-lived PH government (2018-2020) had introduced a policy campaign centred around socio-economic equality called the Wawasan Kemakmuran Bersama 2030 (Shared Prosperity Vision) in 2019. As the PN government took over in Feb 2020, this campaign was carried forward and its policies kept intact, citing the larger benefit for all Malaysians, especially in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic crisis.
Collectively, these campaigns have directly or indirectly captured the various essential elements that define the Malaysian reality. These include, as many researchers have shown, a strong sense of socio-cultural identity, the indispensable role of religion, and the natural proclivity towards economic prosperity. Any model of human capital development that fails to appeal to these local dimensions or neglect them would risk a model that is incompatible, or worse, destructive to Malaysians.
This was aptly pointed out by Prof Rahman Embong, Malaysian sociologist, in his inaugural speech (July 20, 2017) as the principal fellow of the Malaysian Institute of Integrity (INTEGRITI). He emphasised the pressing need for any national model of integrity to be locally-tailored, organic and home-grown based on Malaysian ideals and realities. Merely transplanting foreign models that may have different values and moral references may unlikely be as effective as it was in their original socio-cultural terrains.
Prof Rahman reviewed several comparative models. The Greek temple model by Jeremy Pope, for instance, visualises the western ideals of integrity by having pillars representing societal institutions, which in turn support the roof represented by "the rule of law", sustainable development and quality of life. This model, however, does not offer much flexibility and turned a blind eye to the role of religion and its values – clearly grounded in western renaissance experience and history of organised religious institutions.
Another example is the Bird's Nest model which is built upon 'materials' or 'twigs' gathered from its near surroundings. The Bird's Nest model provides an illustrative metaphor on the importance of local resources as well as the need to organise institutions in an integrative manner. This updated model proposed by Charles Sampford provides flexibility and adaptability for societies to build their own model of human capital.
Prof Rahman eventually, came out with his own model for Malaysia, named as the sea turtle model. The sea turtle is an excellent metaphor due to several reasons: sea turtles are native to the Nusantara of which Malaysia is a part; they have a strong sense of direction throughout their inter-continental journeys; they are often associated with virtues such as perseverance, modesty, and longevity; and their struggle against the increasing threat of human avarice and destructive practices perfectly sums up the goals of integrity.
In this model, the shell represents the core values that need protection: the civil society, the family institution, and the community. The executive powers are the head; politics and economy are the front driving flaps, and religion and socio-culture are the guiding rear flaps.
In short, while models of human capital are bound to evolve and improve, what should remain as a constant principle is the recognition of local values and realities. This will ensure not only the feasibility of the model but also its effectiveness.
Dr Mohamed Azam Mohamed Adil is Deputy CEO, International Institute of Advanced Islamic Studies (IAIS) Malaysia;
Ahmad Badri Abdullah is Research Fellow at International Institute for Advanced Islamic Studies (IAIS) Malaysia
Wan Naim Wan Mansor is an Analyst at IAIS Malaysia
This article is dedicated to Tun Abdullah Badawi, the 5th Prime Minister of Malaysia, in conjunction with his 81st birthday on Nov 26, and updated from a version published in 2017
Published in: New Straits Times on Tuesday, 01 December 2020
FOR about a thousand years, roughly from the 7th century onwards, the people under Islamic rule made striking advances in their material and intellectual culture. The contribution of those advances to modern Western philosophy, sciences and technology has been extensively studied. But I want to speak about their distinctively Islamic qualities. The area under Islamic influence stretched overland from the Atlantic in the west to the borders of China, and across the Indian Ocean to the islands of the Malay archipelago. This vast area was commercially interconnected with much continuous and profitable exchange of goods. It was also culturally interconnected, with prodigious traffic in books and ideas, scholars and travellers......................Download the full article in pdf attachment (below)
Amid the current turmoil in the Middle East and the ongoing negative image of Muslims in the West, it is reassuring, on a recent visit to New York City, I was able to visit the facinating exhibition "1,001 Inventions: Muslim Heritage in our World"............. Download the full article in pdf attachment (below)
The world needs a new Islamic leadership that is enlightened and is capable of addressing the peace and development needs of the ASEAN. This leadership that is pro-peace and prodevelopment must be well-versed with the inner resources of Islam, as derived from the Qur’an and from Islam’s rich history of leadership.......... Download the full article in pdf attachment (below)
Modern man learns the wisdom of ecological equilibrium and environmental health the bitter way. It is also the expensive way. Not until he has seen with his own eyes the bitter fruits of his scientific and technological culture and of his extravagant life style does he come to realize how important ecological equilibrium and environmental health are to the survival of humankind on earth. The names of these bitter fruits are environmental pollution and ecological disasters. The modern industrialized West became the first sector of humanity in history to taste these bitter fruits, just as it was the first to have planted the “forbidden tree of secular knowledge” that had borne these fruits. It was most unfortunate for humanity that the rest of the world, including Muslim societies, had uncritically followed the footsteps of the West in planting and cultivating the same tree and reaping its fruits......... Download the full article in pdf attachment (below) size 4.0MB