Note: As Chair in Islamic Studies & Research, Yenepoya University, Mangalore, India I am endeavouring to get the Applied Islamics/Applied Studies of Islam recognized at the international level as a full-fledged, comprehensive discipline covering the application of Islamic principles in all the fields of human existence including health, law, natural and social sciences and philosophies. We are also planning to start a Postgraduate Diploma in Applied Islamics soon, Insha Allah. In my individual capacity, I have been working in this field for about two decades with most of my 17 books and several hundred articles directly or indirectly analysing the modern developments in different fields including Physics, Economics, Social Sciences, Philosophy, Health and Law.
Here is a brief introduction of what Applied Islamics is all about.
Allah says in the Quran:
“He Who created
The Seven Heavens
One above another:
No want of proportion
Wilt thou see
In the Creation
Of The Most Gracious
So Turn Thy Vision again:
Seest thou any flaw?
Again turn thy vision
A second time: (thy) vision
Will come back to thee
Dull and discomfited,
In a state worn out.” (67:3-4)
These beautiful verses invite the man to have a look at the cosmos, its beauty, its harmony and the unfailing nature of its system. The universe is huge with more than 1012 galaxies and 1024 stars in it. The size of the universe is so big that there are areas from which the light travelling at the speed of about 300,000 kilometres per second has not yet reached the earth. This is despite the fact that the universe is assumed to have come into existence more than 15 billion years ago. In spite of the massive size of the universe and innumerable bodies that form it, the universe has an unfailing harmony. Satellites revolve around planets, planets around stars; numerous stars form numerous galaxies, numerous galaxies form numerous clusters, clusters form superclusters, which form one or few mega-galaxies. All the systems act with impeccable precision; all follow the same sets of laws, wherever they are. Peace and harmony are there in the universe because everywhere the same system is being strictly adhered to. If the laws decreed by the Creator at the time of the creation of the universe had not been followed in totality it would have been dead by now. But it exists because it follows the laws of God. If inhabitants of the earth had followed the same set of laws everywhere and in all spheres of life and had stuck to the restrictions instructed to them by the messengers of God, the earth too would have become a garden of unparalleled beauty. It would then have become an abode of peace, which would have been available to all. But the inhabitants of this planet chose to follow different sets of laws, which were decreed by the powerful among them for the sake of the perpetuation of their own supremacy over the rest. The result is that this tiny part of the gigantic universe has become the abyss of anarchy where the devil rules. In short, Islam, the System of submission to the laws of God, is well established in the universe, but man could not establish Islam on the earth. The day mankind decides to follow the system of laws enjoined by their Creator, the Devil will be on the run and peace and harmony will immediately begin to return.
The result of ignoring the Divine Guidance has led to the development of a strange kind of world, which appears to be a paradise from outside, but as one enters it, one finds nothing but hell. We are living in a world where, thanks to the designs of merchants, immorality reigns. Where it is easier to be bad than good. Where wearing a scarf is banned and baring the body is promoted. Where being a wife or husband is outdated and being a bed partner is smartness. Where piety is ridiculed and impudence glorified. Where prosperity is considered to be the synonym of peace, education that of knowledge and entertainment that of happiness. Where condoms are presented as wonderful little bags possessing everything required for a wholesome life. We are living in a world where children are aborted in the name of women’s rights. Where murderers and rapists are protected in the name of ‘right to life’. Where criminals are given all amenities of life in the name of human rights. Where sexual perverts receive all kinds of sympathy and attention. Where those talking of righteousness in life are condemned as “bloody moralists”. Where the media do everything to change the choices of the people, but if some reformer tries to warn them against evils, he is dubbed as a retrogressive who has no business to teach lessons of good behaviour to the people. Alcohol, smoking, gambling and unrestrained-sex are considered to be the biggest symbols of liberty, brothels, beaches, bars and casinos the citadels of “freedom”. One-third of the total population of the world smokes, millions of people take drugs, millions drink and gamble and a sizeable percentage indulges in all forms of unhealthy sexual behaviour, including promiscuity, homosexuality, purchased sex, etc. In short, we are inhabitants of a world where the biggest virtue is to openly indulge in the biggest sin; and the biggest sin is to try to exhibit virtuousness.
The globe of New World Order is therefore rapidly developing into nothing but a fireball of chaos. It is hardly surprising then that;
·More than 1 million people are murdered every year. (More than 240 million people lost lives in wars in the last century)
·More than 2 million people commit suicides
·More than 5 million people die of sex related diseases (more than 20 million have died of AIDS in recent years). More than 100 million suffer from sex transmitted diseases (42 million from HIV/AIDS)
·Tens of millions of women are in prostitution and other sex related businesses (more than one million Americans alone have served as prostitutes)
·More than 2.2 million dies of alcohol related problems. More than a hundred million suffer from alcohol related illnesses
·More than 5 million dies of smoking related problems. More than 2000 million smoke
·More than 70 million children are not allowed to take birth and are aborted.
·More than 1.2 million of children are exploited annually in prostitution and other sex trades
·More than 800 million watch pornography
·Millions of homes are broken every year
·Millions of women are raped every year; in many Western countries one tenth to half of all women have been raped (The total number of women who have been raped at least once is in hundreds of millions)
·Sexual abuse of children is on the rise all over the world; in many Western countries up to one-third of all people have been sexually abused in their childhood
·Drug addiction is also persistent; tens of millions of people are addicted to harmful drugs
·Civil wars, wars and riots for various reasons are also not showing any remarkable decline, consuming thousands of lives every year
·Economic disparity between different countries and people of the world and among the people of the same countries is continuously growing; poverty may be on the decline but relative poverty is showing a steep rise.
This all is happening because it is the world ruled neither by religion nor by science but by the ruthless economic fundamentalism. I have no hesitation to say that the policies of the governments are decided in the industrial houses; Parliaments and Assemblies only pass them.
The fight today is not between different religions. The real fight is between religion and irreligion, between the forces that promote Commercial Morality and those who promote Religious and Scientific Morality. Religious and scientific moralities are not different. Sciences like religion do also tell us, in fact, prove, how bad alcohol, smoking, gambling, prostitution, promiscuity and pornography are. Four great religions, Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity and Islam have to come together in waging the war against economic fundamentalism. With India’s rich heritage, Ours is the right country to start that war. Let Hindus and Muslims initiate this Jihad/Crusade/Dharamyudh and then invite all other religions to support the noble cause.
Islam does not merely promote Peace; Islam is peace itself. One who has entered Islam wholeheartedly has entered peace in its entirety. One who has accepted any part of its moral, social and legal principles is on the way to enjoy at least some of the fruits of peace. One who has left some parts of it has lost at least some dimensions of peace. Finally, one, who has disproved everything that Islam preaches, has put oneself away from the path of peace and on the course of chaos.
However, n addition to the institutionalised Islam, we will also have to deinstitutionalize Islam if we have to make it play a role at the world level. The institution of Islam, Theology being its pivot, is very much alive with hundreds of thousands of mosques, millions of people always offering Salaat and millions involved in Dawah works. However, the System (Deen) of Islam is hardly visible, with everything that Islam prohibits being glorified and commercialised with impunity. If the world has to be saved, the System of Islam with its world view has to be propagated. This has to be accomplished without alienating other religions, which have to be taken along in the process.
We have to learn not only the traditional Islamic sciences like Tafseer, Hadith and Fiqh but also the application of Quranic guidelines in every field. Allah states: “We have put everything in the Imam Mubeen” (Surah Yasin), Another verse says:
“This day have I perfected your religion for you, completed My favour upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion. (5: 3/A)
We can easily apply the Qur’anic principles to not only fields like sociology, economics and politics but also to purely scientific fields like health and Physics. Unfortunately, most of the current Islamic scholars have been busy in endorsing the modern scientific fields and are trying to adjust Qur’anic verses to their demands. This is an apologetic and defeatist approach. I find scholars endorsing Big Bang cosmology, Einstein’s theories and Hubble’s expanding universe without even realizing their finer implications
The problem with the Islamists of different sorts has been that they are not pursuing the comprehensive agenda of Islam the system. They are either busy in promoting the individualistic agenda of Islam aimed at improving the individuals or the political agenda of Islam aimed at bringing certain groups of Muslims to power. The global agenda of Islam, particularly the social, economic, peace and developmental agenda are largely ignored. There is no coordination among the Muslim countries to pursue Islamic economic and social system.
Islam is for all times to come. Islam’s ultimate aim is to achieve peace. When the Qur’an calls, “Enter Islam wholeheartedly”, it does not merely invite its adherents to follow the institutionalised system of Islam; it also beckons to them that the real, comprehensive and long lasting peace can be achieved only through total acceptance of the System of God. In Islam, peace is not just a state of absence of war or chaos in society; it has the broadest and the most comprehensive meaning, in terms of extent, depth and longevity. Thus peace has to be not just personal, not just family and not just social; it has to be at all the three levels and in the widest discernible sense. At the individual level, it does not merely mean peace of mind; it encompasses physical, mental, spiritual and social health. At the family level, it comprises a peaceful relationship between the husband and wife, between the parents and children, and between children themselves. At the social level, it does not only indicate the absence of war or chaos, it also means the absence of all forms of crimes and social tensions and prevalence of mutual brotherhood and justice. Peace is also not something bound by time or space; it is as much for this world as for the Hereafter; peace is eternal.
The educational, social, political and economic development of mankind must have ideally been under the premises of the Divine system. The aim of development must have been none other than the aim of Islam: attainment of peace at all levels. Unfortunately, the development of the modern world and modern sciences has taken place without taking into consideration the Qur’anic guidelines.
The concourse of scientific development and economic fundamentalism, after travelling some distance together, positioned the latter in the driver’s seat. The scientists were naive and guileless doves. They could not decipher their enormous potential as the ultimate guides for society. They could not muster courage, conviction, desire and wit required to thwart the onslaught of the economic fundamentalists who were full of intrigues, and used their money power to take control of almost all the departments of social existence. While the scientists toiled day and night at the expense of their comfort without receiving much in return, except mention of their names in books, their inventions and discoveries were hijacked by the merchants for their own zooming. If they had done so without disturbing the delicate environmental and social poise, it could not have been as devastating as it ultimately turned out to be. What the earth had to witness and the bear was the most blatant misuse of scientific and technical information for the sake of money. Thus the amazing source of energy, the nuclear, was misused for manufacturing nuclear bombs capable of decimating the whole of mankind. Atomic bombs were hurled on the innocent citizens of two Japanese cities, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, murdering thousands of thousands of men, women and children, and crippling forever as many. Other highly destructive weapons — combat aircraft, missiles, chemical bombs, etc. came into the hands of man. The aim behind their development was to impose the uncanny will of certain powers on the rest of the world so that they may be forced to acquiesce or cringe to their economic plans. The business houses started using the advanced equipment to boost their sales. Cameras are now used to take pictures of persons in the nude, and the electronic equipment is used to dispatch vulgarity and shamelessness in the houses of the common people. The technology is misused to loot and plunder in the name of fashion. People are made addicts of insalubrious or highly damaging items. They are made to drink what is unworthy of drinking and eat what is unworthy of eating. The precious time of men, women and children is killed with indecent, hazardous programmes.
Consequent on the blind race for money, what has suffered most, is health — physical, mental, spiritual and social. While medical scientists have been perpetually engrossed in efforts to find out the etiologies and remedies of various health problems, the magnates have been relentlessly engaged in popularizing whatever suits their interests, irrespective of their impact on human health. And the tragedy is that medical scientists too have lately become mere tools in their hands. They sometimes resist. But, subdued as they are in disposition, their viewpoint is published only in medical journals. If at all it becomes public, the merchants find alternative ways to submerge it into oblivion. The medical world is not dynamic enough to aggressively obtrude its concerns. The problem has further been compounded by the privatisation of medical institutions and research laboratories. The industries are now buying medical specialists for their own ends. They have the money power to lure experts who too seem to have found a heavenly haven in the garden of materialism.
The callousness of medical experts and the passive nature of the medical education have strengthened the resolve of the economic fundamentalists to market everything the demand for which already exists or can be made to exist through stage-managed propaganda. They are least bothered about the adverse effects of their actions on the individual, family and social health. The doctor has proved unequal to the dire challenges of the bazaar. The bazaar has continued to grow. The health has continued to suffer. Thus first tea and coffee hit the shops, and such was the “quality” of the campaign to popularize them that they rapidly assumed the status of household beverages. The tobacco and cigarettes of various tastes seized the market. They have become symbols of a high standard with increasingly large numbers of people becoming addicted to smoking. To multiply their demands women who were previously disinclined to smoking were also encouraged. Equal as they are if men can smoke why can’t women? Doctors have declared in unequivocal terms that smoking is not just harmful but is extremely hazardous to health. They have established that cigarettes can cause lung cancer that still remains almost incurable, bronchitis that leads to asthma causing severe distress in breathing, and are a highly significant factor in the development of coronary heart diseases. Each one of these diseases is either fatal or severely crippling. Similarly, tobacco has been associated with mouth cancer, which is incurable, except when it is detected very early and Buerger’s disease, a disease of the veins of legs that may lead to the gangrene of foot. Alcohon is, of course, one of the greatest contributors to the Global Burden of Diseases. The same is true for unrestrained and commercial sex. But all these caveats have failed in discouraging dangerously harmful practices to any remarkable degree.
At the highest level, the expertise of the professors and scientists are misused to assist the government and the industrialists in making policies that more often than not are complimentary to one another. And medical sciences can arguably be described as one of the major contributors to the emergence of “Sexual Revolution”. Medicine is for Sexual Revolution what Physics is for technological development. Thus when the liberalisation of sex posed problems by way of unwanted pregnancies, the medical experts came to the rescue of concupiscent men and women providing them with a number of effective contraceptive methods including abortion. Similarly, when the growth of population was sought to control, the newer and more advanced contraceptive techniques were put into practice. Surgery was not only commissioned for abortions but also for tubectomies and vasectomies. The economic fundamentalists had enough cogency to entice the saviours into believing that the abortion did in no way tantamount to killing; and for the sake of the reproductive rights of women and the benefit of mankind, it had become unavoidable. Not many doctors advanced the argument that once a human being came into existence, none – not the parents even, on whom it depended for several years- had the right to deny it the right to be born and grow. And the duty of doctor is to save and not to kill anybody; if killing an infant is ghastly, killing a foetus is ghastlier.
Similarly, the development of social sciences including political sciences and economics has been largely under the impact of economic fundamentalism. Each one of them has become a tool for the commercialisation not only of human needs and strengths but also of human weaknesses and temptations. The result is the rise of economic disparity between the people, glorification and commercialization of all evils leading to widespread diseases, chaos and peacelessness at every level, and concentration of political power in only a few hands.
Had Islam been the guiding factor in the development of all these sciences and advancements in various fields, mankind would have not just attained prosperity but also peace at every level. What has happened however has happened. We cannot resuscitate the past. But we can certainly work for a better future. It is, therefore, necessary to critically analyse all the developments, campaigns, programmes and movements in all fields in the light of Islamic principles. Islam clearly lays down the principle that all developments must take place to ensure health, family peace and social order. Islam also clearly lays down guiding principles in different fields. After critically analysing these developments and programmes, endeavours should be made to develop alternative paradigms consistent with Islamic teachings.
What is to be stressed here is that it is the new sciences and new developments that are to be studied in the light of Islam and revised accordingly rather than studying and revising Islam in the light of the modern developments. Unfortunately, most Islamic scholars who have been working in these fields have been sticking to the latter approach. I want to reverse this approach. It is not that the modern principles are to be introduced to Islamic scholars but Islamic principles are to be introduced to the modern scientists. To do this work however requires thorough understanding of modern sciences as well as of Islamic sources. Applied Islamics may have numerable branches. But the most important are: Islamic Sociology, Islamic economics or Peace Economics, Islamic Law, Islamic Health Sciences, Islamic Physics, Spiritual sciences, History from Islamic perspective, Politics in Islamic perspective, Culture in Islamic perspective, International relations in Islamic perspective, Literature in Islamic perspective. Therapeutic Sociology, Criminology, etc. Even researches in advanced fields like Biosciences, Genetics, Neurosciences, etc can be planned. There is need to establish an International Institute/Centre or University for the Applied Islamics. (Hopefully, Yenepoya University will take a lead in this direction.)
What is to be kept in mind however is that Applied Studies of Islam must work for the benefit of the whole mankind and not just for Muslims. Its aim must be to promote universal peace. It must not be defensive in approach but must aggressively pursue programmes and policies in different fields all over the world, and must collect data, analyze them and declare results. The results must be duly publicized. The politicians, social activists and media must be made to attend to the reports. If Applied Studies of Islam can develop into a really formidable subject, it can certainly contribute hugely to the attainment of universal peace under Divine Guidance.
Introduce Applied Islamics in Madrasas
There has been a lot of talk in recent years about the modernisation of Madrasa system. The friends, as well as foes of Islam, have developed a notion that Madrasas are not doing what they must do. The champions of modernism and the forces hostile to Islam want radical changes in the Madrasa system so that, in their minds, they do not pose threats to their interests. The intellectual Muslims cry for change because they think that the Madrasas have become irrelevant in the modern world. They feel that the introduction of English, Computer Education and job-oriented courses would help them become more suited to fulfil the needs of the community. Islamic scholars, on the other hand, want Madrasas to play a more proactive role in disseminating the knowledge of Islam and to counter the growth of un-Islamic systems in the world.
It will be a travesty of justice to say that Madrasa has become totally irrelevant. The truth, on the other hand, is that they have successfully carried the original texts of Quran, Sunnah and Fiqh to successive generations. This in itself is no small achievement. They have also been successful in keeping the moral values under Islamic injunctions of Haram and Halal alive and well in the minds of Muslims. Further, it is through these Madrasas that Muslims learn the Quran, their day to day duties, the desirable and undesirable nature of their actions; and it is through them that they inculcate spiritual values in their lives, which helps them in maintaining certain equilibrium in their individual and collective lives. Even the scholars who later chose to challenge the traditional scholars owe much of their knowledge and enthusiasm to their initial contacts with the products of these madrasas.
It will, however, be unwise to claim that Madrasas are achieving what they should, and they need not improve their functioning. If Madrasas are not producing the desired results, the main reason is that the Madrasa people, owing to internal as well as external factors, are not studying the developments taking place in the world in different fields and are therefore not in a position to analyse them with the help of Islamic principles and concepts. They have not shown any notable enthusiasm to bring out critical studies of international concepts, programmes and policies in the light of Islamic parameters and producing alternative Islamic models.
This is the shift, which needs to be brought at the earliest if Madrasas have to retain their leadership status in the Muslim community and if they have to play a larger role in extending the benefits of Islam to the whole mankind. The change has to be brought not only through the introduction of the languages of communication like English and Computers but also the introduction of the subjects of Applied Islamic Studies including Law, Politics, Economics, Natural and Medical sciences; particularly the analysis of the world developments, policies and programmes in the light of Islamic principles.
The study of all the developments in the light of Islam, based on Qur’an and Sunnah, a collection of required information and data and proposing of alternative paradigms is what can be termed as Applied Islamics. Islamic scholars have time and again touched some of the related subjects. But there has not been a concerted effort to develop it as a well-defined broad discipline of social and natural sciences. What is to be stressed here is that it is the new sciences and new developments are to be studied in the light of Islam and revised accordingly rather than studying and revising Islam in the light of the modern developments. Unfortunately, most Islamic scholars working in these fields have been sticking to the latter approach. We need to create a right balance in this approach. While modern sciences need to be introduced to Islamic scholars, Islamic principles also need to be introduced to the modern scientists. This, however, requires a thorough understanding of modern sciences as well as of Islamic sources. Applied studies of Islam may have enumerable branches. But the most important is:
Islamic Sociology, Islamic Economics or Peace Economics, Islamic Law, Islamic Health Sciences, Islamic Physics, Spiritual Sciences, History from Islamic perspective, Politics in Islamic perspective, Culture in Islamic perspective, International relations in Islamic perspective, Literature in Islamic perspective, Therapeutic Sociology, Criminology, etc.
Islam is perforce a future-oriented world-view. We should learn from our historical experiences and incorporate them into our present actions in order to make our future better. We project the glories of the past into the future through the contemplation of the present wishing to make the possible real. The solution to our past mishaps and present agonies lies in the future.
It is quite obvious that Applied Islamics is inter-disciplinary. The contemporary societies with complementary and interconnectedness used the linkages and interactions between diverse fields of learning and approaches to the discovery of new knowledge. All this has forced us to adopt a holistic and dynamic approach.
In Applied Islamics there should be no place for the purely artificial phenomenon for the division of reality into independent disciplines. The classical Islamic principle of the unity of all knowledge developed polymatics, the coherent and unified manifestation of Islamic scholarship. The contemporary and future Islamic scholars have to be the counterparts of the polymaths of classical Islam – Al-Burani, Ibn sina, Al-Ghazali and Ibn Rushed, Ibn Tufail and Ibn Bajjah. Hence Islamic pursuits in future should be regarded as the foci of advancing knowledge, having an interaction among many fields and techniques.
An inter-disciplinary approach is like an ‘intellectual-communication’ in which many disciplines cross-interact. The interaction may range from the simple communication of ideas to the mutual integration of organizing concepts, methodology, procedures, epistemology, terminology data and organization of research in a fairly large field. Such an approach bears the unification of all knowledge. The existing disciplines have to be integrated into a unified body of knowledge which is the need to study complex reality.
Applied Islamics shall activate a system of concepts, ideas and values that germinate from the world-view of Islam in an effective, rational and creative way, and put it into a framework of thinking and action having a high degree of diversity.
The main objective of Applied Islamics is to develop a contemporary integrated Islamic system of thought and action that presents a genuine alternative to the present system. The task is to elaborate the worldview of Islam, within a macro- or micro-perspective, using the conceptual matrix to build viable modules and develop appropriate routes.
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Disclaimer: Views expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position and policy of Oracle Opinions.