On the 27th of March 2012, Dr. Fathi Malkawi delivered an in-depth lecture on issues and problems related to the integration of knowledge and their application to the field of Islamic studies, at the Academy of Islamic Studies, University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur-Malaysia. This lecture was part of his academic visit to University of Malaya in response to the invitation of the Center of Quranic Research. More than 75 participants from University’s teaching Staff at the Academy and post-graduate students attended his lecture.
In his introduction, Dr. Malkawi discussed a number of critical concepts related to the integration of knowledge while highlighting their relationship with the unity of knowledge and the Islamic worldview. Dr. Malkawi underscored the need for Muslim intellectual, educational, scientific and research institutions to build awareness about the methodology and treatment of gaps in methodology, based on the intellectual reform in the ummah. According to him, that very comprehensive reform touches all intellectual fields, but more importantly relates to the field of Islamic knowledge and its institutions, whereby the integration of knowledge requires a combination of three inter related operations: the understanding of the text, the understanding of the context/reality, alongside the proper projection of the text on its relevant context.
Dr. Malkawi’s lecture shows how knowledge in its Islamic framework is essentially integrative in nature. This is based on the fact that the Qur’anic discourse is nothing but comprehensive guidance to human beings whether in their private life, relationship to the Creator, or interaction to the surrounding society and environment. The Quranic discourse addresses those very relationships through legislative verses and calls for pondering the history and its developments, while raising the need to work and seek sustenance, and last but not least, the need for thinking and contemplation about the cosmic phenomena, its objects and its living creatures. Seen from this perspective, knowledge and its Islamic framework are integrative, particularly from the viewpoint of scientific development and growth in many intellectual fields, not forgetting the personalities of scholars with encyclopedic learning and scholarship in diverse intellectual areas; Islamic law and literature, philosophy and Sufism, Tafsir and medicine. Some of those scholars like Ibn Rushd, Tabari, Ibn Taymiyya, al-Ghazali, al-Razi, and many others, have described the integration between knowledge and faith, learning and action, Shari‘ah and divine reality, religion and wisdom. Dr. Malkawi believes that the multi-disciplinary approach to the integration of knowledge can be put into practice through multiple levels as seen with the various branches of natural sciences which are inter-dependent. For instance, physics needs mathematics, biology requires chemistry, medicine cannot be studied without chemistry and biology, and the same applies to engineering in relation to physics and math. This was how academic interdisciplinary approaches in knowledge building evolved and developed. The same may be said about the social sciences, whether in economics, sociology, and politics; or the inter-disciplinary or multi-disciplinary relationships in subjects of human sciences like philosophy, law, arts or languages. As for the traditional knowledge, known generally as Islamic studies, Malkawi believes that in spite of having many specialized intellectual fields such as the science of ‘Aqida, the Sunnah, Tafsir, they also do have inter-disciplinary and multi-disciplinary connections to other subjects of language, and natural, social and human sciences without which the identifying characteristics of Islamic culture and civilization would be extremely difficult to recognize. What is most important to the implications of the integration of the Islamic worldview, however, is the integrative nature of the divine guidance from which human beings draw on, in addition to the understanding, realization, and awareness required in the living world. These provide the raw material necessary for natural, social, and human sciences alongside their applications in different fields of life leading to a life of ease, comfort and development of al-‘Umran, as well as the fulfillment of the conditions of human vicegerency (shurut al-istikhlaf) on earth.
Dr. Malkawi also discussed his understanding of the model of intellectual and methodology integration, covering various themes of intellectual reforms in contemporary world. He, for example, discussed the fundamental issues associated with these themes in what he called the methodology of integration of knowledge conducted through observation of interaction of the fitrah, human actions, and mutual needs associated with the sources of knowledge and its tools. The sources of human knowledge represent the Revelation (Quran and Sunnah), and the physical world with its natural physical and psychological dimensions, as well as the tools of knowledge such as reason and senses. The methodology of integration requires the intellect (reason) to play its role in the interaction with both the Revelation and the physical world, and properly use and apply the senses’ interaction with both the Revelation and the world.
Dr. Malkawi discussed four distinct forms that exemplify the integration of knowledge associated with the intellectual and educational progress of University’s academic staff while giving examples of each of those forms from the perspective of the field of Islamic studies. The first relates to the mastery of academic specialization, whether in Islamic jurisprudence, Islamic legal theory, or Quranic exegesis, and the understanding of other disciplines that helps one’s academic specialization. Such broad understanding and vast knowledge would provide ample space for development of integration between common interests’ or specialties, and the cooperation of experts on their way to effectively carry out learning, teaching, and research. This leads us to highlight the importance of collaborative educational and research programs led by research teams of scholars and experts. The second form is that a university’s academic staff is essentially a teacher who needs to act professionally and deliver his teaching as best as he/she could, including proper preparation of curriculum and course subjects, methods of delivery and evaluation. Lecturers need also be familiar with contemporary theories and well-known experiences in the field of educational psychology and personality development, and to learn the necessary skills in development such as self and time management. The third form relates to the general culture and familiarity about the affairs of society, its current problems, its needs and conditions of development, without forgetting the opportunities and challenges in contemporary societies so as to avoid any disconnection between the teacher and students. Dr. Malkawi considers this form as a necessity in Muslims’ efforts to discharge the responsibilities of reform which university lecturer is expected to guide, support and contribute to. This form includes natural and extraordinary competence required to make operable the Islamic worldview, integration of reading of the Revelation with that of the universe, and the application of all of that in the process of acquiring knowledge in all fields alongside the testing, use, and teaching of that knowledge. The need for this fourth form in the process of contemporary Islamic intellectual reform is pressing, particularly in the reform of universities’ education system which represent the bridge through which all other socio-economic and political reform are connected.
Dr. Malkawi discussed the elements of methodology for integration of knowledge, represented in concept, principles, sources, tools, and schools of methodology. He pointed out the critical need to determine the relationship of integration of knowledge and the unity of knowledge while highlighting the position of Tawhid in the framework of Islamic worldview which provides the general framework of thinking about various issues and problems of sciences and life. Dr. Malkawi also dealt with the integration of knowledge in regards to the perspective of systematic approach to Islamic thinking, Islamic methodology, and behavior. These render the need for developing a model of integration of knowledge that serves as a framework for methodology very pressing. Dr..Malkawi calls for urgent diagnosis and treatment of problems and pitfalls affecting issues of methodology and highlights the need for training on thinking about the process of integration of knowledge and the application of this method on diverse issues of knowledge and life in general.
Dr. Malkawi made several observations in regards to the absence of dimensions of the integration of knowledge as far as the sources of knowledge are concerned, particularly the pitfalls in the way Muslims understand the relationship between Revelation and the universe as well as the lack of integration between the sources, methods and means of knowledge. Dr. Malkawi also identified a number of conditions and criteria required in the integration of laws in the field of knowledge and their relationships with other disciplines. One of those important criteria is the Islamic worldview (the Islamic concept of existence) in regards to all knowledge, disciplines and arts, alongside the critical analysis of the old and new, a creative competence acquired through the system of Maqasid all-Shari’a, among some other conditions. Dr. Malkawi discussed one of those critical issues pertaining to the integration of knowledge in the field of Islamic knowledge, namely the design and development of methods and curriculum. Dr.. Malkawi places great emphasis on the design and development of university’s curriculum and programs on the basis of the methodology of integration, Islamization of knowledge, publication of materials and books on methodology, the textbooks of both the Islamic and Western intellectual heritage, particularly those concerned with methodology, in addition to the foundations of learning and teaching of the Islamic disciplines.
Throughout his very interesting and profound presentation, Malkawi raised a number of challenging questions related to the methods, sources, and evaluations of teaching whilst highlighting the fact that the relationship of integration in educational methodology depends primarily on the integration of academic and behavior or personality of educators and teachers at their different stages of learning and education, their need to acquire necessary skills and talents, the use of appropriate methods and styles, and activating the principle of integration in the process of teaching evaluation as well as on use of combinations of evaluation frameworks. Through his presentation, the participants benefitted from his invaluable lecture and from the many real life examples and lessons, particularly those inspired from his rich experiences as an expert in the field of teaching methods and school textbooks. With this lecture, Malkawi was able to address many issues and problems in the field of integration of knowledge in Islamic studies while succeeding to provide his audience with a very practical exposition on the many challenges and problems impeding the process of integration.
Prepared by Dr. Fadila Grine
University of Malaya, Malaysia