Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Philippines, Malaysian scholars hold firs-ever Epistemology workshop

MARAWI CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / May 24, 2011) – “This is a gathering of great minds,” this was the impression Professor Dr Mary Joyce Sali to the 1st Epistemology workshop held in the Islamic City of Marawi in the southern Philippines.

The two-day workshop, organized by the Mindanao State University and International Institute of Islamic Thought, ended on Monday with fresh insights from well-respected Muslim speakers who are scholars from the Philippines and Malaysia. They presented their papers on various issues about Islam and other intellectual fields.

Professor Sali, who is the director of the Institutional Research and Evaluation Office of the Mindanao State University, said the theme of the seminar “Response of Muslim Intellectuals to Modern Knowledge,” was well-timed in today’s modern world. “It is very important for us to understand how we can respond to the modern knowledge with Islam as the basis of all these,” she said.

The seminar opened with recital of Qur'an verses by Ustadz Abdulbasit Imam and was followed by the singing of the Philippine and Malaysian national anthems.

Mindanao State University President Dr Macapado Muslim in his opening remarks said in pursuing higher knowledge, one must be guided with important aspects to remember – firstly is to follow Allah's mandate strictly in its observance: politically, economically, spiritually, and emotionally; and secondly is to follow the good knowledge of Islam and thirdly is to develop oneself in accordance with the essence of Islam and to correct distorted Islamic beliefs and practices.

“I believe that studying the essence Islamization of social sciences should be continued for evaluation, like bad things must be studied to re-assess its effect to human beings; learn the bad things to prevent what is bad and this can be done through academic theorizing to re-validate its effectiveness,” he said.

Professor Emeritus Dato Dr. Osman Bakar, of the University of Malaya, and Deputy CEO of the International Institute of Advanced Islamic Studies, presented his paper on "Islam and the Challenges of Post Modernism.”

In his paper, he concluded that Epistemology is a big domain of inquiry and that it is a well established science in Islamic intellectual tradition. “We need to revive this science and re-apply its principles to the contemporary knowledge of culture. We are facing the field of higher education, particularly that requires large input from Islamic epistemology for solutions. How we organize our university curriculum, for example, and how we teach the different sciences and academic disciplines are clearly influenced by the kind of epistemologies we have adopted,” he said.

He further said that: “If we wish to remain true to the spirit of Islam and its intellectual traditions while remaining conversant with our contemporary problems, then we need to consult and reassert the principles of Islamic epistemology.”

Tan Sri Professor Dr Kamal Hassan, of International Islamic University of Malaysia, also presented his paper entitled “Islam and the Epistemology of Social Science: A General Introduction.”

Professor Abhoud Syed Lingga, of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, also presented a paper “Responses of Muslims in the Philippines to Modern Knowledge” and recommended that to promote the Islamization of knowledge project in the Philippines the following can be considered:

“Muslim minority countries shall project that Islamization of knowledge will benefit humanity, not only Muslims; and to continue workshops and roundtable discussions, conferences and public forums on Islamization of knowledge issues, and make literatures on Islamization of knowledge available.”

“Harness private Muslim educational institutions to implement projects. It can serve as a role-model. And have more flexibility than public educational institutions, and to explore the possibility of establishing an E-university at the Ummah level.”

Professor Lingga suggested that the secular and religious educated intellectuals must be encourage to work together in pursuing the Islamization of knowledge and train teachers on Islamic epistemology and its application in teaching their respective discipline.

He said there is a need to conduct training on research methodology on Islamization of knowledge and to encourage and fund researches on Islamization of knowledge.

One participant to the seminar also pointed out in remarks made by Professor Yasmin Lao, president of Al Mujadilah Development Foundation, that there is a need to promote and understand the duties and obligations of women on social justices, peace and economic including politics.

While former Mindanao State University President Dr Ahmad Alonto Jr presented a paper entitled “Islamic Education: Is it possible in the Philippine Education System?”

In his conclusion, he said the possibilities of introducing Islamic Education in the secular and westernized Philippine Education System are greater in non-formal and informal education that in formal education.

He emphasized that the chances of the Philippine formal education system reconciled with Islamic Education are slim or even nil if “we have to go through its constitutional legal process.”

At the end of the workshop, Philippine and Malaysian scholars, including the participants, have recommended promoting and raise awareness of modern knowledge among local Muslims. (Asa Madale)

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