AN INCREASE in numbers and qualities of Islamic scholars would certainly help Muslim communities face contemporary issues and concerns arising today, especially those relating to “Islamophobia”.
Tan Sri Professor Dr Mohammad Kamal Hassan told The Brunei Times on the sidelines of a conference that a lot of people, especially from the West had become interested to study more about Islam, in light of the 9/11 incident which saw the rise of Islamic militants in the Middle East.
“As a result of the perceived fear of Islamic resurgence, Islamic renaissance and Islamic assertiveness, a number of people had become interested to know more about the true (teachings) of Islam, so Islamic studies had become a more cultivated discipline in universities, which is a good thing,” he said.
He added that the growing interest and the rise of Islamic militants had become a concern expressed by some fundamentalist groups especially in the West which had become worried that the presence of Islam would undermine their popularity.Tan Sri Prof Dr Mohd Kamal said the fear towards Islam, or “Islamophobia” is an instrument used to “demonise” Islam, and to discredit the positive aspects of Muslim presence especially in Europe and America, which is a global challenge to Muslims all around the world.
“On one side, it strikes fear among people, but on the other hand, it makes people think whether it is true that Islam is violent or not, because these people live in peace with Muslims, and they too know Islam does not teach violence to its believers,” he said.
He said currently, the number of people wanting to know more about Islam is increasing that there are more universities that had become a fully-fledged institutions devoted to Islamic studies, including in Malaysia and Indonesia.
“As we understand it, Islam not only brings the message of peace and respect for others, but also the importance of living a moral life within the spiritual foundation and belief in one God; and In Southeast Asia, our perspectives are taken from the understanding of Ahli Sunnah Wal Jama’ah, which is dominant in the Muslim world,” he said.
“However, there are also (other) understandings arising in Islam, causing a confusion amongst Muslims on which teachings and understandings are the right one, and so it is our duty to explain which Islamic traditions are correct, as well as how these different understandings arose,” he added.
In doing such, Tan Sri Prof Dr Mohd Kamal said scholars would have to go back to the teachings of the Quran and As-Sunnah as well as understanding the interpretations of great ulamas in the Ahli Sunnah Wal Jama’ah, besides from having an in-depth knowledge on the history of Islam.
Sharing the same sentiment was Professor Datuk Dr Osman Bakar, the Chair Professor and Director of the Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien Centre for Islamic Studies (SOASCIS) in Universiti Brunei Darussalam (UBD).He said that more scholars would definitely help to develop Islamic studies especially in the fields of Science and Technology with educational and political economic issues and in fact, in all aspects of the civilisation.
On Islamophobia, the director of SOASCIS said that those who are against Islam without being equipped with any knowledge on its teachings would base their (opposition) on prejudice.
“Their perceptions (on Islam) are not based on knowledge, and that is a challenge; on the personal level, we need a deeper understanding of Islam in order to (address) these various issues,” he said.
“But on the part of scholars, we need to think of ways on how to equip oneself with good knowledge on Islam and the contemporary world,” he added.
In addressing issues of concerns, he said Muslims scholars should take example from the steps taken by the Prophet Muhammad SAW in dealing with the lack of knowledge of Islam among his people; which was through education.
He said Prophet Muhammad SAW educated his companions and followers both individually and collectively for a better and in-depth understanding of the religion.
“On dealing with animists, (Prophet Muhammad SAW) took the premise that these people do not understand
Islam and therefore it is our job (as Muslims) to (teach) them and not to fight against them in a negative way,” he said.
“Rather as the Quran says, fight “evil” with “good”, we fight against “evil” by doing good deeds, and this includes actions in intellectual and scholastic (manner),” he added.
In approaching educational fields, Prof Dr Datuk Osman said that besides a “must” to learn about Islam, Muslims could also approach its study according to their fields of interest.
“If your interest is in science and technology, you could learn more about Islam through the field, and the same goes if your interest is in art or economics; this is because Islam is a complete religion with its teachings pertaining to all fields of human life,” he said.
“And when we say Islamic scholarship, we are referring to the kind of intellectual and academic activities concerning the teachings of Islam with emphasis on a high quality for (such activities).”
“In this case, it would mean how we could present Islam to contemporary society in a language that the people can understand; because the explanations for such is made in relation to real problems and issues faced by the society, and there is no doubt that Islamic studies is important in presenting Islam to the contemporary world,” he added.
The Brunei Times
Monday, December 8, 2014