NOTES FOR THE ROUND-TABLE FORUM
ON THE TEACHING OF PHILOSOPHY IN UUM
ON 29TH JULY, 2009
1. I want to thank the UUM sponsors of this Round-Table Forum, particularly the Vice-Chancellor, Tan Sri Dr. Noordin Kardi, for inviting me to take part in this discussion.
2. I am pleased that UUM has at last taken this step to teach this extremely important subject, hikmah or wisdom, as it is called in the Quran, in our institutions of learning.
3. Since the famous criticism by the great Muslim theologian, al-Ghazzali, of Greek philosophy and its Muslim admirers and followers (al-Kindi, al-Farabi, Ibn Sina, Ibn Rush, etc) and the reply by Ibn Rush, philosophy as a subject of learning has been more or less banned from being taught in the institutions of higher learning in the Muslim world. In the famous University of al-Azhar, set up even before Oxford and Cambridge, no secular subjects like science, mathematics, history and philosophy were taught. It is only recently that such subjects, less philosophy, have been taught. Al-Azhar concentrated on teaching so-called religious subjects such as Hadith, Quranic Tafsir (exegeses), Theology, and Islamic Law or Shariah.
4. Of course, a minority of Muslim scholars and philosophers (Shah Waliyllah, Suhrawardi, Mulla Sudra and Muhammad Iqbal, to name a few.) wrote works on philosophy. In Indonesia we have Hamka. In Malaysia we have our revered Pak Zaaba (Zainal Abidin Ahmad).
5. The importance of philosophy lies in its rational understanding and exposition of what we called Reality, i.e. God and His manifestation of the Universe, and its meaning to human life. A Pakistani philosopher once said, the Quran was revealed to the world to end the prophetic series and begin the rational scientific world that is at the same time moral and spiritual. The very first revelation to Prophet Muhammad: “Read in the name of your Lord Who created… He teaches by means of the pen. He teaches man what he never knew.” proves the rational scientific nature of the Quran.
6. Muslims must examine our downfall when Baghdad was sacked by the Mogul barbarians in 1258. We must cease to be bound by blind authority and re-open the door of ijtihad, i.e. of creative and critical thinking. As the Quran wisely advises, “Listen to all views and follow the best.”
7. The teaching of hikmah, that is, wisdom or philosophy, is the beginning of our regeneration. But we must be guided by the Quran, the final Divine Scripture “that confirms and supersedes” all other scriptures. The Quran is a deep ocean of knowledge and wisdom. Our current understanding of it, in spite of its being with us for more than 1400, is still minimal. This is due to our own fault. We have subjected ourselves to the blind authority of our forefathers, great scholars whom we wrongly idolized. We must break this blind authority and reopen the door of ijtihad.
8. We are a nation of 26 million. If one in a million were to be taught philosophy, we should have 26 qualified people who could teach philosophy and write philosophical books for our nation and the world. That would be excellent.
9) I am prepared to offer my services teaching a few subjects free of charge, beginning from June, 2010 for three months. I only need food and lodging as well as an office with a secretary.
10) That is what I want to say. Thank you.
29th July, 2009.