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INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON MANAGEMENT, SOCIAL SCIENCES AND HUMANITIES 2012

Islamic Critical Thinking: The Perception of Muslim Engineering Students in Universiti Teknologi PETRONAS
Abdur-Rahman M.A., M. Nuri A.E., R. Mahari M.A., Zulqarnain A.B. and Raja A.I.R.Y.
Department of Management and Humanities, Universiti Teknologi PETRONAS, Bandar Seri Iskandar, Perak, Malaysia.
Abstract-The advocacy of Islamic concept of critical thinking to the engineering undergraduate students could eventually contribute to the emergence of professional and competent Muslim engineers who consciously adhere to the responsibility as vicegerents of Allah. The main objective of this study was to examine and analyze the perception of Muslim engineering students in Universiti Teknologi PETRONAS (UTP) towards Islamic critical thinking. A survey using a close-ended questionnaire based on the literatures on Islamic critical thinking was conducted. Data collected were analyzed using descriptive analysis. The study found that Muslim engineering students in UTP have positive perception towards and possess basic Islamic critical thinking skills. The finding suggests the importance for Muslim engineering students to be exposed to the holistic engineering education system that also emphasizes religious conceptual thought. Keywords-Islamic critical thinking, perception of students in Universiti Teknologi PETRONAS.

I.

INTRODUCTION

One of the contemporary issues concerning the goals of education has been the production of well educated citizens who have the ability to think critically and to reason well [12 21]. This concern that has sparked numerous studies necessitates the inclusion of critical thinking in educational curriculum. The importance of critical thinking is not only recognized by educators but also acknowledged by other stakeholders as critical thinkers are in high demand in the corporate, social as well as political sectors. Among the factors that have given prominence to critical thinking skills are the highly competitive employment market in this current global economy, the survival of a democratic way of life, and personal decision making in a complex and rapidly changing society that requires sound reasoning and good judgments. Moreover, making good personal decisions requires the ability to evaluate and interpret all information accurately especially those filtered by the media that emphasizes promotion and imagery over reason [1]. From the Islamic point of view, critical thinking is essential in Muslim intellectual life since it is part and parcel of his or her motivation and reasoning process to accept Islam and reject any element of ignorance (jahiliyyah). The emphasis on critical thinking can be observed in al-Quran through its firm objection to taqlid (obeying without question) which promotes uncritical adoption and unquestioning acceptance of a doctrine without any valid reasoning. When al-Quran infers the sole lordship of Allah over the universe and asks man to serve his Lord, this is definitely derived from an analytical induction method built on a set of factual empirical premises that could be critically observed in verses that signify various evidences of Gods
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creation and lordship over the universe. For example, Allah says in al-Quran, chapter 88 verse 17 to 20 Will they not consider the camels, how they are created? And the heaven, how it was raised? And the mountains, how they were set? And the earth, how it was laid out flat? Based on these verses, Allah clearly challenges mankind to think critically about the creation of camels, heaven, mountain and earth, and by extension, the whole universe.. Similarly, when arguing with those who insist on worshiping deities other than Allah, al-Quran requires them to bring out their convincing proof (burhan), derived from reliable and certain (yaqin) premises. For example, Allah says in al-Quran in chapter 21, verse 24 Or have they chosen besides Him gods? Say: Bring your proof. This is the remembrance of those with me and the remembrance of those before me. These are among the evidences that al-Qurans guidance and discussion are against any kind of blind imitation or ignorance. Furthermore, it has openly called for a critical contemplation and urged people to willingly accept any of its teaching based on intellectual satisfaction and solid faith. This is the anthropocentric aspect of al-Quran where the enlightenment and revealed wisdoms are blended with critical reasons and rationalism to reach the truth. The western scholarly discussions on contemporary critical thinking are vigorously conducted compared to the Islamic scholarly efforts. Many books have been written about the modern critical thinking including [2][3][4][5]. References with regard to Islamic critical thinking as a study on its own are rarely found except for a few articles and book chapters that have touched on critical thinking as an aspect of Islamic perspectives or its relation to a particular field of Islamic studies. Reference [6] commented that critical thinking for a Muslim is very important in reaching the appropriate understanding of the Quranic verses. Understanding the al-Quran involves searching for that particular configuration of meaning that helps Muslims to make sense of the ayah in the context of the reality. The article, in its general and philosophical approach, managed to outline the significance of critical thinking in the Islamic conceptual understanding of the meaning of reality. The paper also concluded that Western critical thought is entirely a worldly affair and its success is based on pragmatic and utilitarian grounds. In Islam, to engage in critical thought is a moral commitment and critical thinking in Islam should only be judged on its moral worth regardless of its success or failures in this world. Allah requires us to act morally and the success or failure of such actions is entirely in His hands.

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Despite the impact of the article in the area of Islamic critical thinking, it provides only a very brief exposure to the concept of Islamic critical thinking and falls short of describing its comprehensive functions. Reference [7] stresses the essential need for critical thinking especially when it comes to adopting the heritage of classical Islamic laws formulated by the previous authentic Muslim jurists and adjusting the contextual interpretation as well as implementation of the laws to make it relevant to the modern time. Islamic critical thinking is viewed as the complete opposite to taqlid which means unquestioning acceptance of the doctrine of the established schools and authorities. Therefore, critical thinking requires logical reasoning, clear sense of objectivity and sound evidence based on the rational approach in learning, constructing and articulating Islamic law and implementing it in a given situation. Interestingly, Shah [7] suggested ijtihad (decision making by personal effort) as the vehicle for cultivating the culture and resuscitating the spirit of critical thinking in Islamic jurisprudence. This inspiring idea, however, should have been further examined for a broader insight of the concept instead of being discussed in the restricted area of Islamic jurisprudence. Reference [8] examines the application of Quranic critical thinking in the evaluation and validation process of the prophetic narration with special attention to the methodology of hadith criticism. Within the parallel context, comparable emphasis of the study was made by references [9] and [10] which analyzed the approach of Muslim scholars in accepting the prophetic narrations from the aspect of Islamic critical thinking. Nevertheless, all of these efforts only focussed on the engagement of Islamic critical thinking concept in the process of data validation or knowledge verification from the various contexts without spelling out the theoretical framework of Islamic critical thinking on its own. According to [11], creative and critical styles of thinking are inseparable concepts and that they complement one another. The book goes on to suggest that both critical and creative thinking styles should be approached in an integrative manner. The authors also elaborated a few Islamic concepts of critical thinking such as tafakkur and explored some of the major Quranic thinking terminologies. Despite the broad introductory exposition of Islamic domain thinking, the book still lacks in illustrating the comprehensive meaning of critical thinking from the Islamic point-of-view. On the other hand, the study on the students perception of critical thinking is not the first of its kind. Many researchers were attracted to pursue their studies on students critical thinking skills and perspectives from various issues, theories, and factors [12][13][14][15][16][17]. These studies were conducted by Malaysian universities faculty of education and were mainly focussed on the development of critical thinking skills among school students. Similar research approaches to gauge the critical thinking ability have also been conducted on students of higher learning institutions with a considerably different emphasis and level of research standard. References [1], [18] and [19] have made their investigations towards the critical thinking of United States college students based on a few established modern critical thinking models and measurement tools. Using the

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similar methods, many researches such as [20] and [21] have contributed notable results in gauging the level of Malaysian university students critical thinking together with its factors and contextual relationship. Generally, these researches show that the standard of critical thinking skills increase with the level of education, but the levels of undergraduate students critical thinking, both international and local, have yet to reach the standard of educators expectation. Reference [22] states that critical thinking is clearly a musthave ability in the engineering enterprise. Critical thinking from the engineering perspective does not only entail logic, but must also entail health management for thinking. A bright, hard working, dedicated engineering team could be proven dysfunctional if its organizational culture did not demand that the team consciously monitor the health of its thinking. Furthermore, Muslim engineers not only have to be aware of their social and professional responsibilities but they must also be more critical of the religious impact inflicted by their designs or projects. As such, Muslim engineers should be exposed to a holistic engineering education that equally emphasizes on religious conceptual thought rather than solely focuses on the technical based knowledge. In short, we should be more concerned about the religious consequences from the critical thinking concept and skills taught in the tertiary education to balance the worries of ineffective employment from the industrial expectation. After all promoting Islamic critical thinking will definitely contribute to a better human capital development of the nation. To date, it seems fairly difficult to come across a comprehensive research that has been conducted in relation to the perception towards Islamic critical thinking with particular interest in the perception of Muslim undergraduate students in Malaysian higher learning institutions. Thus, this study is very important to examine and analyze the perception of Muslim engineering students towards Islamic critical thinking in order to know their level of understanding between their roles as a professional engineer and as servants of Allah in this world.

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The data was collected using questionnaire that was developed based on focus group interviews and literatures on Islamic critical thinking. Respondents were asked to respond to Likert items on a scale ranging from one for strongly disagree to five for strongly agree. The questionnaire comprises of 23 items. It consists of two sections namely section one for demographic information and section two for their perceptions on Islamic critical thinking. The sampling method used for the research is stratified random samples whereby approximately one hundred Muslim engineering undergraduate students from Universiti Teknologi PETRONAS were selected from. This number of sampling reflects the overall view of the Muslim engineering students population in this university which has around 2800 Muslim engineering undergraduate students. One hundred questionnaires were distributed to the selected students who come from various engineering programs. The questionnaires were delivered to the respondents in March 2011. The overall Cronbach Alpha for the questionnaire is 0.840 which is considered as a good level of consistency.
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II. METHODOLOGY

III. RESULT AND DISCUSSION For the demographic information of the respondents, the number of male and female respondents was almost balance. Almost all of the respondents (96%) were from Malaysia. For the educational background, most of the respondents were having a normal secondary public school with 70% and only 24% were coming from a religious secondary school. From five engineering programs, 25% of the respondents were from Electrical engineering, 22% from Mechanical engineering while Chemical, Civil and Petroleum has almost the same percentage of respondents with 18%. The highest number of respondents comes from the final year students with 61%, followed by second year with 19% and third year students with 18%. There were only 2% of first year respondents in this study. Almost half (47%) of the respondents current cumulative grade point average (CGPA) is within the range of 3.00 to 3.49, while another 27% of the respondents have CGPA within the range of 2.50 to 2.99 and the other 15% has CGPA within 3.50 to 4.00. The other 8% has CGPA below 2.49. The result is summarized in Table I.
TABLE I DEMOGRAPHIC INFORMATION Respondents Characteristics Gender Nationality Educational Background Sub-profile Male Female Malaysian Others Religious School Public School Others Electrical Engineering Mechanical Engineering Civil Engineering Petroleum Engineering Chemical Engineering First Year Second Year Third Year Fourth Year 3.50 4.00 3.00 3.49 2.50 2.99 2.00 2.49 Percentage (%) 51% 49% 96% 4% 24% 70% 6% 25% 22% 18% 18% 17% 2% 19% 18% 61% 15% 47% 27% 8%

will help them to create a design to avoid any fatal error or disaster to the consumer. For another items which are among the highest means, most of the respondents agreed that learning engineering makes students realize the signs of Allah, an engineer has to be certain of the critical considerations that to be made in any engineering design and the satisfactory feeling upon completing an engineering project brings awareness o the perfect creation of Allah. The results are summarized in table II.
TABLE II HIGHEST ITEM MEANS FOR THE PERCEPTION TOWARDS ISLAMIC CRITICAL THINKING Item Muslim engineers serve Allah by working towards serving to a balanced, harmonious and conducive development of mankind. An engineering design has to be precise, clear and certain. Definite facts and figures are required in an engineering design. Learning engineering makes students realize the signs of Allah. An engineer has to be certain of the critical considerations that to be made in any engineering design. The satisfactory feeling upon completing an engineering project brings awareness o the perfect creation of Allah. Mean 4.337 Std. Dev. 0.752

4.326 4.210 4.190

0.791 0.683 0.854

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4.168

0.739

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4.158

0.803

Field of Study

Year of Study

Current CGPA

In section B, the top item with the highest mean is Muslim engineers serve Allah by working towards serving to a balanced, harmonious and conducive development of mankind. Most of the respondents agree with this statement with 4.337 mean, where it shows their realization of working as an engineer and at the same time as the slave of Allah. Therefore, Muslim engineers must be creative enough to think on how to work and complete their job while at the same time it must follow the rules and regulations revealed by Allah in order to fulfill their responsibility as the servant of Allah. In the next highest mean which is 4.326, the respondents agreed that engineering design has to be precise, clear and certain. In order to create the engineering design, it needs a lot of critical thinking and precise calculations, so that the design will not give any problems to the consumers in the future. Next, with the mean 4.210, the respondents agreed that definite facts and figures are required in an engineering design. This is also related with engineering design where correct facts and figures
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The item with the lowest mean with 2.674 is a reflection on an engineering design observes merely on the material and visible factors. Many respondents disagree with this statement where it shows that the material and visible factors are not the only factors to be considered when they do the reflection on an engineering design. Therefore, the engineer should think of another factor including human factors as a user for the design. In the next item with the lowest mean of 3.168, many respondents gave neutral responds with the statement that the rationale of an engineering design need not necessarily be convinced and certified by reliable sources and authorities. It shows that based on their perception, they trust their own design and creativity, and therefore it does not make any different whether the design is certified or not certified by other reliable sources and authorities. As for the other items in the group of lowest means, all of them have the means between 3.316 to 3.768. The items are the justification of any engineering design must not necessarily be convincing, engineering education does not facilitate students to reflect and contemplate on the real meaning of life in Islam, and the Islamic values in engineering design decision should be based on rational and objective reasoning. The results are summarized in table III.
TABLE III LOWEST ITEM MEANS FOR THE PERCEPTION TOWARDS ISLAMIC CRITICAL THINKING Std. Item Mean Dev. A reflection on an engineering design observes 2.674 1.096 merely on the material and visible factors. The rationale of an engineering design need not necessarily be convinced and certified by reliable 3.168 1.007 sources and authorities.

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The justification of any engineering design must not necessarily be convincing. Engineering education does not facilitate students to reflect and contemplate on the real meaning of life in Islam. The Islamic values in engineering design decision should be based on rational and objective reasoning.

3.316 3.347

0.971 1.128

[6] [7]

3.768

0.831

[8]

IV. CONCLUSION As a conclusion, the findings in this study show that the undergraduate Muslims engineering students in Universiti Teknologi PETRONAS possesses basic Islamic critical thinking skills and they applied it in their daily lives as engineering students. They realize the importance of the relationship between engineering and God and how they can become good engineers and at the same time good servants of Allah. They also know their important roles as would-be Muslim engineers in the society where their thinking skills will be very important for the benefit and development of mankind. Though the engineering field needs critical and creative thinking skills, they realize that ethical values based on alQuran and hadith play very important roles in making decisions on any engineering design. Thus, the engineering education for Muslim students must be enriched with Islamic critical thinking in order to produce more engineers with high creativity in achieving harmony between their roles to improve the quality of life in society and to serve Allah as the Master in this universe. Future research should be done to investigate and make a comparison between the findings in this study with Muslim undergraduate engineering students from other institutions of higher learning in this country. REFERENCES
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