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Glimpses on the Historical Development of the Islamic Worldview

By Abdelaziz Bergout1

The present study is solely devoted to deal with the development of concept of
worldview within the Islamic tradition and context. Firstly, it should be made clear
that there is shortage of studies on the development of „worldview‟ from both
historical and conceptual perspective within the Islamic context. As a matter of fact,
there is no specific discipline which deals with the history of worldview as well as its
conceptual construction and development an Islamic perspective. Accordingly, it is
worth nothing that in the Islamic classical text and work there was no specific branch
of knowledge called worldview studies. Even concept such as al-Tasawwur al-
Islami, al-ru’yah al-kawniyah, al-mahd-habiyah al-Islamiyyah, al-marji’iyyah al-
Islamiyyah al-‘ulya’ and the similar contemporary concept were not present in the
classical text and literatures. For instance, most of the classical Arabic language
dictionaries define terms such as tasawwur, ru’yyah, madh-habiyah… etc but in
different context and for a different purpose. There is no trace of combine words
such as al-Tasawwur al-Islami, or al-ru’yah al-kawniyah. In the same breath,
referring to works on theology, science of ‘Aqidah, Islamic philosophy and al-Firaq
did not suggest the use of the above mentioned combine words to describe the
concept of worldview and its meaning as appeared in the contemporary works. The
term used such as Maqalat al-Islamiyin, al-‘Aqidah, al-ghaybiyat, al-Imaniyat… etc
did not contain the same connotation and broader perspective and conceptualization
of worldview as portrayed in some contemporary studies.

Secondly, reference to contemporary of recent contributions of Muslim


scholars to worldview studies reveals also the kind effort done to construct a
discipline dealing with worldview matter whether; subject matter, development of
“word” and “concept”, objective, and methods or tools of studying worldview issues
embedded therein. Generally speaking, there is no specific branch of research that
deals with the historical development of the concept of worldview in contemporary
Islamic effort.2 The major works focus mainly in the issues and topics usually
discussed in the worldview but not its historical development and conceptual
construction. In fact, in many works, there is no specific reference made to the term
“Islamic Worldview” and its conceptual development, rather there are several works
that cover the main topic which fall under it.

In this respect, Muslim scholars in the last two centuries attempted to discuss
many topic and issues that may be considered as part and parcel of the subject
matter of the Islamic worldview, but not specifically under the heading of worldview
studies. Topic such as; definition of worldview, Islam, Iman, Ihsan, Islam as way of

1
Abdelaziz Berghout is a Professor of Islamic Studies and Civilization, Department of General Studies,
International Islamic University Malaysia.
2
The might be many work that the author is not aware of as the contemporary Muslim work are very vast.
life, Tawhid, creation, prophet hood, eschatology, seen and unseen, God, man, life,
vicegerency have been dealt with in various works. But until the appearance of
certain specific works such as the work of Sayyid Qutb3 (w. 1966) on the
Characteristic of the Islamic Worldview4 there no specific attempts under such a
field called the Islamic Worldview studies. However, historically speaking, one can
find several worldview topic and issues examines in work of written by Jamal al-Din
al-Afghani (w. 1897), Muhammad „Abduh (w. 1905), Rashid Rida (w. 1935), Walli
Allah al-Dahlawi (w. 1179), Said Nursi (w. 1960) and many others. Eben thought
most of those scholars did not deal conceptually and historically with the
development of the concept of the Islamic Worldview but they have provide many
ideas and insights on its multifaceted aspects. It was Sayyid Qutb (w. 1966) who first
produced a short of a systematic work on the Islamic Worldview.5 Despite the
ideological touch that colored his effort one can still consider him as one the main
initiators of worldview studies in the Muslim world.

In other scene, one many refer to another group of scholars who dealt directly
with the issues of the Islamic Worldview but not with its inception and development
as a concept and a separate field of study. Among others, Abul A‟la Mawdudi (w.
1979) in his work: Toward Understanding Islam,6 Muhammad Iqbal (w. 1938) in his
work: Reconstruction of the Islamic Thought in Islam,7 Abul Hassan Ali Nadwi in his
work: Islam and the World,8 Malik Bennabi (w. 1974) in his work: The Problem of
Ideas in the Muslim World,9 Muhammad Baqir Sadr (w. 1980) in his work: Our
Philosophy,10 Murtadha Muthahhari (w. 1979) in his work: Fundamental Islamic
Thought: God, Man, and The Universe and The Human Being in the Qur’an,11 Abdul
Hameed Siddiqi and Muhammad Saed Siddiqi in their work: The Islamic Concept of
Religion and its Revival,12 Muhammad Al-Ghazali (w. 1996) in his work: al-
Mawahir al-Kamsa lil-Qur’an,13 Yusuf al-Qaradawi in his work: Khasa’is Al-

3
See also, Sayyid Qutb, This Religion of Islam, (Egypt: Al-Manar Press, 1967).
4
Sayyid Qutb, The Characteristic of the Islamic Concept, (Delhi: Hindustas, 1984).
5
His main focus was not to provide conceptual and methodological study of the development of the concept
worldview and its history in the Islamic context rather it was on the ideological study of the content and
teaching of the Islamic Worldview itself.
6
Abul A‟la Mawdudi, Toward Understanding Islam, Translated and edited by Khursid Ahmad
(Pakistan: The Islamic Foundation A.S. Noordeen, 1979).
7
Muhammad Iqbal, The Reconstruction of Islamic Thought in Islam, First Edition, Edited and annotated by Saed
Sheikh (Lahore: Institute of Islamic Culture, 1986).
8
Abul Hassan Ali Nadawi, Islam and the World, Second Edition, Translated by M. Asif Kidwa’I (Lahore: Sh.
Muhammad Ashraf, 1973).
9
Malik Bennabi, The Question of Ideas in the Muslim World, Translated and annotated with forward by
Mohamed El-Mesawi (Kuala Lumpur: Islamic Boo Trust, 2003).
10
Muhammad Baqir Sadr, Our Philosophy, Translated by Sham C. Inati, Forwarded by Seyyed Hossein Nasr
(London: Muhammadi Trusr, 1989).
11
Murtadha Muthahhari, Fundamental Islamic Thought: God, Man, and The Universe, Translated by Hamid
Algar (Berkeley: Mizan Press, 1985); The Human Being in the Qur’an, (Teheran: Islamic Propagation
Organization, 1983).
12
Hameed Siddiqi and Muhammad Saed Siddiqi, The Islamic Concept of Religion and its Revival, First edition
(Lahore: Kazi Publication, 1980).
13
Muhammad Al-Ghazali, al-Mawahir al-Kamsa lil-Qur’an, (Egypt: Dar al-Wafa’. 1989).
Shari’ah Al-i Islamiyyah and Introduction to Islam, Muhammad Sa‟id Ramadhan
al-Buti in his work: Kubra al-Yaqiniyyat al-Kawniyyah,14 Muhsein Abdulahamid in
his work: al-Madhabiyyah al-Islamiyyah,15 Isma‟il Raji al-Faruqi (w. 1986) in his
work: Tawhid and its Implication for Thought and Life and Islam and Culture,16
Seyyed Hossein Nasr in his work: Ideals and Reality in Islam,17 Wahhiduddin Khan
in his work: Islam Rediscovered,18 Rafiduddin Muhammad in his work: Facet of the
Islamic Worldview,19 Muhammad Hamidullah in his work: Introduction to Islam,20
Fazlur Rahman in his works: Major Theme of the Qur’an and Islam and
Modernity,21 Syed Muhammad Naquib al-Attas in his works: Islam and Secularism
and Prolegomena to the Metaphysics of Islam: An Exposition of the Fundamental
Element of the Worldview of Islam,22 Abdul Wahid Hamid, Islam and the Natural
Way,23 Hammudah Abdlatif in his work: Islam in Focus,24 Alparslan Acikgenc in his
work: Islamic Science: Toward a Definition,25 Abdul Rahman Azzam in his work:
The Eternal Message of Muhammad,26 S. D. Islahi in his work: Islam at a Glance,27
Jafar Wafa in his work: The Immutable Message,28 Prof. Dr. Mohd. Kamal Hassa in
his article entitled: The Islamic Worldview29 and several other books and articles.30

Critical studies31 of different works on worldview have shown the extend and
attention given by Muslim scholars to research in this area. However, in the Islamic
context, there is still no separate branch of knowledge or discipline the specializes on

14
Muhammad Sa’id Ramadhan al-Buti, Kubra al-Yaqiniyyat al-Kawniyyah, (Beirut: Dar al-Fikr al-Mu’asir, 2001).
15
Muhsein Abdulahamid, al-Madhabiyyah al-Islamiyyah, (Virginia: IIIT, 1996).
16
Isma’il Raji al-Faruqi, Tawhid and its Implication for Thought and Life, (Herdon: IIIT, 1982); Islam and Culture,
(Kuala Lumpur: ABIM, 1980). The work of al-Faruqi are very instrumental and immensely contribute in
developing worldview studies as an Islamic field or research.
17
Seyyed Hossein Nasr, Ideals and Reality in Islam, (London: George and Unwin, 1972).
18
Wahhiduddin Khan, Islam Rediscovered: Discovering Islam from its Original Sources, (India: Goodwod Books,
2001).
19
Rafududdin Muhammad, Facet of the Islamic Worldview, (Pakistan: Zareen Art Press, 1983).
20
Muhammad Hamidullah, Introduction to Islam, (Kuwait: International Islamic Book Center, 1959).
21
Fazlur Rahman, Major Theme of the Qur’an, (Minneapolis: Bibliotheca Islamic Book center, 1994); Islam and
Modernity: Transformation of an Intellectual Tradition, (Chicago & London: The university of Chicago Press,
1982).
22
Syed Muhammad Naquib al-Attas, Islam and Secularism, (Kuala Lumpur: Muslim Youth Movement of
Malaysia, 1994); Prolegomena to the Metaphysics of Islam: An Exposition of the Fundamental Element of the
Worldview of Islam, (Kuala Lumpur: ISTAC, 1995).
23
Abdul Wahid Hamid, Islam and the Natural Way, (London: MELS, 1989).
24
Hammudah Abdlatif, Islam in Focus, (Kuwait: The International federation of Student Organization, 1987).
25
Alparslan Acikgenc, Islamic Science: Toward a Definition, (Kuala Lumpur: ISTAC, 1996).
26
Abdul Rahman Azzam, The Eternal Message of Muhammad, Translated by Vincent Sheen (The Islamic Texts
Society)
27
S. D. Islahi, Islam at a Glance, Translated by M. Zafar Iqbal (Lahore: Islamic Publication Ltd, 1981).
28
Jafar Wafa, The Immutable Message, First Edition (Karachi: Sulaiman Nadvi Study Circle, 1999).
29
Prof. Dr. Mohd. Kamal Hassa, “The Islamic Worldview”, Toward a Positive Islamic Worldview: Malaysian and
American Perceptions, eds. Abdul Monir Yacob and Ahmad Faiz Abdul Rahman, (Kuala Lumpur, 1994).
30
This list is not exhaustive and there are many other attempts on the issues at hand. For example there are
many works in the Arab world that deal with the various aspect of worldview but under the title ‘Islamic
Culture’. Most of those books deal with issues like: belief system, social system, economic system, ethical
system, shari’ah system… are dealt with extensively.
31
See: Rafududdin Muhammad, Facet of the Islamic Worldview, (Pakistan: Zareen Art Press, 1983).
the issues of the Islamic Worldview such as the subject matter, objective, methods or
tools analysis an its applications to different disciplines. Most of the above
mentioned works with deal with worldview issues in general term, rather than
systematic and objective inquiry in worldview. Thus, there is a need to develop more
comprehensive approaches to the study of worldview in a well organized body of
research.