Jul 30, 2009

Scholar Urges Ulama To Be Equipped With Other Knowledge

KUALA LUMPUR, July 29 (Bernama) -- It is the duty of the ulama to equip themselves with knowledge, other than their field of expertise, to ensure their views are not misleading, said an Islamic scholar from Oxford University.

An expert in theology and philosopy of both Islamic and Western traditions, Dr Muhammad Afifi al-Akiti said the `alim' (the religious) must also be willing to admit their own limitations when dealing with issues outside their training.

"By equipping oneself with other knowledge, one will have a broader view of things, and when one gives out answers, one will be able to put things into perspective.

"That's why, it is important for leaders, authority, (and) in this case, religion, to be aware of his or her own limit, in the sense that Imam Shafie said one of the syarat (prerequisite) for approaching knowledge is to have awareness, to know that these are areas that I do not know that I shouldn't pontificate," he told Bernama in an interview here Wednesday.

However he said, there were irresponsible persons who might not realise they were 'jahil muraqab' or "did not know that they did not know", yet giving out incorrect opinions or advice on a particular issue.

Such behaviour would bring about consequences that might be difficult to rectify, said Dr Muhammad Afifi, who is Islamic Studies lecturer at Oxford's faculty of theology.

He is also of the opinion that there were some `ulama' who had failed to relate `duniawi' (worldly) activities and `ukhrawi' (hereafter) activities', thus confining themselves to narrowed-minded views.

"Actually, worldy or 'duniawi' activies can become 'ukhrawi' activities if they are done with the right intent, and that is, to benefit people. The same goes with 'ukhrawi' activity that can become 'duniawi' or secular if it is not done sincerely," he said.

Citing an example of opening a window, Muhammad Afifi pointed out it was a 'duniawi' activity, yet if the intent of the activity was to allow fresh air in for the benefit of the people in the room, then it would become an 'ukhrawi' activity.

Unfortunately he said, there were `ulama' who were unable to see it that way, and had instead, restricted themselves to only one point of view.

Muhammad Afifi was one of the 24 people who presented papers at an international conference on 'Muslims and Frontiers of Knowledge in the 21st Century: Issues, Prospects and Challenges'.

The two-day conference which began yesterday, was organised by Institute of Islamic Understanding Malaysia.



-- BERNAMA

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