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Knowledge, Tradition and Civilization: Essays in Honour of Professor Osman Bakar


Beacon Books (First Published, 2022)
410 pages including Index


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Knowledge, Tradition and Civilization is a collection of essays in honour of Professor Osman Bakar, as a tribute to the lifetime achievements of this erudite Muslim scholar-activist. Recognized as among the world’s most influential Muslims, Osman is currently the second holder of the prestigious Al-Ghazali Chair at the International Institute of Islamic Thought and Civilization (ISTAC), Malaysia. He is the author and editor of close to three dozen books and hundreds of articles as well as commentaries, many of which have been translated into several languages. The Classification of Knowledge in Islam (1998) and The History and Philosophy of Islamic Science (1999) are now standard texts for anyone interested in the study of Islamic epistemology and civilization. Osman’s prodigious scholarly career is also evidenced in a long list of keynote addresses and plenary speeches delivered in over forty countries. He has served as a chair professor in major Southeast Asian and North American universities and appointed as an expert advisor in many international organizations such as West-Islamic World Dialogue Initiative (known as the C 100), the UNESCO, the Qatar Foundation, and the European Science Foundation. An expert on contemporary developments in the Muslim world, his incisive and frank analyses have been sought after by major international media outlets.

Featuring established scholars based in North America, Europe, Africa, and Asia, the more than two dozen essays in this volume explore two key themes that pervade Osman Bakar’s oeuvre: the production and problem of knowledge in Islam as well as the civilizational unity and renewal. In pursuit of these themes, this volume underlines Seyyed Hossein Nasr’s view of his protege as the “most gifted young scholar who soon became one of the best students I had ever trained … His writings went beyond his initial field of specialization chat is, Islamic science and its philosophy, into Islamic philosophy in general civilizational studies, Malay culture and history, and many other domain.” The former Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia, Anwar Ibrahim, is barely, exaggerating when he describes his childhood friend and fellow movement-leader as “a polymath,” “a towering thinker,” “a noted exemplar,” and “a beacon for all to build bridges with others in thought and society.” Osman has set high standards for budding scholars, intellectuals, writers, and activists. This volume is a humble attempt at honoring his multifarious achievements.

A dominant strand of Osman’s scholarship pertains to how knowledge has been produced in Islam and the attendant problems that developed as Muslims encountered other systems of thought and ideologies. Muhammed Haron in his bibliometric study shows that one can only fully understand Osman voluminous intellectual output by looking at his enquiries over the ways in which knowledge has been conceptualized and classified as well as the knowledge crisis which Muslims experienced in the face of colonialism, modernity and globalisation. It is almost commonplace nowadays to argue that the knowledge crisis confronting the Muslim world since the last two hundred years has no antecedent in the long career of Islamic thought. Osman is among the modern Islamic thinkers who takes on this view. His response to that predicament has been to take up the mantle of an engaged scholar “who is part of an academic structure such as the university and uses that opportunity to lower the academic walls by interacting with those in other disciplines.”

The essays in the first part of this volume engage fully with this facet of Osman’s career. Together, the eleven contributors register the various circumstances and ideas which sensitized Osman with the issues relating to knowledge in Islam. They track and expand the intellectual pathways that Osman took. Clearly, Osman’s ideas developed not only through the scholarly environment which he was situated in and an active participant of. Rather, his thought and scholarship are shaped by his experiences living with communities and querying the ideas of scholars he admired. As such, this section provides brief sketch of Osman’s intellectual biography and connects his life story, the theme of the production and problem of knowledge as discussed by the various contributors. Osman was not a scholar who merely analyzes trends and challenge of knowledge within Islam. His other overriding aim was to bring together Muslims and non-Muslims to join hands in proposing reforms toward renewal of their shared civilization. This theme is explored in the second part of this volume.

This collection of essays bears testimony to Osman Bakar’ prolific career, his versatility of thought, and the impact that he has had on the minds of numerous fields of modern scholarship., His interventions into the question of what went wrong in the Muslim civilization and how it can be set aright cannot be glossed over. He is among the few Muslim intellectuals based in Southeast Asia who has consistently sought to address epistemological as well as ethical, cosmological, and ontological problems in contemporary know edge that have shaped Muslim minds. Osman is, as John Esposito sums up so well in his Afterword, “one of the leading Muslim scholars of the late twentieth and early twenty-first century. He diagnosed and advocated the critical need for Islamic renewal (tajdid) and reform (islah), and promoted interfaith relations.

Like Muhammad Iqbal, Sayyid Ahmad Khan, Seyyed Hossein Nasr, Ismail Al-Faruqi, Syed Muhammad Naquib al-Attas, and Hamka (Abdul Malik Karim Amrullah), to name a few prominent Muslim scholars and reformers in the modern Muslim world, Osman Bakar recognized the need for Islamic renewal.” In highlighting the production and the problem of knowledge in the Muslim world and the possibilities of civilizational unity and renewal, Osman points to some interesting pathways that should be broached and given serious thought. A courageous and yet unassuming man, he is a friend, a teacher, a comrade, and a role model to many in search of the higher truth in their bid to enhance human understanding. Osman Bakar matters, now and in the many years to come.

Preface, Seyyed Hossein Nasr
Foreword: Parallel Paths with Osman Bakar, Anwar Ibrahim
Introduction: Why Osman Bakar Matters, Khairudin Aljunied

Part 1: The Production and Problem of Knowledge

1. An Engaged Scholar: An Intellectual Biography and Bibliometric Study of Osman’s Intellectual Contributions
Muhammed Haron

2. Faith and Modern Science: A Journey of Rediscovery with Professor Osman Bakar
Tengku Mohd Azzman Shariffadeen

3. Osman Bakar and the Renewal of Islamic Classification of Knowledge
Jasser Auda

4. Narrating the West for the Malays: Syed Shaykh al-Hady and al-lmam
Ahmad Murad Merican

5. Inventing Adversaries: Orientalism and the Arabs in Colonial Southeast Asia
Farish Noor

6. Nasir al-Din Tusi’s Ethics and Concept of Social Class
Mohammad Faghfoory

7. Synergy of Knowledge in the Formation of Islamic Jurisprudence: The 5 Categories of Legal Rulings
Yasushi Kosugi

8. Religion and Science: Selected Views of Iqbal and Bohm
Suheyl Umar

9. Osman Bakar and the Dialogue with the Chinese Civilization and Philosophies
Nevad Kahteran

10. The Making of a Korean-Islamic Tradition
Hee Soo Lee

11. The Muslim Art of Management: Zheng He (1371-1433) and his Maritime Expeditions
Lee Cheuk Yin

Part 2: Civilizational Unity and Renewal

12. Knowledge of Unity and the Thrust of the Esoteric in Religion
Patrick Laude

13. Renewal (Tajdid), Reform (Islah), and Ijtihad in Islamic Civilization
Mohammad Hashim Kamali

14. Sufism In Indonesian Islam: A Brief History and a New Typology
Azyumardi Azra

15. What Makes a Family and Its Values: A Critical Respon to Professor Osman Bakar’s Thoughts
Zaleha Kamaruddin

16. Spiritual Knowledge and Humanities as Foundation for National Development and Peaceful Existence
Md Salleh Yaapar

17. Bridging Religious Studies and Sustainable Development Goals via the Idea of Guardianship of the Environment
Azizan Baharuddin

18. Reclaiming Philosophical Sciences in Muslim Education
Rosnani Hashim

19. Ars Sine Scientia? Integral Aesthetics and Islamic Metaphysics
Reza Shah-Kazemi

20. Scientific Realism and Islamic Science
Mohd Hazim Shah

21. Bridging Civilizational Divides: Osman Bakar’s Life-Long Quest for the Middle Ground
Peter T.C. Chang

22. Islamic Science, Epistemology and the Space for Religion
Oliver Leaman

Afterword: Osman Bakar and Islamic Thought, John L. Esposito
The Works of Professor Osman Bakar


Weight0.768 kg
Dimensions22.8 × 15.2 × 2.6 cm

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