The Educational Philosophy and Practice of Syed Muhammad Naquib Al-Attas is an exposition of the educational ideas and practice of Syed Muhammad Naquib al-Attas, who is one of the most prominent, multifaceted and creative Muslim thinkers in contemporary times, and one of the key speakers at the first and second World Conferences on Muslim Education. The author puts forward that al-Attas is the original conceptualizer of the notion of Islamization of present-day knowledge and education, and that he has consistently applied it in his lifelong endeavors at Muslim higher learning institutions, particularly at ISATC.
Possibly the first work of this nature in contemporary Islamic discourse on the subject, the author uses both written and many unpublished documents, recording personal discussions and the daily practices of al-Attas as an educator, and tracing and comparing some of al-Attas’ ideas and practices to those of earlier scholars and contemporary Muslim and non-Muslim thinkers. Among the important topics discussed are the metaphysical worldview of Islam; knowledge and knowing; the meaning, content, and method of education; the concept and reality of the Islamic university, and the history of and the issues concerning the Islamization of present-day knowledge. Modern Muslim scholars discussed are ‘Abduh, Iqbal, al-Faruqi, Fazlur Rahman, Seyyed Hossein Nasr, and others.
This work is useful for specialists, policy-makers as well as the general reader interested in the Islamization and substantive reform of Muslim education, especially at the higher levels. The topic of Islamization of contemporary knowledge and education of the Muslims has been debated since the First World Conference on Muslim Education in Mecca in 1977, but no serious attempt has been made to trace the history of the ideas and to study and evaluate some of these matters in practice.
The author has been associated with al-Attas for a very long time. He argues that al-Attas is the original conceptualizer of the term. The very choice of the book’s subtitle is meant to drive home that point. The author considers it very important to uphold authenticity. In fact, the book’s purpose as stated by the author is twofold. Firstly, ‘to uphold authenticity and clarity in conceptual thinking on issues that are fundamentally important to Muslims’. Secondly, he seeks to emphasize the importance of education in the face of Muslim activists’ continued obsession with politics and economics.
Thus, readers will find him bringing together in the pages of this book all the various aspects of al-Attas’ educational philosophy. One would have thought that reading this one detailed book would have left the reader tired. Yet the author succeeds in igniting enough interest in the reader to compel him to delve deeper into the topic and read further from al-Attas’ own writings. The author begins the book by introducing the reader to al-Attas’ life and his intellectual growth and achievements. He provides a list of al-Attas’ works and includes other scholar’s opinions of him.
Coming from an aristocratic background, from the beginning, al-Attas displayed original thinking coupled with the will-power to put his thoughts into action. He attended the prestigious Sandhurst Military Academy in the UK and got commissioned in the Royal Malay Regiment. Yet, his strong desire for learning and scholarship led him to resign from service and dedicate himself to the pursuit of knowledge. This life-long commitment culminated in the setting up of ISTAC in 1987.
The Educational Philosophy and Practice of Syed Muhammad Naquib Al-Attas moves in an orderly fashion; each succeeding chapter building upon the preceding one. Thus, the introduction is followed by a detailed exposition of al-Attas’ metaphysical worldview. Again, the author has brought together al-Attas’ ideas that were scattered in the pages of his different books and tracts. The author has the advantage of personal relationships with al-Attas which he uses as a means to enhance his understanding of his concepts. al-Attas’ worldview is not different from the traditional viewpoint held by Muslim ‘ulamā through the ages. But perhaps al-Attas is unique in the sense that he is one of the few living Muslim philosophers today who are able to articulate this worldview in English.
Throughout The Educational Philosophy and Practice of Syed Muhammad Naquib Al-Attas, the author cites practical examples of al-Attas’ ideas being put into practice at ISTAC. While writing the book, he had the benefit of being able to discuss with al-Attas his ideas on a face to face basis. This helps to assure the reader that the probability of error in conveying al-Attas’ philosophy is quite less. Wan is keen to emphasize that al-Attas considers Islamization to be a long term process. One which can not be accomplished in a few years time; rather, it has to be pursued with dedication and perseverance until the whole body of contemporary knowledge is Islamized
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