Study the past and question accepted norms to progress, Anwar tells Muslims

GOMBAK: The way forward for the Muslim education world is not to focus just on the legalistic aspect of Islam but to continuously question accepted norms in order to make progressive change, says Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.

He also said Muslims of today must study the history of Muslims in the early days to find out how Rulers such as Saladin engaged with non-Muslim kingdoms to keep the peace and concentrate on the people's issues.

Anwar said this in his concluding address at the International Conference on Abdul Hamid Abu Sulayman at the International Islamic University of Malaysia (IIUM) here on Wednesday (Feb 22).

Prof Emeritus Datuk Abdul Hamid A. Abu Sulayman was the co-founder and second rector of IIUM from 1988 to 1998. He was known as a contemporary scholar of the Muslim world and died in 2021 at 85.

Anwar said although he was busy with the pending 2023 Budget re-tabling on Friday (Feb 24), he decided to make time to pay respects to the late Prof Abdul Hamid who was instrumental in making IIUM the Islamic centre of education it is today.

Also present were IIUM rector Prof Emeritus Tan Sri Dzulkifli Abdul Razak and Dr Hisham Altalib of the International Institute of Islamic Thought.

“Abdul Hamid was a man obsessed with the development and concept of IIUM and impatient to effect change, and continuously questioned the accepted norms," Anwar said in his address.

"That is why I popularised Abdul Hamid’s way of thinking as there was then a crisis of the Muslim mind.

“For decades, he challenged the traditional way of Islamic thinking, of propagating Islam purely on right and wrong.

“Abdul Hamid wanted Muslims to understand the first decade of the rule of Salahuddin Ayub (Saladin, founder of the 12th-century Ayyubid dynasty) and how he was able to engage with non-Muslim kingdoms in that region.

“We tend to ignore the concept of education. In the process, we focus on legalistic issues and in our ideals, fail in our attempts to change society."

He also said that while there were many books on orientalism – the study of the history, languages and cultures of the East – there is a need for more literature from this region which studied how the western colonialists regarded traditional societies.

“Books on orientalism challenged the accepted notions and concepts of hatred of 'The Other', or those who are not from the West," he told a crowd of mostly IIUM students and diplomats.

At the same event, he also launched a few books, the manuscript for one which he read while he was incarcerated in Sungai Buloh prison.

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