What is the Islamic Scholarly Tradition?
The Islamic scholarly tradition is a scholarly movement that participates in, develops and utilizes all domains of knowledge in order to support the realisation of a spirituo-ethical (Akhlaqi) community.
The worldview at the core of such a tradition is one in which existence is seen as imbued with meaning and purpose (harmonization between value and fact [Qima and Waqi’]), an outlook which leads to the production of scholarship that aims to increase, rather than erode and diminish, man’s experience
of the divine.
In addition, the pursuit of beneficial knowledge (Ilm An-Nafi’) and its practice is held to be a scholarly imperative. This principle emphasizes the understanding, explication and practice of that which supports and augments growth for mankind (harmonization between knowledge and practice [‘Ilm and ‘Amal]).
Moreover, an emphasis on and realization of man’s spirituo-ethical (Akhlaqi) essence, condition and potential in all fields of life constitutes the Islamic Scholarly tradition’s originating cause and most elementary aim. It is the establishment of the virtues (Akhlaq), and their cultivation to the highest degree, that the Islamic Scholarly Tradition promotes in all walks of man’s life (harmonization between spirituo-ethics and activity [Akhlaq and ‘Amal]).
In the Islamic scholarly tradition all fields of knowledge are attended to and developed in order to realise this goal. Whilst the strictly religious sciences are seen as the core resource for producing spiritually and ethically inspired communities, the non-religious sciences are viewed as an indispensable means to ensure that such an ethic permeates and guides all areas of such a communities activity.
Thus, historically, the preservation and development of not only the religious sciences was emphasized (represented by the Ashari and Maturdi Theological schools, the Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi’i and Hanibali legal schools and the various Sufi spiritual ‘paths’, as well as those scriptural, linguistic and rational disciplines that most directly support them) but also the advancement of fields such as medicine, astronomy, botany, mathematics, politics, history, philosophy, architecture and so forth in terms inspired by and continuous with the overarching worldview and values encapsulated by revelation.
Furthermore, the production of knowledge through the existence and promotion of dialogue between qualified and erudite scholars is a defining and universal feature of the Islamic Scholarly tradition (harmonization between dialogue and truth [Hiwar and Sawab]). Such a methodological practice played a key role in the overall development of the sciences and knowledge in the Islamic scholarly tradition and, in particular, during the most productive and innovative periods of its history.
For the purpose of such a collaborative intellectual culture the preservation and employment of Classical Arabic and the logical sciences between its diverse members has, and continues to be, indispensable. This provides the members of such a scholarly community with a universal language, both linguistic and intellectual, through which they can communicate and benefit from one another (as well as from past scholarship).
The presence of the Islamic Scholarly tradition historically in communities has empowered its members to continue to realise its spirituo-ethical message in novel geographical and temporal contexts and, most importantly, provided opportunities for Muslims to contribute to the well-being of mankind.