Five-day online IOS Winter School Programme in Islamic Studies

New Delhi: The Institute of Objective Studies hosted a five-day Winter School Programme in Islamic Studies here from January 5 to 9, 2021 to impart basic, but deep knowledge to university students pursuing professional disciplines like, graduation and masters in business studies, science, computer science, engineering, medicine etc. The core courses included Islam as faith and civilisation, Revelation and its application (focus on sources of Shariah that led to the emergence of Fiqh), fundamentals of Islam, Islamic sciences, Islam and knowledge, non-Muslims in Islam and Muslim history, Islam and multi-culturalism, non-Muslims in the Arab Islamic world, non-Muslims in the Arab Muslim world, non-Muslims under Muslim rule in India, globalisation: definition and critique, Islam and modernity/westernisation, Islam and secularism, Islam and terrorism, Islam and sectarianism, Islam and the contemporary world, Islam and liberation movements and Islamic state in the modern world. 

The inaugural session began with the welcome address by the Secretary General, IOS, Prof. Z.M. Khan, who also highlighted its activities. He held that earlier, the institute used to highlight futuristic programmes, but its area of activities grew manifold with the passage of time. IOS was a non-political, non-profitmaking and non-governmental organisation which focused on research on the marginalised sections and minorities, especially Muslims. It was creditable for an NGO like the IOS to work against unfavourable conditions. Explaining the work being undertaken in the field of research, he said that themes were introduced on which research projects were invited. Themes were diversified but they were generally focused on marginalised sections, minorities and depressed sections. Engagement of the youth was another area which caught the attention of the Institute. The idea behind engaging the youth was to develop a scientific temper in them to neutralise the effect of myth that was deep rooted. He said that scientific temper was nothing but the establishment of relationship between cause and effect. Listing other activities, he noted that there was a publication division which had so far published about 400 titles on various subjects. A translation bureau was in place to get books translated on various topics into Urdu, English and Hindi. The institute also conducted surveys on issues of topical importance. One such survey was conducted to ascertain the preference of young voters. Besides, organisation of national and international seminars, symposia and workshops was a regular feature. IOS also sought cooperation of institutions in India and abroad to coordinate with its activities. Scholarships were awarded to needy and meritorious students pursuing doctoral research. Madarsa-educated students were encouraged to take admission in universities. Special lectures on the themes in different areas were organised. IOS calendar was popular because of its value in terms of data. IOS had a well-equipped library and a database. The Institute had five chapters that reflected the regional aspirations of the people. It also regularly published several magazines, he added. 

Introducing the topic, the finance secretary, IOS, Prof. Ishtiyaque Danish, observed that Islamic studies was different from theology. Islamic studies was inclusive of theology which only studied god (theo). In order to make it broad-based, translation of texts became a necessity. He said that the Syrian language was translated into Arabic by Arabs and this work was unparalleled in the history of knowledge. Muslims contributed a lot to mathematics. Islamic studies was a part of social sciences. He opined that despite much scope, no significant headway in the study of Islam was made between 16th and 20th centuries. In the 19th century, Muslims by and large engaged themselves in opposing colonialism. But things changed during the last 29-30 years with the changes that took place in the mode of communication, like the Net, IT etc. This revolution in the field of communication made the world multicultural. Earlier in the Indian sub-continent, Sanskrit, Pali, etc., were the language of scholarship. But, in the last three decades, a sustained movement was launched to use English as a language to improve the image of Islam that was negatively presented by Western scholars. This might be due to the lack of teaching of religion in universities. He observed that in Muslim families, children read the Quran without understanding its meaning. Culture and religion were two different things. So many traditions were without knowing what Islam said about them. He said that the image of Islam was sought to be damaged in the wake of the attack on the World Trade Centre in New York. Propaganda against Islam intensified thereafter. In order to put Islam and Muslims in proper perspective, summer camps on Islamic studies were organised in Europe. It needed to be replicated in India too where many professionals, both Muslims and non-Muslims, did not understand Islam, risalat and tawhid. They put several questions regarding Islam and more often than not, misunderstood it. Social, cultural and economic landscape underwent a significant change after World War I. Many problems cropped up after the World War II and Muslim scholars responded to them. Globalisation was another issue that would be discussed, besides Islam and modernity, Islam and secularism, he concluded. 

In his presidential remarks, Prof. Z.M. Khan, observed that it was the paradigms that decided how to go about Islamic way of life. Islam tried to explain spiritual and moral life since it was not utilitarian. He said that Islam contributed immensely to the onward march of civilisation. He laid stress on the need for Ilme Din (religious knowledge, Ilme Duniya (worldly knowledge) and Ilme Asari (contemporary knowledge).

Business Session I

The first business session began with a lecture on Islam as faith and civilisation by Prof. Ishtiyaque Danish who explained the niceties of the topic. The session ended with questions from the audience and their answers. 

Business Session II

Business Session II had two lectures. While the first speaker was Prof. Md. Fahim Akhtar Nadwi, professor of Islamic Studies, Maulana Azad National Urdu University, Hyderabad, who spoke on revelation and its application: focus on the Quran and Sunnah as sources of Shariah, which led to emergence of Fiqh, the second lecture was delivered by Prof. M. Ishaq on tawhid, risalat and akhirat.

January 6, 2021 (Second day)

Business Session III

The third business session had three lectures. The first lecture was delivered by Dr. Md. Arshad, who spoke on Jama wa Tadween Quran. This was followed by a lecture on Jama wa Tadween Hadith which was delivered by Dr. Waris Mazhari. Third and the last lecture of the session was delivered by Prof. Ishtiyaque Danish on globalisation: Definition and impact.

Business Session IV

The fourth business session too had three lectures. While the first lecture was delivered by Prof. Abdur Rashid Bhat, who focused on Islam and knowledge, the second lecture was delivered by Prof. Ishtiyaque Danish, who spoke on Arab-Muslim contribution to medicine. The last lecture of the session centered on Arab-Muslim contribution to mathematics. Dr. Zaki Kirmani was the speaker. 

January 7, 2021 (Third day)

Business Session V

The first lecture of the session was delivered by Prof. Abdul Majid Khan, who spoke on Muslim contribution to humanities and social sciences. Director of IOS history projects, Syed Jamaluddin was the last speaker of the session who dwelt on Islam and multiculturalism.

Business Session VI

The sixth business session had three lectures, beginning with one on non-Muslims during the time of the Prophet (PBUH) by Prof. Obaidullah Fahad. This was followed by the second lecture on non-Muslims under Muslim empires by Syed Jamaluddin. The third and the last lecture of the session was delivered by Prof. Hamid Naseem Rafiabadi on Islam and multiculturalism: modern debate and Islamic position on the subject. 

January 8, 2021 (Fourth day)

Business Session VII

The first lecture was focused on Islam and terrorism by Prof. Mirza Asmer Beg. While the second lecture on non-Muslims under the Muslim empires - Umayyads of Spain, Abbasids and the Ottomans - was delivered by Dr. Waris Mazhari, the third and the last lecture centered on non-Muslims in the Arab-Islamic world (Syria, Lebanon and Egypt). The speaker on the topic was Dr. Md. Arshad. 

Business Session VIII

The first lecture of the eighth business session began with Prof. Waseem Raja speaking on non-Muslims under Muslim empires. It was followed by a lecture by Prof. Md. Fahim Akhtar Nadwi, who spoke on the development of Fiqh. The third and the last lecture of the session was delivered by Prof. Ishtiyaque Danish, who spoke on globalisation and Islam. 

January 9, 2021 (Fifth day)

Business Session IX
The first lecture of the ninth session focused on Islam and modernity/westernisation and was delivered by Prof. Arshi Khan, professor of political science, AMU, while Prof. Z.M. Khan spoke on Islam and secularism in the second lecture. The third lecture, on non-Muslims during the time of the Prophet (PBUH), was delivered by Prof. Abdur Rashid Bhat.  
Business Session X
The fourth lecture of the day was delivered by Prof. Ishtiyaque Danish, who spoke on Islam and liberation movements. While the fifth lecture had Prof. Obaidullah Fahad as the speaker on Islamic state in the modern world, the sixth and the last lecture of the session was delivered by Prof. Hamid Naseem Rafiabadi, who spoke on non-Muslims in modern Islamic state: citizens or ahle-kitab
Valedictory Session
The concluding session began with keynote address by Prof. Omar Hasan Kasule, secretary general, International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT), USA, who spoke on the way ahead: regenerating knowledge in Islamic perspective. In his speech, he said that discussing the ideas was important because it led to social change. He presented 20 definitions of knowledge which were either European or Islamic. Referring to the European definition of knowledge, he observed that Western thinkers justified belief in wrong and right. However, some modern thinkers insisted that if belief was true then knowledge would be true. Commenting on the Islamic definition, he noted that knowledge was true in contrast to lack of knowledge. There were two beliefs–Ilmul yaqeen and Haqqul yaqeen, with the latter being higher than the former. Explaining degrees of knowledge, he referred to progression in knowledge and said that according to the Quran, humans could have knowledge. The Quran asserted existence of the knowledge of divine source. This debunked epistemic skepticism about human knowledge and was rejected by the Quran. Quranic terminology about knowledge was maarifa-arifa, ilm, yaqin, hikma and basirat. The Quran used terms like ra’ay and tadkhirah for knowledge. He held that laib, or jehal was opposite of knowledge. Shakk, or doubt, was part of it. Dhann referred to the doubtful and uncertain knowledge that was higher than shakk. Similarly, baatil was used to refer to falsehood. While European secular epistemology denied revelation, Islamic divine epistemology focused on sources. This knowledge could be innate or acquired. Integrated epistemology re-integrated wahy as a source of knowledge, he added. 
Prof. Kasule also discussed sources of knowledge. He said that reason (aql) was a secondary source of knowledge. Aql could cover both rational and empirical knowledge. Then there were doubtful sources of knowledge like Ilm ladunny inspiration, ilham, intuition, natural instincts, dreams, Sufis, talk of kashf, magic and sorcery. He observed that Ilm naqli could be the basis for science and technology. He held that the Quran mentioned scientific facts as a motivation for research. Holding that extremism was an epistemological problem, he said that extremism was a failure to use both sources of knowledge in balance. Liberal understanding of texts of naql and failure was to see the time dimension. Out of context use of wahy or reason led to extreme use. It also led to confusion of right vs. wrong with true vs. false, or legal vs. illegal. He maintained that extremism was an epistemological problem. Commenting on the history of knowledge, he said that human knowledge grew by message through prophets and human experience. The Quran emphasised on empirical knowledge by observing our bodies and the cosmos. Muslim impact on Europe in terms of knowledge could be seen in Renaissance, Reformation, scientific revolution, agricultural revolution, industrial revolution and economic/knowledge revolution, he noted.
Prof. Kasule observed that Muslims faced the challenge to excel in knowledge, research and development. Thus looking for knowledge was the duty of every Muslim. We could achieve what our ancestors achieved. There was the need for motivation to excel in education and learning motivated philosophy of integrating knowledge. He said that knowledge should be for all humanity. He also spoke on the principles of Fiqh (qawaid) in research dharar (harm) and maslahat (benefit). He said that harm must be removed. Shariah was revealed to fulfill the 5 purposes of law (maqasid). Harm could not be removed by a similar harm. Prevention of harm should be effected before accruing a benefit. He expressed the confidence that the future was going to be better for the world. 
In his special mention, Prof. Z.M. Khan, observed that the IOS would take full advantage of Prof. Kasule’s speech. The institute would put forward the proposals to other bodies for formulating new plans and schemes. He said that the ideas contained in the speech needed to be popularised by means of regular exchange of men and material among chapters of the Institute. He held that the institute was trying to reach people through its chapters because they were a precious part of our heritage. Projects based on these ideas would have to be taken by all stakeholders–IOS and other Islamic institutions and universities. Updating of our knowledge in the light of the Quran and Sunnah was necessary because India was ripe for making new strides in knowledge. As used in the Quran, furqan should be cultivated and taken into account while conducting and guiding research. He also called for articulating intellectual heritage and knowledge capital. 
In his presidential remarks, the chairman, IOS, Dr. Mohammed Manzoor Alam, pointed out that Prof. Kasule’s speech would be helpful in furtherance of research. This was the second programme of the series which would continue in future as well. He laid emphasis on working on plural epistemological aspects as Allah created human life to benefit the world. Thus it required dialogues to resolve issues of different nature. Human being was an honourable creature of the Almighty which should ensure equality and foster fraternity among races and religions. Justice was the cornerstone for the good of the world. He stressed the need for thinking over the nature of time and the nature of knowledge. Nature of time was susceptible to change and knowledge should be used to resolve problems. Since Muslims were the torch-bearers of the Quran and Islam, research methodology from Quranic point of view should be adopted while dealing with issues, he concluded. 
At the end of the session, Prof. Ishtiyaque Danish proposed a vote of thanks. He said that the lectures delivered in the five-day programme were beneficial for participants who came from different streams–science, commerce, business management, arts, etc. In all, as many as 26 lectures were delivered with more than 100 scholars participating in it.

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