Muslims encouraged to ‘be open to the world’
BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN
THERE is a need to revive intellectual discourse in Islam, said a renowned Muslim academic, adding that Muslims should be critical in order to gain a better understanding of their faith.
Dr Tariq Ramadan, professor of contemporary Islamic studies at Oxford University, said religious scholars should not isolate themselves to criticism and new ideas.
“For many of the _ulama _it’s about the rules, it’s not about the environment, critical thinking or the movement,” he said during a public lecture on contemporary Islam at Universiti Brunei Darussalam (UBD) yesterday.
“It’s about protecting ideas... We should not protect ourselves from the changing world; we should change the world for the better.”
The Swiss academic is on his fourth visit to Brunei as a visiting scholar at UBD’s Sultan Omar `Ali Saifuddien Centre for Islamic Studies (SOASCIS).
Responding to a question from an audience member, Ramadan said while there were immutable laws in Islam, our understanding of religious texts should evolve through intellectual discourse.
“Seeking knowledge as a Muslim is not only to come to the Islamic references - this is a problem.
“You cannot change the world if you remain isolated ... Seek knowledge by reading other books, reading people who are not Muslims, be open to the world.”
The professor also stressed the importance of interfaith dialogue in contributing to the understanding of Islam.
“(During theological conferences) many people leave after the Muslims have spoken… You are not disrespecting the man who is speaking but you are disrespecting yourself, your mind, because you are not listening to people who have something to say,” he said.
“Everyone can teach us something and this is intellectual humility.”
He told university students to be committed to intellectual engagement and to have the courage to be critical.
“We have to be committed to reviving this spirit… As a student, the first thing is to seek knowledge. Seeking a degree – that’s not knowledge... It can go together but sometimes it doesn’t.”
Ramadan is scheduled to speak at the Sultan Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Centre for Islamic Studies International Conference (SICON) next week.
He is the author of several books contributing to the debate on issues faced by Muslims in the West and Islamic revival in the Muslim world.
The Brunei Times