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The Integration of Science and the Role of Muhammad Arkoun

The Integration of Science and the Role of Muhammad Arkoun

IN the last decade, scientific integration has not only become a discourse, but has also been implemented on Islamic university campuses, including Muhammadiyah.

The implementation of scientific integration, for example, is evidenced by the proliferation of educational institutions that seek to combine Islamic studies with science and technology (science and technology). In fact, not only at the advanced level (college), but also at the primary and secondary education levels, for example by, hopefully not just talkative, adding IT (integrated Islam) behind the school’s name.

In fact, in pesantren education, a scientific trend has begun to emerge, an acronym for Islamic boarding school for science, which is also part of the effort to actualize scientific integration in educational institutions, which incidentally was born from the typical tradition of Islamic society in Indonesia.

Conceptually, the idea of ​​scientific integration is actually closer to the discourse of metamodernism than postmodernism. Postmodernism is considered to be ‘reactive’ to modernity, while metamodernism is seen as something ‘integrative’ (sustainable) to modernity.

The role of Muhammad Arkoun

In the treasury of Islamic discourse, metamordenism is not a new term. The term was popularized by the Algerian-born contemporary Islamic studies thinker who later settled in France, Muhammad Arkoun.

In the world of discourse (Islam), Arkoun is seen as opening a ‘new horizon’, mainly through his critical study of the classical tradition of Islamic thought and comparing it with other contemporary discourses. So fundamental is Arkoun’s critique of the tradition of Islamic thought, causing him to be seen as paving the way for a ‘new epistemology’ of Islamic thought.

In Indonesia, efforts to introduce Arkoun’s ideas have been initiated since the late 1980s and 1990s. Several scientific publications about him began to spread, among figures who were quite persistent in that field, for example, Johan Hendrik Meuleman, a Dutch researcher who joined INIS (Indonesian-Netherlands Cooperation in Islamic Studies).

In addition, there are several other names, such as M Amin Abdullah, Komaruddin Hidayat, and the first by Mohamad Nasir Tamara through a discussion at the Empathy Foundation (1987) Jakarta, and an article in Journal of Science and Culture Ulummul Qur’an (1989).

The paradigm of metamodernism (metamodern reasoning), stems from the peculiarities of Arkoun’s thought which transcends the boundaries of modernity and postmodernism (Johan Hendrik Meulemen, 1996).

On the one hand, the elements of postmodernism are so thickly colored in Arkoun’s thinking, with the thoughts of postmodernist figures such as Michel Foucault (for example, about episteme and ‘archeological’ analysis) and Jacques Derrida (on logocentrism and deconstruction).

On the other hand, Arkoun does not contrast between modern and postmodern thinking. In fact, in certain respects, Arkoun actually sees similarities between the two, namely the reflection of Western hegemony and domination. His extreme rejection of religion (in the form of secularism) and his arrogance towards the ‘outside world’ (the other).

For Arkoun, postmodernism is just a continuation of modernism, nothing more. Therefore, he is more inclined to include postmodernism as part of the chain of modernist thought.

Thus, Luthfi Assaukanie’s (1994) observation is not wrong, which states that until now, the wealth of discourse in the Islamic world, including the works of Muhammad Arkoun, has not moved from discussing the relationship between Islam and modernity (modernism).

However, Muhammad Arkoun, along with a number of other Arab thinkers, such as M Abid Jabiri, can be seen primarily with their structuralism method as pioneers who tried to apply some postmodernist concepts to Islamic thought.

Arkoun’s alignment with the discourse of modernism, for example, was also expressed by Suadi Putro, Islam Faces the Challenge of Modernity: Muhammad Arkoun’s View (1996). The study not only shows how closely related Arkoun’s thought is with modern discourse, but also shows Arkoun’s view of Islam in dealing with the problems of modernity, such as the development of science and rationalism, the nation state.nation state) and nationalism, and secularism.

Starting from that situation, Arkoun suggested that Muslims remain critical of the West, both modern and postmodern. However, on the other hand Arkoun also called for a complete ‘deconstruction’ of the Islamic tradition.

As a solution, Arkoun offers a metamodernism paradigm which is a combination of rational and critical attitudes from modern (Western) culture, with the spirit of wishful thinking that departs from Islamic values. This is what can be regarded as the integration of Islamic scholarship.

Two sources

Arkoun’s thinking, as a thinker who drank directly from two major ‘springs’ (i.e. Islam and the West), is indeed rich in colors, both in terms of epistemology (philosophy) and in terms of methodology (application).

That includes, in the category of methodology, for example, the linkage of Arkoun’s thinking with several contemporary philosophical methods (mainly those related to language), such as the philosophical method of hermeneutics (method of text interpretation), as well as the semiotic approach (language as a sign system).

More than that, Arkoun’s thoughts also cover issues of the sociology of religion, including a problem that from time to time always experiences tension, namely the synthesis of the relationship between Islam and politics and the state administration.

The classic issue of secularism becomes an important agenda. For Arkoun, the relationship between Islam and secularism is still at an ambiguous point. On the one hand, secularism is absolutely not justified, but on the other hand, desecularization, which means an effort to ‘unify religion and the state’, is also seen as still harboring serious problems.

However, the most important thing from Arkoun’s thinking is his attempt to carry out a kind of ‘epistemological critique’ of the design of Islamic knowledge. The other side is considered important because it concerns the fundamental issue of the tradition of Islamic discourse, namely the Islamic way of thinking or according to Arkoun’s term as a method of ‘Islamic reasoning’.

Arkoun’s point of concern in this regard concerns the principles of Islamic science, whose scope includes its shortcomings.

According to M Amin Abdullah, the paradigm of ‘epistemological criticism’ offered by Arkoun has a far reaching and stinging range of meaning because it involves the ‘scientific’ building of religious sciences as a whole.

That is what distinguishes Arkoun from other critical philosophers, both Muslim and non-Muslim philosophers, such as Immanuel Kant or Thomas S Kuhn. Therefore, Arkoun’s epistemological critique, even though it departs from the tradition of Islamic thought, also gains resonance in the community of various religions.

However, the demolition (deconstruction) offered by Arkoun is not merely ‘dismantling for demolition’. The most important part of a ‘ demolition ‘ is precisely the ‘reconstruction ‘ engineering .

An attempt at deconstruction without a reconstruction is anarchy. Everything that is anarchic must end up ‘void’ or nihilistic. It is this point, perhaps, that distinguishes Arkoun (and his axiology of rejection) from postmodernist philosophers such as Derrida, Foucault, Vatimmo, and Lyotard who tend to be extreme and fatalistic.

Thus, Arkoun has outlined a ‘new horizon’ in the development of Islamic thought. Studies on it, both pro and contra, have also been widely scattered. However, by placing Islamic values ​​as a ‘source’ (Islamic reasoning), Arkoun’s thoughts can become a starting point for the integration of Islamic scholarship. Hopefully!

The writer who was born on January 8, 1969, died July 20, 2022 in Jakarta and was buried in Sragen, July 21, 2022. This is his last work published in the mass media.


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