‘Mempunyai’ atau ‘menjadi’?

Dalam tulisan ini saya akan membahas hubungan antara dua konsep yang berbeda namun sering disamakan dalam pikiran kita: antara ‘punya’ atau ‘mempunyai’ dan ‘jadi’ atau ‘menjadi’.

‘Mempunyai’ tidak selalu berarti ‘menjadi’. Bahwa saya mempunyai banyak uang, belum tentu saya menjadi kaya. Sebaliknya, untuk ‘menjadi’ tidak selalu menuntut untuk ‘mempunyai’. Bahwa untuk menjadi kaya tidak harus mempunyai banyak uang.

Hal yang sering terjadi adalah kita sering mengambil kesimpulan yang salah dari apa yang kita lihat. Perhatikan contoh berikut: (1) Si A adalah orang yang pintar; (2) Si A mempunyai banyak buku; kesimpulan: karena Si A mempunyai banyak buku, maka pasti dia orang yang pintar. Contoh lain: (1) Si B adalah desainer kreatif; (2) Si B mempunyai komputer canggih; kesimpulan: karena Si B mempunyai komputer canggih, maka dia pasti desainer kreatif.

Dalam sepintas, tidak ada yang salah dengan kesimpulan tersebut—sah-sah saja! Namun yang berbahaya adalah ketika pikiran dan hati kita mengamini bahwa hanya dengan punya kita akan jadi. Semata-mata mempunyai banyak buku tidak serta merta membuat Si A pintar. Di antara mempunyai dan menjadi terdapat banyak ‘me-’ yang harus dilalui oleh yang bersangkutan: dia harus membaca, mempelajari, mengulas, memahami, mengkritisi, mengajarkan, dst. Bahwa Si A faktanya mempunyai banyak buku adalah konsekuensi dari pribadinya yang (menjadi) kritis, ingin tahu, dan ingin berbagi. Orang lain yang tidak melihat proses-proses ini dan ingin mendapatkan—secara instan—‘prestise’ yang timbul dari kualitas-kualitas tersebut akan cenderung mengambil jalan pintas dengan membeli/memiliki benda-benda penunjang kualitas tersebut.

Kita harus berhenti untuk mengartikan ‘mempunyai’ sebagai ‘menjadi’. Kalaupun ada hubungan antara keduanya, justru dengan tidak mempunyai itulah terdapat kesempatan yang lebih besar untuk ‘menjadi’ lebih baik. Ketika seseorang sangat menginginkan untuk memiliki sesuatu, pada saat itu jugalah hati orang tersebut menjadi miskin. Apa yang dia miliki menjadi tidak ada artinya, karena pada saat itu dia sedang menginginkan hal lain. Dia menjadi miskin walaupun mempunyai semuanya. Sebaliknya, ketika seseorang memberikan apa yang dia punya (untuk mengurangi derajat ‘mempunyai’-nya), bisa jadi orang tersebut ‘menjadi’ lebih kaya hatinya, lebih tenang pikirannya, lebih ringan beban hidupnya. Dia menjadi kaya walaupun tidak berpunya.

‘Mempunyai’ adalah bahasa manusia untuk mengejar dunia. Karena itu adalah bahasa manusia, ia cenderung diskriminatif dan destruktif. Ia adalah bahasa yang terbatas oleh sekat-sekat kelas sosial dan ambisi. Sementara ‘menjadi’ adalah bahasa Tuhan untuk membebaskan manusia dari belenggu dunia. Karena ia adalah bahasa Yang Maha Adil, ia adalah bahasa yang konstruktif dan non-diskriminatif. Ia adalah bahasa yang mampu mengangkat manusia untuk keluar dari permainan kapitalistik. Untuk ‘menjadi’, semua orang memiliki kesempatan yang sama tanpa melihat seberapa banyak (atau sedikit) yang seseorang ‘punya’.

***

The cruelty of the present

Any knowledge that we have documented up until now is inescapably organized, slotted and labelled under the light of the present. Through the light of the present, we distinguish between what we now call Classical, Medieval, Enlightenment, Modern, Post-Modern ages. We put stamp on these pasts without them being able to respond or refuse. Through the light of the present, we ascribe certain parts of the world as developed, developing, under developed, and we measure how far back in time the rest of the society is grappling with ‘development’. Also, by assuming the linear, continuous, and exponential progression of knowledge, the present is generally described as the most developed, the most sophisticated state of affairs. The ‘yesterday’ is the irrational, the slow, the laggard. The ‘today’ claims to be the sober, the nimble, the enlightened.

The present is also where the paradoxes are increasingly relevant. Tsoukas (2005): ‘more information, less understanding; more information, less trust; and that more social engineering, more problems’.

Similarly, the present never ceases to be the most insecure moment to live—despite the ever tighter border control and more discriminatory airport security check. As commonly found in the introduction of many business discourse, our times is that which is ‘turbulent’, ‘uncertain’, and ‘chaotic’. Our times is that which, in the political arenas, the past (history) is molded by the present into the shapes that are desired by those who seek and are in power and control.

The present is cruel, that is, since the present time is always being our nearest state before our death as we move approaching our destined date.

Reference

Tsoukas, H. (2005). Complex Knowledge: Studies in Organizational Epistemology. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

We don’t need more entertainment, but more remembrance

If we take television or other communication technologies as our benchmark of how people can live more happily—through its advertisements and any benefits that it claimed to be able to provide—we will see that the very least these media are actually doing is to pump our hopes to obtain what they are selling. Our hopes are inflated through the air of what we could ‘do’ or ‘be’ through its consumption. For instance, we are told that we could be more productive through the owning of product X or that we could maintain our prestige by having product Y. Once our hopes are pumped, then ‘desire’ kicks in. In turn, we may as well thought that the fulfillment of desires is a form of entertainment; to have fun and relax after working hard for a period of time—and sometimes with no hard work at all. It has to be realized, however, that external consumption like these are, at best, distraction.

The danger is in believing that what our society call as ‘entertainment’ will really entertain us. If the purpose of entertainment is to make ourselves feel good, happy and happier, then it certainly is a short-lived one. A jolt in our sensation that immediately dissipates and difficult to sustain. In other words, it fails to deliver its promise since we do experience the following notion upon our accomplishment of consumption of any entertainments: now I am back to the ‘reality’. This ‘reality’ seems to us as something banal, less than interesting, and awful. What we meant by saying “to be entertained” is then actually “to be distracted” from the real banality of life. To forget, albeit momentarily, from realizing how awful and boring our routines are. Entertainment is a matter of distraction.

Quite paradoxically, the production of technologies that were intended to enrich our lives make us away from life itself (Murad, 2012). And by ‘life’ we meant ‘nature’. Humans’ primordial tendency is to be one with nature, to align with it, to be in harmony with it. That is why we are humbled by our gaze at the stars, we find calmness in listening to rainfall, and we find beauty in our witnessing of symmetry. As soon as there is something in between our direct experience and nature, we are distanced from it. The more distant we are from nature, the more we are distracted, the more we forget.

Our inner self, the soul, is always longing for its return. And the way to return—to not to forget, to not to be distracted—is through remembrance. Islam is a religion of remembrance. With its obligatory five-time prayers, one is supposed to be in the state of ever-remembering. That is, to remember how great He is and how small and weak we are. If this is still a difficult thing to do, Al-Ghazali do offer us a striking advice: try to remember death. Death is the very certainty that everyone will face. Yet, it is still the most distant thing that we can feel (thanks to our busyness and all the advertisements we face everyday). The mechanism in which our current economy is operating is based on the pumping of hopes and desires, one after another, so that we are trapped in the illusion of satisfying our desires. “No man has had his needs fulfilled therein; one desire ends only in another” (Al-Ghazali). Remembrance of death may seem to be the most uninteresting thing to practice, but we learn that we don’t find calmness and joy when we do what the desire interests. We need to break from that vicious circle. By reflecting on the pain and perils when our soul is taken from our body, perhaps we will find ourselves to be freed by the illusion of this world.

References

Al-Ghazālī. (1989). The Remembrance of Death and the Afterlife (T.J. Winter, Trans). Cambridge: The Islamic Text Society.

Murad, Abdal-Hakim. (2012). Commentary on the Eleventh Contentions. Cambridge: The Quilliam Press.

A learning from a bouquet

A bouquet. Flowers uprooted, cut, trimmed, wrapped.

Endure. Yearning for its return to the source of life.

Put in the vase, filled with water.

Yet, it does not consume more than it needs.

 

It could have seek revenge and devour all its nourishment at once.

But it is precisely because nourishment is what it seeks, that it only takes what is necessary despite the abundance.

The water does not vanish in the course of a glance.

 

Shame on humans.

Desire is their false commander.

A persistent betrayer whose allusion to satisfaction disappears as soon as its satiation.

 

***

 

A lily bouquet

A lily bouquet

Memahami mekanisme Tuhan: Posisi Tuhan, setan, dan manusia

Sering kita dengar dalam kehidupan sehari-hari, bahwa dunia tempat kita tinggal ini senantiasa berada dalam ‘peperangan’ antara yang baik dan yang buruk. Biasanya, yang baik berada dalam keadaan terbatas, minoritas, tertindas, dan tertipu sementara yang buruk berada dalam keadaan tak berbatas, mayoritas, menindas, dan menipu. Sebagai contoh, berulang kali dalam Al-Qur’an disebutkan bahwa sebagian besar dari manusia itu “tidak beriman” (Al-Baqarah: 100), “tidak memahami” (Al-Maidah: 103; Al-An’am: 37), “tidak memperhatikan” (Al-An’am: 111), dan “tidak menepati janji” (Al-A’raaf: 102).

Terkait hal ini, kemudian muncul sebuah pertanyaan. Kenapa dalam kehidupan sosial manusia yang semestinya akan sama-sama enak jika manusia mengasah potensi baiknya, sebagian besar dari mereka harus ditakdirkan untuk melenceng dan membahayakan sebagian yang lain. Dengan kata lain, kenapa harus “sebagian besar” dari manusia yang masuk dalam klaim Tuhan untuk memiliki sifat yang “tidak baik”? Apakah Tuhan salah dalam hal ini?

Tuhan telah menjawab pertanyaan tersebut secara lugas: “Jikalau Tuhanmu menghendaki, tentulah beriman semua orang yang ada di muka bumi seluruhnya” (Yunus: 99). Dalam ayat lain dijelaskan bahwa “Jikalau Tuhanmu menghendaki, tentu Dia menjadikan manusia umat yang satu, tetapi mereka senantiasa berbeda pendapat” (Hud: 118). Setidaknya, ada dua faktor penting yang dapat kita ambil dari sini. Pertama, kehendak Tuhan adalah hak prerogatif-Nya yang tidak bisa didikte oleh manusia (Tuhan berkuasa penuh dalam kehendak-Nya untuk tidak berkehendak). Kedua, kondisi manusia yang selalu berbeda pendapat. Interaksi kedua fator tersebut membuat perwujudan “umat yang satu” menjadi mustahil. Kemudian dalam An-Nahl (93) dijelaskan pula, “Dan kalau Allah menghendaki, niscaya Dia akan menjadikan kamu satu umat. Tetapi Dia menyesatkan siapa yang dikehendaki-Nya dan memberi pentunjuk kepada siapa yang dikehendaki-Nya.” Pertanyaan lain kemudian muncul, Tuhan kok menyesatkan? Bukannya yang menyesatkan itu seharusnya setan? Mari kita runut lagi ayat terakhir tersebut.

Tuhan punya wewenang untuk menjadikan manusia dalam satu umat. Namun wewenang tersebut, walaupun tersedia, tidak tergunakan (unexercised). Kemudian kesempurnaan kendali Tuhan atas segala ciptaan-Nya tersembunyi dalam keseolah-olahan kendali manusia atas kehidupannya. Karena semua adalah ciptaan-Nya (yang terlihat, yang tak terlihat, dan semua interaksi diantaranya), maka tidak ada satupun yang berada di luar lingkup Tuhan. Kalau tidak ada satu hal pun yang berada di luar lingkup Tuhan, maka semua merupakan wujud keberadaan Tuhan dan kendali-Nya. Semua merupakan bentuk mekanisme yang bekerja di bawah pengetahuan Tuhan. Sekarang, Tuhan menganugerahkan kepada manusia sesuatu yang tidak dimiliki oleh makhluk-Nya yang lain, yaitu akal. Bersamaan dengan itu, melalui akal tersebut, Tuhan pun memberikan kebebasan kepada manusia untuk memilih antara yang baik dan buruk. Kebebasan untuk memilih inilah yang menjadikan manusia “senantiasa berbeda pendapat.”

Kehendak Tuhan akan lebih mudah lagi untuk dimengerti ketika kita melihatnya sebagai sebuah mekanisme. Mekanisme, artinya, terdapat sistem dengan berbagai komponen didalamnya yang dapat menjelaskan terjadinya atau tidak terjadinya sesuatu. Secara umum, marilah kita namai “kehendak Tuhan untuk memberi pentunjuk” sebagai “mekanisme kebaikan” sementara “kehendak Tuhan untuk menyesatkan” sebagai “mekanisme keburukan.” Sebagaimana dalam sebuah mekanisme terdapat komponen-komponen yang saling berinteraksi, maka mekanisme keburukan pun akan bekerja ketika manusia memilih untuk cenderung pada keburukan. Ini yang kemudian dibahasakan menjadi “Dia menyesatkan siapa yang dikehendaki-Nya,” karena kehendak Tuhan merupakan bentuk kerja mekanisme yang Dia ciptakan.

Roy Bhaskar (2008) mengatakan bahwa dalam setiap mekanisme generatif (generative mechanism) terdapat (1) posisi, (2) aktor yang menempati posisi tersebut, dan (3) praktik yang dilakukan oleh aktor yang bersangkutan. Dalam mekanisme keburukan, setan bukanlah aktor utama; disitu ia hanya berposisi sebagai ‘pengarah gaya’. Lebih spesifik lagi, setan berperan untuk membawa manusia jauh dari Tuhan: “Karena Engkau telah menghukum saya tersesat, saya benar-benar akan (menghalang-halangi) mereka dari jalan-Mu yang lurus” (Al-A’raaf: 16). Aktor utamanya adalah (dan selalu) manusia. Manusialah yang, pada akhirnya, memilih untuk menuruti dan menjalankan arahan setan atau tidak. Ketika manusia mempraktikkan ajakan setan, ketika itulah manusia efektif menjadi aktor dalam praktik keburukannya.

Setan tahu dan mengakui bahwa jalan yang lurus hanya ada pada sisi Tuhan. Ketika setan saja patuh kepada Tuhan, lalu apa sebetulnya alasan manusia untuk menuruti keinginan setan? Terlebih lagi, setan tidak akan bertanggungjawab atas apa yang manusia perbuat. Setan pun berkata:

Sesungguhnya Allah telah menjanjikan kepadamu janji yang benar, dan akupun telah menjanjikan kepadamu tetapi aku menyalahinya. Sekali-kali tidak ada kekuasaan bagiku terhadapmu, melainkan (sekadar) aku menyeru kamu lalu kamu mematuhi seruanku, oleh sebab itu janganlah kamu mencerca aku akan tetapi cercalah dirimu sendiri. Aku sekali-kali tidak dapat menolongmu dan kamupun sekali-kali tidak dapat menolongku. Sesungguhnya orang-orang yang zalim itu mendapat siksaan yang pedih.
— (Ibrahim: 22)

“Janganlah kamu mencerca aku akan tetapi cercalah dirimu sendiri.” Pada akhir hari atau Hari Akhir kelak, setan tidaklah lebih berdaya daripada manusia di hadapan Tuhan. Bahkan, manusia semestinya lebih memiliki daya daripada setan karena manusia dapat menangkap pancaran cahaya Tuhan sementara setan tidak. Tidak ada kemenangan yang nyata dengan menuruti ajakan setan. Menuhankan adalah sifat dasar manusia, setan tahu persis hal itu. Akan tetapi ‘apa yang dipertuhankan’ adalah sebuah pertanyaan terbuka. Karena itulah, setan menyelinap ke hati manusia “dari depan, belakang, kanan, dan kiri” (Al-A’raaf: 17) untuk mendorong manusia agar menuhankan selain-Nya. Untuk itu kita harus selalu bertanya kepada diri kita sendiri: apakah kita melakukan perbuatan tertentu untuk memenuhi hawa nafsu/ego/‘tuhan’ kita, ataukah kita melakukan itu untuk membawa diri kita lebih dekat dengan Tuhan? 

Ketika kita mampu untuk menjawab pertanyaan tersebut, disitulah mekanisme kebaikan Tuhan bekerja dengan lebih nyata. Bukan bahwa mekanisme kebaikan hanya bekerja ketika manusia sadar, tetapi bahwa kesadaran manusia terhadapnya akan membuat mekanisme tersebut bekerja secara lebih kuat. Ini artinya memanfaatkan akal untuk berpikir, mata (hati) untuk melihat, dan telinga (hati) untuk mendengar dan memahami tanda-tanda-Nya dan mengenali posisi dirinya. Semakin seseorang memahami dirinya sendiri, semakin dia dekat dengan Tuhannya. Semakin seseorang dekat dengan Tuhannya, semakin dia sadar bahwa pilihan dalam hidup hanya bisa diarahkan untuk kembali kepada Tuhan. Kalimat “aku bersaksi bahwa tiada ‘tuhan’ selain ‘Tuhan’” adalah bentuk deklarasi formal yang harus kita maknai sebagai pembebas diri terhadap dominasi setan.

Menyadari cara kerja dua mekanisme ini semestinya memberikan kesadaran bagi manusia untuk membedakan antara kemenangan yang semu dan yang nyata. Kemenangan semu adalah kemenangan yang seolah-olah nyata, namun sejatinya tiada; kemenangan yang terus meminta; kemenangan yang, begitu ia didapat, segera ia kehilangan makna. Sementara kemenangan yang nyata ialah kemenangan melalui keberserahdirian; kemenangan yang memberi; kemenangan yang tak terlihat, karena ia hanya dapat dilihat oleh Tuhannya. Dalam kesadaran tersebut, pilihan seseorang yang berserah diri bukanlah pilihan dirinya sendiri, tetapi merupakan pilihan Tuhan yang harus ia jalankan untuk kembali kepada-Nya. Pada akhirnya, perkara ternyata kita termasuk yang mayoritas atau minoritas di bumi ini semestinya bukanlah menjadi soal utama. Tuhan mengingatkan kita untuk kritis dan tidak menyamakan antara “yang kebanyakan” atau “mayoritas” dengan “kebenaran.” Karena apalah arti menjadi mayoritas, kalau sejatinya hati tidak menjadi cenderung kepada-Nya? Dan setan pun tunduk di hadapan Tuhan.

Referensi

Bhaskar, R. (2008). A Realist Theory of Science. New York: Routledge.

The ego and the soul

God endows human beings with two things: “perversion and piety” [1]. The (worldly) ego and the (heavenly) soul.

The ego desires indulgence. Its command is to consume more with the mask of self-expression. For the ego, there is no such thing as ‘too much’ because ‘more’ is always better—faster, newer, bigger, smaller, thinner. The ego speaks with the illusion that one can be a master through the possession of things or oppression of others. While in fact, the fulfillment of ego makes oneself the slave of everything and the master of nothing. The ego hides the moment its call is followed, refusing to be responsible by saying that “I am just urging you to do this and that. Isn’t that you who decides?”

The soul likes perfection. Hence one could find endless energy in the perfection of craft—it is the soul that one is feeding. The soul also likes to be ready. That is why there is excitement when one is prepared for something. The soul likes to be perfected. And the soul gets perfected when it comes closer to God’s quality. To love, to care, to share, to create, to maintain, to sustain. Perfecting the soul means accepting that one is under God’s command and only to Him one must dedicate everything. Only then, one is freed from any form of enslavement. The ego is bounded by the shackle of “what’s in it in return.” But the soul knows that any return is only from God; hence it seeks no return and endeavors for contribution.

The ego speaks loudly. It speaks through advertisements in hyperbole and excess. It capitalizes on one’s endless desire of wanting. For it is the fuel of ego’s illusion for infinite possession. But the self speaks in silent. It doesn’t shout nor yell. Its message is heard only in stillness when any other sound is silenced. Its signal is beamed through the realization that enough is more than enough. One does not need to move a toe for the ego to come, but one needs to make a step for the soul to approach.

The ego is dependent on the worldly idea of time and space. It always worries about the time: What if the plan doesn’t work? What if this happens? What if that happens? How long will the journey take? When will I become someone? I can only be happy when I am … . It also worries about space: If only I have a bigger room; if only I live somewhere else; if only I am here or there; I can only be satisfied once I am somewhere. But the soul is independent, indifferent, freed from the notions of time and space. It knows that time and space are His creation and, hence, its subjugation to Him makes oneself the master of time and space. Anything that occurs in the world is a moment and place for the soul’s continuous perfection. For what it constantly does is to examine the state of the heart in any point of time and space: Am I taking another ‘god’ as God? Do I really submit myself to Him? How pure is my faith to Him?

Perfecting the soul means making it ready. And to make the soul ready is to restrain the ego’s control over oneself. That is why traditional religious practices such as in Java, Indonesia, there is something called as “laku prihatin” (literally means “the practice of restraining”) where one is intentionally deprived from any worldly things to temper the soul. In our modern era of self-expression, the idea of restraining becomes more as a joke rather than a way of life. In freedom of expression, one merely gets freedom from one thing to be a prisoner of another thing.

Prosperous is he who purifies it (the soul); Lost is he who stifles it (the soul).[2]


[1] Qur’an 91:8 [2] Qur’an 91:9–10

PhD as a selfish project

PhD is a selfish project. How come it isn’t? You think for yourself, you write for yourself, you read for yourself. All is devoted to the production of the final, ‘sacred’ document that you need to defend in the end—by yourself.

PhD is also about self-indulgence. You do what you like in the way you like. The supervisor reads and comments on your work for your own good. Your colleagues support you for your own good. As long as you accomplish the work.

Other jobs work for other people. A chef cooks for others, a driver drives for others, an auditor audits for others, and a designer designs for others. A PhD, however, works for him- or herself.

In fact, PhD has more similarities with artist. A pure, non-commercial artist, to be precise. An artist draws as a self-expression, as something that he loves doing even though no one would benefit at the time of creation, as something the he knows he must do even though he doesn’t know if he will make money out of it.

Well, that’s where PhDs differ from artists. PhD students know that there is money in return for doing the work (through salary, scholarship). Or that they even have to pay for it (the tuition fee).

Or maybe, the value of doing a PhD should not be compared to other jobs; that PhD is (still) something in the category of ‘student’. In other words, PhDs—like students—should not be expected to contribute anything during the process; that their highest value is in the learning as much as they can. But let’s imagine if a PhD is like a bucket in the process of filling. Isn’t there anything from the bucket, while in the filling process, that can be shared to others? Or should we wait three to four years later before we, the rest of us, can learn anything. If at all.

Avoiding disjunctive scholarship

Ibn Khaldûn’s book “The Muqaddimah” has brought me to enter the scholarly activities around the 14th century. Yes, the 14th century, seven hundred years ago. A period of time that never before I cared so much, until now. Especially with my recent visit to Andalusia (where I witnessed the remnants of Islamic greatest achievements in Granada and Cordoba) the world’s history between (roughly) the 8th until 15th century cannot be neglected to understand where we are standing in the present day.

I recalled how Yasin, my tour guide and a good friend in Granada, described that every component of Alhambra is a pinnacle of scientific and artistic achievements during that time. I imagine, at that time, people were able not only to develop scientifically but also to practically apply those scientific advancement in their everyday life. It was a period when spiritual devotion elevates one’s scientific exploration.

It was based on that curiosity that I looked for any publications written by Muslim scholars at that time, especially in the social sciences. Then I came across Ibn Khaldûn’s “The Muqaddimah.” Ibn Khaldûn himself is known for his historical analysis of the Arabic world but, as I read further, his writings are also about sociology, anthropology, political science, economics, and business management. And wait, his analyses and theorizations are still very relevant with what we are dealing now in the 21st century! Socially, we seem to be not so much different from those in Ibn Khaldûn’s era.

This led me to explore other Muslim scholars (especially in philosophy and social sciences) such as, that I am trying to read so far, al-Ghazali, al-Kindi, and Ibn Battuta. All with two questions: What are their views of the world? And how their views relevant (or not) with the current scientific discourse? If the modern day social sciences pride themselves to refer to the work of Karl Marx, Max Weber, Pierre Bourdieu, Michel Foucault, Anthony Giddens or Joseph Schumpeter, why don’t they refer as far back as those scholars in the 8th–15th century? Especially given the high relevance of the latter in today’s era.

Then I came to the conclusion that—as far as I read—what have been thought, discussed, and debated by our 20th and 21st-century scholars are not something new if compared to the problems back in the 14th century. In fact, our scholars in the past have been able to settle the problems in a much simpler and concise way than what is proposed now. If, in the past, we already possess such knowledge, then how come that we lose the knowledge now? When was it that we ‘lost the memory’ of such knowledge? We claim to live in the modern age, but it seems that we are now ‘re-inventing the wheel’ by discussing what has been discussed before. What exactly is this “modernity” means?

I believe that we can learn a great deal by coming closer to the writings of the great scholars in the past. Given the strong influence of the Middle Ages Muslim scholars in the subsequent scientific “progress” (what is ‘progress’ anyway?), it would be a significant blindspot for us if we never came across the works produced during that period. Their worldview, based on the faith that there is no god but God, is unique. And this colors their theorization in a way that is different from the modern day, secularistic view. As a Muslim student, I feel incomplete and unjust if I read so much about the writings of the Western scholars but never touched any work by the great Muslim scholars. Pak Sony Warsono, a respected senior lecturer from Universitas Gadjah Mada, said to me that Islam is currently not in a favorable “swing.” This is a reminder that every nation, every group of people, every ummah has its own rise and fall, and one cannot quicken or delay the time designated to each. What should we do (especially for Muslim scholars), then, to advance our knowledge and science for a better understanding the world? To improve ourselves, Ibn Khaldûn advises us to travel “in quest of knowledge” and meet “the authoritative teachers of his time” (Ibn Khaldûn, 2015, p. 426). If this means that you have to go to the US or Europe or Australia or Egypt, please go for it. Go for it.

Reference

Ibn Khaldûn. (2015). The Muqaddimah: An Introduction to History (F. Rosenthal, Trans.). Woodstock: Princeton University Press.


Thanks to the invention of a PhD position, I am able to spend my time thinking, reflecting, and writing about something of “very little practical relevance” and instead carried away to contemplate the doings of people and how could we make sense of why they do what they do in the way they do.