Be critical, seekers of Islamic knowledge told

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PETALING JAYA: A university professor has advised Muslims to exercise critical and analytical thinking when learning about their religion, particularly from online sources.

Speaking to FMT, Tajuddin Rasdi of UCSI University said one should never rely on a single source for answers to one’s questions.

He pointed out that famous scholars throughout history always sought knowledge from a variety of sources. He gave the example of Muhammad al-Bukhari, the well-known 9th Century scholar whose hadith compilation is perhaps the most respected in the Sunni world.

“We’ve heard about how Imam Bukhari went to this ustaz and that ustaz,” he said. “This shows that it’s very important to learn from a multiplicity of sources.”

Recently, Jakim Director-General Othman Mustapha, speaking at a symposium on preaching through new media, noted that there was a deluge of information on Islam on the Internet. He said much of the information was misleading.

Tajuddin criticised the method of teaching of some contemporary teachers. “Sometimes they don’t allow you to ask questions,” he said, adding that this often happened when the questions related to issues that the teachers were not equipped to deal with.

“The first test of a true scholar is not what he knows, but whether he declares what he doesn’t know,” he said. “The false scholar will say that he knows everything.”

He also said it was important for students to know when they must unlearn what they’ve learned.

“If you come out of the university thinking that every single tradition that you’ve inherited is the truth, then that’s a problem because it means you won’t question that so-called truth and you cannot discover newer and better truths.

“Who in the world can say that they have the ultimate truth? If someone says that, then he’s being influenced by Satan.”

Another academic, Maszlee Malik of the International Islamic University Malaysia, agreed that Internet users needed to apply critical and analytical thinking when receiving information sourced from websites and social media. He said educators had the responsibility of guiding students in this.

“It is the role of educators to teach students to think analytically and correctly,” he said. “People should not follow things blindly whether we’re talking about information regarding religion or anything else.”