Yesterday at 3pm, the Sultan of Perak, Sultan Nazrin Muizzuddin Shah launched Professor Syed Muhammad Naquib Al-Attas’ new book ‘On Justice and the Nature of Man’, a commentary of two verses from the Quran -An Nisa Verse 58 and Al Mu’minun: 12-14.
At age 84 years, this is Professor Al-Attas’ 23rd book. Many of his readers and those who are studying the Al-Attassian way took this as a rare opportunity to see him lecture in public. He used to give his public lectures at the Saturday Night Lecture Series in CASIS (Centre for Advanced Studies in Islamic Science and Civilisation), but the current CASIS Director, Prof. Dr. Muhammad Zainiy Uthman is now the main lecturer for the series.
The Sultan Shah described the professor’s work as a “lifelong project…to look at the philosophy of modern times, explore it, understand it and subject it to the tradition of Islam.”
“In so doing, he has built upon two premisses. Firstly, that the Islamic tradition has the ability to relate to the contemporary world. And secondly, that in order for it to do that, the contemporary world must be thoroughly understood.
Read the rest of Sultan Nazrin Muizzuddin Shah’s speech on the Keepers of Justice here.
A reason why al-Attas’ writings are so needed by the ummah today is that he gives clarity, a way to make sense of the world while holding firmly rooted to the traditional sources of knowledge, in the Quran and Sunnah.
Sultan Shah went on to say,”Professor al-Attas is rare among many modern Muslim thinkers in that he does not regard modernity as being in itself a necessarily positive thing: the philosophy of modernity itself has to be subjected to the eternal principles of the Islamic worldview, in order to assess its worth properly. In his own evaluation, modernity is deeply problematic. Unlike many of his peers who deride certain aspects of the modern world but not the philosophy of modernisation itself, Professor al-Attas considers that philosophy to be based on premisses that require profound examination. In a world that barely allows for any counterbalance to the intellectual preponderance of the West, such an unpopular position is hardly without challenge; and indeed this duty must often be accomplished through hardships.”
After the launch, Professor Al-Attas gave a lecture on the main themes of his book. He stressed on the audience that men did not come into existence via evolution, but men are a special creation of God. In Surah Al Mu’minin Verse 14, Allah states that He developed Men into “another creation”. As Muslims, we take this as a certainty and, the onus is on each individual to calculate, based on archaeological diggings, and history books, the years of existence of each Prophet before Muhammad (peace be upon him).
“It’s not that difficult,” he chuckles.
And indeed it is not. By cross referencing the names mentioned in Quranic stories, to historical records in museums, Prof. Al-Attas guided us through how he derived an estimation that the first man- Prophet Adam (a.s.), walked on earth around 7000 to 8000 years ago. He also told us about which mountain the ark of Prophet Nuh (a.s.) landed on and where it is in present day.
The verses expounded on in the book:
An-Nisa Verse 5
Al- Mu’minin Verse 12-14