Transforming Knowledge

Dr. Asad Zaman


My education at the leading western universities indoctrinated me into a secular & scientific worldview without any explicit discussion of its fundamentals. Among  the central assumptions of this worldview is the primacy of the material, objective and concrete. I learned to believe, like most readers, that the world we live in is built of rocks and stones, and our ideas about this world are subjective intangibles, and unimportant. With life experience, I learned that the opposite is true. The most important dimensions of the world we live in are social constructs — for example, the nation we live in is  an “imagined community”. I have explained this in greater detail in my essay on The Power of Ideas‘. If the world we live in is a social construct made out of our shared ideas, then changes in the knowledge we share can change the world.  Another way to think about this is in the context of Michel Foucault’s work, which shows that power structures are supported by conforming structures of knowledge. Thus changing these structures of knowledge can transform the world in favorable directions. How ‘wrong’ knowledge has led to wrong policies and unjust economic outcomes is discussed in Failure of Economic Policies for Growth. My article on the Nature of Human Knowledge, provides a more general discussion of the power of knowledge to change us and the world around us

The vast majority of our “knowledge” of the world we live in is highly Eurocentric. Nearly all of my writing aims at developing a worldview which is based on the teachings of Islam. This involves looking  at history, and also the meaning of knowledge, very differently from what we were taught in the course of our western education. A very simple explanation of some basic misconceptions generated by Eurocentric teachings is given in my paper: Directions for Muslim Scholars in Social Sciences.  A more completed and detailed explanation of how appropriate methodology of social science is entirely different from that of physical science is given in An Islamic Approach to Humanities. — the main idea is that the prestige of Physical Science has led to the adoption of scientific methodology for social science, which has substantially distorted development of social science. Human beings are free to act and choose in ways that particles are not, and therefore humanities requires a different methodology from physics. It is my contention that conventional economic theory, as currently taught in universities throughout the world, is fundamantally flawed. Why this is so, is explained in ECONOMICS. The main culprit is logical positivism, which was the dominant philosophy around the mid-twentieth century. This philosophy formed the basis for the methodological foundations of conventional economics. Logical positivism had a spectacular crash, and its most enthusiastic proponents acknowledged that “it was all wrong” — BUT economists did not revisit the positivist foundations of economic theory. A brief exposition for a general audience of the current crisis in Economic theory is given in a sequence of newspaper articles on The Global Financial Crisis of 2007. For more sophisticated, detailed and technical expositions for academics see Normative Foundations of Scarcity, and Logical Positivism and Islamic Economics for further details. My article on Development: Myths and Truths debunks twelve important myths about the process of economic development. Similarly, most of my writing is addressed to correcting errors built into Western educational syllabi. These writings can be organized into the following categories:

  • Islamic Economics: Fundamental points of contrast between conventional theories and the Islamic approach.
  • Economics: Collects different dimensions of evidence against dominant economic theories
  • Econometrics: Methodological problems with conventional econometrics; also some technical work in the area
  • Social Sciences: Flawed foundations of contemporary social sciences
  • General — (Dawa: invitations to Islam for those in doubt)
  • Methodology: Logical Positivism as a failed philosophical basis for current approaches to social science and economics.

Alternatively, another way to classify would be as follows:

I have also provided an overall GUIDE to readers to help them select articles relevant to their interests and purposes.