Friday, 7 December 2012

Biography of Syed Naquib Al-Attas




Syed Muhammad al Naquib bin Ali al-Attas (born September 5, 1931) is a prominent contemporary Muslim philosopher and thinker from Malaysia. He claims to be one of the few contemporary scholars who is thoroughly rooted in the traditional Islamic sciences and who is equally competent in theology, philosophy, metaphysics, history, and literature. He considers himself to be the pioneer in proposing the idea of Islamization of knowledge. Al-Attas' philosophy and methodology of education have one goal: Islamization of the mind, body and soul and its effects on the personal and collective life on Muslims as well as others, including the spiritual and physical non-human environment. He is the author of twenty-seven authoritative works on various aspects of Islamic thought and civilization, particularly on Sufism, cosmology, metaphysics, philosophy and Malay language and literature.

Early Life And Education
  • Syed Muhammad Naquib al-Attas was born in Bogor, Java [Indonesia]
  • He was the second of three sons; his older brother, Syed Hussein Alatas later became an academian and politician, and also had a younger brother, Syed Zedal.
  • Syed Naquib received a thorough education in Islamic sciences, Malay language, literature and culture.
  • His formal primary education began at age 5 in Johor, Malaya (later known as Malaysia), but during the Japanese occupation of the peninsular, he went to school in Java, in Madrasah Al-`Urwatu’l-wuthqa, studying in Arabic.
  • After World War II, in 1946 he returned to Johor to complete his secondary education.
  • He was exposed to Malay literature, history, religion, and western classics in English, and in a cultured social atmosphere developed a keen aesthetic sensitivity. This nurtured in al-Attas an exquisite style and precise vocabulary that were unique to his Malay writings and language.
  • After al-Attas finished secondary school in 1951, he entered the Malay Regiment as cadet officer no. 6675.
  • There he was selected to study at Eton Hall, Chester, England and later at the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, UK (1952–1955).
  • This gave him insight into the spirit and style of British society.
  • During this time he was drawn to the metaphysics of the Sufis, especially works of Jami, which he found in the library of the Academy.
  • He traveled widely, drawn especially to Spain and North Africa where Islamic heritage had a profound influence on him.
  • Al-Attas felt the need to study, and voluntarily resigned from the King’s Commission to serve in the Royal Malay Regiment, in order to pursue studies at the University of Malaya in Singapore (1957–1959).
  • While an undergraduate at University of Malaya, he wrote Rangkaian Ruba`iyat, a literary work, and Some Aspects of Sufism as Understood and Practised among the Malays.
  • He was awarded the Canada Council Fellowship for three years of study at the Institute of Islamic Studies at McGill University in Montreal.
  • He received the M.A. degree with distinction in Islamic philosophy in 1962, with his thesis Raniri and the Wujudiyyah of 17th Century Acheh. Al-Attas went on to the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London where he worked with Professor A.J. Arberry of Cambridge and Dr. Martin Lings. His doctoral thesis (1962) was a two-volume work on the mysticism of Hamzah Fansuri.
  • In 1965, al-Attas returned to Malaysia and became Head of the Division of Literature in the Department of Malay Studies at the University of Malay, Kuala Lumpur.
  • He was Dean of the Faculty of Arts from 1968 until 1970, where he reformed the academic structure of the Faculty requiring each department to plan and organise its academic activities in consultation with each other, rather than independently, as had been the practice hitherto.
  • Thereafter he moved to the new National University of Malaysia, as Head of the Department of Malay Language and Literature and then Dean of the Faculty of Arts.
  • He strongly advocated the use of Malay as the language of instruction at the university level and proposed an integrated method of studying Malay language, literature and culture so that the role and influence of Islam and its relationship with other languages and cultures would be studied with clarity.
  • He founded and directed the Institute of Malay Language, Literature, and Culture (IBKKM) at the National University of Malaysia in 1973 to carry out his vision.
  • In 1987, with al-Attas as founder and director, the International Institute of Islamic Thought and Civilization (ISTAC) was established in Kuala Lumpur.
  • This institution strives to bring an integrated Islamization into the consciousness of its students and faculty.
  • Al-Attas envisioned the plan and design of every aspect of ISTAC, and has incorporated Islamic artistic and architectural principles throughout the campus and grounds.


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