Nurturing Holistic Individuals: The Salient Attributes of Ulul Albab

College student at the campus of International Islamic University in Malaysia (photo: iStock by Getty Images).


Humans are vicegerents on this earth, entrusted to administer the world and facilitate humans’ adherence to the prescribed way of life (deen). This warrants the development of individuals with the capability to become fully functioning members of the society.

They have the knowledge, skills and abilities to discharge the tasks, duties, and responsibilities, hence able to attain well-being (hasanah) in this world and in the hereafter. This, in turn, would necessitate setting judicious strategies to nurture individuals to possess the quality of vicegerents (Khalifah), acquire the values of becoming fully-functioning members of the society (e.g honesty, trustworthy or amanah), adopt continuous learning culture,  and uphold the spirit of serving the humanity, befitting the aspiration of Rahmatan Lil Alamin.

The tasks of nurturing individuals to possess these characteristics require, inter alia, education providers to design a set of synergistic curricular and co-curricular activities across all education levels. It involves the design of informed approaches  to substantiate the delivery of the education process. A notable feature of the process is the focus on nurturing individuals to relate or fare well in the increasingly volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous world. The education system should equip students with relevant knowledge, provide them with the right life-enabling-skills and develop the right abilities so that they would become holistically competent individuals, prepared workforce, and responsible citizens.

In this regard, the teaching and learning activities at all education levels should entail the delivery of content materials and learning activities which provide opportunities for students to acquire, relate and apply relevant knowledge and skills in addition to the specialized ones. They are expected to be able to relate the knowledge they learn with the context of time and space where they live so as to explain and solve any issue they encounter.

The notion of holistically competent people or fully-functioning individuals could be addressed by relating it to the concept of Ulul Albab,  a  term that is being mentioned 16 times in the Quran (Romlah et al., 2021). Literally, the term Ulul could be translated as someone that owns something special (Yunus, 1972) while the term Albab is the plural form of the word Al-luub, translated as brain or mind (Aliyah, 2013).

By and large, the phrase Ulul Albab has numerous definitions as provided by  many scholars of the Quran. It has been referred to as individuals who have sound intellect and mature understanding, enabling them to think perfectly (Subirin et al., 2017). It is a concept that has always been associated with the quality or value of an individual, in line with the view of Ibn Kathir who stated that the rank and position of people with Ulul Albab’s characteristics will be raised in the world and hereafter (Humairoh, 2021).

The term Ulul Albab is also referred to as knowledgeable people who have the ability to judge the good and the bad, and the capability of serving as competent workforce, reflected in their ability to avoid behavior that is futile (Khaerani, Muhammad & Syihabuddin, 2017). The concept of Ulul Albab which is accounted for by several salient attributes could be the basis to shape an individual’s thinking and actions in every situation of their life.

Individuals with Ulul Albab characteristics, firstly, have the ability to relate with God. They have the ability to constantly remember Allah; be aware of their responsibilities towards Him; subscribe to the teaching of the Quran and understand its content; observe and reflect the creation of Allah;  be aware and feel motivated to follow the teaching of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him); and maintain their piety towards Allah.

Secondly, individuals with Ulul Albab characteristics have the abilities to be aware of their own existence, strengths, and weaknesses (Qodratullah, 2016). They have sound intellect; matured and deep understanding about the information and context they are dealing with; and the ability to think purposefully. They are able to acquire a strong understanding about their surroundings, from the mind and heart.  They are the people who constantly remember Allah and thus be able to maintain their piety towards Him (Aliyah, 2013). More importantly, they also have the ability to avoid behaviors that are futile to their own self, enabling them to always ensure that they are free from any wrong or counterproductive behaviors.  In short, Ulul Albab individuals are conscious of their own existence and are capable of being fully functioning persons, in all settings.

Thirdly, individuals with the Ulul Albab characteristics have  the ability to reasonably and aptly relate with the community. They have the abilities to strategize initiatives to change, improve and develop the community. They have the cognitive skills and creativity to deal with personal and social problems encountered by people in the community. They apply their knowledge and skills to attend to issues, problems, or needs  of the society. They have the required abilities to understand social phenomena and have the capacity and wisdom to solve them. They would also put their effort to avoid activities that are useless or harmful to their community. In short, they are capable of serving others both as societal members or professional workforce.

Fourthly, individuals with Ulul Albab characteristics have the abilities to relate with the environment. They have the capability to observe and reflect the creation of Allah in their surroundings (Firdaus, 2021). They too acquire wisdom and knowledge by deriving them from the reflections of what they observe in the environment. They can differentiate between the good and the bad;  understand issues or phenomena of the world; provide suggestions or solutions to solve the encountered environmental issues; and avoid behaviors that are detrimental to the environment.

Fifthly, individuals with Ulul Albab characteristics are also capable of relating their thinking and actions to their futures, that is about their life at a later time in this world as well as in the hereafter. They consider the effects of their current actions on their future life, not limiting to the worldly life alone. This includes the thinking over  the effects of their decision and actions on their and others’ future, including that of the generation that would come after them. For instance, they would cautiously consume available resources so that they do not jeopardize the rights of the future generation.

In short, individuals with Ulul Albab characteristics are aware of the existence of God, know of their own self, relate with the community, attend to the environment, and care for the future. Given the comprehensiveness of the concept of Ulul Albab, it should be the basis for the development of the education framework. Cognizant of this, education processes at all levels should avail the means and opportunities for individuals to develop the Ulul Albab characteristics which should be made part of informal and non-formal education processes provided at home, learning institutions, and the community.

Shukran Abd Rahman, Arif Fahim Akmal Rahimi, Mus'ab Umayr Hermee, Muhammad Alif Saiful Azam, and Muhammad Faris Jafri, the authors are from the Department of Psychology, AbdulHamid AbuSulayman Kulliyyah of Islamic Revealed Knowledge and Human Sciences, International Islamic University Malaysia. They are currently working on the conceptualization of the construct Ulul Albab and the development of its measuring tool. 

 


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