Students who choose to learn a subject or discipline of knowledge may have not discovered the detail of knowledge they specialise in. Many would focus on the course in general without focusing on the structure of the substance of knowledge which could provide a good foundation for them to deal with the field of knowledge they specialise in. Understanding the ways to deal with knowledge, and the strategies to appreciate the subject matter would enable them to function within a certain discipline of knowledge.
There are, at least, four foci of knowledge that could be given attention when dealing with a field of knowledge, namely the epistemology, ontology, axiology, and teleology. Understanding the four aspects could help us to meaningfully grasp the depth of the knowledge.
Epistemology is one of the notions in the theory of Knowledge (Audi, 2010). It focuses on the methods and sources used by scholars or researchers to acquire knowledge of certain fields. Epistemology addresses the activities that lead to knowledge being created, perceived, and constructed. From Islamic perspective, researchers and professionals should adopt both empirical and divine sources combined in sourcing knowledge of a subject matter. Exploring knowledge to know the reality of existence of a subject should be based on the Al-Quran and the Prophet’s hadith, alongside exploring it via empirical research. For instance, a researcher in Psychology could employ a variety of instruments and procedures to gather data that enable him or her to assess issues investigated. He or she could conduct a specific study in order to answer certain questions, such as to know about humans and their characteristics. From an Islamic perspective, an information or idea should not be based on scientific evidence alone. Anything that is not supported by empirical research should not be disregarded if it is being described in the revealed sources. The researcher could also learn about humans by perusing verses in the Quran and Hadith of the Prophet (PBUH) which describe humans and their characterises.
Knowledge about a subject, such as on human characteristics, could be better described as a result of obtaining information from both empirical data and divine revelation. This is the idea behind the aspect of ontology, a stage that a researcher reached when he or she found true information on the subjects investigated after he or she adopts empirical research and revealed sources. For example, he or she could learn about the physiology and psychology of human upon learning from the tradition of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) that there is a flesh (qalb) in our body, in that if it is healthy, the entire body is healthy, and if it is unhealthy, the entire body is unhealthy. The aspect of ontology of knowledge could also necessitate certain studies to be conducted in order to further explore the nature of a subject matter, such as information that describe human characteristics.
The notion of axiology refers to a set of values or ethical principles that we uphold when dealing with knowledge acquisition activities. It concerns the code of ethics that researchers honour when dealing with sources of information, such as research participants. It is also the ethical standards that professionals adopt when dealing with people whom they serve when applying the knowledge they specialise.
The discussion or focus in axiology is in line with the emphasis that Islam places when dealing with people, at all settings or contexts. The principles and values in research serve as prerequisites for the approval to conduct research. Researchers must be clear of the ethics, morals, and values in order to gather reliable and valid information on the issues being investigated. In professional contexts, the efficient applications of knowledge to the community should be anchored on certain standards that guide professionals to respect certain conducts when dealing with clients. The general importance of ethics is to protect the individual or clients who are working with psychology researchers and professionals; and safeguard the professionals who conduct research and application in the field. In short, the focus here is on ensuring that the work delivered by researchers and professionals is of a credible and respected standard (APA, 2017).
The notion of teleology refers to the purposes, ends and goals of our dealing with knowledge. It focuses on the essentiality to apply knowledge for its good use, such as to explain why something exists or to propose effective ways in accomplishing some work activities (Walsh, 2008). From the Islamic perspective, the purpose of applying knowledge or formulating work skills must be to the benefit of many such as to support change and improvement of wellbeing among individuals and the society.
Taken together, from the Islamic perspective, the purpose of dealing with knowledge is to attain truth about a subject matter or specific phenomena. The methods to study (discussed in the epistemology of knowledge), and the scope of study (discussed under the notion of ontology) should be guided by the certain values or ethics (discussed in the axiology of knowledge). Besides, dealing with knowledge is also to contribute to the development of sound faith over the greatness of the Creator; and inform the ways to become fully functioning individuals in the society through the application of knowledge (discussed as the teleology of knowledge).
The authors are academic and postgraduates from the Department of Psychology, AbdulHamid AbuSulayman Kulliyyah of Islamic Revealed Knowledge and Human Sciences, International Islamic University Malaysia.