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TECHNOLOGY DEVELOPMENT FOR THE PROSPERITY OF THE UMMAH: RISALE-I NUR’S PERSPECTIVE

TECHNOLOGY DEVELOPMENT FOR THE PROSPERITY OF THE UMMAH: RISALE-I NUR’S PERSPECTIVE

Siti Fatimah Mohd Tawil

Senior Lecturer at the Faculty of Quranic and Sunnah Studies, Universiti Sains Islam

Celal Akar

Research Fellow at the Islamic Science Institute, Universiti Sains Islam

Abstract

Islam is a universal religion encompassing various life aspects. Similarly, the development affairs and technology advancement are not restricted in Islam. As far as the development and technology are in line with what was defined in the guideline of the religion, then it is something that always been embraced. This narrative seeks to analyse technology development in Islam, going through and exploring it, from the book of Rasail Nur’s perspective that is the masterpiece of a famous Turkish scholar; Bediuzzaman Said Nursi. This writing will explore each of his opinions on the development and technology advancement, on top of presenting commentaries on each opinion. Technically, this narrative was explored through literature review and qualitative research methods in general. One after another, these writing probes the perspectives of Bediuzzaman Said Nursi on the technology development in the whole collection of Rasail Nur from his primer and secondary sources. It is also enforced with quotations of the views and opinions by Bediuzzaman Said Nursi which are prone to support the technology development and its role in the prosperity of ummah as well as Muslim individuals generally and holistically. This writing succeeded to disclose the clear evidence and opinions by Bediuzzaman Said Nursi on the technology development in Islam for the prosperity of ummah.

Keywords: Technology, Risale-i Nur, Prosperity Ummah

تطوير التكنولوجيا من أجل ازدهار الأمة من خلال رسائل النور

المستخلص

الإسلام دين عالمي يشمل مختلف جوانب الحياة. فإن شؤون التنمية والتقدم التكنولوجي ليسا مقيدين في الإسلام. وبقدر ما يتماشى التطور والتكنولوجيا مع ما تم تحديده في ضوابط الدين، فهو أمر اعتنقه دائمًا. تسعى هذه المقالة إلى تحليل التطور التكنولوجي في الإسلام، ومراجعته واستكشافه، من منظور كتاب رسائل النور الذي يعد تحفة لعالم تركي شهير بديع الزمان سعيد النورسي.

سوف تستكشف هذه المقالة كل رأي من آرائه حول التطور والتقدم التكنولوجي، بالإضافة إلى تقديم التعليقات على كل رأي من الناحية الفنية، تم استكشاف هذه السردية من خلال مراجعة الأدبيات وطرق البحث النوعي بشكل عام واحدًا تلو الآخر.

 يبحث هذا المقال في وجهات نظر بديع الزمان سعيد النورسي حول التطور التكنولوجي في المجموعة الكاملة لرسائل النور من مصادره الأولية والثانوية. يتم تطبيقه أيضًا باقتباسات من آراء وآراء بديع الزمان سعيد النورسي التي تميل إلى دعم تطوير التكنولوجيا ودورها في ازدهار الأمة وكذلك الأفراد المسلمين بشكل عام وشامل. نجحت هذه المقالة في الكشف عن الأدلة والآراء الواضحة التي كتبها بديع الزمان سعيد النورسي حول تطور التكنولوجيا في الإسلام من أجل ازدهار الأمة.

الكلمات المفتاحية: التكنولوجيا، رسائل النور، ازدهار الأمة

Introduction

The rapid technology development of these modern days is the manifestation of the stream of progress known as the Fourth Industrial Revolution (IR 4.0). The utilisation of technology portrays the foundation for this era. A wide array of technology emerge at this age and serve as the medium to accommodate every affair in human life. Even more, it comes to be the factor for the life survival of humankind regardless of race, religion and community. This narrative will thoroughly dissect the Islamic opinions and perspectives upon the diversity of contemporary technology development, which has begun since the glory days of Islam in the past, especially in the era of the Abbasid Caliphate (Ibrahim et al., 2018) and discuss the views in the Islamic manuscripts one by one, in particular, the one from Bediuzzaman Said Nursi.

Literature Review

During the Kuala Lumpur Summit in 2019, Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamed, the then Prime Minister, stressed Muslims to move along with the global technological progress of modern days or Muslims will forever remain left behind. This is because contemporary technology development is still driven by non-Muslims and we still depend on them as technology developers and continue to be the customer (Bernama, 2019).

Technology development is among the factors contributing to and underpinning the prosperity of ummah in particular. It serves as a synergic multi-tiered benchmark and needs to be in constant harmony. In the case where technology wishes to be the factor for the prosperity of a particular society, it must be managed in a just manner. No matter how rapid the technology development is, it must oriented to the foundation and basis of God’s commandments. Moreover, as social beings, every kind of technology created by humans must always be built and developed within the ethical and moral frameworks (Norwawi et al., 2019). To be specific, this refers to the Islamic sets of ethics and moral values. Implementing Islamic values within the development of technology is imperative and must be enlightened. Since the modernity of technology is shaped by technologists, the application of Islamic values must be instilled and invigorated through their mind and aspiration (Zarkasyi, 2016). Among the suggestions are the Islamic shift of paradigm of a technologist, the application of the values of benefits in technology, as well as the transformation of the academic syllabus in universities. These notions, among others, ascent the modifications can be shaped in the manner suggested by Zarkasyi (2016) despite requiring considerable amounts of effort, commitment and time.

Going through among the earliest and the recent works of literature discussing the association between the morality framework with technology, they mention that history has recorded human failure or negligence of putting technology within the ethics and moral frameworks will result in the creation of chaotic and uncivilised societies (Radzi & Osman, 1996; Sen, 2016). Similarly, it was also recounted in series of academic writing (Ferdous & Uddin, 2012) which assert the significance of always be on the lookout tower of ‘check and balance’ in welcoming a particular technology advancement so it would not have unwelcomed repercussions. For instance, the nuclear technology is sophisticated but was utilised on the battlefield has destroyed nature and claimed many innocent human lives. Therefore, assessing a particular technology is imperative for it to be beneficial rather than destructive.

Related and contemporary pieces of literature proving discussions on this topic are always relevant, yet essential as a manual for wise governance of today’s plethora of emerging and applied technology.

Contemporary Technology

Contemporary technology is closely associated with what was dubbed as the IR 4.0, where if we take a step back, the term Fourth Industrial Revolution was firstly introduced in the year 2011 as “Industrie 4.0” by a group of people representing multiple disciplines (such as corporates, politics and academics). It serves as an initiative for German to boost their competitiveness in the manufacturing industry. It was at that moment that the federal government of German adopted the idea in their High-Technology Strategy towards 2020 (Martin, 2017). However, the vision associated with the fourth phase of industry was actually introduced as early as 2003 by referring to their recommendations on the phase consisting of the follows:

“This cyber-physical system comprises of the smart machine, storage system and retrieval facility that is capable of converting information autonomously, evoke actions and controlling one another independently. This facilitates the foundation of improvement to industrial processes involved in the manufacturing, engineering, materials consumption and supply chain and life cycle management.”

What is depicted in the vision refers to the reality that mostly happens in the phase of the fourth industrial revolution. Technology explosion in the IR 4.0 is perceived to happen and presently drives the changes in how we live, how we work, how we communicate and generally, the changes incorporate the whole aspect of living. It also changes the manner of our interaction, the opportunities before us, as well as capable to change our identities in the world that we live in, either physically or virtually.

Variation of the Technology Advancement’s Diversity

Specifically, IR 4.0 involved the emergence of technology with more diverse modernisation and sophistication levels as compared to the predecessor technology of the third industrial revolution. Majid Gwaiz (2017) suggests that the fundamental towards the technology diversity in IR 4.0 encompasses three major components, which are manufacturing, connectivity and computing.

Those three foundations originate the technology in the forms of Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), cyber security, cloud computing, big data, big data analytics, drone, virtual reality, augmented reality, blockchain and many other technologies. Each of these technologies expands rapidly according to its unique needs, while distinctively contributing and laying impacts. The depiction of the modern days’ leading technology trend in the era of IR 4.0 is as shown in Figure 1.

In a book entitled “The Fourth Industrial Revolution” written by Professor Klaus Schwab (2017) who is the Founder and the Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum (WEF), he highlighted how the fourth industrial revolution provided a nuance of difference in comparison to the preceding three industrial revolutions. He added, the fourth industrial revolution is characterised by technology innovation that spans the physical, biological and digital worlds, resulting in a plethora of new technologies that have an impact on a range of disciplines at either industrial or economic level.

Unay (2017) claims that beginning from the technologies of this age, a range of new opportunities will emerge as a result of increased activities such as connectivity, storage processing and capacity, automation process and access to knowledge through findings in artificial intelligence. Moreover, technology such as the IoT, autonomous vehicle, 3D printing, nanotechnology, biotechnology, materials science and quantum computing with enormous values are also becoming increasingly dominant. 

 IoT is observed as the technology that is gaining ground. It is a digital technology that enables every physical system, such as home appliances, to be characterised by a comprehensive digital control system with just the touch of a fingertip, via users’ smartphones. Any home appliance, including refrigerators, air-conditioners, coffee makers, lamps and many other appliances can easily be monitored and controlled with the existence of IoT. It is said that in the year 2020, specifically, devices connected to the technology sensor of IoT have increased from 10 billion to 30 billion devices. The phenomenon appears to have already taken hold in the majority of community with internet access, leave alone in the current pandemic situation. This phenomenon was addressed by Profesor Emeritus Dr. Barjoyai Bardai as:

“Computers and the internet will be at the heart of this revolution despite it is called as industrial revolution but it is the new revolution of information economic system. The creation of the internet in the mid-90s serves as a milestone in the third revolution via the developments of satellite system and telephone communication networks, fibre optics and wireless technology.”

Furthermore, cloud computing technology is becoming increasingly popular nowadays. Cloud computing in essence is the utilisation of various services, such as software development program, server, storage and software stores, where all are over the internet (Techopedia, 2018). From daily emails to phone storage, everything is stored and managed through cloud computing. The usage of cloud computing is not bound only to personal emails or storage, in fact, this scalable solution becomes the medium of choice for software development testing and utilisation. Most of us who use the internet involved in this technology, such as in the text messenger application (Whatsapp), file backup and recovery application (Dropbox and Google Drive), audio and video streaming service (Netflix) and various other applications related to scalable data. Consecutively, cloud computing will grant access to big data and enable scientists to conduct advanced data analytics to analyse patterns and opinions, finding correlations, forecasting future crises and facilitation in decision making (Newgenapps, 2017).

Next, the existence of cyber security technology is vital for most online applications nowadays. It is a practice to protect the system, network and program from digital threats. These threats normally aim to gain access, alter or destruct sensitive information; extort money from users or disrupt business processes. As there are now more devices than users, attackers are growing innovative and cyber security solutions are getting more difficult to execute. Cyber security is critical for protecting our data and information from viruses, malware, phishing, ransomware, and other threats (Cisco.com, 2019). If exposed, these digital attacks can take place very fast and they are quite devastating.

The Challenges of Modern Technology

It is fair to say that humans today are inextricably linked to technology; it is the way humans shape the world and due to that, humans need to develop it carefully. Hence, it is imperative to begin with the right step in handling technology, as expressed by Tegmark (2017) in his book:

“We must win the race between the ever-increasing power of technology and the ever-evolving wisdom that with the latter (wisdom) we manage it. We do not want to learn from mistakes.”

There are numerous additional technological issues that are challenging and controversial in today’s world, one of which is how the modern biotechnology field can produce designer babies that can act as gene drivers as well as capable to alter the genetic heritage traits of entire species. Innovation in robotics and automation technology, in turn, can be a source of global conflict that causes humans to lose their jobs, or at the very least, changing the structure of jobs with varying skill values. The existence of social media, in addition, is perceived to dilute the social boundary and exert public togetherness, while at the same time increasing the social gap. It lends the voice of cyber-bullies who propagate hate and fake information. In the end, social media guidelines and rules must be established and streamlines, while we must also accept and be aware that the social media rules will provide value for individuals and societies that utilise them in the future.

In the meantime, Sophia (a social humanoid robot) developed from the combination of robotics and artificial intelligence technologies was announced as the first humanoid robot to attain the citizenship of the Saudi Arabian government. In reality, this technology raises a lot of questions and concerns. What if the robot is produced in mass form? What is the guarantee if mass production will be able to guarantee humans’ well-being? These are among the issues that have been the concern for Elon Musk and Stephen Hawkings, both globally renowned engineer and scientist (Vinayak & Sharma, 2017). They are concerned that AI robots will be able to hijack and harm humans in the future. 

“It is a gain with huge potential, because whatever that the civilisation does is a product of human intelligence, we cannot deduce the achievable outcomes if the wisdom is nurtured by AI tools, the eradication of disease and poverty is also limited. Due to the great potential of AI, it is critical to discover how to harness its benefits while avoiding its potential problems.”

Nonetheless, Hanson Robotics, the creators of AI robots, emphasised that they could invent robots that could build a trusted relationship with peoples based on the three principles, which are creativity, empathy and compassion. The company wishes to instil AI software with kindness and compassion that humans, in turn, could learn to be calm with the company of the robot. Hanson’s mission is to ensure these smart robots are capable to assist, serve and entertain peoples while they are building a “close relationship” with humans. By providing emotional and logical bits of intelligence, they have the opinion that robots could finally exceed human intelligence. Dr. Hanson believes that it is not meant to harm humans, but rather to assist humans in resolving major problems (Hanson Robotics, 2017). For the time being, this may be true, but a clear procedure for justifying the simulation of humanoid robot manufacturing’s implementation must still be considered and refined.

This is because there is already evidence of AI robot technology’s abuse today, for instance, this technology is seen to have been manipulated in the industry of manufacturing ‘waitress’ in several European countries, and it has seen protests from the group relation offices (GRO) as well as some European society activists. They are clearly concerned about the arrival of robotic technology, which disrupts their business. Regardless, it has been evident from the beginning that it has gone beyond the norms of humanity and of course, the Islamic values. Dr. Kevin Curran (BBC News, 2015) is concerned that society as a whole is unprepared for the day when sophisticated robotic intimate companions would become the accepted norm. He highlighted issues such as: “Do we have adequate provisions for the upcoming issues in the future when robots are far sophisticated to the point that they cannot be distinguished from humans anymore? Can robots get married? Can robots couple adopt a child?”

As addressed by Vinayak and Sharma, ethics originated from philosophy or religion is not that easy to get into the world of technology. The guidelines furnished by Aristotle, for instance, capable to provide moral guidance for managing technology, despite the fact that it is still an implementation full of dilemma. Although there is still no specific code of ethics and morals as a standard guide in this era of technology advancement, this has been raised as a topic of discussion in the west as a pioneer to the starting point of technology (Vinayak & Sharma, 2017). Therefore, will the abundance of technology diversity be completely detrimental, or will it be a technology that advances humanity, or vice versa? Essentially, the firm devotion of ummah to the Islamic faith values and the clarity of tasawwur of the Muslim who deals with each of these technology tools is accountable for making decisions in accordance with each of the revelation manual’s guidelines.

Technology Development in the Perspective of Islam

To present in the Islamic point of view, the existence of any form of technology development is allowable. As long as its service is used to provide benefits and advantages to an individual or even ummah, it is allowed. The question is, how can a certain technological sophistication contribute to the prosperity of a community or society? Islam states, among others, is the existence of a technology must be used for proper things and manners, as well as for proper purpose and objective (Ibrahim et. al, 2018). In addition, it must be based on maqasid syariah that fulfil and observe every aspect of the five shariahs, which are to protect religion, life, ‘aqal, lineage and property.

            Apart from that, Islam also emphasises the use of technology to be handled with noble manners and morals. When technology is employed fairly and in accordance with noble principles, it becomes a source of blessing for a society, enhancing faith and producing a well-organised and charismatic society (Radzi & Osman, 2006; Nasr, 1988).

Technology Development from the Perspective of Rasail Nur

Bediuzzaman Said Nursi’s viewpoint on technology was discussed extensively in his coherent body of opinions, which are clear and in harmony with the maqasid of Islam as recorded in Risalah Nur’s collection. Briefly, it is not far from what was discussed in the prior part. But most importantly, Bediuzzaman Said Nursi’s approach to managing naqli and aqli knowledge is always centred on synergy and harmony between the two (Aydin, 2019). Religion and technological science’s diversity of disciplines and fields must be viewed through the lens of faith without creating divisions or contradicting the divine message (Hayrat Neşriyat, 2013).

Among the significant points made by Bediuzzaman Said Nursi in discussing the technology is that every effort in the form of development projects, including technology advancement, must be in accordance with the laws outlined by Allah SWT. This is because, any progress that is not in accordance with the divine law will not yield substantial results and will only result in losses. This is relevant to what was quoted from Akhbar Dini 1909 edition:

“O leader of various affairs! If you want success, align your behaviour with the law of ‘Adatullah. If you don’t, you will end up finding the answer through failures.”

Conforming to the development of technology, it not only demonstrates but also confirms that effort is a factor in the success or existence, in accordance with the life resurrection aspiration stated by Bediuzzaman Said Nursi in the book of The Words (Kalimah-Kalimah) in Risalah Nur:

“The most unfortunate, depressed and anxious persons are those who are unemployed. The reason being, the absence of function is the absence in existence and death in life. Indeed, effort is the breath of existence and the revival of life!”

This statement simultaneously instils a sense in the hearts of Muslims to push hard, ensuring that all their labour is beneficial throughout their lives, in accordance with the religious idea of itqan. Furthermore, any type of development can be implemented as long as it is not in violation of the takwiniyyah‘s commands. This was stressed by Bediuzzaman Said Nursi through his writings in the Seeds of Reality, The Letters:

“Just as there is obedience and defiance to the sharia’s commands, there is also obedience and defiance to the takwiniyyah‘s commands.”

This indicates that any current technological progress can be produced with unrestricted pace, as long as it complies with the conditions set forth by social law and human norms.

Interestingly, Bediuzzaman Said Nursi’s emphasis on high morality as an important foundation of civilisation also serves as a guide for dealing with the diversity of modern technological complexity. It clearly states in the collection of Risalah Nur, which are Syamiyyah’s Sermon and The Letters. It was asserted that:

“To teach the moral codes of hasanah and noble feelings that are the life of civilisation.”

Furthermore, according to Bediuzzaman Said Nursi in the same collection, the key of an ummah‘s success is when progress, such as development and technology progress, occurs as a result of the ummah‘s strong commitment to the real teachings of Islam in life and vice versa. This is stated explicitly in the excerpt:

“History demonstrates that Muslims attained civilisation and progressing in their milestone in accordance to their ratio of embracing the truth of Islam, and likewise, history demonstrates that they felt backwards and left out as well as afflicted with series of dooms and defeats according to their level of weakness in embracing the truth of Islam.”

In his other collection, which is The Miracles of The Prophets, Bediuzzaman Said Nursi emphasised that humankind has the potential to become ace and glorious when the knowledge refined from the source of revelation can be defined and applied throughout our life. This refers to the diversity of technology emerging nowadays as sourced from the greatest miracle of Islam, which is al-Quran. Al-Quran depicts every pieces of evidence directly blessed to prophets. He also added, Muslims can be excellent if we really appreciate the truthiness of knowledge directly extracted from the prime yet reliable source of al-Quran, as well as reflecting the benefits and advantages from it. The in-depth topic covered in this book provides convincing evidence of the variety of knowledge and technology miracles conferred on the selected prophets, as well as a clear message that they must be managed with a firm foundation of faith in the God who created the universe.

Overall, Bediuzzaman Said Nursi’s views on efforts and advancement, even in the sphere of technology, can be stated in a way that is extremely similar to and relevant to the overall Islamic view of technology. Moreover, the views and thoughts from Bediuzzaman Said Nursi are additional nutrients to further increase Muslims’ awareness of development and efforts from a somewhat different perspective, yet capable of strengthening Muslims’ understanding and principles of Islam in their hearts.

Conclusion

The views and analysis on the rapidity and development of modern technology from the standpoint of Islam in general and Bediuzzaman Said Nursi in particular have been carefully examined. The advantages of technological progress and development are evident. The benefits received are apparent to the ummah, yet the challenges and problems that such technology brings must be handled properly.

            Technology must be regulated and managed according to the revelation along with knowledge and the norms of humanity to ensure it contributes to a prosperous ummah that conserves its human values. Thoroughly, everything outlined in Islam has supplied us with comprehensive instructions on how to manage technology. The neat and comprehensive opinions expressed by Bediuzzaman Said Nursi clearly reaffirm each of the outlined guides based on our fundamental sources, which are the Quran and Sunnah.

The Quran and Sunnah are pillars that must be established as the backbone for ummah in order to ensure that any sort of technology developed is capable to provide the input in terms of prosperity to users, while still being in line with modernity and the demands of the ummah today.

Acknowledgment

This study is part of research at the Institute of Islamic Science, Universiti Sains Islam Malaysia together with the USIM Islamic Center in collaboration with Yayasan Hayrat, Turkey.

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