This brief note on the concept of secularism is as explained by Prof al-Attas in his book "Islam and Secularism".
The word 'secular' is from Latin word 'seaculum' which denotes time and place. The time in now and the place is here in this world or worldly. Al-Attas defines secular as the condition of the world at this particular time.
Secularization is a process of freeing man from religious and metaphysical control over his reason (thinking) and his language. This means that the language used to understand meanings and concepts is no longer has religious influence (meaning is not coming from religion). For example, happiness according to ad-din al-Islam is very much determined by our relationship with Allah. If Allah is pleased with us, then we are happy even though we are facing with the most difficult challenges in life. Secularization has taken out religious understanding from the concept of happiness...and happiness is understood as, for example, achieving one's goal which has got nothing to do with relationship between man and God.
It is also a process of defatalization of history which means that events that had happened and will be happening in history has got nothing to do with God's planning. In Islam, we believe that what ever happens in history or in the future is planned by God and has been written in the 'Sacred Tablet' (I don't know the right word for Lauh al-Mahfuz). But this does not mean that man has no freedom of choice... In the process of secularization, men discovers that they don't need God and they are left alone in this universe and therefore they can control the world.
Secularization includes the political, social and cultural aspects. Society and culture are free from the guardianship of religious control and closed metaphysical views. Closed metaphysics means the metaphysical truths are absolute and are not subjected to change. The end product of secularization is historical relativism.
Relativism means an ideology which believe that there is no absolute truth. This means that all views are considered as equally valid/true. Knowledge and morality is mind dependent and exist in relation to context (culture, society, history). Ethics and moral values are not absolute and relative to the persons holding the values. This means that moral values differ from people to people; time to time; place to place--it tells us that my truth is as good as your truth, even though they may be contradictory. The truth that prevails is the most popular or practical. For example, abortion is illegal and immoral in year, say, 1800. But now abortion become popular and it is not considered immoral anymore in some states in USA.
Integral (Essential or important) components of secularization
- Disenchantment of nature -- it means freeing nature from religious implications and separating it from God. Nature is believed as not divine thus man is free to conquer and control it.
- Desacralization of politics -- it means legitimation of the sacred or the divine is abolished from political powers and authority. This makes way for political change which in turns lead to social change.
- Deconsecration of moral values -- it means that every cultural creation and value system which include religion and religious value are deemed relatives. This allows for change or evolution of values and the future value system may be the opposite of the present value system. This conveys that man is free to create change and to be involved in evolutionary process.
Secularization is the process of coming of age of maturation of man. It considers the past as time when man began at the stage of infantile, as time goes, man's consciousness and reason become more mature -- in the process of maturing, religion is not needed anymore since secular man claim that he can find answer in justification for everything. Therefore religion is removed along with the metaphysical support--this justifies man to be on his own without the help of intervention from God.