Islamic Perspectives

Seek knowledge; Qur’an’s command to Muslims

By Obaidur Rahman Nadwi

In the pre-Islamic era scant attention was paid towards knowledge. It was Prophet Muhammad (SAW) who used knowledge as an essential tool for understanding realities of life. The first Revelation to the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) was "Iqra Bisme Rabbi Kallazi Khalaq" (Read in the name of thy Lord). Needless to say that the word Quran itself means recitation, lecture and discourse. So far as sayings of the Prophet Muhammad are concerned every volume of "Hadith" has a chapter called "The Book of Knowledge", a treasure of learning and education. According to an estimate the word of "knowledge" has been used seven hundred fifty (750) times in the Holy Quran.

The holy Prophet says: "Seeking knowledge is incumbent upon every Muslim man and woman." "Seek knowledge from cradle to the grave," "Seek knowledge even if one has to go to China". "The person who brought up three daughters, embellished them, gave education to them and took care of them even after their marriage, his entry to paradise is ensured by God." He further says: "Acquire knowledge, because he who acquires it in the way of the Lord performs an act of piety, who speaks of it, praises the Lord, who seeks it adores God, who dispenses instruction in it, bestows alms, and who imparts it to its fitting objects, performs an act of devotion to God. Knowledge enables its possessor to distinguish what is forbidden from what is not; it lights the way to Heaven; it is our friend in the desert, our society in solitude, our companion when bereft of friends; it guides us to happiness; it sustains us in misery; it is our ornament in the company of friends; it serves as an armour against enemies. With knowledge the servent of God rises to the height of goodness and to a noble position, associates with sovereigns in this world and attains to the perfection of happiness in the hereafter.

Imam Bukhari in his monumental work attributes a tradition to the Prophet which says that disappearance of knowledge and absence of scholars from society would spell the demise of human civilization. Philip K. Hitti defines ilm (Islamic knowledge) in the following words: "The Arabic word for science (ilm) in English corresponds, "Knowledge" or "learning". It may be used in the broad sense to mean knowledge systematized with reference to general truths and laws, or more specifically, to refer to knowledge as it relates to Physical world in which case it is known as physical or natural science."

Ibn Khaldun, the doyen of Muslim scholars says: "Knowledge is essential for three basic reasons. Firstly, it facilitates cooperation among human beings. Sociability of man is an unquestioned reality. Nothing in life, can be accomplished in isolation. Knowledge alone helps them to understand the nature and purpose of such a cooperation for various occasions. Secondly, the pathways of life are strewn with many ghoulish objects. Man is in dire need of knowledge to differentiate between good and evil so that he can avoid the latter and perpetuate the former. And lastly, knowledge economizes time and increases human energies to resolve the numerous imponderable problems of life."

It is unfortunate that little attention is being paid by us towards this great asset. If we take stock of the prevailing condition regarding education in our society particularly amongst Muslims we will find a criminal negligence on the part of parents in the upbringing of their offsprings so far as education is concerned. It should be a bounden duty of a parent to impart education to children from their early childhood. In fact, it is such a gem that creates awareness, helps in development of mental faculties. It provides ability to distinguish between good and bad.

To have a refined, well-mannered and suave child who may later become an asset to the family and society in general is really nice. Parents must, therefore, assert on proper and good education of their progeny.

Obaidur Rahman Nadwi,
Nadwatul Ulama, Lucknow,

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 16-31 January 2010 on page no. 29

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