|Education: Need, Compulsion and Obligation|
The Holy Quran also gives a clear idea of the value of education and procuring knowledge in the following verse:
many signs there are in the heavens and earth! Yet they pass them by,
turning away from them. (Surah Yusuf: 105)
as Muslims drifted from their religion, they also adopted a retrogressive
stance with regard to knowledge. Many
contemporary scholars even began to contend the importance of scholarly
activities in Islam with the claim that the knowledge Islam binds its
followers only to religious education.
Some even adopted a hardliner stance and forbade the acquiring of
contemporary languages used by foreigners notwithstanding the fact that
their ancestors in faith had left no stones unturned in their quest for
knowledge. But knowledge knows
no boundaries as is evident from the following verse:
who remember God, standing, sitting and lying on their sides, and reflect
on the creation of the heavens and the earth:'Our Lord, You have not
created this for nothing. Glory be to You! So safeguard us from the
punishment of the Fire. (
is the One Lord of mankind, goading people to reflect on the heavens and
the earth, not only on his scripture.
The Holy Quran urges man to study his world critically and to
wonder over its creation and to asses his position in it with great care.
It beckons man to see for himself, not once but again and again and invites him to solve its mysteries.
they not look at the Camels, how they are made? And at the Sky, how it is
raised high? And at the Mountains, how they are fixed firm? And at the
Earth, how it is spread out? (
Holy Quran invites man to ponder over the water cycle as an example of a
sign of his Lord and to realize his helplessness in the face of his Lords
prowess manifest through nature.
is He who sends down water from the sky. From it you drink and from it
come the shrubs among which you graze your herds. And by it He makes crops
grow for you and olives and dates and grapes and fruit of every kind.
There is certainly a sign in that for people who reflect. (
you thought about the water that you drink? Is it you who sent it down
from the clouds or are We the Sender? If We wished We could have made it
bitter, so will you not give thanks? (Surah al-Waqiíah: 68-70)
Holy Quran challenges its readers to try their utmost in finding any flaws
in the work their Lord and Creator, and failing which to submit themselves
who created the seven heavens one above another: No want of proportion
will you see in the Creation of (God) Most Gracious. So turn your vision
again: do you see any flaw? (
these verses of the Holy Quran and many more provided the motivation
behind the work of the early Muslim scientists who were pioneers in their
fields. These verses clearly substantiate the claim that worldly knowledge
is imperative, as much for religious understanding as for the worldly
life. They all point to a long
forgotten Muslim canon that provided the impetus behind the Islamic
renaissance that followed in the wake of the long stagnation of the part
of the world that was later to constitute the Islamic empire.
In the name of thy Lord who created man from a clot. Read: And thy Lord is
the Most Generous Who taught by the pen, Taught man that which he knew
not." (Quran 96:1-5).
also know that Islam also pushes us to go for all sort of learning.
Donít the following verses support the claims that Allah has commanded
us to learn and gain knowledge?
Muslim man's and every Muslim woman's prayer should be: "My Lord!
Enrich me with knowledge." (Quran 20:114)
The pursuit of
knowledge and the use of reason based on sense of observation are made obligatory
on every Muslim man and woman.
traditions of the Prophet (saw) supplement the foregoing teachings of the
Quran in the following way:
Seek knowledge "even though one has to make a detour
"The acquisition of knowledge is compulsory for every Muslim, regardless of the sex."
"God has revealed to me, whoever walks in the
pursuit of knowledge I facilitate for him the way to heaven".
should endeavour to spread knowledge and provide education for people who
have been deprived of it. For, where knowledge is hidden, it
"Seek for knowledge and wisdom, for whatever the
vessel from which it flows, you will never be the loser."
"Worship without knowledge has no goodness in it and
knowledge without understanding has no goodness in it."
"Acquire knowledge: it enables its possessor to
distinguish right from the wrong, it lights the way to heaven; it is our
friend in the desert, our society in solitude, our companion when
friendless; it guides us to happiness; it sustains us in misery; it is an
ornament among friends and an armour against enemies."
Seek knowledge from the cradle to the grave.
saw the commandments of Prophet (saw) vis a vis acquiring knowledge. Hence
there is no point delving much on the aspect of obligation. Whatever
Prophet (saw) said is an obligation for us and has to be fulfilled. We
hear about so many Muslim in the early stages of Islam excelling in their
area of expertise. They gained knowledge as an obligation and succeeded in their pursuit by the grace of Allah. The
Islamic Empire remained the most advanced and civilized nation in the
world for over a millennium. This is because Islam stressed the importance
and respect of learning, forbade destruction, developed in Muslims the
respect for authority, discipline, and tolerance for other religions. The
Muslims recognized excellence and craved intellectually. The teachings of
the Quran and Sunnah drove many Muslims to their accomplishments in
sciences and medicine. Today our Imaan isnít so strong and
unfortunately we take the commandments of Prophet (saw) in literal sense
and that is why we fail to succeed in our endeavors.
if we look to second aspect called compulsion. It has been oft repeated
that it is a compulsion to gain the knowledge. The very knowledge makes us
important in this world. Donít we as the best Ummah that ever heralded
on earth also have every right to be respected by all and sundry? Do we
feel the Muslims of earlier generation were respected by their peers for
no worthwhile contributions? If we echo the sentiments of the Muslim
bashers then we are at serious fault and it also depicts our weak
understanding of Islamic civilization. If we look into the history of
Muslim achievers then there is no dearth of scholars and their
contributions. For example Islamic medicine is one of the most
famous and best known facets of Islamic civilization, and in which the
Muslims most excelled. The Muslims were great torch-bearers of
international scientific research. Some of the best and most eloquent
praises of science ever written came from the pens of Muslim scientists
who considered their work to be acts of worship.
same motives led to the establishment of Al-Azhar (800 C.E), the first
university in the world. They hit the "source ball of knowledge"
over the fence to
need of knowledge and the value
of education have another facet. This is proved by the above verses of
Quran. Apart from that if we look from worldly aspects, it opens doors for
further opportunities. We as Muslims are inferior to none and hence
deserve respect all over the world. Allah has promised for his blessings
and bounties but it will not come without putting any effort and hence it
is high time we stick to the Quranic exhortations towards knowledge
seeking world. We have to renounce the distorted interpretation (of Quran)
from some of the self-centric scholars. Isnít it a fact that the more
knowledge we have the more it takes to the apogee of respect in terms of
fame and finally may help us in earning better livelihood? The education
also teaches us the civility and also helps us in understanding our
religion at large. Even learning and understanding of Quran is a need
(apart from obligation) for our usual day to day life.
looking at the direct factors exhorting us towards learning knowledge, we
need to analyze the current situation of Muslims vis a vis status, wealth,
respect and value. The status of the Muslim Ummah is of great concern to
all the Muslim intellectuals. But unfortunately the Muslims who enjoyed
above a millennium of ascendancy are in the most pathetic position. No one
can deny that the Muslim Ummah at present occupies a position which is at
the lowest rung of the ladder in the world. The share of the Muslims in
Nobel Prizes, Magsaysay awards, Entrepreneurship prizes etc could be
easily counted on fingers. Muslimís contributions to literature are
marginal at best. In the present scenario the Muslims have reached the
nadir and it is really painful to stomach this reality. Muslims have been
economically exploited and politically subjugated. Muslims are very weak
economically; they are lagging behind in education; and their
representation is marginal in science and technology. The average literacy
rate is around 38 per cent and in rural areas in Muslim countries, the
illiteracy rate among Muslim women is 93 to 97 per cent. This is in total
violation of the message of the Quran and Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon
him) as mentioned earlier. The Muslims educated in the western world know
about Western books and scholars but they know very little about Muslim
books and the intellectual achievements of the Muslims. The mean rate for
literacy for the Muslims is 35 per cent lower than that for the
Why have we become
retrogressive? The Prophet (saw) came to this world to enlighten us but we
the Ummah are failing him. But we must
realize that if we fail to live up to our responsibilities as the final
Ummah, then Allah Almighty may supplant us with another people (perhaps
new converts) as has always been his way. It is a clear indication
that our Ulemas donít have proper understanding of religion Ė
otherwise how else can they not call the Ummah for gaining knowledge.
Rather nowadays most of our Ulemas are involved in infighting among
themselves and try to outperform each other in badmouthing. Isnít it a
shame for us? The Ulemas have been given responsibility to unite Ummah and
call all and sundry towards the knowledge world. To our misfortune their
action seems contrary to the teachings of Islam.
suggests that almost two-thirds of the Muslims worldwide are illiterate.
This low level of literacy, evidently, is responsible for the grinding
poverty, the backwardness, and the deplorable conditions under which the
vast majority of the Muslims live at present. Only
is proved from Quran and Sunnah, every individual is entitled to have
access to education. Regardless of religion, language, race or status,
every individual has the right to strive for knowledge. Social injustice,
however, renders this virtually impossible, introducing many problems
demanding immediate solution, the foremost being unavailability of free
education for every member of a community. In many countries, due to
poverty, huge numbers of children and teenagers are deprived of quality
education. Access to a handful of quality schools is reserved for a
privileged minority. The ordinary people hardly receive schooling
addressing their actual educational needs. In this context, the richer
receive better education while the poorer simply get what the system
development of children can be fostered by laboratories and many other
means provided by schools receiving adequate material support. The limited
resources of some schools, on the other hand, hinder young individuals in
Bihar Anjuman has
taken initiatives in positive direction. It plans to augment the existing
educational centers by providing all sorts of support. The plans are noble
and hence Allah the Almighty should fulfill the objectives of Bihar
** Tariq Nawaz Qaisrani is a Research Assistant at Center for
Digital Signal Processing,
Tafsir Ibn Kathir
Al-Jumuah Magazine, Vol.33, P8-10