Read… Read… Read…”.
This was the first order from Allah to the last prophet to mankind, Mohamed (PBUH). It implies the very strong relationship between knowledge and religion.
We’ve indirectly ignored this relationship in the last few hundred years. During what we can call the “backward” period. This relationship is the key to restore our current situation back to the glorious years of the Islamic Ummah.
Some people think that the reason behind this backwardness is the political or the educational system. But, I believe that the lack of understanding and practicing religion and its relationship with science is the main reason.
It is worth noting that “Read” here means “critical reading”, which points to a logical process that includes:
- Looking around to the phenomena of the universe and its creatures.
- Thinking deeply about them, about how they work, and what they mean.
- Realizing the facts behind them.
- Formulating your conclusions and theories.
- Putting those facts, theories, and conclusions together to build “science”.
Allah is the One and only creator of the universe. This is the only solid and 100% accurate truth. Based on this, every thing in the world should be pointing to this creator, “The creature points to its creator”.
Consequently, all sciences that are related to the creature should be pointing to the creator too, so they are related to religion someway or another, whether directly or indirectly. This is quite logical!
This is the cornerstone and the aim behind Allah’s order to read, see, and think. He orders us to do so to reach the truth of the only creator.
You will find that the majority of people nowadays look at science as a way of gaining money; which is valid to some extent. Yet, they don’t pay attention to “learning” as much as they give to “earning” a degree to find a job!
They even may forget all about what they’ve learnt once they get what they want. Is this what Allah meant by telling us “read”? Is this the kind of “knowledge” that will lead its owner to belief? Of course not.
I believe that “learning” in the right way using the logical process I mentioned previously is much more effective in terms of restoring and enhancing faith.
And this is a scientific fact itself. The knowledge and consequently faith that we gain after hard thinking will be much more effective and creative than blind faith which come after hearing that this thing or matter is true.
And this is, as I believe, what Allah was pointing to when He ordered us to look into His creatures and learn.
Allah even mentioned this kind of knowledge before the religion related sciences in many places in the Qur`an, which indicates the great importance of scientific knowledge to the extent of coming before religious knowledge.
You can find some people who may say that science and knowledge are not so important and that they can come in the 4th or 5th place when we talk about the priorities of our religion, and we can separate them and still have great strong faith!
The relation between science & religion is a two-sided relation moving in both directions from science to religion, and from religion to science and improving one will improve the other. And so, science and knowledge are attached to religion and can never be separated.
Another major reason as I see it, is our rigidity while dealing with science especially when it comes to some critical cross points with religion and beliefs, or even explanations of some major Qur`an & Hadith commentators of ours.
It is known that those explanations were built on the knowledge these commentators had at that time, and hence it is normal for those explanations to get changed along with the enhancement in our knowledge.
This is also logical, the more you see, the more you know and the wider your thinking becomes.
And it is valid that we use some new scientific facts to understand verses of Qur`an, for example.
But the problem is that we look at those commentators as if they were messengers of Allah. Hence, people believe that whatever they said is true and valid forever.
Because of all the above, I believe that any attempt to remedy our nation’s current situation has to start from rebuilding the Islamic mindset by changing our way of practicing religion and the way we look and deal with science and knowledge.
Changing the political systems only won’t do it, changing the educational systems only won’t do it either.
We need to change our beliefs and our mindset in order to give science the attention and importance it is worth as our great religion ordered us to.
This article is from Science’s archive and we’ve originally published it on an earlier date.