“O people, it was the duty of every prophet before me to guide his Ummah (universal nation) to whatever he knew was good for them, and warn them against whatever he knew was bad for them.”(1)
Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) thus proclaimed his mission.
The Prophet came to bring every kind of good into people’s lives and banish every kind of evil, as outlined by the Quran in three coherent tasks, progressing from reciting, to purifying, and finally, to teaching.
It is He Who sent among the unlettered ones a Messenger (Muhammad) from among themselves, to recite to them His Revelations, to purify them, and to teach them the Book and Wisdom, although they had been before in manifest error. (2)
The Prophet had a clear target and a well-defined path for realising it.
His first task was reciting God’s Words to people to wipe out illiteracy. To choose what is good, people first need to know what constitutes true good. Hearing God’s Words divinely changes the hearer from a state of ignorance to having knowledge of the meaning and purpose of life, of what is good and evil, right and wrong, lawful and unlawful.
The Prophet’s second task was moral purification and self-development of people, by weeding out that which was evil, bad, and useless and cultivating that which was good, virtuous, and beneficial.
His third task — education — followed purification, because knowledge devoid of morality is self-destructive. It only begets arrogance and vanity. It is the kind of knowledge from which Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) sought refuge. “O God, we seek refuge in You from useless knowledge.” (3)
Once hearts have been purified, they become receptive to the comprehensive knowledge of the Quran, which places in one scale of the balance the knowledge of this world, and in the other the knowledge of religion. They make up the two parallel quests for the success and happiness of believers in the two abodes.(4)
Our Lord, give us in this world that which is good and in the Hereafter that which is good. (5)
Wisdom is the sought-after goal of a believer…
Finally, through the Sunnah (acts, sayings, and approvals of the Prophet), the Prophet nurtures the capacity for wisdom, which is defined as rightness of one’s actions, statements, and intentions, or doing what is right, at the right time, in the right way, and in the right place.(6)
The Prophet broadened its scope to include any beneficial wise word or act; searching for and attaining it, from wherever or whoever it comes, is a goal in itself, a broadening of a Muslim’s horizons. “Wisdom is the sought-after goal of a believer. Wherever they find it, they are more worthy of it.”(7)
The prophetic educational methodology was sent down by God, for both moral and intellectual instruction, whose profitability depends on the individual. Just as land varies in its fertility and capability to absorb and benefit from rain, so does mankind in its capability to accept and benefit from this Revealed Knowledge.
The Prophet said:
“The guidance and knowledge with which God has sent me is like abundant rain falling on the earth; a portion of it was fertile soil that absorbed rainwater and produced vegetation and grass in abundance. Another portion of it was hard and held the rainwater and God benefited the people with it; so they drank, watered their animals, and irrigated their land. Another portion of it was barren; it could neither hold water nor produce vegetation.
This is an example of the person who comprehends God’s Religion and benefits from that with which God has sent me, and so learns and teaches others. And an example of a person who pays it no heed and does not accept God’s Guidance with which I have been sent.”(8)
1. Narrated by ‘Abdullah bin ‘Amr bin Al-‘As, Sahih Muslim, Book of Imarah (Leadership), Hadith no. 3431.
2. Translated meanings of Al-Jumu‘ah 62: 2.
3. Narrated by Zaid bin Arqam, Sahih Muslim, Book of Dhikr (Remembrance of God), Supplication, Repentance and Seeking Forgiveness, Hadith no. 4899.
4. Ghazi Sobhi Akbik, Al-Qur’an Manhaju Haya.
5. Translated meanings of Al-Baqarah 2: 201.
6. The second definition is by Ibn Al-Qayyim, Madarij Al-Salikin.
7. Narrated by Abu Hurairah, Sunan Al-Tirmidhi, Book of Knowledge, Hadith no. 2611.
8. Abu Musa Al-Ash‘ary, Sahih Al-Bukhary, Book of Knowledge, Hadith no. 77.