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An Alliance of Knowledge and Power

It is undeniable that a proper education is a key to the Islamization and revival of the present culture and civilization of Muslims.

A comprehensive educational vision and plan, coupled with concrete policies and laws and their avid and wise enforcements, account for the most powerful force that can lead to making the idea of a contemporary Islamic civilization a reality.

A clever synthesis of knowledge and authority is the best way for taking the idea of modern-day Islamic civilization from the world of abstract ideas to the world of real life challenges and realities.

Indeed, knowledge without its systematic actualization and application is absurd and worthless. Authority, or power, with no support of an adequate and appropriate knowledge and its protagonists, on the other hand, is a hollow and dangerous thing. It is a sham and a farce.

For knowledge to fully play its projected roles of enlightenment, enrichment, guidance, transformation and progress in the society, it needs the unreserved help and support of genuine and honest authority or power, and its protagonists.

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In the same vein, for authority and power to play their own projected roles of guidance, administration, protection and development in society, they need the constant help, advice and direction of knowledge and its own protagonists.

Knowledge and authority need each other for their bare survival. The existence of one of them in the absence of the other is rather illusory. Such an existence is artificial and ineffective in the extreme.

Certainly, it is owing to this that in Islam one of the chief characteristics of a ruler is that he is pious and knowledgeable. He must hold in high esteem the people of knowledge and wisdom regularly consulting and listening to them.

Mutual consultation the Holy Quran highlights as a foremost feature of the Muslim community (Al-Shura 42: 38).

Even Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) used to consult his companions on worldly matters. The Quran explicitly instructed him to do so (Al ‘Imran 3: 159).

Correspondingly, knowledge without its practical application and dimension is strongly repudiated and condemned in Islam. So is faith without deeds to supplement and support it. It is thus true to say that knowledge without deeds and theory without practice is like a barren tree.

The Quran declares that it is the learned believing men and women who fear God most, i.e., they make up the best category of believers as they exemplify and combine knowledge, faith and practice.

It is important to harmoniously combine true knowledge and its people with genuine and honest authority or power. The wellbeing of the society depends on the appropriateness of their respective services and the health and solidness of the relationships between them.

Abdullah ibn Mubarak, a leading Muslim scholar of the second Hijrah century, was reported to have said:

“There are two types of people, when they are good and righteous the whole community becomes good and righteous, but when they are bad and morally corrupt the whole community becomes bad and morally corrupt. Those two types of people are scholars and rulers”.

Thus, it is not the rulers alone who rule and are in charge of the society. Rather, it is the rulers and scholars that are responsible for its administration and leadership. The public is not to be excluded in the process because they are the target and strength of virtually all laws and policies. Public participation in whatever regulated forms and capacities is crucial and reasonable.

Nor is it that scholars alone are the depositories and owners of the most precious commodity, that is, knowledge. They must apply and share it with others so that all can benefit from it. If there is autocracy or tyranny in relation to authority and power, likewise there could also be intellectual autocracy or tyranny if knowledge becomes personal and concealed, or becomes a manipulated and abused matter.

Truly, knowledge and authority stand for two greatest responsibilities or trusts (amanah) that a person can take up. They are for a common and not for a personal good or gain. They are more about giving than receiving. The rewards for their fulfillment are immense.

Read the full article here.

About Dr. Spahic Omer
Dr. Spahic Omer, an award-winning author, is an Associate Professor at the Kulliyyah of Islamic Revealed Knowledge and Human Sciences, International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM). He studied in Bosnia, Egypt and Malaysia. In the year 2000, he obtained his PhD from the University of Malaya in Kuala Lumpur in the field of Islamic history and civilization. His research interests cover Islamic history, culture and civilization, as well as the history and theory of Islamic built environment. He can be reached at: [email protected].