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Man is Created to Know – Islam on Knowledge

Islam is the religion of knowledge and the Muslim ummah (community) should always be a community of learning and reading. It should be a knowledge community.

Knowledge in Muslim societies should be a yardstick for ascertaining the extent of the people’s affiliation with Islam, as well as an integral part of a wellbeing index that could serve as a benchmark of excellent policies and practices.

Knowledge should also be at the heart of a comprehensive and discernable quality culture of Muslims. It should represent the thrust of each and every Muslim civilizational course and agenda, performing as their alpha and omega.

Knowledge is not only to denote the potency of Islamic civilization, but also its light, soul and identity. It is to be the latter’s most prominent and proficient feature, most coveted and most invested in.

Consequently, ignorance, false knowledge, lethargy and deliberate mediocrity are to be viewed as scourges and be avoided at all costs. Relentless intellectual, spiritual and cultural wars are to be waged on all fronts against such civilizational inadequacies.

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Such would be one of the noblest acts of worship. Yet, it would signify an act of a “holy war” (jihad), and those who wage it, making appropriate sacrifices for the purpose, would warrant the title of true mujahids (those who struggle for the sake of Allah and Islam, or those who are engaged in jihad). They would likewise be able to secure of the rewards reserved for jihad as one of the fundamental religious obligations, the highest of which is martyrdom.

This is significant especially nowadays when a great many Muslims are poor, divided and busy conspiring against and fighting each other. Many are still illiterate and Muslim educational systems are nowhere near the standards espoused either by Islam or the progressive world.

As a result, Muslim earlier enormous contributions to the evolution of the global society and civilization are increasingly regarded as a footnote to human history. While to most observers, the current events and affairs in the Muslims world do not even merit to be placed on the map of the crucial global cultural and civilizational developments.

Having been producers through the ages, Muslims quickly became consumers. From being leaders, they turned into followers. From being light, guidance and hope providers, they became despondent and hopeless. From being main protagonists in, and contributors to the realms of epistemology, culture and civilization, they became ignorant, disoriented and uncultured.

Instead of being chief promoters and backers of human goodness, virtue and dignity, many Muslims are proving one of their main obstacles, so much so that there is a danger that if things are not mended soon, they may gradually turn into humankind’s serious liability.

Islam on Knowledge

Islam is so concerned about knowledge, as an instrument and source of self-actualization, along with civilizational vitality, that it could be freely described as the religion of knowledge, just as genuine Muslims should be recognized as the people of erudition and wisdom, and authentic Islamic civilization as one of enlightenment and scholarly sophistication and refinement.

According to the Islamic message, man is created to know. He is to be an ever cognizant and knowledgeable being, and as such, to function as Allah’s honorable vicegerent on earth.

In Islam, the concepts of worship and knowledge are closely interrelated. They complement each other in such a way that no appropriate worship is possible without knowledge and no thorough knowledge is attainable without worship. In fact, they are almost synonymous with each other.

In the Holy Quran, the total number of verses (ayat) in which the word ‘ilm (knowledge) or its derivatives and associated words are used is 704. The means and aids of knowledge such as book, pen, ink, etc. amount to almost the same number.

When Almighty Allah created Adam, the first man and prophet on earth, He taught him the names of everything (2:31), that is, the meanings, purposes, characteristics and functions of all things and man’s potential relationships with them. That was almost certainly prior to any prescribed religious injunctions, and even any divine prophetic revelations to Adam, for the proper understanding and application of the latter are dictated by the former.

Moreover, the first verse (ayah) of the Quran revealed to Prophet Muhammad enjoined reading, which is the threshold of knowledge (Al-‘Alaq, 1). It stands to reason that the heavenly proclamation to Prophet Muhammad: {Read! In the Name of your Lord Who has created (all that exists)} (Al-‘Alaq, 1), was similar both in effect and vivacity to Allah’s direct teaching of Adam the names and attributes of all things. To some extent, it was as dramatic as the former, too.

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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].