Professor Rafik Beekun
Although Islam encourages Muslims to acquire knowledge as assiduously as they can (please read the article excerpt below), the Muslim world is falling behind many other countries in education, and the data is not pretty. This is an unfortunate turn of events in the knowledge economy because this increasing educational crisis condemns future generations to backwardness and other spiritual, social, economic and political ills. Please click here to watch the slideshow of the presentation I gave at the 2009 Conference of the Association of Muslim Scientists and Engineers in Washington, DC, USA.
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Seeking Knowledge: An Islamic Duty
The importance of education is a none disputable matter. Education is the knowledge of putting one’s potentials to maximum use. One can safely say that a human being is not in the proper sense till he/she is educated.
This importance of education is basically for two reasons. The first is that the training of a human mind is not complete without education. Education makes man a right thinker. It tells man how to think and how to make decision.
The second reason for the importance of education is that only through the attainment of education, man is enabled to receive information from the external world; to acquaint himself with past history and receive all necessary information regarding the present. Without education, man is as though in a closed room and with education he finds himself in a room with all its windows open towards the outside world.
This is why Islam attaches great importance to knowledge and education. When the Quran began to be revealed, the first word of its first verse was ‘Iqra’ that is, read. Allaah says, (what means): “Read! In the Name of your Lord Who has created (all that exists). He has created man from a clot (a piece of thick coagulated blood). Read! And your Lord is the Most Generous. Who has taught (the writing) by the pen. He has taught man that which he knew not” [Quran, 96: 1-5]
Education is thus the starting point of every human activity. Allaah created man and provided him with the tools for acquiring knowledge, namely hearing, sight and wisdom. Allaah says (what means): “And Allaah has brought you out from the wombs of your mothers while you know nothing. And He gave you hearing, sight, and hearts that you might give thanks (to Allaah)” [Quran, 16:78]
A knowledgeable person is accorded great respect in many prophetic narrations.
Because of the importance of knowledge, Allaah commanded His Messenger to seek more of it. Allaah says (what means): “and say: `My Lord! Increase me in knowledge” [Quran, 20:114]
The Prophet made seeking knowledge an obligation upon every Muslim, and he explained that the superiority of the one who has knowledge over the one who merely worships is like the superiority of the moon over every other heavenly body. He said that the scholars are the heirs of the Prophets and that the Prophets, may Allaah exalt their mention did not leave behind any money, rather their inheritance was knowledge, so whoever acquires it has gained a great share. Furthermore, the Prophet said that seeking knowledge is a way leading to Paradise. He said: “Whoever follows a path in the pursuit of knowledge, Allaah will make a path to Paradise easy for him.” (Al-Bukhaari)