Education and Scientific Learning
“O’Lord! Increase my knowledge” (Qura’n;20:114)
“…His servants who possess knowledge fear Allah;..” (Qura’n;35:28).
Human being has been blessed with many qualities; some are evident while others are latent. The most important quality is the ability of human to learn and use the knowledge to his/her advantage. Allah says in Qur’an: “And He (God) imparted in to Adam the knowledge of the names of all things; then He placed them before the angels and said: "Tell Me the nature of these if ye are right.”(Qur’an;). From this it may legitimately be inferred that the “the knowledge of all names” denotes here man’s faculty of logical definition and, thus of conceptual thinking. God created and sent the human to this world by imparting the knowledge, intelligence and the faculty of rationale thinking to exploit all which is in the heaven and earth to his benefit. This makes human superior specie to all others even to angels, to enable him to be His vicegerent. It is now up to the man to prove himself worthy of His trust by making use of these faculties to explore the mysteries of the nature and the world (made subservient to him) to get benefited in this world and hereafter. It is mentioned in Qur’an: “He is the One Who spread out the earth and placed thereon mountains and rivers, created fruits of every kind in pairs, two and two and makes the night cover the day. Certainly in these things there are messages for those who think.”(Qur’an;13:3). “He has created the heavens and the earth to manifest the Truth; Exalted be He above they all that they associate (with Him).”(Qur’an;16:2), “Surely it is Allah Who causes the seed and the fruit-stone to split and sprout. He brings forth the living from the dead and the dead from the living. It is Allah, Who does all this; then why are you being misled?”(Qur’an;6:95). “It is He Who has made the earth manageable to you, to walk through its tracts and eat of His provided sustenance. To Him is the return at resurrection.” (Qur’an;67:15). Man has managed to make paths through deserts and over mountains: through rivers and seas by means of ships; through the air by means of airways; he has made bridges and tunnels and other means of communication. But this he has only been able to do because Allah has given him the necessary intelligence to acquire knowledge and has made the earth tractable through it.
In the first revelation of Qur’an, the acquisition of knowledge is emphasized: “Recite: In the name of thy Lord who created,”(Qur’an;96:1); “.. Are the knowledgeable and the ignorant equal? In fact, none will take heed except the people of understanding.”(Qur’an;39:9). Islam encourages thinking and acquisition of knowledge, which also include the scientific knowledge (Qur’an;3:190-191). The Qur’an uses word ‘Ulema’ only once, in the context of scholars, who ponder over the natural phenomena (scientist): “Do you not see that Allah sends down rain from the sky with which We bring forth fruits of various colors? Similarly, in the mountains there are streaks of various shades including white, red, jet-black rocks. Likewise men, beasts and cattle have their different colors. In fact, only those among His servants who possess knowledge fear Allah; surely Allah is All-Mighty, All-Forgiving.”(Qur’an;35:27,28).
Islam is the faith based upon knowledge and thinking with wisdom, for it is ultimately knowledge of the Oneness of God combined with faith and total commitment to Him that saves man in this world and hereafter. Allah says in Qur’an: “Call people to the Way of your Lord with wisdom and best advice, and reason with them, if you have to, in the most courteous manner: for your Lord knows best who strays from His Way and He knows best who is rightly guided.”(Qur’an;16:125).
The Qur’an is full of verses urging man to use his intellect, to deliberate, to think and to know, for the objective of human life is to ascertain the Truth, which could be achieved by recognizing and exploring the sings of Allah all around: “Surely in the heavens and the earth there are signs for the true believers.”(Qur’an;45:3), “Of His signs, one is that He created you from dust; and then behold you men are scattered throughout the earth. And of His signs, another one is that He created for you mates from among yourselves that you may find comfort with them, and He planted love and kindness in your hearts; surely there are signs in this for those who think about it. And yet others of His signs are the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the difference of your languages and colors; surely there are signs in this for the knowledgeable.(Qur’an;30:20-22). In order to understand the ‘signs’ in the ‘creation of the heavens and the earth’ one has to be ‘knowledgeable’. The main branches of knowledge which can be acquired by human through intellect, facilities and senses granted to him by God, include; Logic, Mathematics, Sciences (Physical, Behavioral, Social, Earth, Biological, Medicine, and Technological Sciences), Humanities and Philosophy. The knowledge in one or more of these branches can be attained by the study of nature and study in respective fields of knowledge by any believer or non believer alike.
For the believer Qur’an and Sunnah is the main source of spiritual knowledge with signs of other knowledge, the other source is the knowledge of these branches attained and preserved by humanity over a long period of human history. This knowledge is gained and retained through the intellect endowed to man by Allah at the time of his creation as mentioned at verse in Qur’an. In case of a believer, the understanding of ‘signs’ will strengthen his faith, while a non believer will be inclined to fully comprehend the reality of Islam. Qur’an has repeatedly drawn the attention of man towards the signs of God at; 3:190, 6:37,38 & 100, 17:12, 36:41-44, 71-76, 40:80,81, 56:63-67 and also at many other places. Allah says in Qur’an: “He also made subservient to you whatever is between the heavens and the earth; all from Himself. Surely there are signs in this for those who think.”(Qur’an;45:13), “Will they not then ponder on the Qur'an?..”(Qur’an;4:82). Hence it becomes obligatory for the believers (both men and women) to acquire the knowledge of this world along with the religious sciences to understand the signs of Allah and to harness the powers of nature at ‘heaven and earth; made subservient’ to man to derive benefit out of them. Ignoring the knowledge of religious sciences at the cost of other knowledge or vice versa may be against the spirit of Qur’an (45:13,13:3).
The knowledge of din (faith) is useful for success in this as well the next world, while the knowledge of dunya (world) is essential for this world; hence knowledge of din is fundamental. This is the reason that from very beginning the religious and scientific knowledge were combined. The din (faith) and dunya (worldly affairs) were not separate entities. This helped to flourish in knowledge. Thus the scholars have always enjoyed respect in the Islamic societies. The emphasis is on acquisition of useful and beneficial knowledge.
Physical and Spiritual Knowledge:
Physical and Spiritual Nature of Human: The scholars of theology and theosophy are of the opinion that: The man is blessed with two natures of intellect, firstly the animal or ‘Physical Nature’ which include intellect and senses, secondly the invisible ‘Spiritual Nature’ which has Spiritual Intellect [Spirit is something metaphysical, which also possess the spiritual centre of intellect, the Heart (Qalb, Ruh), hearing and sight etc. The Arabic word Qalb means heart, the bodily organ, but it is understood in similar other meanings given in Oxford Dictionary as; The mind, intellect; the seat of one's inmost thoughts and secret feelings; the soul, the seat of perception, understanding, or (rarely) memory]. It is this Spirit which differentiate human from animals, making the human superior to all other creatures including angels. Allah says: “Behold when your Lord said to the angels: "I am about to create a man from clay: then when I have fashioned him and breathed of My spirit into him, kneel down and prostrate yourselves before him."( Qur’an;38:71-72), “then He fashioned him (Adam) in due proportion and breathed into him of His spirit. He gave you ears, eyes and heart; yet you are seldom thankful. (Qur’an;32:9).
Knowledge of Spirit:
Not much information is available about Spirit (Ruh), Narrated Abdullah: While I was going with the Prophet (peace be upon him) through the ruins of
and he was
reclining on a date-palm leaf stalk, some Jews passed by. Some of them said to
the others: Ask him (the Prophet) about the spirit. Some of them said that they
should not ask him that question as he might give a reply which would displease
them. But some of them insisted on asking, and so one of them stood up and
asked, "O Abul-Qasim! What is the spirit?" The Prophet remained
quiet. I thought he was being inspired divinely. So I stayed till that state of
the Prophet (while being inspired) was over. The Prophet then said, “They put
you questions about Ar-Ruh (the Spirit). Tell them: "The Spirit is at my
Lord’s command and knowledge of it but a little given to you (O mankind)"(Qur’an;17:85).(Sahih
Al Bukhari Hadithn Number:1.127). Medina
The man can receive the different forms of knowledge through these two types of intellect or mediums. In Islamic Theosophy expressions, there are two main types of Knowledge; The Knowledge of Materials [Ilmul Ajsam-(Physics)] and Knowledge of Faith [Ilmul Adyan (Metaphysics)] related with spirituality, morality and religious matters.
The initial knowledge provided to Adam by God (Qur’an;) is the human source of knowledge which can be gained or transmitted through the physical senses and intellect provided to man (senses of animal nature of human). This knowledge is imbedded in every human like the seed of a plant which expire if kept dormant for long period under unfavorable environments or if planted, grows slowly or quickly according to the condition of soil and availability of other things like water, light, suitable temperature, air etc. This knowledge is revived or gained through experience, observation, experimentation and rational thinking called ‘Acquired Knowledge’. Man apart from the Knowledge of Materials also tried to resolve the mysteries of nature, like life, life after death and creation of universe, by using his intellect and experience. Hence the philosophers like Plato came up the theory of ‘Ideas’ a basis of ‘Idealism’ while Aristotle opposed it with the theory of ‘Realism’. The human desire to organize life in this world resulted in the evolution of various branches of knowledge like physical and social sciences, which have reached new heights of development during last three centuries. Islam encourages man to capitalize and excel in ‘Acquired Knowledge’ as blessings of God, which, besides human development also help to understand and assimilate the spiritual knowledge, delivered by His Messenger after his departure.
The Revealed Knowledge:
The other source of knowledge is ‘The Revealed Knowledge’, which can not be acquired by every one through his efforts, but it is ‘Revealed’ through the blessings of God to His chosen people infallible in character called His Messengers, Apostles and Prophets like Adam, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Ishmael, Moses, Jesus and lastly Muhammad (peace be upon them all). In fact there has been apostle of God sent for every nation.
The Revealed Knowledge is transmitted through the medium of ‘Spirit’ directly at the Qalb or (Ruh) (Heart or Soul) of the recipients called Wahi (Revelation). Allah says: “Say, "The Holy Spirit (Gabriel) has brought it (revelation) down from your Lord with truth to strengthen the faith of the believers, and to give guidance and good news to those who have surrendered themselves to God.”(Qur’an;16:102). The Apostles convey the message received through Wahi (Revelation) to the people through the physical senses (speaking and hearing) which is also transmitted to the Qalb (Spiritual Heart, Ruh) of the recipient. Those whose spirit (Qulb, ruh) is awake, they will listen, see and receive the spiritual light and become Muslims while others remain unbelievers. Allah says: “O Muhammad, declare: "O mankind! The truth has come to you from your Lord! He that follows guidance (
Right Way) follows
it for his own good, and he that goes astray does so at his own risk; for I am
not a custodian over you.”(Qura’n;10:108). “Those who deny Our Revelations are
deaf and dumb, living in many layers of darkness. Allah confounds whom He will,
and guides to the Right Way
whom He pleases”.(Qura’n;),
“whose eyes had been under a veil from Remembrance of Me and who had been
unable even to hear.”(Qura’n;18:101). “Have you considered the case of such an
individual who has made his own desires as his god, and Allah having knowledge
let him go astray, and sealed his hearing and heart and drew a veil over his
sight? Who is there to guide him after Allah has withdrawn His guidance? Will
you not learn a lesson?”(Qura’n;45:23). “Is the one whose heart Allah has
opened to Islam and is walking in the light from his Lord like the one who has
learned no lesson and is still a non-Muslim. So woe to those whose hearts are
hardened against the remembrance of Allah! They are clearly in
Wahi (Revelation) are of two types; The Open Revelation (Wahi Jalli) and the Concealed Revelation (Wahi Khaffi). The Open Revelation (Wahi-Jalli) are descend directly at the spiritual heart (Qalb, Ruh or Soul) of Apostles of God normally through Archangel Gabriel. These are completely safe and protected form any interference by Satan or nafs. Narrated Ubadah ibn as-Samit: When wahi (inspiration, revelation) descended upon Allah's Messenger (peace be upon him), he felt a burden on that account and the colour of his face underwent a change, he lowered his head and so lowered his Companions their heads, and when (this state) was over, he raised his head.(Sahih Muslim Hadith Number.1085 &1086).
After Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) the Open Revelation (Wahi-Jalli) stands discontinued. The Concealed Revelation (Wahi Khaffi) may be received by the Apostles in pure form, while other people may also receive it but it may be interfered by Satan and nafs (self conscious). It could be in the form of ‘True Dreams’ or ‘Ilham’, (inspiration) or intuition in the form of ‘Extrasensory Perceptions’ (ESP), the perception that occurs independently of the known sensory processes. Usually included in this category of phenomena are telepathy, or thought transference between persons; clairvoyance, or supernormal awareness of objects or events not necessarily known to others; and precognition, or knowledge of the future. Scientific investigation of these and similar phenomena dates from the late 19th century. The inspiration to Mary and Mother of Moses have been mentioned in Qur’an:“We sent to her (Mary) Our angel and he appeared before her as a man in all respects.(Qur’an;). He said: "Don't be afraid, I am merely a messenger from your Lord to tell you about the gift of a holy son"..(Qur’an;). “when We revealed Our will to (O Moses) your mother saying: Put your child into the chest and throw the chest into the river..”(Qur’an;20:38-39).
Certainty of Knowledge (Yaqin):
Certainty (Yaqin) of Knowledge is as perceived by men, and understood with reference to their psychology and experience. There are three kinds of yaqin (certainty of knowledge), Firstly; there is the probability or certainty resulting from the application of man's power of judgment and his appraisement of evidence, which is ilmulyaqin, certainty by reasoning or inference, or certainty of mind: “Nay were ye to know with certainty of mind (ilmulyaqin) (Ye would beware!). Ye shall certainly see Hell Fire!”(Qur’an;102:5-6). Secondly; then there is the certainty of seeing something with our own eyes. "Seeing is believing." This is 'ain-ul-yaqin, certainty by personal inspection.(Qur’an;102:7). Thirdly; the absolute Truth, with no possibility of error of judgment or error of the eye, (which stands for any instrument of sense-perception and any ancillary aids, such as microscopes etc.). This absolute Truth is the haqq-il-yaqin : “But verily it is Truth of assured certainty.”(Qur’an;69:51). The first certainty of mind (ilmulyaqin) or inference mentioned at (Qur’an;102:5-6), one hear from someone, or infer from something known: this refers to human state of mind. If man instructs his mind in this way, he should value the deeper things of life better, and not waste all the time in ephemeral things. But if he does not use the reasoning faculties now, he shall yet see with own eyes, the Penalty for his sins. It will be certainty of sight. He shall see Hell, the absolute certainty of assured Truth (Qur’an;69:51). That is not liable to any human error or psychological defects.
Word of God & Work of God:
The development and advancement in the humanly ‘Acquired Knowledge’ of metaphysics through Philosophy is called ‘Ilmul Kalam’ while the last Revealed Knowledge is available in the form of Qur’an called ‘Ilmul Qur’an’. The Qur’an is the ‘Word of God’ while this world is the ‘Work of God’. An effort is made to reconcile these two with the Acquired Knowledge. The Revelations (Wahi), primary source of knowledge has ceased at its zenith in the form of Qur’an, but Philosophy (Ilmul Kalam) continues its slow journey of forward movement which should guide the humanity with in the bounds of the eternal guidance provided in Qur’an. It is a very sensitive issue because ‘The Unlimited’ can not be ‘fully conceived or comprehended’ by the human intellect through Acquired Knowledge only, which is limited, so the Qur’an should be followed as Commands of God made easily comprehensible in the light of the Sunnah of last Prophet (peace be upon him). Allah says: “Will they not ponder upon the Qur'an? Are there locks upon their hearts?(Qur’an;47:24). “This Book (Al-Qur'an) which We have sent down to you (O Muhammad) is highly blessed, so that they may ponder upon its verses and the men of understanding may learn a lesson from it”.(Qur’an;38:39).
However It is evident that for success in this and hereafter, the Muslims should seek to excel in ‘Acquired Knowledge’ with inspiration from the primary source combined with the known knowledge of Qur’an and Sunnah will facilitate as ‘The Men of Understanding’ to ‘Ponder’ Qur’an fulfilling the command of God. It is through this process that the Tawhid (monotheism) is infused in learning that help in batter understanding. Some of the mysteries of nature resolved by scientists recently like, the creation of the universe by ‘The Big Bang’(Qur’an;21:30, 41:11), creation of all life from water (Qur’an;21:30, 25:54) and many more are found to be mentioned in Qur’an fourteen centers ago.
The Traditions (Hadith) of Prophet (PBUH):
The Traditions (Hadith) of Prophet (peace be upon him) are full of references to the significance of knowledge. Such sayings of the Prophet as; "Seek knowledge even in China", "Seek knowledge from the cradle to the grave", and "Verily the men of knowledge are the inheritors of the prophets", “Striving after knowledge is a sacred duty (faridah) for every man and woman who has surrendered himself or herself to God”(Ibn Majah); are well known to Muslims urging them to seek all types of useful knowledge (not restricted to religious sciences only) from whatever sources it might be found. Apostle of Allah (peace be upon him) is reported to have said: “If anyone travels on a road in search of knowledge, Allah will cause him to travel on one of the roads of
Paradise. The angels will lower their wings in their
great pleasure with one who seeks knowledge, the inhabitants of the heavens and
the Earth and the fish in the deep waters will ask forgiveness for the learned
man. The superiority of the learned man over the devout is like that of the
moon, on the night when it is full, over the rest of the stars. The learned are
the heirs of the Prophets, and the Prophets leave neither Dinar nor Dirham,
leaving only knowledge, and he who takes it takes an abundant portion.”(Sunan
of Abu Dawood, Hadith:1631).
y Abu Hurayrah: Allah's Messenger (peace be upon him) said: “The knowledge from which no benefit is derived is like a treasure out of which nothing is spent in the cause of Allah.”(Al-Tirmidhi Hadith.280). Narrated by Abu Hurayrah: Allah's Messenger (peace be upon him) said: “When a man dies, his acts come to an end, but three (acts), recurring charity, or knowledge (by which people) benefit, or a pious son, who prays for him (for the deceased)”. (Sahih Muslim Hadith. 766).
Role of Experts in Technical Knowledge:
Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), basically conveyed guidance of Allah to the mankind. As far as knowledge of this world, the opinions of expert in particular field be made use of: Narrated by Anas ibn Malik & Aisha; Allah's Messenger (peace be upon him) happened to pass by the people who had been busy in grafting the trees. Thereupon he said: If you were not to do it, it might be good for you. (So they abandoned this practice) and there was a decline in the yield. He (the Prophet) happened to pass by them (and said): What has gone wrong with your trees? They said: You said so and so. Thereupon he said: You have better knowledge in the affairs of the world. (Sahih Muslim Hadith.1101).
Significance of Acquisition of Knowledge:
Narrated by Anas ibn Malik: The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: He who issues forth in search of knowledge is busy in the cause of Allah till he returns from his quest. (Al Tirmidhi Hadith.420). Abu Hurayrah Narrated with reference to Allah's Apostle (peace be upon him) as saying: “--He who treads the path in search of knowledge, Allah will make that path easy, leading to Paradise for him and those persons who assemble in one of the houses of Allah (mosques), recite the Book of Allah and learn and teach the Qur'an (among themselves)…”(Sahih Muslim Hadith.1245). The importance of education is evident from the historical fact that, the pagan prisoners of war, captured by Muslims in the battle of Badr were asked to teach the illiterate Muslims to earn their freedom. Obviously the pagans were not to teach religious knowledge! Most of the companions also possessed a high standard of knowledge and wisdom, narrated by Ali ibn Abu Talib: Allah's Messenger (peace be upon him) said, "I am the house of wisdom and Ali is its door."(Al-Tirmidhi Hadith, 6087). “Yahya related to me from Malik that he heard that Luqman al-Hakim made his will and counseled his son, saying, "My son! Sit with the learned men and keep close to them. Allah gives life to the hearts with the light of wisdom as Allah gives life to the dead earth with the abundant rain of the sky."(Al-Muwatta Hadith 59.1). Like men, women are equally required to excel in the pursuit of education and knowledge.
Theological & Scientific Knowledge linked:
The knowledge of din is essential for attaining deep faith, its importance is evident from the fact that while proceeding to war when every head counts, Allah says: “It is not proper that all the believers take the filed (in time of war). From every group with in their midst some should refrain form going for the war, so that they may obtain the understanding of deeper knowledge of the Faith (Al-Islam), and teach their brethren when they return to them so that they may guard themselves (against evil)”.(Qur’an;9:122). However the pursuit of other branches of knowledge is not only necessary for good living but also adds to the attainment of faith and batter understanding of the message of Islam. Qur’an does not draw any dividing line between the spiritual and the worldly concerns of life but, rather, regards them as different aspects of one and the same reality. In many of its verses, the Qur’an calls upon the believer to observe all nature and to discern God’s creative activity (Qura’n;10:5, 2:164, 30:46, 40:57, 50:7 & many more) in its manifold phenomena and ‘laws’ , as well as to mediate upon the lessons of history (Qura’n;22:46,27:69,29:20, 30:9) with a view to gaining a deeper insight into man’s motivations and the innermost sprigs of his behaviour; and thus, the Qur’an itself is characterized as addressed to ‘those who think’ (Qura’n;47:24, 38:29).
In short, intellectual activity as such is postulated as a valid way to batter understanding of God’s will and - if perused with moral consciousness- as a valid method of worshiping God. This Qur’anic principle has been emphasized in many authentic sayings of Prophet mentioned at: Abu Dawood, Hadith:1631, Sahih Muslim Hadith. 766, Al Tirmidhi Hadith.420 and Sahih Muslim Hadith.1245. Consequently, the obligation of the believers to devote themselves to acquiring a deeper knowledge of the Faith and to impart its results to their fellow-believer relates to every branch of knowledge as well as to its practical application.