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Islam and Knowledge

‘Seeking of knowledge is obligatory upon every Muslim man and every Muslim woman.’ [1]


This Hadith (saying of the Holy Prophet Muhammad(sa)) underlines the importance given by Islam to the pursuit of knowledge. The Holy Founder(sa) of Islam instructed Muslims to ‘seek knowledge from the cradle to the grave’, [2] which is contrary to a common notion that childhood is the time to learn and adulthood is the time to implement it in practical work – further proved wrong by the very words of God Almighty to the Holy Prophet(sa) of Islam, “say, ‘O my Lord, increase me in knowledge.” (20:115). This prayer was taught to the Holy Prophet(sa) when he was 55 or 56 years of age, indeed showing us that one must continuously search to gain more of this limitless treasure at every stage of one’s life.


The high stress laid on this in Islam indeed goes to expectation, as in the very first Quranic revelation from Allah the Almighty to the Holy Prophet(sa), He has urged every Muslim by commanding, “Read thou in the name of thy Lord Who created,” (96:2) – hence the great emphasis laid on the acquisition of knowledge in Islam. For the elders as well as the young ones, for women as well as for men, Islam enjoins this obligation on the same scale for all.


But what is the basis for the teaching that one should exert all their energy into more and more learning? The Holy Qur’an has instructed us to utilize all the faculties bestowed on us by the Gracious God, so that we may progress in our nearness to Him. Hazrat Khalifatul Masih V(aba) states: “Unique amongst all creation, Allah the Almighty has given mankind the insight to appreciate that whatever He has created has been made for our benefit, on condition that we use it in the right way.” [3] Hazrat Khalifatul Masih II(ra) says: “Whatever faculties God Almighty has bestowed upon mankind, He has also provided the means and the resources for those faculties to be utilized.” [4]


We find stated in the Holy Qur’an that: “Only those of His servants who possess knowledge fear Allah.” (35:29). What an illuminating statement! Knowledge is required for Taqwa (fear of Allah), and as stated in one Hadith: ‘The best provision for the journey to the Hereafter is Taqwa.’ [5] Hence, knowledge provides the key without which righteousness is beyond reach. As explained by our Fifth Khalifa(aba) [6], by pondering upon God’s creation, one perceives God Almighty and appreciates His perfect creation, and is consequently drawn towards Him, their faith enhanced.


As Ahmadi Muslims, it is our duty to carry on the mission of the Promised Messiah(as), and for this he has directed us to the Jihad of the Pen, which is to strive to propagate the true teachings of Islam using words, through reasoned arguments with study and logic, along with prayer. We Ahmadi Muslims must be at the forefront for the defense of our Faith, to establish the truth and bring the whole of mankind closer to our Creator.


As the early Muslims equipped themselves with physical armour and weaponry for the cause of Islam in order to save the whole of mankind from destruction, for the Jihad of this era we must equip ourselves with knowledge.


For this, Islam puts our secular studies at equal importance as our religious studies. Vastness of knowledge is the key to not only personal progress, but for the progress of our Community, and thus indeed, for the progress of the whole world.


Education moreover enables one to serve one’s nation, another route to the strengthening of one’s faith as the Holy Prophet(sa) taught that ‘love of one’s nation is a part of faith.’ [7]


Furthermore, all this makes it crystal clear that, having established the high necessity of learning, the rank of the job of teaching others must be truly acknowledged and respected.


We must give maximum respect to those who selflessly undertake the duty of teaching others, and indeed we must ourselves aim to share the knowledge we gain with others, as it is in fact an act of charity. Answering a question by a Khadim about how one can be grateful to Allah the Almighty, Hazrat Khalifatul Masih V(aba) mentioned a number of ways of showing our gratitude to Allah, including the sharing of knowledge as well as the sharing of wealth with the needy; by using the good things we have, in any capacity, that Allah the Almighty has bestowed upon us, in order to benefit other people and His Creation. [8]


Spending in the way of God includes not just money, but also includes sharing with others the knowledge that Allah the Almighty has bestowed upon one. This is why the teaching profession is given much priority in Islam. Moreover, the act of teaching the Holy Qur’an is highly exalted in Islam, as seen from the Hadith: “The best among you is the one who learns the Qur’an and teaches it.” [9]


God Almighty promises us that He increases for those who give away for His sake, and such clear proof of this is present in the act of teaching others, as in no way does it diminish one’s own store of knowledge, but rather, greatly and continuously increases it. Moreover, the Holy Prophet(sa) informed us that, “Anyone who spends something in the way of Allah will have it recorded for him seven hundred times over.” [10] Hence, rather than gluing our gaze on things that are of secondary importance, as is common in some of today’s societies in educational institutions particularly in the teaching profession, we must be wholeheartedly thankful to Allah for these sparkling opportunities of both acquiring and rendering knowledge, and must strive to excel in these for the uplift of humanity, through hard work and prayer.


There is such gratifying news for us in the Hadith that: “The word of wisdom is the lost property of a believer, so that wherever he finds it, he should take it, because he is the one most entitled to it.” [11] Hazrat Khalifatul Masih II(ra) expounds on this Hadith by writing, “For a true seeker of knowledge, the whole universe, with all its constituents, is an open book of learning from which he can acquire knowledge to the best of his capacity and efforts.” He also explains that the Holy Qur’an is the fundamental source of all wisdom and eternal truth, and belongs to the believers. [12] Hence, we must seek to grab whatever knowledge and wisdom we find, as pieces of treasure that truly belong to us, with the same level of passion we would use to re-acquire a most cherished, lost artefact that originally belonged to us.


The treasure-house of all knowledge, the Holy Qur’an, the revealed Word of God, gives us such clear and dazzling insights into areas including science, history, physics, geology, economics, to name merely a few. The Holy Qur’an is an ocean of eternal truths and insights, and there is no wisdom which is not contained in this Book of Allah. A revelation to the Promised Messiah(as) from Allah the Almighty Himself was: “All good is contained in the Qur’an.” [13]


The Fifth Successor of the Promised Messiah(as) tells us that, “In truth, all types of knowledge are contained within the Holy Qur’an.” [14] On another occasion, he states that, “Certainly, out of all the heavenly scriptures, the Holy Qur’an is unique in terms of the vast amount of insight it has given about the universe and its inception and how it has encouraged scientific research and the pursuit of knowledge.” [15]


Professor Dr Abdus Salam repeatedly drew attention to these very features of the Holy Qur’an, and became the first Muslim Nobel Laureate, winning a Nobel Prize in Physics. The Promised Messiah(as) says: “The members of my sect shall so excel in knowledge and insight that they will confound everyone with the light of their truth, and by dint of their arguments and signs.” [16]

We must throughout our lives strive to broaden our scope of secular and religious knowledge. Let us endeavour to act upon the instructions and commandments of our Faith and use all our God-given abilities and opportunities to pave pathways to such progress and advancement through which we personally benefit and through which all of humanity benefits. We must pray to Allah for this, because He alone is the Bestower of knowledge.


“Holy art Thou! No knowledge have we except what Thou hast taught us; surely, Thou art the All-Knowing, the Wise.” (2:33)


References

[1] Hadith (Baihiqi)

[2] Address at Jamia Ahmadiyya UK and Canada Convocation – 5th March 2017

[3] Address at first international Ahmadiyya Muslim Research Association (AMRA) conference – 14th Dec 2019

[4] Hazrat Khalifatul Masih II(ra)

: The Review of Religions June 2020 edition –‘The Truth About Salvation’

[5] Hadith (Chehl Ahadith)

[6] Address at first international Ahmadiyya Muslim Research Association (AMRA) conference – 14th Dec 2019

[7] Hadith (Sakhavi)

[8] Gulshan-e-Waqfe nau Khudam – 25th Nov 2017

[9] Hadith (Bukhari, Kitab Faza’ilul Qur’an)

[10] Hadith (Tirmidhi)

[11] Hadith (Tirmidhi)

[12] ‘Forty Gems of Beauty’– by Hazrat Mirza Bashir Ahmad, M.A.(ra)

[13] ‘Noah’s Ark: An Invitation to Faith’ page 43 – by Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad(as)

[14] Address at concluding session of educational camp for Muslim children – 14th April 2014 : https://www.pressahmadiyya.com/press-releases/2014/04/head-ahmadiyya-muslim-community-addresses-ahmadi-muslim-youths-importance-religious-secular-education/

[15] Address at first international Ahmadiyya Muslim Research Association (AMRA) conference – 14th Dec 2019

[16] ‘Divine Manifestations’ page 24 – by Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad(as), the Promised Messiah and Mahdi


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