Education in Islam
When one mentions Education today,
very few people actually think of Islam. Most in fact make clear distinctions
between “secular” and “religious” education. Yet we only need to remind
ourselves that it was on the night of the 27th Ramadhan, in the year
611AD that the first verse to be revealed to the Messenger of Allah, (sallalaho
alaihi wasallam) clearly recognizes the sacredness of knowledge.
"Read: In the name of
thy Lord who created man from a clot. Read: And thy Lord is the Most Generous
Who taught by the pen, taught man that which he knew not." (Quran, 96:1-5)
The Quran urges the faithful to,
think, ponder, reflect and acquire knowledge that would bring them closer to
God and to His creation. The Quran uses repetition in order to imbed certain
key concepts in the consciousness of its listeners. Allah (God) and Rab (the
Sustainer) are repeated 2,800 and 950 times respectively in the Quran; Ilm (knowledge)
comes third with 750 mentions.
The pursuit of knowledge and the use of reason, has
been made obligatory on every Muslim, man and woman. The following traditions
of the Prophet (sallalaho alaihi wasallam) supplement the foregoing teachings
of the Qur'an in the following way: Seek knowledge "even though it be in
China." "The acquisition of knowledge is compulsory for every Muslim,
whether male or female." "The ink of the scholar is more sacred than
the blood of the martyr." "Seek knowledge from the cradle to the
grave." "God has revealed to me, 'Whoever walks in the pursuit of
knowledge I facilitate for him the way to heaven.' "The best form of
worship is the pursuit of knowledge."
"Worship, without knowledge, has no goodness in
it and knowledge without understanding has no goodness in it. And the
recitation of the Qur'an, which is not thoughtful has no goodness in it."
We come back to the earlier question, what then is
education? Secular or religious? The answer lies in the understanding of the
question. Islam is a complete way of life, a comprehensive guide and therefore
when one studies Islam, one expands ones own horizon of learning.
The emphasis on learning in Islam is materially
conveyed in the central symbol of the Book, i.e. the Qur'an, as the revealed
source of both divine and human wisdom. In this way, secular learning can be
seen as inseparable from religious practise.
"Acquire knowledge: it enables its possessor to
distinguish right from the wrong, it lights the way to heaven; it is Our friend
in the desert, our society in solitude, our companion when friendless- it
guides us to happiness; it sustains us in misery; it is an Ornament among
friends and an armor against enemies." The Islamic Empire for more than
1,000 years remained the most advanced and civilized nation in the world. This
is because Islam stresses the importance and respect of learning, forbids
destruction, develops in Muslims the respect for authority, discipline, and
tolerance for other religions. The teachings of Qur'an and Sunnah drove many
Muslims to their accomplishments in science and medicine.
For example Islamic medicine is one of the most famous
and best-known facets of Islamic civilization, and in which the Muslims most
excelled. The Muslims were the great torchbearers of international scientific
research. Some of the best and most eloquent praises of science ever written
came from the pens of Muslim scientists who considered their work to be acts of
worship. The same motives led to the establishment of Al-Azhar (800 AD) the
first university in the world. They hit the "source ball of
knowledge" over the fence to Europe. In the words of Campbell, "The
European medical system is Arabian not only in origin but also in its
structure. The Arabs are the intellectual forbearers of the Europeans."
Islam and knowledge went together, closely, and from
the very early stages. Other than the urge of the Quran and the sayings of the
prophet Muhammad (sallalaho alaihi wasallam) which prompted people to learn,
the concrete symbol of Islam, the Mosque, was the centre of learning.
The mosque played a great part in the spread of
education in Islam. The association of the mosque with education remains one of
its main characteristics throughout history. From the start, the mosque was the
center of the Islamic community, a place for prayer, meditation, religious
instruction, political discussion, and a school. And anywhere Islam took hold,
mosques were established, and basic instruction began. Once established, such
mosques could develop into well known places of learning, often with hundreds,
sometimes with thousands of students, and frequently contained important
libraries. Notable examples are the Mosques in Madina, Cairo (Al-Ahzar) and
One of the secrets of success in any profession is to
be the most learned or the best-informed person in his/her own profession. Let
us as Muslims endeavor to study Islam, and all that is Islamic so that we can
become empowered and better Muslims. It is crucial that we understand there is
no distinction between secular and religious, but that there is a clear
distinction between one who has knowledge and one who does not. Let us
therefore seek knowledge. And true knowledge lies in the true divine guidance,
the Holy Quran. Therein lies the path to our success.