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OnIslam.net

Seeking Knowledge: The Guiding Light

On The Path of Seeking Knowledge:
By Maria- Zain
United Kingdom
picking a book
A person who is an avid reader is known to have an active brain, one that is always thinking, reflecting, contemplating and making decisions.

One of the greatest miracles seen in Islam was the emergence of an illiterate man who became the mercy to mankind. This man, who was also known as “Al-Amin” – the trustworthy one in Arabic – grew up as an orphan, did not have any money to his name (despite his wealthy relatives and comrades) and was also uneducated.

Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) at the age of 40, spent time contemplating the meaning of life in the cave of “Hira” when he found the dire need to seek knowledge beyond the materialism that surrounded the pagan Arab culture. Married to a successful business woman and father to four daughters, he perused a modest life, helped around the household and held down an honest job for survival.

God the Creator – the highest form of authority – had other plans for him – someone who was not acknowledged for wealth, power or wisdom – a simple man who was known for his amiable character and stunning traits. But Prophet Muhammad’s fate changed, with a sudden guiding light through 23 years worth of Quranic revelations, penned only by the Creator, who holds infinite wisdom.

{Read in the name of thy Lord who created; created man from a mere clot of blood; read and your Lord is the most generous; the one who taught (them to write) by the pen; taught man what he knew not,} (Al-‘Alaq 96: 1-5), tumbled the first revelations of the Quran upon the illiterate Prophet, who was shaking with fear and shock at the same time.

For someone who did not know how to read even a simple word, his journey to attain knowledge from the highest authority was an arduous one. But Prophet Muhammad, through the intermediary of Archangel Jibril, relayed the verses of the entire Quran to his companions who could read and write – carefully compiling the guiding light of knowledge into a single book that Muslims read today.

Reading, as we often hear, marks the foundation of any robust path to seek knowledge. A person who is an avid reader is known to have an active brain, one that is always thinking, reflecting, contemplating and making decisions based on rational judgement.

A person who reads a lot is also known to be more calm, concise in speech, knowledgeable in conversation, humble in altercations, and confident in presenting his or her own point of view. A person who loves reading also harbors the love to attain knowledge, to learn of another’s perspective, is driven to form ideas, takes time to appreciate the intrinsic details around him or her and often takes creative measures to accomplish his or her goals.

From the first word of revelation of the Quran was “Iqra’” or read, God continues to remind believers that seeking knowledge is the best way to attain success in the world and hereafter. {Allah will raise up, to (suitable) ranks and (degrees), those of you who believe and who have been granted knowledge. And Allah is well-acquainted with all you do,} (58:11)

Although the mind of a human being, even the most intelligent of minds, will never be able to contend with the wisdom of God, it still falls as an obligation upon each person to seek knowledge. In a compelling hadith, Prophet Muhammad relays:

“Seeking knowledge is obligatory upon every Muslim (male and female),” (Ibn Majah, 224)

Why the resounding obligation? In a world full of destruction today, it is obvious that there is so much negativity that causes wars, indifference to suffering, environmental pollution, crimes against children, the breakdown of family values and the tearing apart of close-knit communities.

These problems occur from negative energy that is propagated by the Satan, encouraging human beings to turn away from knowledge and to dwell in fear, ignorance, selfishness, corruption and greed. Knowledge is able to block out all of these negative sentiments, and to place God at the pulpit of the guiding light. Prophet Muhammad says:

"Whosoever pursues a path to seek knowledge therein, Allah will thereby make easy for him a path to Paradise. No people gather together in one of the houses of Allah, reciting the Book of Allah and studying it among themselves, without tranquility descending upon them, mercy enveloping them and angels surrounding them, and Allah making mention of them to those (angels) who are with Him." (Muslim, 36)

many Muslims make the mistake of seeking knowledge for the wrong reasons.

Unfortunately in the Muslim world today, illiteracy remains a vogue. As the Muslim population weighs heavily upon the Arab region and generally in the continents of Africa and Asia, there are many communities that are not privy to an educational structure that comprehensively binds knowledge in its different strands – spiritually and from the secular point of view. Because many of these Muslims live in Muslim-majority countries that gravitate heavily towards culture, traditions and politicised Islam, the true teachings of the religion are sometimes lost or distorted through this form of understanding.

However, as more people come to Islam in the West, which is predominantly known as the non-Muslim world, it shows that Islam still lives on strongly through the greatest book ever written, the Quran. This is a resounding call for Muslim communities to rethink the importance of their studies and allow themselves to open their hearts up to the Quran and the invaluable messages that lie within, for them to succeed and gel as a single Muslim nation.

At the same time however, many Muslims make the mistake of seeking knowledge for the wrong reasons. God reminds that: {It is only those who have knowledge among His servants that fear Allah,} (Fatir 35:28) and: {Verily the most honoured of you in the sight of Allah is he who has most taqwa,} (49:13)

With knowledge comes “taqwa” (God’s consciousness), knowing that every iota of wisdom, every moment of reflection, is only granted with the permission of God; those who truly believe spend their time basking in awe at the grandiosity of their Creator with every new drop of knowledge that they garner.

Without “taqwa”, a person in pursuit of knowledge can fall into the trap of becoming arrogant, proud, harbour self-absorbed obsessions like immortality and infallibility: considering him/herself superior to others, often belittling those who are less fortunate or less educated.

It is said that one of the signs that the Day of Judgement is around the corner is when humans rush to attain knowledge for material gains, recognition and power, instead of the love of learning for the sake of God. In many societies that are highly geared towards extreme capitalism, school children are taught that the only way to succeed would be to score straight A’s and outdo their classmates, and ultimately to be recognised as the best student of the class.

Children as young as 9 or 10 are taught that the yardstick to success is a material one – purely revolving around individual success – rather than seeking knowledge for the betterment of their own selves from within, and to share the same knowlegde with friends and loved ones.

This type of educational system is also deemed deficient in the eyes of Islam. Instead of rushing to school to learn out of passion and excitement, children are bombarded with yards of homework, the stress of exams and the ultimate need to outperform the rest.

In a culture that is warped with the need to be on top, in power and to be recognized, humans are losing the basic values of humanity with respect to education – to use knowledge to help others, to peruse assets towards the betterment of the environment, to learn something new and to impart the same upon another person.

Through the revelations of the Quran, Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) took time to explain each and every verse, discussing them amongst his educated companions, taking time and patience to teach those who wanted to learn, helping those who were in the wrong turn back to the right path and holding inter-community dialogues with people of other nationalities, cultures and religions who came to seek knowledge.

There was no self-obsessed practice in garnering wisdom and keeping it for himself or a certain few. Knowledge was for everyone, and for Muslims who observe the five daily prayers and recite the Al-Fatihah chapter seventeen times a day, within it are verses that say: {Our Sustainer, You are the Only Whom we solely and exclusively owe and demonstrate allegiance and servitude and You are exclusively the One we look for help to elevate ourselves; Our Sustainer! You guide us upon the Path that keeps heading safely and straight to the destination of peace and tranquility; show us the straight way,} (Al-Fatihah 1:5-6)  

Knowledge blocks out ignorance, violence, complacency and laziness – traits that are frowned upon in Islam -

As a single nation, Muslims are to worship one God, and as a single nation, Muslims are to seek His pleasure by continuously seeking knowledge as that is truly the route to the success.

It comes from the highest form of authority that they should use their knowledge to acknowledge their humility, help others and become active and progressive members of society for the betterment of the nation.

Knowledge is also not confined to Islamic thought - though much, if not all of education – revolves around Islamic principles. Muslims are encouraged to develop their skills and know how in every professional realm possible that would contribute to the building of a community. 

With knowledge comes great responsibility and although the knowledge of a single Muslim can only be compared to the dust on a grain of gravel in the cave of mountain of “Hira”, paling in comparison to the vast wisdom of the Lord, Muslims are still obliged to seek knowledge from their cradles until the graves.

Knowledge blocks out ignorance, violence, complacency and laziness – traits that are frowned upon in Islam - but most importantly, knowledge allows a person’s status to be elevated in the eyes of God: {Say unto them, Muhammad: Are those who know equal to those who know not? But only men of understanding will pay heed,} (39: 9)

So seek knowledge, as it was through the miracle of literacy that sprungforth the perfected way of life, Islam, penned by God the Creator, the highest level of authority.

Related Links:
Tariq Ramadan’s 7 Cs of Seeking Knowledge
Ten Characteristics of Believers (Part 2)
Reliance on Allah (Exclusive Video)
Islam: A Home for the Heart
Looking for Peace and Serenity? (Folder)
Maria Zain is a home-educating mother of 5 little children and a certified Childbirth Educator (AMANI Birth Institute), living in the UK. She often finds herself writing about natural birth and parenting, and has a passion for homeschooling and autonomous learning. Besides her work for OnIslam, she has also been published in Saudi Life (KSA), DinarStandard (USA), SISTERS Magazine (UK), Discovery Magazine (UK), and several publications in her home-country, Malaysia.

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