A society that is literate is a society that is aware, knowledgeable, informed, confident, self-reliant and experienced. Aware of the areas needed to be developed, globally, knowledgeable about the tools required to develop those areas, informed about the difference between what is right and what is wrong. Confident about choosing the right route to eradicate the obstacles without harming the environment in the process. Self-reliant enough not to yield to the pressure of other societies into making wrong choices for themselves. Experienced in analyzing a situation on a personal and global perspective. Thus, a literate society is the building force to liberate us from the branches of poverty, child mortality, gender inequality, war and under-development that all stem from the root of illiteracy.
Today is the 8th of September. A day marked in 1965 as the International Literacy Day. It is a day on which awareness is raised about the detrimental impact of illiteracy and an occasion to cherish the might of knowledge. However, the drive for literacy did not initiate from the noble and praise-worthy cause celebrated today as the International Literacy Day.
The drive for literacy started with the advent of Islam in the 7th century. That is fourteen centuries ago. The idea of a link between Islam and Education would result in most uninformed people to give you a blank look if not scoff at the very idea. However, the truth is, the very first word revealed to the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ was, “Iqra”, meaning, “Read” [Surah al ‘Alaq].
Children across schools in Islamic countries are familiar with a supplication: “Rabbi Zidni ‘Ilma”, saying, “My Lord, increase me in my knowledge” [Surah Taha: 114].
The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “The seeking of knowledge is obligatory for every Muslim.” [Al Tirmidhi, Hadith 74].
Education was and is celebrated in Islam. As we know, mankind has a twofold nature – the soul and the body. Both with similarly equal importance for our well-being. Islam being the most perfect religion, as well as, a system of life, every minute detail of life has duly been given substance. Based on the nature of mankind knowledge also has a dual nature. The two parts of knowledge in Islam are:
(a) Fardh al ‘Ayn and
(b) Fardh al Kifayah.
Fardh ‘Ayn is obligatory on every individual whereas Fardh al Kifayah is obligatory on the community, i.e. there definitely should be members in the community who follow this duty. If the entire community wishes to follow it, the better it is. However, all should fulfill Fardh al ‘Ayn.
Fardh al ‘Ayn is what has been directly revealed to us by Allah (SWT). It includes the knowledge of the pillars and tenets of Islam and the Sacred Law of Shari’ah. This basic knowledge is for the nourishment of our soul (interlinked with the nourishment of the body).
Fardh al Kifayah is the knowledge that Muslims should acquire for their survival in this world and that is strongly interlinked with to the strength of our faith and its sincerity, and also linked to a position in the Hereafter as they are part of the Haquq Al-‘Ibaad (The Rights of Human Beings).
The purpose of both the parts to knowledge in Islam is to strengthen the individual’s Faith. If knowledge and Islam were at conflict with each other, Qur’an would not have numerous knowledgeable, unravelling scientific facts revealed in it.
For instance, with regards to what we now know as the ‘big bang’ theory and the fact that life originated from water, the Qur’an says:
“Do not the disbelievers see that the heavens and the earth were joined together, then We parted then. And We made from water every living thing. Will they then not believe?” (Qur’an, 21:30)
Furthermore, the Qur’an has a complete stage by stage embryological details stated along with many other scientific data.
“Read in the name of your Lord who created. Created man, out of a (mere) clot of congealed blood. Read, and your Lord is the most Generous. Who taught by the pen. Taught man that which he knew not.” [Surah al ‘Alaq: 1 – 5]
About 30 years back scientists were able to discover all the embryological stages. When Dr. Keith Moore (University of Toronto) was asked how the discovery made could be stated in the Holy Book – Al Qur’an Al Hakeem – he replied, “It could only have been divinely revealed.”
Hence to state that Islam does not recognize any other form of education is without a doubt the epitome of baseless, discriminatory assumption. Islam recognizes both the fundamental parts of knowledge as indispensable for the prosperity of the individual in both the worlds.
Dr. Yedullah Kazmi, a professor at the International Islamic University, gave a splendid parallel in this regard. The correlation between Faith (Fardh al ‘Ayn) and Logical Self-Thinking (Fardh al Kifayah) is like the correlation between a kite and its string. There is perpetual friction between the kite and the string. If the string is broken due to external forces, the kite will fly waywardly. Accordingly, when thinking is not based in faith, a person will go waywardly from his/her duties.
Moreover, the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ said: “A servant of God will remain standing on the Day of Judgment until he is questioned about his (time on earth) and how he used it; about his knowledge and how he utilized it; about his wealth and from where he acquired it and in what (activities) he spent it; and about his body and how he used it.” [Al Tirmidhi, Hadith 148].
Thus, simply gaining knowledge is not the goal. One should impart the positive knowledge they have learned and let the torch lighten a path towards the horizon and beyond. Knowledge gained and stored is like a fountain of wealth that is never turned on to flow forth. To help towards arming the youth with the ammunition of knowledge, transfer of knowledge is essential.
The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “God, His angels and all those in Heavens and on Earth, even ants in their hills and fish in the water, call down blessings on those who instruct others in beneficial knowledge.” [Al Tirmidhi, Hadith 422]
This is applied to every living human being and not segregated into a gender specific role. Gaining an education is for one and all. Education for the female gender, along with the male gender, has always been encouraged. Amongst the golden saying of the Prophet ﷺ is: “To acquire knowledge is binding upon all Muslims, whether male or female.”
Education is the basic right of every human being, regardless of their gender, colour or race. The infrastructure of nations is built upon educated minds. With an educated society, united we can build up this pivotal pillar that determines our religious, economic, social and political advancement. Hence, let this day serve as a reminder of the importance of education and underscore its necessity in our global society. An educated society is a stable society. An educated society is a peaceful society. An educated society is a powerful society.
– SKY –
© Seemeen Khan Yousufzai and SKY’S REALM, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Seemeen Khan Yousufzai and SKY’S REALM with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.