Islam attaches utmost importance to education for understandable reasons. Education enables a person to differentiate between right and wrong and to choose the right one. It also enables a person to receive information from the past, to understand the present, and to fashion the future in the light of the past and the present. This is clearly spelled out in the first revelation of the Qur’an which enjoins upon mankind to “Read! In the Name of your Lord Who has created (all that exists). He has created man from a clot (a piece of thick coagulated blood). Read! And your Lord is the Most Generous. Who has taught (the writing) by the pen. He has taught man that which he knew not” (al-Qur’an, 96: 1-5). The Qur’an also informs mankind concerning the tools for acquiring knowledge: “And He gave you hearing, sight, and hearts that you might give thanks (to Allah)”
(al-Qur’an, 16: 78). The Prophet (SAW) made seeking knowledge obligatory upon every Muslim. People endowed with knowledge, i.e. scholars, are declared to be the heirs of the Prophets (SAW) who left behind nothing but knowledge.
Knowledge for the sake of knowledge has no value in Islam. Acquisition of knowledge must be accompanied by the dissemination of knowledge. “Indeed, Allah conferred a great favour on the believers when He sent among them a Messenger from among themselves, reciting unto them His Verses (the Qur’an), and purifying them and instructing them (in) the Book (the Qur’an) and Al-Hikmah [the wisdom and the Sunnah of the Prophet (i.e. his legal ways, statements and acts of worship)], while before that they had been in manifest error” (al-Qur’an, 3: 164). It is narrated by al-Bukhari (No. 4639) that “the best of you is the one who learns the Qur’an and teaches it.”
The Qur’an also teaches the method of disseminating knowledge. The word knowledge or ‘ilm in the Qur’an is paired with the term Íikmah which is one of the major instruments for effective communication of knowledge. Thus, the according to the Qur’an: “He (Allah) grants the ḥikmah to whomever He wills, and whoever is granted the ḥikmah has indeed been granted much good. Yet, none bear this in mind except those endowed with understanding” (al-Qur’an, 2: 269). The Prophet (SAW) is reported to have encouraged the pursuit of ḥikmah and praised those who teaches others using hikmah (al-Bukhārī, 3: 73). In earlier times, scholars have interpreted Íikmah to mean the instrument that helps distinguish truth from falsehood others considered it to be an intellectual inquiry into the truth and reality of things. In contemporary times, hikmah is interpreted to mean the mode of the dissemination the Islamic message by individuals and institutions through various means.
Many scholars operationalise the term ḥikmah as the major tool to promote Islam i.e. da‘wah works to promote the authentic teachings of Islam through all channels. The Qur’an recognises that Prophet ‘Īsā (Jesus) was taught ḥikmah through which he disseminated the knowledge of Islam (al-Qur’an, 5: 110; 43: 63; 45: 16). Likewise, Prophet Muhammad (SAW) was taught ḥikmah and was assigned the task of disseminating it among his people (al-Qur’an, 3: 164; 4: 113; 62: 2). The Qur’an is categorical in singing out ḥikmah as a mode or strategy of delivering the Islamic message: “Invite (all) to the Way of your Lord with wisdom (ḥikmah) and beautiful preaching; and argue with them in ways that are best and most gracious” (al-Qur’an, 16: 125).
What is being emphasized in the Qur’an and the Sunnah is that the one calling people to the way of Islam must have knowledge of what one is calling to. So it is obligatory for a person to first acquire knowledge, then to do da’wah. The Prophet (SAW) was asked to: “Say, this is my way. I invite unto Allah (the Oneness of Allah) with sure knowledge, I and whosoever follows me with sure knowledge. And Glorified and Exalted be Allah. And I am not of the Mushrikoon” (al-Qur’an, 12: 108). In this verse, the term baseerah is used to mean knowledge which a caller to Islam must possess. What is being emphasised here is that knowledge must be acquired to know the right path, that knowledge must be disseminated to all, and that people should be called upon to follow the right path by following the right channel. Islam obligates the followers to acquire right knowledge and to choose the right channel to propagate the comprehensive way of life, which is Islam.
This issue of the International Journal of Islamic Thoughts (IJITs) begins with an article on the knowledge within the intellectual tradition of Islam by Professor (retired) Jamil Farooqui. He argues that knowledge has been misconceived and is equated with information. To him, knowledge is the consciousness of high order of reality and truth lying behind the signs spread throughout the universe. Knowledge instills the sense of good and evil, right and wrong among human beings by activating the “enlightenment to its wrong and its right” (al-Qur’an, 91: 5). Allah (SWT) has given humans the faculties of hearing, seeing and heart for the acquisition of knowledge. Humans should acquire knowledge in an appropriate way by activating their faculties of understanding, by pondering over the nature and functioning of the objects and the world, and by reflecting on the ideas which they thought extensively. Knowledge thus acquired enables humans to understand the wonders of the world and intricacies of human life.
Md. Thowhidul Islam explains the educational system in the Muslim Bengal and the dissemination of knowledge from an Islamic perspective by the rulers, the mystics (SËfis), the scholars (‘ulamÉ) and others. There were mosques, religious seminaries and institutions for educating children. These institutions taught not merely religious sciences but imparted knowledge in natural sciences as well. These educational institutions were maintained through state patronage and rent-free lands as endowment. Thus, education was free, and the state administration promoted knowledge as an important duty of the state. Teachers had a free hand to decide on the books for study, class schedule, examination and evaluation process.
Maszlee Malik provides an interesting case of the prevalence of two conceptions of knowledge and its promotion in Islam: the state-version of Islam which prevails in Malaysia and the earliest version of salafism also known as the “Sunnah perlis” prevalent in Perlis, the northernmost state in Malaysia.The influence of the reform agenda or “Sunnah” in Perlis is due to the state authority’s patronage. During the pre-independent Malaya, the monarchs played a pertinent role in instilling the “Sunnah” teaching, and guarding it. While during the post-independent Malaysia, it was the politicians, and mainly UMNO politicians, that fought for the “Sunnah” teaching to remain as the prevailing and dominant Islamic discourse in Perlis. They used the globalization and media coverage to gain more substantive existence in Perlis. However, the survival of the earliest version of salafism in Perlis remained a local struggle but occasionally became a nation-wide reform movement depending upon the personality who occupied the office of the Chief Minister of Perlis.
Syaza Farhana and Ishtiaq Hossain explains the strategies adopted by the leaders of Adaletve Kalkinma Partisi (AKP, Justice and Development Party) in Turkey to discuss Islamic themes in the public sphere allegedly to Islamize the Turkish society through the dissemination of the Islamic principles. Based on the content analysis of newspapers, the authors found that statements by AKP leaders have always contained religious undertones but these were aimed at managing the support it received from conservative Turks, rather than as an upfront to the secular establishment.
This issue also contains a review article by Samee-Ullah Bhat. It deals with the contribution of Sayyid Abul Hasan Ali Nadwi who was a prolific writer and a great scholar of Islam during the 20th century. This article analyses his major works, Insani Dunya Par Musalmanu Ke Urujwa Zawal Ka Athar and Tarikh-i Dawatwa Azeemat. Sheikh Nadwi’s main concern was the history of Islam as a tool to propagate Islamic knowledge and Islam in general. His writings bear distinctive historical roots and reflect an in-depth study of the subject. He made his debut as a historian through the gateway of biography and provides an analysis of the rise and fall of Muslims through the life and times of Saints, Seers, Scholars and Muslim thinkers. He proves the point that it was adherence by the sages of the ages to faith alone which helped reinstate the believers to their original status. The author also analyses the glorious period of Islam and highlights that the decadence of Muslim power was due to luxurious life of Muslim rulers leading to the fall of Muslim civilization. Nadwi’s writings need to be reintroduced to the Muslims to learn from history and to revive the glory of the glorious days of Islam.
Abdul Rashid Moten