Pursuit Of Knowledge In Islan Poem by Matloob Bokhari

Pursuit Of Knowledge In Islan


Air Cdre (R) Matloob Bokhari

Think on Thinking
The Holy Quran sets a very high value on knowledge and the
Holy Prophet (PBUH)himself is ordered to pray to God, "O Lord; increase my knowledge! " (The Holy Quran,20: 114) . The very first verse that was revealed to the
Holy Prophet (PBUH)in the Hira cave on Jabal-e-Noor (Mountain of Light)on the outskirts of Makkah required of him to read, "Read in the name of your Lord Who creates; creates man from something that clings. Read and your Lord is the most bounteous - Who teaches man by the pen, teaches man that which he knows not."Indeed, the Holy Quran itself is firmly of the view that the more knowledge one has, the more capable of faith and commitment one will be.Dr Abdul Karim argues in his article published in Dawn that, prior to Islam, knowledge was primarily based on tradition and superstition.Many were so overawed by some natural phenomena that they bowed before them.Blind faith in tradition, particularly, in matter of religion was condemned in the Holy Quran and man was urged to see and adopt things on merit (Dawn,27 April 2001) .Islam liberated human mind by urging man to harness the stars and the moon instead of worshipping them. This gave birth to a scientific way of thinking.What an intellectual challenge has been offered in the Quran: "And He has subjected to you whatever is in the heaven and whatever is in the earth: Our Lord, Thou hast not created this in vain" (The Holy Quran,3: 191-2) .Knowledge should not be just superficial but must go very deep into the wisdom of things. The Holy Prophet‘s mission is summed up in The Quran as: "It is He Who has raised among the unlettered people a messenger from among themselves who recites unto them His signs and purifies them and teaches them the book and wisdom, although they had been before in manifest misguidance" (The Holy Quran,62: 3) . "…and Allah has revealed to thee (O Muhammad!)the Book and the Wisdom, and has taught thee what thou knewest not; and Allah's Grace unto thee is immense." (The Holy Quran, iv: 113) . "He grants wisdom to whom He pleases and whoever is granted wisdom has indeed been granted abundant good. And none will be reminded except those endowed with understanding" (The Holy Quran,2: 270) .The tremendous importance of knowledge has been underlined in the Quran, "Only those of His servants who possess knowledge fear Allah" (The Holy Quran,35: 29) . With knowledge comes understanding, the Quran addresses many things specifically to men of understanding. It says, "Say, Are those who know equal to those who know not? ' Verily, only those endowed with understanding will take heed" (The Holy Quran,39: 10) .Again, the Quran says, "But only those gifted with understanding will reflect" (The Holy Quran,13; 20) . "This is a sufficient admonition for mankind that they may benefit by it, and …He is the only One God, and that those possessed of understanding may ponder" (The Holy Quran,14: 53) .

The Quran emphasises rationalism. Over and over again, the Quran appeals to tadabur (deliberation): tafakar (thinking): and ta' qqulun (reasoning) . The principle laid down by Islam to keep pace with the ever changing world is "ijtihad", which means exertion with a view to forming an independent judgement. According to the Quran, God does not like those who are unwilling to subject their ideas to
re-examination (The Holy Quran, vii,23, x,1000) . The Holy Quran untiringly invites human beings to ‘think', ‘ponder' on the universe and its extremely well-ordered and firm structure wherein no dislocation or gaps can be found.The Holy Quran did not merely recommend "the contemplation and study of Nature in general."It did much more when it projected the guidance in respect of the Inductive Method of enquiry, i.e., the Scientific Method and gave the basic principles on which alone the quest of physical science could be established. We find therein some very rich scientific concepts, which are of fundamental importance in relation to scientific knowledge. For instance: (i)the concept of "expanding universe" (The Holy Quran, xxxv: 1):
(ii)the concept of acreated but evolving universe (The Holy Quran, XLI: 11-12):
(iii)the concept of biological evolution in general (The Holy Quran, XXIX: 19) , evolution of plant life (The Holy Quran, XXXVI: 33) , and evolution in relation to Man (The Holy Quran, XV: 26): (iv)the principle of parity (The Holy Quran, LI: 49):
(v)the concept of the revolution of planets in their orbits (The Holy Quran, XXI: 33; XXXVI: 40): (vi)the concept of the earth as rotating on its axis (The Holy Quran, VII: 137): constant movement of the sun towards a goal (The Holy Quran, XXXVI: 38): (viii)the principle of pairs in terms of male and female among plants (The Holy Quran, XXXVI: 36): (ix)the concept of space-travel with its difficulties and possibilities (The Holy Quran, LV: 33):(x)the existence of animal life on other planets and its expected contact in future with the animal life existing on the earth (The Holy Quran, XLII: 29) .

The Glorious Quran was revealed to teach "new knowledge" (The Holy Quran, II: 51) , and chartered a new course for the pursuers of scienceand stimulated the scientific outlook and the quest for knowledge. "In the time to come, We (God)will show them (i.e., human beings)Our Signs in remote regions (of the universe)and in their (own)selves, until it becomes manifest to them that this (i.e, the Quran)is the Truth…" (The Holy Quran, XLI: 53) . The Holy Quran is of the view that the more knowledge one has, the more capable of faith and commitment one will be.I concur with Rahman (1966)that the Holy Quran is a dynamic and action-oriented book that calls for itself "guidance of mankind".The Holy Quran gives much emphasis on reading, writing and thinking: - "Read, for your Lord is the most Generous who taught by pen; He taught Man what he did not know" (The Holy Quran, XCVI,1-8) . The Quran enjoins thinking not talking on Muslims: - "Have they not contemplated the kingdom of Heaven and Earth? " (The Holy Quran, VII,184) . We can deduce from these lines of the Holy Quran that the emphasis of the holy book is on thinking, reflection and contemplation not on memorisation and rot-learning, which block the path of knowledge and creativity. The renowned British Orientalist Marmaduke Pickthall quoted in Ansari (1973: 46)says, "The Quran undoubtedly gave a great impetus to learning, especially in the field of natural science: and if, as, some modern writers have declared, the inductive method, to which all the practical modern discoveries are chiefly owing, can be traced to it." Emmanuel Deutsch (cited in ibid)says, "By the aid of the Quran, the Arab conquered a world greater than that of Alexander the Great… They came to Europe to hold up the light to Humanity; they alone, while darkness lay around, to raise up the wisdom and knowledge of Hellas from the dead, to teach philosophy, medicine, astronomy and the golden art of song to the West as well as to the East, to stand at the cradle of modern science, and to cause us late epigone forever to weep over the day when Grenada fell" (p 48) . "We must not be surprised to find the Quran the fountain-head of the sciences. Every subject connected with heaven or earth, human life, commerce and various trades is occasionally touched upon, and this gave rise to the production of numerous monographs forming commentaries on parts of the Holy Book. In this way, the Quran was responsible for great discussions, and to it was indirectly due the marvellous development of all branches of science in the Muslim world." (Dr Hartwig Hirschfeld: New Research into the Composition and Exegesis of the Quran, London, p,9 cited in Ansari,1977, p123) .

Muslims - The Custodian of Knowledge
The Holy Prophet said, "A word of wisdom is the lost property of a believer. Wherever, he finds it, he has a right on it more than others." "He who issues forth in search of knowledge is busy in the cause of Allah till he returns from his quest"
(Dr Abdul Karim, Dawn,27 April 2001) . The Holy Prophet warned Muslims of their relapsing into ignorance. "Among the signs of the Day of Judgement is that knowledge will disappear and ignorance will prevail.""A person will be a believer in the morning but becomes a disbeliever in the evening except those whom Allah may keep alive with knowledge."(Cited in ibid) . "… quite a number of those who joined the Islamic fraternity at Mecca and Medina were educated persons who knew the art of reading and writing.Moreover, the Holy Prophet gave such importance to the formal education of his followers that even many Muslim ladies received it"
(Abu Da'ud: Sunan, vol.II, p186 cited in Ansari1973) . Many a thinkers has paid eloquent tribute to Hazrat Muhammad (PBUH)for bringing the degraded Arabs from the depths of darkness into the luminous light. The un-lettered teacher considered teaching the best of all professions and erudition as the greatest ornament of man. The lessons of unity, brotherhood, tolerance were taught to the Arabs steeped in ignorance. The devotion to knowledge and science distinguishes the Prophet from all other prophets.

Ali (1922)points out that the words of the Holy Prophet quickened a new impulse to the awakened energies of the Arabs.The Holy Prophet preached them the importance of Science and Art: -

"One hour's meditation on the work of the Creator [in a devout spirit] is better than seventy years of prayer" (Jami ul Akbar cited in Ali, ibid) .

During the era of Hazrat Abu Bakar (RA)and Hazrat Omer (RA) , the teaching of literature and Art got special attention in the metropolis of primitive Islam.According to Ali (1922) , Hazrat Ali and Ibn Abbas, his cousin, gave public lectures on poetry, grammar, history and mathematics, others taught the art of recitation or elocution, whilst some gave lessons in calligraphy. About Islam, the Scholar (Ameer Ali in his book, The Spirit of Islam addresses Hazrat Ali as scholar)says, "It is such a fountain-head of learning that from it flow out several streams of wisdom and knowledge. It is such a lamp that from it several lamps will be lighted" (Jafery,1977: 379) .Defining knowledge, ‘the illustrious Ali' (Gibbon. E,1960: 673)says "That knowledge is very superficial which remains only on your tongue; the intrinsic merit and value of knowledge is that you act upon it" (Jafery,1977:543) . Again, he says, "Your welfare does not lie in your having enormous wealth and numerous children but it rests in your being highly educated" (Cited in ibid) . About knowledge and wealth, the Scholar says, "Knowledge is better than and superior to wealth because knowledge protects youand you have to guard wealth; because wealth decreases if you keep on spending it and knowledge increases the more you make use of it; and because what you get through wealth disappears as soon as wealth disappears but what you achieve through knowledge will remain even after you …Knowledge is power and it can command obedienceand following; a man of knowledge during his life-time can make people obey and follow him and he is praised and venerated after his death; remember, that knowledge is a ruler and wealth is its subject" (Jafery,1977: 552) .Hazrat Ali (AS)-whom Ave Sena called ‘the miracle ofHazrat Muhammad (PBUH)- during his rulecreated a Central Bureau, where he distributedthe work of training the crude Arabs into educated and civilised beings. Talking abouta true Muslim, Hazrat Ali (AS)-whom Osborne ('Islam under the Arabs' cited in Jafery,1977: 14)calls as ‘the Bayard of Islam' - says,"He {a true Muslim} is like a lighted candle, in the darkness of uncertainties, dispelling doubts, unravelling difficult problems, leading people out of the chaos of heathenism (cited in ibid: 187) . "With the light of the Holy Quran and teachings of the Holy Prophet, " writes Ameer Ali in his book, "The Spirit of Islam" "The Muslims rose from the Arab peninsula and taught the world the gentle lessons of philosophy and the practical teachings of the stern science." With in a short space of time, the wrangling idolaters became the ardent lovers of learning. Where ever they went, they sowed the seeds of learning. Later on, these seeds bore magnificent foliage in the shape of the Madrassahs of Cordova, Cairo, Demascus, Baghdad, Samarkand and Bokhara. Ali (1922)argues that from every part of the globe, students and scholars flocked to Cordova, to Baghdad and to Cairo to listen to the words of Saracens' sages. Even the Christian from the remote corners of the Europe attended Muslim colleges. "There is no field of learning and science in which Muslims have not made some notable contribution.In fact, the Arabs have been called the real founders of physical sciences." (H. G Wells quoted in Ali,1922) .A modern writer, G Sarton, admits that, "The main task of mankind was accomplished by Muslims; the greatest philosopher Al-Farabi was a Muslim; the greatest mathematicians "Abu Kamil and Ibrahim ibn Sina were Muslims; the greatest geographer and encyclopaedist Al-Masudi was a Muslim; the greatesthistorian, Al-Tabriwas a Muslim." Then there were also Al Khawrizmi who introduced Al-gebra; Ibne-e-Nafees who postulated the first realistic theory about the circulation of blood in the body; alchemist like Jabir bin Hayyan-the student of Imam Jafar Sadiq; Ibn Al Haytham who propounded the theory about the seven colours that form white light; Omar Khayyam, the son of a tent maker, who revised the concept of astronomy proving that the earth and other smaller heavenly bodies float in orbits around the sun and themselves.The greatest poets of humanity, Rumi and Sherazi were also Muslims.

The first international conference on science was held in Baghdad in 767 AD under the direction of Abbasid Caliph, Abdullah Al Mansoor.From this conference grew the idea of founding of one of the world's first international academies of Scientific Research, Baytul Hikma "The age of Arabic learning continued for five hundred years, " says Gibbon in, ‘The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire' "till the great eruption of the Mongols, and was coeval with the darkest and most slothful period of the European annals."


The premise of my all this reasoning is that "The Originator of the heavens and earth" has often ordered man to ponder over the verses ofthe Holy Quranrevealing facts concerning man, earth and the universe and all that is in between the stars. The modern scientific facts and laws are in total agreement with the
Holy Quranic verses, revealed more than 1400 years ago. The Holy Quran reveals knowledge, guidance, information and wisdom about the mysterious universe.

The Holy Quran which came to teach "new knowledge" (II: 51): which chartered a new course for the pursuers of science, which stimulated the scientific outlook and the quest for scientific knowledge; which promoted the cultivation of the physical science has been put by the Muslims in the topmost shelve; or its followers have only memorized the words of this Book of Guidance which asks them repeatedly to ponder and conquer the universe.

The true message of Islam, it is assumed, was correctly assimilated by the early Muslims. They swung across deserts, mountains and oceans to spread this message and rose to greatness through the Holy Quran, which built them up into a world-force dedicated to the service of humanity for a long time in every phase of human activity: spiritual, moral, intellectual, aesthetics, economic and political. But it is a tragedy of human nature that it is easy for human beings to continue to stick to certain beliefs but difficult to maintain the tempo of the struggle for executing the practice. The same has happened to us: We have fallen from the pinnacle of glory and are loitering in the abysmal depth of ignorance, which has made us intolerant. Unfortunately, we have lost the thread and have gone astray eventually losing even the semblance of what the actual message of this book is! There is now a stranglehold on free thought in the whole Muslim world. Resultantly, it is suffering from complete intellectual barrenness, mental inertia and groping in the darkness of utter confusion. After the fall of Baghdad, the scientific study of nature gradually ceased. While Leonardo da Vinci, Copernicus, Brahe, Bruno, Galileo, Frances Bacon, Keplerand, and Newton were engaged in unraveling the mysteries of nature, the Muslims were busy in fathoming the depths of hell and heaven. We are now living in two different worlds - the medieval and the modern. The Christians, the Jews and the others have adjusted their dogmas to the demands of modernity and science. But we have not, so far, been able to resolve the conflict between obscurantism and modernism with the result that we continue to be torn between the contrary pulls and demands of two different worlds - one long dead and other in full bloom.

The study suggests that the Muslim scholars should recapture their past heritage and should acquire the knowledge advanced by the West.All the Muslim countries should invest their efforts to raise to a great extent the intellectual level of their fellow countrymen. The intellectual renaissance, if started now, will enable the Muslim world to catch up soon with the advanced nations of the world.


Ahmed, N. (2001)The Importance of education in Islam The News 29/10/2001.

Ali, A.(1922) The Spirit of Islam. London: Chatto and Windus.

Ali, M. (1998)Maududi's philosophy of education: the dynamics of change and leadership of education: the dynamics of change and leadership. Muslim Education Quarterly: 15, pp.25-39.

Brown, M. and Brand, J. (1999)Guidance for Key Stages 2& 3 Human Rights. London: The Development Education Association.

Chambliss, J. (ed)(1996)Philosophy of Education: An Encyclopedia. New York: Garland Publishing, Inc.

Covey, S. (1994)First Things First. London: Simon and Schuster Ltd.

Davies, L. (1994)Beyond Authoritarian School Management. Ticknall: Education Now.

Davies, L. (1995)International Indicators of Democratic Development in Harber, C. (ed) , Developing Democratic Education: Ticknall, Education Now.

Fakhry, M. (1983)A History of Islamic Philosophy. New York: Columbia University Press.

Fateh Ullah (2002)Quran and Science, The News 29/11/2002.

Freire, P. (1968)Pedagogy of the Oppressed, New York: Herder and Herder.

Frost, E. (1962)The Basic Teachings of the Great Philosophers. Anchor: New York.

Gibbon, E. (1960)The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, the Great Britain: Chatto and Windus.

Halstead, M (1994)Some reflections on the debate about music in Islam. Muslim Education Quarterly,12, pp.51-61.

Hazrat Ali (1977)Nahjul Balagha. Trans. Jafery, M. Karachi: Khorasan Islamic Centre.

Ibrahim, A. (1996)A Brief Illustrated Guide to Understanding Islam. Texas: Darussalam Publishers.

James, C. and Connolly, U. (2000)Effective Change in Schools. London: Routledge.
Kuchment, A. and Seibert, S. (2002)School by the Book. Newsweek,3, pp.44-49.

Lemu, A. (2001)A holistic approach to teaching Islam to children: a case study in Northern Nigeria. Religious Education.

Lings, M. (1983)Muhammad: His Life Based on the Earliest Sources. Islamic Texts Society, ISBN 0-04-297042-3.

Mahmood, A. (2002)Islam and Modernity, Dawn 08/9/2002.

Masuad, K. (2002)Islam and Science, Dawn 30/12/2002.

Masuad, K. (2002)The Holy Prophet and permanent revolution, The News 25/5/2002.

Quraishi, U. (1999)Democracy through art in Pakistani Schools, Un-published PhD thesis, (Birmingham, University of Birmingham) .

Rahman, F. (1973)The Holy Quranic Foundations and Structure of Muslim Society. Karachi: Trade and Industry Publications Ltd.

Rahman, F.(1966)Islam.London: University of Chicago Press.

Rahman, F. (1982)Islam and Modernity.London: University of Chicago Press.

Rahman, F. (1953)New Education in the Making. London: Cassell and Co.

Said, E. (1999)Denying academic freedom. Dawn,13 July,1999.

Scheffler, I. (1973)Reason and Teaching.London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.

Sharif, M. (ed.)(1983)A History of Muslim Philosophy. Karachi: Royal Book Company.

Shayegan, D. (1989)Cultural Schizophrenia. Paris: editions Albin Michel.

Sahnan, I. (1995)An educationalist and a faqih Muslim Education Quarterly.
12, pp.37-53.

Sharifi, H. (1983)Islamic teaching methodology at the university stage.
Muslim Education Quarterly. I, pp.9-23.

Smith and Cantwell. (1978) The Meaning and End of Religion. London: S.P.C.K.

Sulayman, A. (1994)Islamization: Reforming Contemporary Knowledge. Institute of Islamic Thought Headquarters: Herndon.

The Fountain - A magazine of Critical, Scientific and Spiritual Thought: 9900 Main Street, Fairfax, VA 22031-3907 USA.

The Holy Quran. Madina Munawwarah: King Fahd Complex.

Error Success