Rasheed Syed Azam
The Holy Quran is the Word of Almighty God which was revealed to the Holy Prophet of Islamsaw, the best and the greatest of all Prophets. It is the powerhouse of all knowledge for man for all times:
Whatever is in the heavens and the earth glorifies Allah; and He is the Mighty, the Wise. His is the kingdom of the heavens and the earth; He gives life and He causes death, and He has power over all things. He is the First and the Last, and the Manifest and the Hidden, and He has full knowledge of things. (57:2-4)
Again, we read in the Holy Quran:
Blessed is He in Whose hand is the Kingdom, and He has power over all things; Who has created death and life that He might try you – which of you is best in deeds; and He is the Mighty, the Most Forgiving; Who has created seven heavens in harmony. No incongruity canst thou see in the creation of the Gracious God. Then look again. Seest thou any flaw? Aye, look again, and yet again, thy sight will only return to thee confused and fatigued, having seen no incongruity. (67:2-5)
Man’s understanding is limited. However, with God’s help and guidance, man continues to explore and discover more about the mysteries of nature and the universe. This article emphasises the importance of knowledge.
SOURCES OF KNOWLEDGE
Allah is the source of all knowledge and Prophets are favoured with special knowledge from Him (21:80). Revelation is direct knowledge from Allah given to those who are chosen by Him and this kind of knowledge is free from error or doubt although its meaning may remain hidden for a time. The Holy Quran is the revealed book from Allah and beyond doubt is the perfect guidance for mankind (5:4). The Holy Quran was an act of His Graciousness for man (55:2-3), the best of His creations (95:5). The Promised Messiahas, the Holy Founder of the Ahmadiyya Community in Islam, was given special knowledge about the inner secrets of the Holy Quran after the Holy Prophet of Islamas. He has mentioned many times in his writings that the best knowledge is obtained through the study and understanding of the Holy Quran.
The study of the Holy Quran provokes imagination and thought. Human intellect is challenged to investigate and verify its claims. Reflecting people discover secrets of nature and harness their forces to make life better in this world for better rewards in the life hereafter.
The Promised Messiahas has said that knowledge has three stages:
Knowledge through inference, knowledge through observation, and knowledge through experience. An illustration of these three stages of knowledge for a man of common understanding is this: When a person observes smoke at a distance his reasoning through association concludes the existence of fire because the former does not exist without the latter; this is knowledge through inference. But if the person is close to the fire and can see the fire with his own eyes as a certainty then this is knowledge through observation. However, if he gets so close to the fire and touches it with his own hands, this is knowledge through experience. (Malfoozat, Vol 10, p. 402)
Psychological analysis of ‘knowledge’ also indicates several stages of understanding and competence. The first stage, obviously, begins with simple information about a subject. When the information is complete, it becomes understanding. When this understanding is put to some practical use, it becomes a skill. A person with most competent skill may be called the specialist in that field or subject. There is no end to learning and perfection belongs to Allah only.
The Holy Prophetsaw is said to have enjoined his followers to seek knowledge even if they have to travel to China. We are enjoined to learn from nature, history and social conditions of different nations and countries. Hazrat Abu Huraira, Allah be pleased with him, narrates:
I heard the Prophet of Allahsaw say:The word of wisdom is the lost property of a Muslim, so that, wherever he finds it, he should take it, as he is most entitled to it. (Tirmidhi)
Similarly the believers are enjoined to get religious knowledge (9:122).
The Holy Quran urges all believers to think, observe, reflect and to exercise their rational faculties. Then there is the knowledge man can acquire through learning and experience using his intellect and reason given to him by Allah (76:4). Knowledge bestows understanding and a person with knowledge is better than the one without it, as Allah says:
Is he who prays devoutly to Allah in the hours of night, prostrating himself and standing in prayer and fears the Hereafter and hopes for the mercy of his Lord, like he who is disobedient? Say `Are those who know equal to those who know not?’ Verily, only those endowed with understanding will take heed. (39:10)
Knowledge is power. Man can rule forces of nature through knowledge. As a matter of fact, the whole universe has been created to serve man. The Holy Quran says:
Allah is He Who has subjected the sea to you that ships may sail thereon by His command, and that you may seek of His bounty, and that you may be grateful.And He has subjected to you whatsoever is in the heavens and whatsoever is in the earth; all this is from Him. In that, surely, are Signs for a people who reflect. (45:13,14)
STUDY OF NATURE
Allah has created this earth and, indeed, the whole universe, in perfect harmony and there are no flaws in it (67:4). All praise belongs to Allah; He has made provisions for the perfect development of man, alongside His other creations, right from the beginning and all the way to the end (1:2). Allah says in the Holy Quran:
In the creation of the heavens and the earth and in the alteration of the night and day there are indeed signs for men of understanding. (3:191)
And He it is Who made the sun radiate a brilliant light and the moon reflect a lustre, and ordained for it proper stages, that you might know the count of years and reckoning of time. Allah has not created this system but in accordance with the requirements of truth. He details the signs for a people who posses knowledge. (10:6)
And He it is Who spread out the earth and made therein mountains and rivers, and fruits of every kind He made therein two sexes. He causes the night to cover the day. Therein, verily, are signs for a people who reflect.
And in the earth are diverse tracts, adjoining one another, and gardens of vines, and corn-fields, and date-palms, growing together from one root and others not so growing; they are all watered with the same water yet We make some of them excel others in fruit. There are signs for a people who use their understanding. (13:4,5)
REFLECTING ON HISTORY
The Holy Quran enjoins the study of history and emphasises its understanding primarily to remind us that this world is not a permanent abode. References to the rise and fall of nations strongly point out that no one lives forever except Allah, and falsehood disappears and the truth always prevails in the end (17:82). People can always learn from the past:
For, they sought exaltation in the earth and devised evil schemes; but the evil schemes encompass none except the authors thereof. Do they, then, look for anything other than Allah’s way of dealing with the people of old? But thou wilt never find any change in the way of Allah; nor wilt thou ever find any alteration in the laws of Allah.Have they not traveled in the earth and seen how evil was the end of those who were before them? And they were stronger than these in power. Allah is not such that anything in the heavens or the earth can frustrate His plans; verily, He is All-Knowing, All-Powerful. (33:44-45)
History provides great lessons of guidance for people to follow what is righteous and avoid what always leads to disaster.
STUDY OF SOCIAL CONDITIONS IN THE WORLD
The Holy Quran stresses the need to study the social conditions in the world in order to understand different cultures and the way different people live. As a matter of fact, the Holy Quran invites us to study all the social sciences (including psychology, sociology, geography, philology, economics etc.) first to understand other people’s ways and second to communicate with the world effectively what will be in their best interests in the light of the teachings of Islam. As Muslims we know that the purpose of life is to worship Allah but it is equally important that to fulfill that purpose we must invite the whole of the world to Allah. We may not be able to invite the world to Allah if we do not understand the social conditions in the world. The Holy Quran says:
Say, Travel in the earth, and see how He originated the creation. Then will Allah create the second creation. Surely, Allah has power over all things.He punishes whom He pleases and shows mercy unto whom He pleases , and to Him will you be turned back.
And you cannot frustrate the designs of Allah in the earth nor in the heavens; nor have you any friend or helper beside Allah. (29:21-23)
The study of social conditions prevalent in the world, especially in the West today, indicates how man has lost his way to God. Pursuit of pleasure and wealth dominate the agenda of most human beings. Their lives are full of contradictions and they have no peace of mind or real happiness and satisfaction. All this seems to be the consequence of mixed up priorities in life. This life is temporary and the more we forget God, the more we lose in this and the next life.
We should continuously pray to Allah for an increase of knowledge as even the Holy Prophetsaw was reminded:
And say: `Lord, bestow on me increase of knowledge’. (20:115)
We should also pray:
O my Lord, make my entry a good entry and make me go forth a good going forth. And grant me form Thyself a helping power. (17:81)
He it is Who has sent down to thee the Book; in it there are verses that are firm and decisive in meaning – they are the basis of the Book – and there are others that are susceptible of different interpretations. But those in whose hearts is perversity pursue such thereof as are susceptible of different interpretations, seeking to cause discord and seeking wrong interpretation of it. And none knows its right interpretation except Allah and those who are firmly grounded in knowledge; they say `We believe in it; the whole is from our Lord.’ – And none take heed except those gifted with understanding.Our Lord, let not our hearts become perverse after Thou hast guided us, and bestow on us mercy from Thyself; surely, Thou art the Great Bestower;
Our Lord, Thou wilt certainly assemble mankind together on the Day about which there is no doubt; surely, Allah never fails in His promise. (3:8-10)
Review of Religions
No. 2 Vol. LXXXVIII