Mar 10, 2012

Islam - Well Of Knowledge

By Makgotso Hlabana


My parents and their generation are the biggest inspiration to me. Both my parents lived in an era in which being black meant that you could not get a proper education. They were not deterred. Both my parents got their degrees in their respective fields and excelled in it. With this type of legacy I was urged to further my education. And as I studied the history of my people I realised that this was something that had been passed on - knowledge. Africa was the hub of knowledge. Timbuktu was the centre of education where everyone from everywhere came to learn and be educated.

“There are many judges, doctors and clerics here, all receiving good salaries from King Askia Mohammed of the State of Songhay. He pays great respect to men of learning. There is a great demand for books, and more profit is made from the trade in books than from any other line of business.” – Dr Molefi Asante

Timbuktu, a town in Mali, became the learning hub of Islamic knowledge. It had 3 universities and 180 Quranic schools. Imparting knowledge in an era where the institution such as a university was not known. Islam had made its way to Africa through some of the sahabas of Prophet Muhammed sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam arrived in Ethiopia. Fast forward to the 13th century and Mali was the leader in Islamic knowledge.

"Whoever follows a path to seek knowledge, Allah will make easy for him the path to Paradise. The angels beat their wings in approval of the seeker of knowledge, and those who are in the heavens scholar over the worshipper is like the superiority of the moon over all other heavenly bodies. The scholars are the heirs of the Prophets, for the Prophets did not leave behind dinars or dirhams, rather they left behind knowledge, so whoever gains knowledge has gained great good fortune.'" Narrated by al-Tirmidhi 

This hadith shows the status of education in Islam. Islam is a religion where seeking knowledge is encouraged regardless of gender, class and even race. Islam does not discriminate. In the media it has been said that women are not allowed to study but in fact Islam encourages and makes it obligatory amongst all believers whether male or female to go out and seek knowledge. And in the times before women scholars were many and many hadith were narrated by women. Women such as Aisha radhi Allahu anha who was the greatest narrator of the sayings and teachings of the Prophet Muhammad sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam are proof that we, as women, are responsible to find, learn and benefit mankind through education. A mother is the first madrasah for the child and therefore should be educated enough to instil ethics and morals that represent Islam.

They call our age that of information yet we have actually lost most of our knowledge. The growth of technology has led to a form of laziness where we expect everything to be handed to us. We expect the media to inform us with truth and we expect our education system to impart knowledge on our children. But this has led to a society of children who are not guided properly. Children today are told that if you “blow up” like Justin Bieber, you are set for life and don’t need to be educated. You have rappers also advocating that the school system is not good. So when a child is left to watch the television and be influenced by such people, it is no wonder there are fewer scholars today and the numbers keep going down.

The Prophet Muhammad sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam said: "The seeking of knowledge is obligatory for every Muslim." - Al-Tirmidhi

Knowledge is the fundamental of any society and it is no different in Islam. Islam has placed high emphasis on education because only through the education and seeking knowledge will one actually seek truth and discover Allah. Who would have thought that a man from Arabia - a simple man - could change the world? The first word that was uttered to Muhammed sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam was “iqra!” meaning “read”. This shows us that Islam is not just a religion of following and no direction. In fact, it is important for every Muslim to understand what Islam is about. This means that man is urged to go out and seek knowledge through the sciences and in that the person will find Allah.

As Muslims we need to remember the benefits of seeking knowledge in this life and in the akhira. May Allah make it easy on all of us. May Allah increase us in knowledge and understanding and may we have generations of Muslims that are a benefit to fellow men. Amin.

I'd love to hear your views on this topic. Please post in the comments section below! :)


I like two things about this article:

1. A glimpse of Africa! Africa is a land where there's so much to discover, only if we pay heed.

2. This particular point: "They call our age that of information yet we have actually lost most of our knowledge." It's funny how information is said to be at the tip of our fingers, yet we do not find the time & effort to gain knowledge (whether Islamic or religiously-neutral).

Great insight mashaAllah!

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