By Sikandar Azam
Islam lays due importance to acquiring education. This can be gauged with the fact that the very first ayah revealed to the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ begins with Iqra (Read, The Qur’ān 96:1), and that the Qur’ān repeatedly, of course in the various argumentative but appealing ways, educates people as to how their way of life should be and how they can achieve success here and in the life to come.
Education gives us knowledge. The question here is: what is knowledge? Is it just a host of pieces of information that clutter the mind without leading to any understanding of the very purpose of our existence on earth and of the fundamental truths in the universe? Certainly not! Cast a glance on the society around and you will find some well educated persons raising hateful, provocative slogans, indulging in violence and committing crimes of sorts. The fact is that they are simply degree or certificate holders; they are not educated in the real sense of the term. For what is education if it does not make man of man, if it does not inculcate humanness in the minds and hearts of students.
One distinction of Islam is that it provides us with the way of life prescribed by the Lord Creator, not devised by any human mind. This way of life gives us a comprehensive system of education which leads us to true knowledge. True knowledge can be attained with devout worship, a sensitive heart, being mindful of the life to come, entertaining strong hopes of benefiting from God’s mercy and of being conscious of God. We find a graphic picture of such a person in the Qur’ān (39:9): “How about one who devoutly worships God during the hours of the night prostrating himself or standing in prayer, ever mindful of the life to come, and hoping for his Lord’s mercy?” This picture testifies that true knowledge emerges only with such a bond with God, providing full awareness of the truth. A person who acquires the true knowledge goes through his life on earth without ever losing consciousness of God and the Day of Judgement.
Presenting this picture, the Qur’ān poses a question to assert fairly emphatically that those who know and those who do not know cannot be equal: “Say: ‘Can those who know and those who do not know be deemed equal?’” This divine assertion gives us impetus to strive onto the path of acquiring true knowledge, which ensures true and ultimate success and promises peace and amity in society. This ayah concludes with assertion of another fact that only those who have insight would take care to realise this truth: “Only those who are endowed with insight will take heed.”
Let’s not be mere collectors of information, for they will never attain the rank of people with knowledge. Therefore, there is no way left for us other than striving onto the path of true knowledge, which can open our mind to the need to be in touch with the fundamental truths in the universe.