“Islamic system of education is composed of a clear objective of human recognition of the Ultimate Reality – Allah. The ultimate aim, real purpose, and goal of seeking knowledge (‘ilm) is to know this Ultimate Reality – the Sustainer, the Maintainer, the Creator, the Provider, and the Keeper of the entire universe. ‘Ilm is the norm or criteria by which we can distinguish between true and false, right and wrong, virtue and vice, Haqq and Batil etc. The very first Revelation (sura al-Alaq, 96: 1-5) to the last Prophet (pbuh) serves as an invitation to mankind to know the Lord of the entire creation.”
Islam represents a comprehensive code of civilization encompassing all the dimensions of human thought and life. The holy Quran is Allah’s last revelation to the mankind, meant to guide man in his esoteric and exoteric domains of life. It was with this guidance that Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), among others, established an Islamic Society in Arabian Peninsula which continued flourishing for several centuries. It was not merely religious society but represented Islamic principles in all walks of life, i.e., social, political, economic, moral, cultural, military, international relations and education.
Islamic system of education is composed of a clear objective of human recognition of the Ultimate Reality – Allah. The ultimate aim, real purpose, and goal of seeking knowledge is to know this Ultimate Reality – the Sustainer, the Maintainer, the Creator, the Provider, and the Keeper of the entire universe.
The mission of all Prophets, including the last Prophet, was to establish ‘Deen’ (Islam), so for that matter the holy Quran serves as its complete and comprehensive constitution (4: 105, “Surely, We have sent down to you (O Muhammad) the Book (this Qur’an) in truth that you might judge”; 6: 38, “We have neglected nothing in the Book”) which is based on knowledge (‘ilm). Holy Quran says, “Certainly, We have brought them a Book (the Qur’an), which We have explained in detail with knowledge – a guidance and a mercy to a people who believe” (7: 52). It does not allow man to act, perform and proceed, without knowledge (17: 36, “and follow not that of which you have no knowledge”) and there is no room in its philosophy for ignorance and illiteracy, which according to holy Quran is the source of all kinds of fallacies, superstitions and irrational approaches.
The holy Quran, in fact, stimulates and inspires, motivates and encourages Muslims to study the Universe in its various facets and aspects. According to many scholars, about 750 verses of the holy Quran exhort, insist and urge the believers to study nature, to make best use of ‘Aql (reason/intellect) in their search and to make acquisition of knowledge and scientific comprehension, as there are “signs” of Allah’s power for mankind. Holy Quran, for example in sura Aal-i-Imran (3: 190), says: “Verily! In the creation of the heavens and the earth, and in the alternation of night and the day, there are indeed signs (ayaat) for men of understanding”.
In many verses Allah has highlighted the importance of knowledge for success in life. Islam seeks to help man to recognize Allah as knowledge is to know the reality and the greatest reality is the existence of Allah. This is the ilm by which we can distinguish between true and false, right and wrong, virtue and vice, and above all Haqq and Batil. The very first Revelation (sura al-Alaq, 96: 1-5) to the last Prophet (pbuh) serves as an invitation to man to know the Lord of the entire creation.
As ‘Ilm (knowledge) is basis of Quran (sura al-Aeraf, 7: 52) and Quran is furqan, so ‘Ilm is the power and blessing or ‘criterion’ (norm/decisive factor/standard) for distinguishing between true and false and between right and wrong. Knowledge brings light to life, increases power of mind and without it one’s life is aimless and purposeless.
To conclude, ‘Ilm is one of the blessings bestowed by Allah to the human being (the Supreme creature) and to know the Ultimate Reality (Almighty Allah) – who is the Creator and the Sustainer of the entire creation – is the real purpose, ultimate aim and goal of acquiring or seeking knowledge. ‘Ilm (knowledge) – the foundation of the Quran – is the ‘criteria’ for distinguishing between right and wrong, true and false, virtue and vice, and Haqq and Batil.
* The author is a Doctoral Candidate in Islamic Studies at Aligarh Muslim University (AMU), Aligarh. He can be mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org