Islam and Knowledge: the Importance of Islamic Education
Knowledge and education in Islam are primarily a means to transform one’s soul and attain closeness to God. Their value does not lie in the world, but in the Hereafter.
Bismillāhir Rahmānir Rahīm, As-salāmu ʿAlaykum wa rahmatullāhi wa barakātuh. Peace be upon you brothers and sisters.
Welcome back to the Muslim Converts Channel!
In this lesson, we will earn what knowledge and education mean in Islam. In other words, we will see how knowledge and education are fundamentally tools of salvation and spiritual reform and enlightenment, something which Islam shares with the older tradition of the Christian West but is now unfortunately forgotten.
BODY OF TEXT
Is one who is devoutly obedient during periods of the night, prostrating and standing [in prayer], fearing the Hereafter and hoping for the mercy of his Lord, [like one who does not]? Say, "Are those who know equal to those who do not know?" Only they will remember [who are] people of understanding. (Chapter 39, verse 9 of the Holy Qur’an)
The word for knowledge in Islam is ʿilm. Just like many Arabic words, there are root words that have varying but interconnected meanings. One of the root meanings of ʿilm, in addition to knowledge, is an imprint. So for example, you will see the word ʿalāmah, whose root word is ʿilm, means sign or imprint in Arabic.
The word for teaching in Islam is taʿlīm, which means to instill knowledge in someone, but it also it means to imprint. The connection between these two is very important. In Islam, knowledge is not just information where you know something about something or someone. In Islam, the ʿilm, and the act of taʿlīm is to leave an imprint on someone.
It is to imprint on someone’s heart and soul and to transform them to the better. Acquiring knowledge in Islam is therefore an act of transformation. So in this sense, knowledge, in the technical Qur’anic sense, is not just simple random facts and information, it is instead a way of being, a way of existing which is inexorably bound to God. Interestingly enough, the word knowledge in English comes from a old 12th century word that meant to acknowledge worship of God.
How about education? The word education comes from the latin word educatio which meant to “rear” or to “bring up.” Similarly, the word for education in Islam is tarbīyah, meaning to rear, bring up or nurture someone.
Education and the acquisition of knowledge therefore function in two ways in Islam:
- Knowledge is not random facts and information. The ultimate goal of knowledge is not careerism or about making money either. Knowledge is supposed to leave an imprint on a person’s heart and soul. It is to transform them to the better, it is to set a person to the path of enlightenment and closeness to God.
- Education or tarbīyah works hand in hand with knowledge. Tarbīyah is there to make us dignified human beings. It is there to fundamentally transform us into loving, compassionate and moral beings. It is a form of both spiritual and as well as bodily discipline. One is trained to want the good in others, to control one’s emotions, to develop empathy and compassion for others and so on and so forth.
The ultimate goal of knowledge and tarbīyah is the creation of a mu’min, that is, someone who has true faith in God and in whose heart one finds the living light of God. In one perspective, Islam, as a social system, is therefore there to act as a cradle to nurture īmān.
Who are we to gain knowledge and education from? In Islam, we are encouraged to ask others when we do not know. However, we are also asked to make sure that our sources of knowledge are credible. A troubling phenomenon that exists today is that of self-created scholars where people think that simply by reading books one can become a scholar.
In Islam, we believe that books are not enough, we are in need of proper and credible teachers. As such, we must be careful in choosing which people we take as our sources of information. We must make sure that these scholars are properly trained and are part of a tradition of learning that goes back to the Prophet (s) and His Ahl al-Bayt (as).
In other words, scholars are not self-made, they are taught by other people whom in turn are also taught by others. The best teachers are those teachers whose chain of learning comes back to the Prophet (s) and his Ahl al-Bait (as).
So in one way or another, we must always be connected to the Prophets and Apostles of God. The first place where learning and education take place according to Islam is at home. Parents must therefore take proper care in learning Islam both from credible teachers as well as reading relevant books in order to transmit Islam properly to their children, both in terms of knowledge and in social and spiritual comportment.
Knowledge and education are therefore a means of exaltation to God, and this starts from home.
The Qur’an says:
O you who have believed, when you are told, "Space yourselves" in assemblies, then make space; Allah will make space for you. And when you are told, "Arise," then arise; Allah will raise those who have believed among you and those who were given knowledge, by degrees. And Allah is Acquainted with what you do. (Chapter 58, verse 11 of the Holy Qur’an)
Until Next Time, Thank you for watching. As-salāmu ʿAlaykum wa rahmatullāhi wa barakātuh
to teach, to convey or instill knowledge
to rear, to nurture someone spiritually and morally
someone who has deep faith in God
What is knowledge in Islam?
It is a form of awareness that leaves an imprint in the soul. That is, it is an act of knowing that transforms a person and gets him or her closer to God.
What is education in Islam?
It is rearing and nurturing a person on spiritual and moral grounds
How does knowledge differ from information?
Knowledge is there to transform people’s souls so that they may grow closer to God.
knowledge in islam
education in islam
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