Our Attitude towards Ilm-ud-Deen by Yawar Baig
EducationThis is the most important step in the Deen after Aqeeda and a keyrequirement for A’mal. Knowledge is the basis of all progress. A nation thatis without knowledge can never progress. A nation that is led by people ofignorance is a nation doomed to slavery. People who don’t learn from theirhistory are condemned to repeat it. Let us see what the history of Islam andthe Muslims teaches us about the importance of knowledge.First let us see what Allah says about knowledge and people who areintelligent (Ulul Albaab: People of understanding):3:190,191
Behold! In the creation of the heavens and the earth and thealternation of night and day there are indeed Signs for men ofunderstanding. Men who celebrate the praises of Allah standing sitting andlying down on their sides and contemplate the (wonders of) creation in theheavens and the earth (with the thought): “Our Lord! Not for nothing haveYou created (all) this! Glory to You! Give us salvation from the penalty ofthe fire.Allah describes in the above ayah the signs of the people of knowledge,intelligence and understanding. These are three:1.
Remembrance of Allah , at all times (standing, sitting and lying ontheir sides);2.
Reflection and research in the creation in all its aspects (whichdue to the fact that it is done from the basic platform of faith and Imaanin Allah results in the further strengthening of that faith); and the3.
Remembrance of the Day of Judgment.All knowledge that we acquire or think of acquiring and as being necessarymust stand this test based on the criteria that Allah has set for it andfor people of knowledge.So-called knowledge that takes us away from Allah and that leads to aweakening of faith or of the denial of Allah , His Message and Messengerand the Day of Judgment, is in reality ignorance, misguidance and jihalatand not knowledge at all.Even though it may sometimes masquerade in the form of knowledge, it willsurely lead to the Fire from which in the above ayah, people of realknowledge and understanding ask Allah for deliverance. This ayah alsopoints out that this kind of misguidance is an actual possibility of manykinds of scientific knowledge while scientific knowledge that is acquiredfrom the platform of a strong knowledge of the Deen and of the reality ofAllah can only lead to a further strengthening of faith. Islam thereforehas always been in favor of scientific knowledge and in this Deen there hasnever been the kind of division between science and theology that we see inChristianity, Judaism and other religions. On the contrary, the Qur’anitself quotes many things of a scientific origin that led to many scientificdiscoveries in later centuries and serve to underline the divine source ofthe Qur’an.
I will not go into those details here as that is beyond the scope of thisdiscussion. The point here is to understand that Islam teaches us thecorrect order for the acquisition of knowledge: first the knowledge of Deen,then knowledge of the world.If we do this then we will recognize the signs of Allah in the things welearn from scientific education and this will benefit our Imaan. If not wewill turn away from Allah and prepare the path for our own destruction.It is about these scientists with Imaan that Allah says:3: 190-191
Behold! in the creation of the heavens and the earth and thealternation of night and day there are indeed Signs for men ofunderstanding. Men who celebrate the praises of Allah standing sitting andlying down on their sides and contemplate the (wonders of) creation in theheavens and the earth (with the thought): “Our Lord! Not for nothing haveYou created (all) this! Glory to You! Give us salvation from the penalty ofthe fire.We need to become aware that one of the most virulent and successful attacksagainst Islam and the Muslims mounted by the enemies of Islam is thedevaluation of the importance of the knowledge of Islam (Ilm-e-Deen) and theimportance of the Ulema in the eyes of the Muslims. So successful have theenemies of Islam been in this strategy that today it is the Muslimsthemselves who speak in a derogatory tone about the knowledge of Islam andits scholars. And speaking generally, the more steeped in Western educationthe Muslim, the less he/she respects Islam and its scholars.Most so-called educated Muslims today are very free with expressing theirpersonal opinions in matters of the Deen, without reference to the Qur’an orthe Sunnah and even to deny the importance of both in terms of modern lifeand its demands.Many talk about the ‘need to break the hold of the Ulema on the Ummah’. Manybelieve that religious knowledge of the Qur’an, Sunnah and Shari’ah makesthe student backward.
Many therefore speak of the Ulema as being backwardand anti-progress. Let us examine these claims and see if they are in facttrue and what are the standards of judgment we apply to the Ulema of Islam.Allah Himself emphasizes the importance of the Ilm-e-Deen (Knowledge ofIslam) and the level of the people who have that knowledge, the Ulema.35: 27-28
Don’t you see that Allah sends down rain from the sky? Withit We then bring out produce of various colors. And in the mountains aretracts white and red of various shades of color and black intense in hue.And so amongst men and crawling creatures and cattle are they of variouscolors. Those (who) truly fear Allah among His Servants are the Ulema: forAllah is Exalted in Might Oft-Forgiving39:9
Is one who worships devoutly during the hours of the nightprostrating himself or standing (in adoration) who takes heed of theHereafter and who places his hope in the Mercy of his Lord (like one whodoes not)? Say: “Are those equal those who know and those who do not know?It is those who are endued with understanding that receive admonition.39:22
Is one whose heart Allah has opened to Islam so that he hasreceived enlightenment from Allah (no better than one hard-hearted)? Woe tothose whose hearts are hardened against celebrating the praises of Allah!They are manifestly wandering (in error)!It is well to remember that the power of Islam that the Prophet broughtwith him was the power of the knowledge of Allah and His Book. It was thisknowledge that set his companions, the Sahaba, apart from the rest of theirpeople. It was this knowledge that gave them peace in times of fear andvictory over their enemies. It was this knowledge that gave them theconfidence to challenge the world and to take the message of Islam into thecourts of Rome and Persia, the superpowers of that time.It is knowledge on the basis of which Allah gave precedence to SayyidinaAdam Alaihi salaam over the angels and ordered them to prostrate before him. 2: 30-33
Behold thy Lord said to the angels: “I will create avicegerent on earth.” They said “Will You place therein one who will makemischief therein and shed blood? Whilst we do celebrate Your praises andglorify Your holy (name)?” He said: “I know what you know not.” And Hetaught Adam the nature of all things; then He placed them before the angels and said: “Tell Me the nature of these if you are right.” They said: “Glory to You of knowledge we have none save what You have taught us: in truth itis You who are perfect in knowledge and wisdom.” He said: “O Adam! Tell themtheir natures.”
When he had told them Allah said: “Did I not tell you thatI know the secrets of heaven and earth and I know what you reveal and whatyou conceal?” And behold We said to the angels: “Bow down to Adam”; and they bowed down not so Iblis he refused and was haughty he was of those whoreject Faith.It is knowledge that Allah revealed to the Prophet (Salallahu alaihi wasallam) in the first revelation:96: 1-5
Proclaim! (or Read!) in the name of thy Lord and CherisherWho created. Created man out of a (mere) clot of congealed blood: Proclaim!And thy Lord is Most Bountiful. He Who taught (the use of) the Pen. Taughtman that which he knew not.And as we can see from the ayah above, Allah says, (We) taught the humansthat which they did not know.I want to draw your attention to three criteria that we use when dealingwith any knowledge and those that have it:
1. That it is the knowledge that adds value to the individual and notvice versa: We respect Dr. X for being an expert in cardiology. We don’trespect cardiology as a branch of medicine because Dr. X is an expert in it.So it is cardiology that adds value to Dr. X and his image.
2. That the more advanced the knowledge, the more advanced the expertin it: So we respect Prof. Vikram Sarabhai as he was an expert in atomicphysics, and consider him a very advanced man as the science in which he wasan expert is a very advanced science.
3. We call someone an expert when that person has in-depth knowledge ofa particular subject and therefore by inference, does not have knowledge ofother subjects. To take the example of Prof. Vikram Sarabhai, he was anexpert in atomic physics and we respect his expertise. However he was not anexpert in architecture, medicine, management, sewing or basket making and wedon’t hold that against him. In fact if he had some knowledge of all thesethings then he would be called a ‘jack-of-all-trades-and-master-of-none’. Sothe criterion we apply is that as long as someone has in-depth knowledge ofa particular subject and is an expert in it, his lack of knowledge in other subjects is not a bad thing and does not detract from his stature in theslightest and even adds to it.
Now let us see what standards we apply to the knowledge of the Qur’an andthose that have it, the Ulema, the Scholars of Islam.
1. All Muslims, consider the Qur’an to be the most valuable knowledgein the world as it is the Word of Allah that is the only thing that willlast beyond this life and which will be useful to its knower in theHereafter. Yet when children are sent to memorize it, we consider it a’waste’ of their time. Though we say that we value the Qur’an and we applythe first principle to all knowledge, i.e. knowledge adds value to the onewho knows it; we don’t respect the Ulema. What does this say about our realvalue for the Qur’an and the Sunnah?
2. All Muslims consider the Qur’an to be the most advanced knowledgeever. And indeed it is. From the first day of its revelation, the Qur’an hastaught us what we did not know.
Al Alaq: And We taught mankind that which it did not know.
And this will continue until the Day of Judgment, the Qur’anwill continue to demonstrate its own advanced state of knowledge. For indeedthe knowledge of the Creator is always superior to the knowledge of thecreatures, no matter how advanced the creatures may consider themselves tobe in their combination of ignorance and arrogance. However, though all Muslims are ready to accept the ‘advanced’ level of the Qur’an, we considerthe experts in it to be backward. Does that make sense? If Vikram Sarabhaiis (see Vikram Sarabhai ) advanced because he has knowledge of atomic physics, since that knowledgeis an advanced knowledge, then the Alim who has knowledge of the Qur’an ismore advanced than Vikram Sarabhai by far, since he has knowledge of theCreator of the atom. That would be the correct logic. However do we applyit? And if not, then what does it say about our real opinion of the Word ofAllah ?
3. Finally, the final criterion, that an expert is one who has in-depthknowledge of a particular subject and so does not know much about otherthings, as he has invested so much time and energy in learning that onesubject. And this is a sign of his expertise and we don’t hold it againsthim. However when it comes to the Ulema of Deen, very often those who callthemselves ‘educated’ (meaning western education) look down on Ulema becausethey don’t have knowledge of things other than the Qur’an and Deen. We don’tapply the same criterion of expertise in their case.This is yet another one of the effects of western education and the enemiesof Islam and their insidious attacks, that they have succeeded in removingthe true value and respect (not lip service) of the Qur’an and the Knowledgeof Islam and the honor and respect of those who have it, from the hearts ofthe Muslim.How many individuals do we not know who have gone to western universitiesand given up their Imaan in exchange for the worldly knowledge they gotthere. Knowledge that will be of no use to them at all in the Aakhira. Knowledge that in many cases will actually be the cause of their humiliationand disgrace and the anger of Allah . May Allah protect us from His angerand give us the sense to rethink our attitudes to His Word, His Deen and HisProphet before it is too late. For on the Day of Judgment, it is not thetongue, which will be able to glibly give answers as it does today but thatwhich is in the hearts will come out and the hands will speak and the legswill bear witness about what the person did.As Allah says in His Book:36: 65 . That Day shall We set a seal on their mouths. But theirhands will speak to Us and their feet bear witness to all that they did.When the army of Muslims faced the Persian army in Iraq, the General commanding the Persian army, Rustam asked the Muslims to send someone toexplain to him what they wanted. The Amir of the Muslims sent Rabi Ibn Aamir(Radhiallahu anhu). The Persians prepared the court with great care todemonstrate their wealth and power, with a display of weapons and theirarmy.Rabe’a Ibn Aamir (Radhiallahu anhu) rode up on his horse, dismounted andtied it to a pillar of the hall and strode up to the throne with his spearin his hand. When he reached there, he found that there was no seat exceptfor the Rustam. So he said, “I am an ambassador of the Muslims and have comehere on your invitation. Either give me a seat or you also stand up.” ThePersians were horrified at this ‘insolence’ to their leader and some of themasked him permission to kill the Sahabi.Rustam however replied, “Leave him.
I want to know what is in his heart that enables him to be totally unimpressed by our wealth and power.” Then heasked Rabi Ibn Aamir (Radhiallahu anhu), “Why have you come and what do youwant from us?” Rabi Ibn Aamir (Radhiallahu anhu) replied, “Allah sent us.We have come to remove men from the worship of men and take them into theworship of the Creator of men. We have come to remove them from theinjustice of other (man-made) religions (and systems) and into the justiceof Islam. We have come to free men from the constriction of the life of thisworld and take them into the freedom (us’ath) of this life and thehereafter.”When we read these and other stories of the Sahaba, sometimes it seemsstrange to us that such people existed. We question why it is that thislevel of confidence does not seem to exist any more.
Why is it that today weare impressed by everyone except Islam and our own history?
The answer isvery simple. This is because we have forgotten our own Deen and do notchoose to acquire its knowledge. So we become the victims of the enemies ofIslam who indoctrinate us into thinking that what we have is really notworthy of having and is a sign of backwardness and that it is something thatwe need to hide and be apologetic about. If we studied the Qur’an and Sunnahand brought Islam fully into our lives, then we would be able to invoke thepower of Allah into our lives.That is the only thing that would give us the confidence to say to the worldthat in Islam lies the solution to all that ails the world today. Howeverwhen we are ourselves totally ignorant of this knowledge and don’t practiceit in our lives, we are unable to offer it to anyone else.This is perhaps the most successful and most virulent of the attacks onIslam, spearheaded by the writings of the Orientalists, which sought toundermine the knowledge of the Revelation and equated it with other kinds ofknowledge and philosophy.For example the saying: “The Qur’an is the holy book of the Muslims, just asthe Gita is of the Hindus and the Bible is of the Christians”.
The cardinal difference, which is not mentioned, is about the authors of each and othersuch works. Of all of them except the Qur’an, the authors (or in the case ofthe Bible and Torah: the alterers) are humans. Whereas the author of the Qur’an is Allah himself.Unfortunately for the Muslims, this strategy successfully alienated us fromthe greatest of our assets, the Qur’an and the Sunnah of the Prophet . Not only did we allow ourselves to get alienated but we also lost the awe, loveand respect that the Sahaba felt for the Word of Allah and His Prophet .We lost respect for the knowledge of the Revelation as being distinct fromand infinitely superior to anything that is invented by mankind, just asAllah is infinitely superior to His creation. Where Sahaba like Sayyidina Abu Bakar Al Siddiq (Radhiallahu anhu) used to go white with fear when askedto give an interpretation of the Qur’an, ordinary so-called educated Muslimswith no formal education of Islam freely give fatawa and pontificate aboutthe meaning of the ayahs of the Qur’an. They have no hesitation in making explanations (tafsir) without themselves having had any formal training inthe Usool-al-tafsir (Rules of Tafsir). This is because we have lost thesense of the majesty of the Revelation (Wahi). We don’t remember that the one who makes tafsir of the Qur’an or gives a fatwa, is standing in theplace of the Prophet . And as Abu Bakar (Radhiallahu anhu) said; “Which sky will protect me and which earth will hide me if I say something about theWord of Allah that He has not said?”Consequently for the most part we don’t respect Ulema, the people who arethe custodians of the knowledge of the Deen.
We have a lot of respect for a doctor who spends 7-8 years studying medicine, an engineer who spends 4-5 years studying Information Technology but no respect for an Alim who spendsa lifetime studying the Qur’an and related sciences.That is because unless we understand and appreciate in our hearts themajesty of the Word of Allah we can’t have respect for those who protect,study and understand it.
Unless we see our lives in this world and the nextlinked inextricably with the Qur’an and Sunnah and our success being infollowing the orders of Allah we can never have respect for those who spendtime and sacrifice their lives in understanding and teaching that knowledge.We will not consider it important to ask them (the Ulema) what is the rightthing to do when we are faced with any situation. We will not consider theIlm-e-Deen (Knowledge of Islam) worthy of studying and teaching. We will notsupport those who do study it and gradually that knowledge will disappearfrom the world. This is one of the signs of the last days as described bythe Prophet .As Western education and learning gradually replaced the originalcontributions of Islamic scholars; the writings and thoughts of Westerns cientists and scholars took the place of the Word of Allah and His Prophetin the minds of Muslims. Many ‘educated’ Muslims started believing thesewritings with the same unquestioning faith that the Sahaba accorded to theWord of Allah .
People who questioned Western theories (Darwin’s theory ofevolution for example) were laughed at and considered ‘backward’, especiallyif they sought to present as evidence, the words of the Qur’an. It isperhaps with a premonition of this that Aisha (Radhiallahu anha) said thatthe first bida’a of this Ummah was that the name of Allah started to betaken without the awe and majesty of Allah in the heart.To give the Western scientists their due, the original clash betweentheology and science started as a rebellion against the errors in the Bibleand the concept of creation according to the Church. Since the original bookof Isa (Alaihis salaam) was altered and its message lost, naturally the reare many errors in the versions that are existent today.
However, principally due to the apathy of the Muslims and the lack ofinterest in the message of the Qur’an, no effective defense was mounted whenIslam and the knowledge of the Qur’an were also sought to be lumped with the Bible in the name of separating religion and science.Many Muslims don’t realize, even today, that in Islam and the Qur’an thereis no conflict between knowledge of the Revelation and science. And indeed why should there be, when the creator Himself talks about what He created?
However when we ourselves don’t know what the Message of Islam is, then howcan we be confident about it in the face of false allegations and claims? The principle technique of the West and of the so-called scientific methodwas to selectively refuse to accept anything that could not be touched, poked or pinched and therefore to deny its existence. I will not go into thedetails of this obviously flawed thinking but to anyone who can thinkrationally it is self-evident. And all this gave rise eventually to atheism and a denial of the existenceof Allah (Himself) and a belief in the totally illogical concept ofcreation by accident. No body thought to ask, which accident createsanything?Accidents break and destroy things, not create them.
However when we chooseto subordinate our minds to other than the Word of Allah and His Prophet ,we loose our rationality and reason.Another very potent deception was to answer every ‘Why’ with a ‘How’.
Forexample when someone asked, ‘why’ earthquakes happen, they were given adescription of ‘how’ they happen (movements of tectonic plates and so on).When someone asked ‘why’ rain falls, they were given a description of thee vaporation – precipitation cycle, which describes ‘how’ rain falls, not’why’ it falls.
When someone asked ‘why’ a person was sick or became well,he was told ‘how’ the sickness happened and ‘how’ it got cured, not ‘why’;which was the original question. And we Muslims got so lost in these answersthat we even forgot the original question, which was ‘why’ did somethinghappen. We forgot to ask why, if we know how a sickness happens and how tocure it, we can’t cure everyone with that sickness. Some people get curedand others don’t. We forgot that no matter how eloquently you explain ‘how’something works; it does not explain ‘why’ it works. And because we forgotthat, we lost the benefit of the strengthening of our faith when we lookedaround us.
We lost the benefit of seeing the work of Allah in all Hiscreation both within ourselves and outside.And we lost the power and barakah of the ayah of the Qur’an:3:190,191
Behold! In the creation of the heavens and the earth and thealternation of night and day there are indeed Signs for men ofunderstanding. Men who celebrate the praises of Allah standing sitting andlying down on their sides and contemplate the (wonders of) creation in theheavens and the earth (with the thought): “Our Lord! Not for nothing haveYou created (all) this! Glory to You! Give us salvation from the penalty ofthe fire.The Qur’an challenges these theories and false knowledge when Allah says:Fussilat: 5351: 20-21
On the earth are Signs for those of assured Faith. As alsoin your own selves: will you not then see?May Allah give us the tawfeeq (guidance) to recognize the value of theQur’an and the Sunnah of the Prophet and practice it so that we arerewarded with the barakah of both in our lives.