The Importance of Education: Advice at the Beginning of the New Academic Year 2020
Respected Elders, Beloved Brothers and Sisters,
The beginning of a new academic year is an exciting time and a great opportunity for a fresh start. Over the next few weeks our children and youth are going to need our encouragement, support, guidance and prayers.
I would like to provide our learners and their parents with some nasiha (advice) as to how they could make this new academic year as educationally productive as possible. The starting point for my nasiha (advice) is to remind us about the great importance Islam places on the pursuit and acquisition of knowledge and secondly to encourage us to embrace a more holistic concept of education.
Moreover, the first word of the Qur’an to be revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) is in the form of a command: Iqra! – the literal translation is to “recite” or “read”.
Read! In the Name of Your Lord – Who Created (Surah al Alaq, Chapter 96, Verse 1).
There are also numerous prophetic traditions (ahadith) which teaches Muslims to empower themselves with knowledge and through education.
According to one hadith report by the companion Anas ibn Malik (may Allah be pleased with him) the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is reported to have declared:
Seeking knowledge is obligatory on all Muslims.
(Recorded in the Hadith Collection of Ibn Majah).
In another prophetic tradition reported by the companion ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) once entered the masjid and noticed two groups of people.
One group was praying and reciting the Qur’an and another was engaging in teaching and learning.
The Prophet (pbuh) commended both but preferred to join the group engaging in educational activities. He then proclaimed:
Innamaa bu’ithtum mu’allimaa
“I have been sent as a teacher.”
It is thus clear from the most primary sources of Islamic guidance, the Glorious Quran and the Hadith that seeking knowledge is one of the highest and the most noblest acts of Ibadah (i.e. worshipping Allah).
A conscientious Muslim is thus someone who reads daily and constantly strives to raise his or her level of education and knowledge base. Moreover, seeking knowledge is one of the ways to achieve falah success in this life and the hereafter.
The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is reported to have said that:
‘Whoever embarks on a path of seeking knowledge Allah makes easy for him/her a road to paradise’. (This hadith can be found in the hadith collections of Imam Bukhari and Imam Muslim).
In light of the above it is clear that iqra’ (literacy) is our path to success in this world and the hereafter.
I urge you to try to improve your knowledge of Islam by attending Islamic classes and reading books on Islam.
The second issue I would like to share with our learners as well as their supportive parents is to embrace Islam’s holistic concept of education.
In the Islamic conception of education we do not separate knowledge between the religious and the secular. Islam has liberated us from this dualism.
The Islamic concept of Tawhid (the Unity of Allah) encourages us to see all knowledge as coming from a single source and being integrated.
The Islamic criteria for distinguishing knowledge are whether it is beneficial or harmful knowledge.
The early generations of Muslims understood this holistic concept of education clearly and they were pioneers and trendsetters in may of the disciplines of knowledge.
For example, Al-Khawaarizmi (d.847) – who lived in the 9th century – founded algebra.
Jabir ibn Hayyaan (d.813) who also lived in the early 9th century is considered the father of modern chemistry.
Al-Bayruuni (d.1051) – who lived in the 11th century – established the circumference of the earth.
Al-Raazi, ibn Sina and ‘Ali Ibn Rabbaan wrote great books on which modern medicine is based.
All of these Muslim scientists were also great religious scholars and ‘Ulama and they saw no contradiction between the two branches of knowledge.
Let me also mention a few female scholars.
Amrah bint Abdurahman, was amongst the greatest of the female successors, the generation that came after that of the companions of the Prophet (pbuh), a scholar, jurist, specialist in hadith (Muhadathah).
Nafisa Bint Al-Hassan (762-824). Islamic Jurist – Muhadithah. Taught two of the most prominent scholars of all time: namely Abu Abdullah Muhammad Idris Al Shafi’i – Shafi’i school of thought and Ahmad Ibn Hambal.
Fatimah al Fihri, born in Kharouan Tunisia, moved to Morocco. Islamic student in Jurisprudence, Fiqh and Hadith: Founder of the oldest existing madrasah and university in Fez, Morocco, known as the University of Al-Qarawiyyin.
Lubna of Cordobec, was an Andalusian intellectual and mathematician of the 2nd half of the 10th century.
These are but a few to mention.
One of the major causes of weakness of the Ummah today is that we have lost this holistic understanding of education. Many muslims still regard the social and natural sciences as non-religious knowledge. This needs to be corrected.
By the Grace of Allah, increasing numbers of Muslims are beginning to change this wrong perception of education in Islam.
I would like to conclude with some words of encouragement to our learners and educators as they prepare to start the new academic year.
To the learners, especially our matriculants, work from day one. Be more committed and focused to achieve success in your studies. Study diligently and always try to give your best. To parents amongst us, spend time with your families, even 20 minutes per day, attend classes in the mosque or take courses in whichever field to upgrade your own knoowledge.
To our teachers, a few words of encouragement, you are not merely doing a job but rather a calling following in the footsteps of our noble Prophet (pbuh) and leader Sayidinaa Muhammad (saw). May Allah bless you tenfold for your noble efforts, Insha-Allah.