Know thy World by Dr Mohammad Manzoor Alam (May 7, 2015)
Dr Mohammad Manzoor Alam
I am returning to this column after a long time. I was kept busy by myriad other pressing engagements. As I had said at the time of the beginning of this column, I intend to reach out to the youth with it, particularly Muslim youth. So far the tradition with this column has been that it has been talking about Islam as lived and practised everywhere. I am getting back to it as a warm-up to the holy month of Ramadhan that looms barely a few weeks away. This time we will be talking more about this world than the Hereafter.
However, in Islam there is no clear distinction between the affairs of this world and those of the Hereafter. There is no rahbaniyah in Islam, that is, you do not have to renounce this world to be a Muslim. Another principle of Islam is that the world is a mazra’a for the Hereafter. In Arabic, mazra’a is a farmland where the farmer grows grains. Likewise, a Muslim does good deeds in this world to get its reward in the next world. Hence, no renunciation in Islam.
That being the case, it is incumbent on us, Muslims, to know the world, our world, in which we are living and will one day leave it behind for the next generation and other future, subsequent generations to live in. We should learn the world’s history, geography, geology, its physics and chemistry, its green cover, oceans, mountains, rivers, deserts and forests, its plants and animals, its ecology and the state of its environment, the natural resources in it, its mines and minerals, its energy sources, its societies, nations, states, its governments, the United Nations, the balance of power between nations. These are just a few among many more things that we have to know to be able to know the world in which we live before moving on to the Hereafter.
Certainly, nobody is saying that a single individual has to know all this. Collectively we have to know the world in which we are assigned to live our lives. For living our lives successfully and with our heads raised we must learn all the sciences and arts and technologies. Unfortunately, Muslims worldwide are the least well-educated and most poorly trained. Muslims are accused of trying to fight technology with theology. We must come out of this situation, sooner the better.
The situation has not been like this in earlier ages when we were leading the march of knowledge in all fields across all sciences, technologies, arts and crafts. Islam tells us, “Knowledge is the lost treasure of Muslims. Pick it up wherever you find it.” Also, “Go to even China to acquire knowledge.” China being substantially far from Arabia in the 7th century (when transportation was slow and primitive), this injunction is about taking pains to acquire knowledge.
I would like to conclude this rather short piece with an appeal to our youth to acquire knowledge, not only of the Quran and Hadith, but also of worldly sciences and technologies, arts and crafts. You have to make this world better to make your Hereafter better. A failed mazra’a is not the indicator of a successful farmer. We must succeed here to succeed in the Hereafter.