Uploaded on June 26, 2020
KNOWLEDGE INDISPENSABLE FOR HUMAN DIGNITY
Dr Mohammad Manzoor Alam
All children of Adam are, by the command of Allah the Creator, the offspring of revered Adam and Eve. It is asserted that all human beings dwelling on the surface of the earth are the progeny of Adam. None is privileged with supremacy over others on grounds of race, religion and geographical location. All human beings deserve respect and dignity. Supremacy and precedence among humans are determined by knowledge. In other words, excellence and eminence of a human rest on knowledge he/she is endowed with. Knowledge and research together enhance the prestige of a person.
In the Noble Qur’an Allah emphatically says: And assuredly We have honoured the Children of Adam, and have borne them on the land and the sea, and We have provided them with clean things, and We have preferred them with a preference over many of them Whom We have created. (Surah al-Isra: verse: 70)
In the above merciful verse Almighty Allah clearly says that “And assuredly We have honoured the children of Adam”, meaning endowing man with wisdom, knowledge, power of speech, tidy and chaste appearance, suitable stature, animals to ride and ships to board for conveyance. Further, Allah the Bountiful taught humans devices to adorn their material life and prepare for the life Hereafter, conferring on them the ability to all creature around. Allah the Benevolent has gifted man with power to subjugate things that exist on land and under it. Thanks to the Grace of Allah, man has come to make inventions to control and even ascend the moon, and has also gathered information from the Mars, the planet in the solar system that is fourth in order of distance from the sun, between the Earth and Jupiter. Man has conquered both oceans and land mass pitching flags there flying high. These are only a few examples, and there are many more examples in millions besides them Allah the Almighty has bestowed upon man to make him a respectable creature and in addition has raised man above the rest of the creatures.
Allah the Merciful says in the above-cited verse, “We have provided them with clean things” to partake of for survival. These things include delicious food, both vegetarian and non-vegetarian, which are cooked or smoked properly for consumption. Eating cooked food is human specialty.
Again, the same verse mentioned above says, “We have preferred them”. The verse says manifestly that Allah the Most Gracious has given preference to the Children of Adam over all His creation. Imam Hasan Basri (R.A.), who lived between 642 AD and 728 AD), says that Arabic ‘akthar’ meaning most is spoken for Arabic ‘kul’, that is all. There are several examples in the Holy Qur’an to this effect, so in the verse 70 of Surah al-Isra ‘most’ (akthar) is used for ‘all’ (kul). Angels are also generally included among creatures and special persons among humans, that is the Holy Prophets, are superior to the outstanding figures among the angels, like Jibreel (Gabriel), and also the men of piety (salihin) or good-doers are declared superior to the generality of the angels.
Human respect is followed by human dignity which gushes out from the spring of knowledge alone. After the creation of the revered Adam, Allah, Glory to Him, taught Adam the names of the rest of His creations, and it was on this foundation of knowledge that the revered Adam was elevated higher in status over the angels. For his eminence in knowledge, Allah the One and Only appointed him His deputy (khalifah) on earth When Allah the Lord of Universe resolved to create Adam and appoint him His deputy on earth, the angels showed hesitation to accept this proposition. To silence the angels, Allah the Almighty asked them to identify things that existed in the nature by their names, but they failed in the test. However, the revered Adam disclosed their names. So, this very knowledge about Allah’s creatures elevated the revered Adam in eminence and excellence over the angels.
Knowledge has always stayed in all religions as essential and indispensable. Great emphasis has always been laid to acquire knowledge to develop human grandeur, to increase human prestige, and to confer on man distinction, nobility. The first revealed verse of the Holy Qur’an opens with the instruction “Recite in the name of Your Lord Who has created everything” (Surah al-‘Alaq, verse: 1), meaning study to acquire knowledge. When the revelation of the Holy Qur’an began on Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), the inaugural word of the first revelation was recite or read (iqra). In other words, the instruction from the Lord guided the Prophet (peace be upon him) to read so he becomes rich with knowledge. This is why The Prophet (peace be upon him) gave utmost importance to the acquisition of knowledge, the greatest wealth ever. He always strived hard to educate his companions. After the battle of Badr (13 March 624), the most precious booty acquired consisted of the literates whom the Prophet (peace be upon him) engaged as tutors asking them to impart education to his companions. The Prophet of Islam (peace be upon him) declared in clear words that “seeking of knowledge is obligatory for every Muslim”. He is also reported to have said “acquire knowledge and impart to the people”. Another tradition of the Prophet (peace be upon him) says “a father gives his child nothing better than a good education”. Elaborating on the significance of education Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) says: “Allah, His angels and all those in Heavens and on Earth, even ants in their bills and fish in the water, call down blessings on those who instruct others in beneficial knowledge”. Another tradition supporting the emphasis given to knowledge in the teachings of the Prophet (peace be upon him), though deemed by some scholars of Tradition as weak, instructs the Believers “to seek knowledge even if they have to travel all the way to China”.
The Honourable Qur’an, Traditions of the Prophet of Islam (peace be upon him), pious lives of the Companions, and the history of all the civilised nations confirm that knowledge is integral to success, development and excellence of human beings. It should be born in mind that excellence can’t be conceived unless it is accompanied by knowledge. This factor alone guarantees our success and history is a witness to this phenomenon.
Change is enshrined in the nature of the time. Times keep on changing. There occur changes in the needs and priorities in different epochs and times. In each system concerning human life changes are taking place with the pace of ever-changing times. Earlier means of transport were primitive and comparatively slow in speed, but in our time vehicles run at breakneck speed. Medical systems have undergone revolutionary changes. Pedagogy too has made advances and now it is technology driven; classical classrooms have turned into smart ones. Earlier needs were different while in our times there is great surge in our day to day needs. So, in every direction we find change ruling high. It goes without saying that when conditions alter, the accompanying changes beget problems, issues surface, then one has to negotiate with several hurdles. New conditions and events entail the task of rethinking and taking the matters to their logical end. We learn that the resolution of problems or issues becomes possible only through the instrument of knowledge and research. Knowledge and research show the path to resolve problems. There is a famous anecdote mentioned in the Holy Qur’an telling why and how Qabil (Cain) murdered his brother Habil (Abel). After killing Habil, Qabil was under great stress with regard to the disposal of the body of his brother since it was the first murder on earth, or first death of a man. He regretted his guilt and became full of remorse. His problem was that there was till then no concept of burial of the dead. In the mean time, he saw two ravens, sent by Allah, who fought against each other. Subsequently, one raven killed the opponent. And then the murderer scratched the ground and buried the body of the dead raven, showing Qabil what to do with his brother’s body. Filled with regrets Qabil then buried the body of his brother Habil. (See, the Holy Qur’an, Surah al-Maidah, Verses: 31-32)
The clear inference from the above discussion is that there exists deep connection between problems/issues and knowledge. Change and dissension converge on problems and knowledge helps to surmount them. Integration of problems with knowledge is therefore extremely important. This is the key to development. The nations which have encountered problems and resolved them through sheer hard work and struggle have finally emerged triumphant. Europeans suffered on account of innumerable problems, but for the resolutions of their problems they turned to knowledge and achieved progress in science and other contemporary sciences. Problems induce man to seek knowledge for their resolution. This attitude contributes to moderation in society and balance becomes the social norm which is eagerly maintained. This attitude prepares the path for the development and progress of a nation. Therefore, it will be legitimate to say that the relevance of knowledge today remains the same as in the past. Even today the progress and success of every nation are inherent in the acquisition of knowledge. Hundred per cent education is necessary to achieve hundred per cent success. Enhanced achievements in knowledge and research in a particular nation would raise it above the rest of the nations. Knowledge and research go hand in hand to open the floodgates of success, achievements and abundance in all branches connected with a nation. Nations which focused on knowledge and research experienced development. We can therefore assert that knowledge and research are certainly essential for political, social and economic development. Technology must be mastered. Dream of development can’t be realised without achieving excellence in modern sciences.
It is the responsibility of the possessors of the Wise Qur’an and life-changing Traditions of the Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) to promote knowledge and research. Those who are adorned with the knowledge of the Holy Qur’an and the Traditions of the Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) are especially duty bound to widen the horizon of knowledge ad research and to attract people towards them; they should tell people in the process of improving their mental faculty the benefits of knowledge and research and their long term effects. They should take upon the obligation of bringing up the children in an intelligent way impressing upon them the need to focus on pursuing knowledge and research. They should involve the society in a grand way in the pursuit of various sciences and research. They should oversee that awareness and knowledge of technology get momentum in the society and people, both old and young, take passionate interest in modern sciences.
(Columnist is Chairman, Institute of Objective Studies and General Secretary, All India Milli Council)