Uploaded on July 10, 2020
BASIC AIMS OF KNOWLEDGE
Dr Mohammad Manzoor Alam
Welfare and kindness are essential ingredients in the very nature of knowledge. Knowledge serves humans in difficult situations. Knowledge always proves helpful at all times in resolving problems. We know from the experience of the past that knowledge equips humans with courage and audacity whenever they are confronted with challenges. Basically, knowledge begets capacity and ability. Acquisition of knowledge widens the horizon of human mind, which ensures development of the society. Knowledge opens the gates of possibilities towards advancement. This is why all world religions have laid great emphasis on acquiring knowledge. Islam has placed knowledge in its priorities. The first revelation of the Holy Qur’an, saying, Read in the name of your Lord…(96:1) drives home the point that knowledge is the most important asset of all humans. It will be seen here that the first chapter of the Holy Qur’an al-‘Alaq and the first verse thereof command humans to seek knowledge. There stems a question from this command of our Lord as to what knowledge aims at. What does education stand for? What changes are brought about in humans by means of knowledge?
A list of the aims and objectives of education could be quite long, but of these the most important objective is that knowledge lays the seeds of awareness, giving humans the ability to develop the faculty of understanding or commonsense. The first aim of knowledge is the recognition of their Creator. Humans should know the purpose of their creation. Knowing the Creator is to know the purpose of one’s creation since the Creator of the universe has created human beings. Humans must also reflect on who the Creator is. They should seek the answer to the question as to who has created the earth and heavens because everything belonging to the universe has been created to benefit them. Humans should apply their mind to understand why so much prestige has been conferred on them simply for the reason that the first priority and importance are attached with them. After acquiring knowledge humans reflect on these questions because such a reflection is one of the basic aims of knowledge.
Also, knowledge plays a vital role in the formation of a moderate and righteous society. Society owes its creation to human existence. If society is adorned with piety, moderation and righteousness, humanity will be seen on the path of advancement, and that particular society will find a place of pride across national and regional boundaries. On the other hand, if a society falls short of social values, it will become a running sore for the whole world, because in such a society attention is wrongly focused on evil designs instead of positivity. This kills the very purpose of human creation and causes the wrath of Allah, the Almighty. Ignorance leads to waywardness, forgetting the purpose of their creation humans take themselves to the pleasures of temporal life and are ever seen bent upon improving it. Therefore, these wayward people take recourse to killing and destruction among fellow beings; their blood lust causes killings of each other. Then, there are those who, intoxicated with the wealth they possess, transgress all limits. Further, there are those who exceed all limits to acquire wealth and power or authority. There are also those obsessed with their pedigree prejudices who consider only themselves worthy of all the good things. All these evil thoughts and actions ruin society, giving way to jealousy and malice and the situation worsens culminating in tension and war. Families get pitched against each other. Brothers don’t see eye to eye and go for each other’s blood. In such conditions peace and tranquility become strange words. All this happens on account of lack of knowledge. When humans turn away from seeking knowledge, their ignorance dumps the society at marshy land from where it can’t extricate itself.
Promotion of human freedom is included among the basic aims of knowledge. A human adorned with rich knowledge considers freedom fundamental. The person believes that freedom to think, freedom to express views and to live on one’s own terms are fundamental rights. Contrarily, if a society is deprived of knowledge and members of the society are not concerned with the pursuit of knowledge, it results in a section of people conspiring to subjugate them into slavery, treating them in an inhumanly manner and also making them subservient to its authority by denying them the privilege of thinking. Under these circumstances human ability to reflect on their condition vanishes. They come to resemble tamed animals whereas they were born as rational animal. Such a life is subjected to one purpose which consists in blindly following one’s earthly master, executing all his orders and to live according to his wishes.
The main cause of humans getting chained in slavery-like conditions is that they are deprived of knowledge. When someone receives education, he or she thinks about himself or herself future and conditions around themselves take those independent decisions, thinking that first of all it is they who have the right over their life. A human owes this quality to knowledge. It is for this reason that those in authority have always denied slaves the right to acquire knowledge. History tells us that people who acquired knowledge raised their voice for freedom. They launched protest movements against human suffering with the strength of their knowledge.
By getting equipped with knowledge humans take on several fruitful activities to make society prosperous. They challenge the oppressors and support the oppressed by all possible means. Among human infirmities comes over penchant for looking down on others. It is observed that man generally looks down on others. Those in possession of great wealth consider others inferior and contemptible while they project themselves as highly civilised. Some people take pride in their pedigree, considering themselves superior to the rest of the people as they think their family is the most outstanding. In their sight all others are low-born. They think that they enjoy distinction over other humans and they unleash oppression on the unprivileged, making them the target of their tyranny. They think with great pride that those who fall outside their superior social status can be subjected to terror as if doing so was their hereditary right. On the other hand those enriched with knowledge confront oppressors and come to the aid of the oppressed, preventing attempts to terrorise the weak. This quality to rise strongly against the oppressor is gifted by knowledge and is rightly considered a great virtue.
Knowledge transforms human heart to a great degree. Persons illuminated with knowledge do not rely on materialistic pursuits alone; instead they are temperamentally inclined to think about human well-being. Knowledge teaches preservation of virtues of self-consciousness. Knowledge makes humans exemplary by adorning them with attributes like tawhid (belief in God’s unity), love of God, magnanimity, striving hard, modesty, contentment, tolerance, moderation, helping the poor, challenging oppressors, disgust of lay life. Thus society becomes pleasant and a vision of the aims of knowledge becomes manifest. It becomes clear why Allah the Almighty has laid great emphasis on acquiring knowledge, why does every religion call for the acquisition of knowledge, and why excellence and greatness of knowledge are talked about at length.
The moral conclusion drawn from the above discussion is that education aims at preparing humans for self-reform and to bring in them such a transformation that they become ideal citizens and helpful in bringing into existence a righteous and moderate society. They should take a strong stand against oppression, liberating humans from the chains of slavery. Besides this, the most important purpose of education is that humans shall know their Creator; should understand the purpose of their creation. Wisdom should dawn on them to understand their own self, and they should acquire the attributes to strengthen and consolidate self-awareness.
(Author is Chairman, Institute of Objective Studies and General Secretary, All India Milli Council)
(Please also read “Knowledge Indispensable for Human Dignity” uploaded on June 26, 2020)