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Education and Moral Excellence

 

 

Remember in those days one went to a madrassa and learnt Arabic, the Qur’an and Hadith. But one also learnt mathematics, philosophy, astronomy, surgery and medicine. And it was all regarded as religious learning because, in Islam, knowledge is not divided into religious and secular. All knowledge is like branches of the same tree. It is the tree of knowledge that leads to God with understanding rather than blind faith.



       

Education and Moral Excellence Advance

the Cause of Islam

 

 

by Shahid Aziz
UK Newsletter Oct 2005


There is prophecy of the Holy Qur’an that the Pharaoh will be made a sign for the people. [1] The body of this famous Pharaoh was found in a pyramid and it is, now, lying in a museum in Cairo. This prophecy could not have been fulfilled unless people developed their knowledge and understanding of archeology. It is sad that Muslims did not carry out this research but that it was done by the non-Muslims.

People ask: Why were Muslims successful centuries ago? It was because, at that time, they set out not only to gain knowledge but to dispense it. Had it not been for the Muslims’ translations of a lot of unique literature all of it would have been lost to the world.

But the question is: What was the purpose of the Muslims claiming this knowledge and then dispensing it. The purpose was to prove the truth of the Holy Qur’an and Islam. It was through these efforts that they succeeded. Now we have turned the whole thing on its head. Rather than do research and gain knowledge and convince people by argument, which is of course very difficult, we come up with all these odd fairy tales and we expect people to accept them as genuine and praise Islam on the basis of these.

One day, on the train, a Muslim was sitting next to me and across the way from us were a Hindu father and daughter. Somehow they struck up a conversation. The Hindu gentleman very sensibly said: “you prove the superiority of Islam to me and I will embrace Islam”. I was very keen to see what arguments this Muslim will advance to prove Islam’s superiority over other religions. I was not taking part in their discussion but was just sitting and listening. And the Muslim started relating a story which is found in some books about a Hindu Sadhu who went to a great Muslim saint to prove the superiority of Hinduism. The Sadhu said: I will show you a miracle and started to fly. The story then went that the Muslim saint: “pointed to his shoes and his shoes started flying and they started striking the Hindu Sadhu on the head till such time that he came down from high up on to the ground”. The Muslim then said to his Hindu travelling companion: “Look, I have proven superiority of Islam over Hinduism and now you must embrace Islam”. I found it so sad because, although I wanted to support my Muslim brother, the actual arguments that the Hindu was producing were much more rational, sensible and logical. He was saying that this is not an argument for the superiority of Islam and that you just made up a story. If you expect me to believe that, I can produce many stories from Mahabharata, Ramayana and so on about what Krishna ji and all these people did and the great feats they performed. Would you accept them just because they are written in my Holy Books?

The interesting thing is that, in early Islam, Muslims never presented such things as being the truth of Islam. When the Holy Prophet started the propagation of Islam only a few verses of the Holy Qur’an had been revealed, the first of course being: “Read in the name of thy Lord who created man from a clot,” (Qur’an 96:1) The Holy Prophet said: “I have lived among you for 40 years. Have I ever lied? Have I ever cheated? If I have not done so to gain worldly benefit, what am I going to gain by fabricating a lie against God”. [2] He put his character to the people. Then we go on to give many other instances from the life of Hazrat Abu Bakr and Umar. [successors to the Holy Prophet Muhammad] I related the incident that Hadhrat Umar was doing a round of the streets of Madina one night because he wanted to know how people were and how they felt. He heard a baby crying and the baby kept on crying. Hadhrat Umar went to the baby’s mother and asked why she was not feeding the child. The woman, after making some derogatory comments about Hadhrat Umar, whom she had not recognised, said: “Umar has said that a child will not get the child state allowance until the mother has stopped suckling the child and this is why I am not feeding the child so that I can prove that I am now entitled to the child allowance.” Note that these child allowances were not started by the modern West, but by Hadhrat Umar. The following day Hadhrat Umar asked for people’s forgiveness and he announced that from the day it is born a child would receive the child allowance.

I am using this story to illustrate the character of the Head of State. There is the other story that Hadhrat Umar heard a lady asking her daughter to add water to milk to increase its volume. When the girl refused, her mother asked what she was afraid of because no one was watching them. The daughter replied that God was watching them and He would know whatever they were doing. The following day, Hadhrat Umar sent a man to ask for that girl’s hand in marriage for his son. Hadhrat Umar was the man who ruled the whole of what is now Saudi Arabia, Palestine, Israel, Iraq, Egypt, all the way up to Turkey, and parts of North Africa. What did he give preference to when he was looking for someone for his son? Piety! These were the things that people saw. Or another example that we give is this. The residents of Jerusalem, when the Muslim army reached its outskirts, said that if the Muslim ruler went in person they will hand over the keys to the city to him without a fight. Hadhrat Umar set off from Madina when he received this message. He only had one camel for the journey as he set off from Madina with his slave. They took it in turns to ride the camel. When they reached Jerusalem it was the slave’s turn to be on the camel and the people were amazed to see the ruler of this great empire leading the camel, walking on foot, while the slave rode on the back of it. It was these examples that people saw which impressed them with Islam.

Educational advances prove the truth of Islam

What Muslims of the early ages tried to do was to read the Holy Qur’an, find prophecies in it and then develop knowledge to prove that the prophecies were true. Going back to the body of the Pharaoh who was going to be made a sign for the people, for fourteen hundred years Muslims said that when the Holy Qur’an spoke of making him a sign for people, it was in a metaphorical sense. He is mentioned in the stories in the Bible and in the Holy Qur’an. But then it literally became true when his body was found and put on display and people said this is the man which chased Moses. This was why Muslims developed science because unless you gain knowledge and you understand the universe and what is in it and how it ticks and how it works, you cannot appreciate the Creator Who created that universe. Their objective in gaining knowledge was to prove the existence of God, the truth of the Holy Qur’an, and the truth of Islam. Their objective was not to make money. When Muslim of earlier ages gained knowledge and when they did research it was for the sake of the propagation of Islam.

Remember in those days one went to a madrassa and learnt Arabic, the Qur’an and Hadith. But one also learnt mathematics, philosophy, astronomy, surgery and medicine. And it was all regarded as religious learning because, in Islam, knowledge is not divided into religious and secular. All knowledge is like branches of the same tree. It is the tree of knowledge that leads to God with understanding rather than blind faith.



[1] ”But this day We shall save thee in thy body that thou mayest be a sign to those after thee! And surely most of the people are heedless of Our signs." (Qur'an 10:92)

[2] Say: If Allah had desired, I would not have recited it to you, nor would He have made it known to you. I have lived among you a lifetime before it. Do you not then understand? (Qur’an 10:16).

 

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