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  Kherta Abubakar
  That the Quran and the Sunnah encourage the believers – and humankind in 
general – to seek knowledge is rarely questioned.  Who can argue against Islam 
setting learning as the primary human mission when the Quran's very first verse 
of revelation is "Read in he name of your Lord who created" (96:1).
  The question that is rarely asked in this regard, however, is one that 
requires honest reflection:  What is the nature of the knowledge that 
constitutes the main focus of this verse?   
  Many have taken it, and the subsequent four verses that with it make up the 
Quran's opening divine pronouncement, as an encouragement to seek out and excel 
in the so-called "natural" sciences.  Contemplating the constituents and 
mechanisms  of our physical and living environment are important aspects, not 
only of learning, but of confirming our belief and engaging in worship, and we 
are right to esteem them.  Yet, in the age of science become religion we must 
not lose sight of the fact that our learning must first and foremost revolve 
around internalizing the prime message the Quran descended from Heaven to equip 
us with on earth.  There is no god but the God, Allah, our Lord-Creator.
  To possess knowledge of tawheed, that is, the Oneness of Allah as being the 
only God – and thus the only one to be worshiped – is to understand that He is 
above everyone  and everything else, that He alone is the source of knowledge, 
and that we benefit from it solely by His grace.  This is exactly what the 
angels confess in acknowledging the limitations of their knowledge in the 
Quran's account of our father Adam's creation: "Highly exalted be You (O God)!  
We have no knowledge other than what You, Yourself have taught us.  Indeed, it 
is You alone who is the All-Knowing, the All-Wise" (2:32).
  The challenge for us, then, is to seek out knowledge (spiritual or worldly) 
in a fashion that benefits us in our relationship with our Lord, first and 
foremost.  Thereafter, consideration is given to other benefits-what accrues to 
our fellows in humanity, our co-beings in creation, and our host environment, 
for that too is part of Allah's message.  More precisely, our need and love of 
God, our desire to please and be near Him and to evince with every thought and 
breath our unrivaled appreciation for Him-all this impels us to discover 
ourselves and the laws that Allah built into us and our world, at every level 
of obviousness and subtlety, in order to benefit ourselves and all other being, 
in accordance with the will of Allah, for that is, in fact, His will for us, 
and the breadth of divine benevolence.
  Thus the Prophet (PBUH) said: "When Allah wants good for someone, He gives 
him understanding of the (knowledge of the) deen-the religion (of Islam)" 
(Bukhari and Muslim).  Scholars have explained that this "understanding" is 
that of the Quran and the Sunnah, the prophetic model, in a way that enables 
one to lead a life as God has intended human life to be lived, in accordance 
with knowledge that ever increases us in virtue and uprightness.
  The purpose of seeking, obtaining, and applying knowledge is, therefore, to 
make of us good men and good women, as individuals and peoples, with that same 
goodness radiating from us into the natural world.  The single most significant 
challenge in achieving this becomes knowing and finding the source of this 
knowledge and learning how to seek it.  These first-order axioms become the 
bases for all that follows from them.
  As for learning Islam, becoming knowledgeable about religion, there is good 
news.  In just the last five years, Islamic education in the West has 
sky-rocketed, with everything from Quran memorization schools, Arabic language 
classes, to Islamic Studies degree programs that can be done on a part-time, or 
course-by-course basis.  Such knowledge is becoming accessible to us.  What 
remains is to take advantage of this, to free ourselves from the obstacles, 
internal and external, that obstruct us from learning. 
  Al-Khateeb al-Baghdadi (d.463 AH/1070 CE) left this piece of advice to those 
in search of real learning: "O Student of Knowledge! I exhort you to purify 
your intention in pursuing knowledge and to strive to make your soul act 
according to knowledge's dictates.  For the science (of this religion) is a 
tree the deeds of which are its fruit.  Thus he is not counted learned who does 
not put his learning into practice."
  The path is clear, and the choice, of course, is yours….for a time.
  "And say: My Lord, increase me in knowledge" (20:114).
(Courtesy: Al Jumuah Magazine)


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O Allah! Guide us, make our intentions sincere, accept our deeds, answer our 
prayers, and make us of those who are patient.


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