Jumuah lecture on Friday 17 January 2020 (21 Jamadil Awwal 1441)
Mowlana Syed Aftab Haider
Ahlul Bait (a.s) Masjid, Ottery, Cape Town
The new academic year started this week, with schools reopening after the year-end vacation. Very soon, universities will also reopen for the 2020 academic program. With this comes the reopening of our Madrassa too, for the 2020 academic year, to propagate the all-important Islamic teachings to our children and adults alike.
It is therefore appropriate to remind us all about the importance of education, teaching and learning. I do not think there is any religion which places greater emphasis on education than Islam. The very first revelation from Almighty Allah (SWT) to our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) and final messenger starts with the message of education, as referred to in verses one and three of Surah Alaq (chapter 96 of the Holy Quran):
اقْرَأْ بِاسْمِ رَبِّكَ الَّذِي خَلَقَ
“Read in the name of your Lord Who created.
اقْرَأْ وَرَبُّكَ الْأَكْرَمُ
Read and your Lord is Most Honourable.”
Verse 4 defines this Lord (SWT) as the educator with the pen:
الَّذِي عَلَّمَ بِالْقَلَمِ
“Who taught (to write) with the pen.”
The inauguration of this divine mission of Prophethood is with learning and education. Almighty Allah (SWT) has mentioned education and teaching in more than 4 places in the Quran, as the prime purpose of Prophets (a.s) in this world. Twice in Surah Baqarah (chapter 2), and also in Surah aal-Imraan (chapter 3) and Surah Jumuah (chapter 62).
Let me reference verse 2 of Surah Jumuah, where Almighty Allah (SWT) explains this purpose of Prophethood:
هُوَ الَّذِي بَعَثَ فِي الْأُمِّيِّينَ رَسُولًا مِنْهُمْ يَتْلُو عَلَيْهِمْ آيَاتِهِ وَيُزَكِّيهِمْ وَيُعَلِّمُهُمُ الْكِتَابَ وَالْحِكْمَةَ
“He it is Who raised among the inhabitants of Mecca a Messenger from among themselves, who recites to them His communications and purifies them, and teaches them the Book and the Wisdom.”
TEACHING IS THE MOST NOBLE PROFESSION IN ISLAM
The emphasis of the Holy Quran on education is beyond any point of discussion or debate. Education is the prime purpose and the most important profession in Islam. If someone asks what the most sacred profession in Islam is, it is without doubt teaching, because this is the line of work of the divine Prophets (a.s) and Awliya.
Our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) entered the Masjid one day, and a group of people were engrossed in Ibadah (acts of worship) and zikr (remembrance of Almighty Allah (SWT)) while another group of people in the Masjid were in deep discussion, trying to learn something. Upon seeing these two groups, Rasulullah (SAWA) commented that both groups are engaged in good actions. However, he then added that he has been sent to this world to educate!
In the Battle of Badr, which was the victory of Islam, a large number of the enemies were arrested and became prisoners of war. Rasulullah (SAWA) then informed them that they will be freed on account of each of them teaching 10 children in Madina how to read and write!
This is the approach of Islam and Rasulullah (SAWA) towards knowledge and education as a whole. Ignorance is regarded as the biggest enemy of Imaan (faith) and deen (religion).
ISLAM PLACES NO RESTRICTION ON LEARNING
The next very important point I would like to draw your attention to is that when Islam and the Quran speaks about knowledge and education, it is without any restriction. There are no conditions or limitations on knowledge and education.
For example, Islam places no limitation on age, when it comes to learning. We are all fully aware of that very well-known Hadith, where Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) says that we should seek knowledge from the cradle to the grave. Similarly, there is no restriction on gender, as Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) says that seeking knowledge is incumbent upon every believing Muslim male and female.
There is also no restriction on where you get this knowledge from. You are not only supposed to receive knowledge from a teacher or scholar. Again, Rasulullah (SAWA) says that wisdom is the lost property of a Mu’min (believer). This means that we should take it, wherever we find it. It is ours to keep.
There are many things which we are not allowed to do with disbelievers, but Islam places no restriction when it comes to knowledge. Similarly, there is no restriction on the place of learning, as Rasulullah (SAWA) says that we should seek knowledge even if it means we have to go as far as China!
These examples of Hadith illustrate that there is no limitation when it comes to seeking knowledge. As a result, this important and interesting discussion arises on which education we are referring to, when we speak about the virtue of knowledge. We can adopt the conservative opinion which says that any knowledge associated with the afterlife can be categorised as the knowledge of deen (religion). These are the subjects of religious sciences or theology.
This conservative opinion is not correct, despite there being absolutely no doubt that religious sciences is the best of knowledge, as it directly addresses your afterlife and world of eternity. However, as we know, knowledge in itself is not limited to religious sciences.
We all are well aware of that very well-known Hadith from Rasulullah (SAWA) where he repeatedly says that we should seek knowledge even if we have to travel to China! This Hadith is deeply reflective of this point about our thirst for knowledge not being restricted to religious sciences, because they were surely not teaching these subjects in China at the time! This point about knowledge not being restricted to religious sciences is equally relevant in the earlier Hadith narrations referenced from Rasulullah (SAWA).
In fact, the opinion of the Ahlul Bait (a.s) is that there are two criteria for knowledge:
- Knowledge which concludes with the Ma’rifat of Almighty Allah (SWT) is the best knowledge.
- Knowledge which can serve humanity
KNOWLEDGE WHICH CONCLUDES WITH MA’RIFAT OF ALMIGHTY ALLAH (SWT)
This is undoubtedly the most important criterion. So, if through physics and chemistry, and whatever other field of study, you are able to understand and conclude on the greatness of Almighty Allah (SWT), then this is the best knowledge as it increases your faith (Imaan).
It does matter which route we took, provided that the outcome is this. Only then can it be regarded as real knowledge. This is such a crucial point to reflect on ie. what is the real purpose of our education? This talks to the subject of philosophy of education in Islam. The purpose and philosophy of all education in Islam is to attain Ma’rifat of Allah (SWT). Physics, chemistry, mathematics, you name it…
Now, let me state on this point, that no religion other than Islam has said that teaching and learning is Ibadah (acts of worship). Only Islam has granted this elevated status of Ibadah to education.
Let me also state here, that in the Islamic philosophy of education, if the purpose is simply to earn money, then that is not real education. Also, if the purpose of your education is to prove your superiority over the people, then this is ignorance (jahl) and not education! Furthermore, if the purpose of your academic and scientific development is to control the destiny of nations and destroy them, and boast your military might through producing weapons of mass destruction, then this is not education, because it is fuelled by Satanic interests rather than Godly interests.
There is a very important Hadith from our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) to uphold, where he says that knowledge becomes the greatest of hijab (veil). This is the veil between you and Allah (SWT). When knowledge brings you arrogance, then we should know that this is the curtain which is separating you from drawing closer to Allah (SWT).
Whatever the subject of education is, be it religious education or otherwise, it is on the level of ignorance if it is for the purpose of boosting your own ego ie. arrogance. This includes religious leaders who use religion to attain their worldly goals and desires through monopolising the people.
Knowledge without control of desires, is doomed. That is why we read in the Holy Quran that the verses on knowledge always read “yu zakkeehim wayu allihimul kitaba wal hikmah”. First comes the purification of our souls…
Therefore, when we impress upon education and the acquisition of knowledge, it is all-encompassing and not restricted to Islamic sciences. Any knowledge which brings Ma’rifatullah is true knowledge carrying the greatest of rewards.
KNOWLEDGE WHICH CAN SERVE HUMANITY
Knowledge is of 2 types ie. knowledge of religion and knowledge of the body. Knowledge of deen is not limited to religious sciences we ordinarily think of. Anything which results in the Ma’rifat of Allah (SWT) is regarded as knowledge of deen.
Knowledge of the body refers to all knowledge which is beneficial to us as a community.
I would like to add a very important point here. Yes, knowledge is important, but achieving excellence in that knowledge is indeed highly recommended. There is often the misconception that because we live in this world for a short time, we do not need to worry about this world so much.
Indeed, our approach towards this world should be based on its temporary existence, as our focus should be on the afterlife, which is eternal. There is no doubt about this, but it does not stop us from achieving excellence in this temporary world.
PROPHETIC MODEL IS TO SEEK EXCELLENCE IN EVERYTHING WE DO
I would like to encourage all our youth to go to the highest levels of education, because it is Ibadah. Even if you make a name for yourself in your field of excellence, it becomes a good advert for Islam as a matter of pride for the whole Ummah.
Our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) was leading the funeral proceedings of a great companion by the name of Sa’d ibn Mu’adh. Rasulullah (SAWA) went inside the hole to ensure it is properly prepared for the body of Sa’d to be placed in it. After the body of Sa’d was carefully placed in the grave, Rasulullah (SAWA) then placed the bricks and clay firmly to cover it. He took added care to ensure that they are placed perfectly firm.
Naturally, some people had this question of why is Rasulullah (SAWA) making it so firm. Rasulullah (SAWA) responded with a most remarkable statement, which should honestly be adorned on all our walls. He said that he knows that the structure in the grave he is trying to perfect will soon disappear due to the weather. However, Almighty Allah (SWT) loves His servant to do a job in the best possible manner! This slogan of Rasulullah (SAWA) is what we should constantly strive for in everything we do.
Knowledge has no limitation, and any knowledge which concludes with the Ma’rifat of Allah (SWT) and is beneficial to humanity is indeed Ibadah (act of worship) and the responsibility of every Muslim male and female.
The study of Islamic subjects is of course of crucial importance but unfortunately not sufficiently prioritised. I already explained that going to university is indeed an Ibadah. Secular education is a wrong term to use, because it is also Islamic education, albeit that the subjects studied are not religious sciences. Studying this world, as the Holy Quran repeatedly invites us, is indeed Ibadah, because these are all along the trend of Ma’rifat of Almighty Allah (SWT).
At the same time, this should not undermine the importance of the study of theological subjects, because they are directly addressing your afterlife and Qiyamah (Judgement Day) and the future of your children. Hence, I once again appeal to all to take a keen interest in enrolling in the Madrassa system to further this important responsibility.
REFLECTIONS ON THE AFTERMATH OF THE PASSENGER AIRLINE SHOT DOWN IN TEHRAN
We spoke at length last week about Shaheed Qaseem Soleimani and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, and the great Janaza procession, which showed the immense unity of the people of Iran and their resistance and steadfastness.
We all know of the very, very sad incident of the crash of the Ukrainian passenger airline which cost the lives of many innocent people. It is a horrible tragedy and we offer our condolences, as nothing can be more sad than this incident.
Once again, true to form, the enemies of the Islamic Republic of Iran tried their level best to exploit and undo what the martyrdom of these great martyrs of resistance achieved by uniting the nation.
There are a few interesting observations to note.
What happened with this passenger airline being shot done was a horrendous mistake and an incalculable tragedy which should be fully investigated and never repeated. Those who were responsible should be held accountable and justice should be served. There is nothing to really discuss or dispute on this.
However, to now use this as a tool to defame and destroy the image of this great nation and its leadership and armed forces is nothing but one of the conspiracies of Satan. Let’s break this down a bit. This tragedy occurred and the government admitted after 3 days that it was a mistake. They admitted with courage.
Yes, the question is why did they not admit before? Probably, they were still trying to get to the bottom of this to be able to issue an accurate account of what happened. If this was wrong to delay 3 days, then admittedly it is wrong, and we do not justify or condone this. They should have been honest, open and frank from the very first moment. That being said, they were honest, open and frank after 3 days.
HOW DOES IRAN’S REACTION COMPARE WITH SIMILAR INCIDENTS IN HISTORY?
How many times in recent history have we seen passenger flights being hit through military aggression? A full list is easily visible on the internet, whether it is the Malaysian Airlines flight shot down in 2014 after it departed from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur which was hit near Donetsk, Ukraine, or the Siberian Airlines flight that was shot in error by a Ukrainian military exercise in 2001.
Then of course, who can forget the Iranian passenger plane that was attacked by the American military in 1988, when it was flying from Bandar Abbas, Iran to Dubai. All 290 people on board were killed by the missile attack launched on this plane by the US Navy in the Persian Gulf.
Now, in the long list of these incidents, who owned up and took responsibility, and who apologised? Years and years have passed, and have been proven to be through military aggression, some of them even deliberate! Yet, they don’t want to accept and take responsibility.
Now, let us contrast this with the position taken by the Islamic Republic of Iran. They openly admitted, apologised and took full responsibility for this tragic accident. What does this say about the courage and transparency of this country?
THIS WHOLE TRAGEDY LEAVES ONE WITH QUESTIONS ON THE MOTIVES OF THE GLOBAL MEDIA
It is really interesting to observe how this saga unfolded. Firstly, one is left with loads of questions, and I do not want to introduce conspiracy theories here. It is 6am and still pitch dark, but somehow, there is someone in the middle of nowhere taking a video of the missile being shot!
Nobody else made a video despite millions of people residing in the vicinity! Only this guy was waiting there in his car (not even in his house at this time of the morning). He takes the video and immediately it is posted to the New York Times and goes viral across the world!
A few hundred people who came out of great sympathy for the victims of this plane crash and held a vigil which even the British Ambassador joined them on, only came out after 3 days as a public display of sorrow. Regardless of how this plane came down, the truth and reality is that 176 people lost their lives! It begs the question why these people only came into the streets to express their sorrow after 3 days and not immediately.
And then, when this vigil starts, it became something else! These hundreds of people (which did not even reach a thousand) became headlines for days in the global media, but those people who came in their millions in Iran and in their hundreds of thousands in Iraq for the Janaza of the martyrs assassinated the week before, in many cities, does not get the same vast coverage in the media. Instead, the few hundred people are important to the global media!
Those millions of people across the world who carried posters of Shaheed Qaasim Soleimani is not important, but the one fool who climbed the poll in Tehran and tried to tear down a poster of him becomes a star in the eyes of the global media.
It shows their weakness, desperation and defeat! Again, in Jumuah today, in sub-zero temperatures in Tehran, under snow, we see that hundreds of thousands of people came for Jumuah led by Imam Khamenei, reaffirming their allegiance to his leadership and committing that they will not bow down and be fooled by these shenanigans.
These are really important lessons for all of us to reflect on. All we can say is verse 54 of Surah aal-Imraan:
وَمَكَرُوا وَمَكَرَ اللَّهُ ۖ وَاللَّهُ خَيْرُ الْمَاكِرِينَ
“And they planned and Allah (also) planned, and Allah is the best of planners.”