Thursday, February 07, 2008

Seek Knowledge!

My dear brothers and sisters, the ability to comprehend and disseminate knowledge is one of the greatest blessings and trusts that we as human beings have been endowed with from our Creator and Sustainer, Allah (swt).

We are reminded of this in the very first revelation that was given to Prophet Muhammad in the Qur’an from Allah (swt) in the first five verses of surah Iqra:

“Read, in the name of your Guardian-Lord, who created: created man of clotted blood. Read, for your Lord is most generous, the one who taught the use of the pen, taught man what he did not know.”

Despite our lowly origins as a clot of blood, we have been raised to a station of honor and dignity over the rest of creation because of our God-given ability to process and retain information with our intellects, perceive with our hearts, and articulate with our pens and tongues. Knowledge is such a blessing that the Prophet (s) constantly emphasized its importance:

“Seeking knowledge is incumbent upon every Muslim,” he once said.

“Seek knowledge from the cradle to the grave.”

“Seek knowledge even if it is in China.”

“Wisdom is the lost treasure of the believer: he seeks it wherever he may find it.”

These and other sayings of the Prophet, not only encourage, but obligate Muslims to pursue knowledge. And, this pursuit must not only be undertaken by young affluent men; But, also by women, by the old, and by the poor—everyone who has the ability and capability. Furthermore, if we look at the words of the Qur’an and of the Prophet, we see that this knowledge is not only “religious” knowledge, but also any knowledge that may be beneficial for the world.

Indeed, our scholars have distinguished knowledge into two main branches: Knowledge that is fard ‘ayn (obligatory on all individuals) and knowledge that is fard kifayyah (obligatory for some to posses in a community). Fard ‘ayn is knowledge, for the sake of Allah, on such matters as how to worship Allah (swt), the basic rules of fasting, almsgiving, and so on. Fard kifayyah is knowledge, for the sake of Allah, which is beneficial and necessary for the flourishing of human society, such as medicine, engineering, history, philosophy, and all other such sciences.

And, ‘for the sake of Allah’ is no vague, general term. It is defined, at its core, as striving for justice, peace, excellence, and goodness in all its forms. It is working to uplift the condition of the poor, oppressed, and down trodden in society. It is striving to elevate good ethics and morals in our world.

And, in doing so, we must seek excellence in whatever it is that we do. If our field is medicine, then let us not be content with simply becoming a rich doctor, but let us seek something greater than that, for example building a free clinic in a part of the world that needs such assistance. If our field is economics or business, let us not be content with simply making a buck for some corporation, but rather striving to develop sound economic models that will help bring people out of poverty. If our field is teaching, let us not be content with just becoming another teacher, but actually developing theories that make education better and more accessible for everyone. And, the examples continue in whatever field we find ourselves in.

Therefore, my brothers and sisters, as we begin this new semester at Trinity College, let us begin the pursuit of knowledge in all fields of science for the sake of Allah (swt) and in order to fulfill a fard kifayyah on behalf of our communities and societies. And if we do so, then every time we stay up late at night to study, every time we turn another page in our text books, every time we put ink to paper, every time we stand up to make a presentation, we will be devoting ourselves to Allah (swt) in a most beautiful manner, and the reward in return shall also be beautiful, as Allah (swt) says in the Qur’an, “What can the outcome of good be, other than good.”

May Allah (swt) increase us in good and wholesome knowledge that will be beneficial for us in this world and in the life to come.

Raabiee zhidnaa ‘ilman wa al hiknaa bi saliheen

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