Islam Gave the World
Monotheism and Education
(Bringing Islam to the World One Concept at a Time!
Taking the Qur’an to Every Home and Heart that Needs It --
And which One Does Not?)
Knowing and Understanding the World
Understanding the world is key to successful living. Get your understanding either from the Qur’an or from the world. Best of all, get it from both sources. For, that is what makes most sense.
And also because that is what God Almighty wants us to do:
- To use all our God-given resources and faculties to investigate, know and understand all aspects, facets and parts the world to the best of our abilities.
- To get all our guidance in all matters pertaining to our life in this world from the Qur’an, which is God Almighty’s word in our hands – pure, preserved, protected, unadulterated and unmixed with falsehood or fabrication.
A Troubled World
Here is some of what the Qur’an has to say about our world and about our place as human beings in that world:
- Zaharal fasaadu fil barri wal bahri bimaa kasabat aydinnaas. Paraphrase: Rot has begun to appear on land and in sea due to all that human hands have perpetrated.
- Wal ‘Asr, innal insaana la-fee khusr. Paraphrase: History is testimony that humanity is in peril. This is what the Qur’an said 1400 years ago, as many of us are used to saying. But in reality that is what the Qur’an said before there ever was space or time. Now take a good look at our world as we find it today. In many ways, for many people, the world today is a troubled place. It is a place in which, all too frequently, for all too many people, trouble seems to follow trouble and calamity seems to come on the heels of calamity. It is a calamity when large numbers of humans live in poverty – in our society and everywhere else – below what is so ignominiously called the poverty line.
It is an even greater calamity when a few of us accumulate inordinate amounts of wealth for ourselves, often at the expense of others, and flaunt and squander that wealth, oblivious of the plight of the deprived and disadvantaged many among us.
It is an absolute tragedy when crime rampages and ravages our society, and we as a people will not lift a finger to reduce it or put an end to it; when we absolve ourselves of all semblance of social conscience and responsibility; when we allow ourselves to be reduced to helpless human and social rubble, like so much foam and froth at the crest of a flash flood; and when we end up as petrified onlookers and helpless spectators of crime and cruelty on our streets, in our homes, in our markets and in our neighborhoods.
It is a catastrophe beyond compare when our hungry cannot be fed; when our sick cannot be treated or cured; when our diseases and pestilences cannot be controlled; when our weak cannot be protected; when our strong cannot be curbed; when our ignorant cannot be educated; and when and our leaders resort to lies, fraud, deception, subterfuge, manipulation and intimidation to perpetuate their power and domination in society and on our lives.
It is a dark, dark day indeed when God is blasphemed in every way that catches everyone’s fancy; when the prophets of God are maligned however it pleases whomsoever to do so; when divine scriptures are vilified by those who have little fear of God or sense of shame before people; and when those with questionable characters and even more questionable motives attack the integrity of institutions dedicated to educating our future generations about God and his scripture and his prophets.
Indeed it is a troubled, tormented, mixed-up, confused, cruel, tragic, traumatic world in which we live today – no matter how we look it.
It is a world that has reduced us to a status of refugees in our own homes and streets; that has forced us to live perpetually in fear, confusion and anxiety in our own communities; that has foisted upon us falsehood upon falsehood, half-truth upon half-truth, to advance the cause of tyranny and injustice in the world and to enslave those whom their mothers gave birth to as free men and women.
Waladat-hum ummahaatu-hum ahraaraa, as Omar, the 7th Century ruler of the Islamic world put it – those to whom their mothers gave birth as free men and women.
A Succession of Disasters
For quite some time now our ride through the roller-coaster of life has been a succession of disasters.
It is a disaster when in their mutual dealings, groups, organizations, nations, societies, cultures, civilizations – and peoples – try to replace truth, right, justice, fairness, honest persuasion, love of humanity and fear of God Almighty with blatant lies, injustice, greed, selfishness, intimidation, oppression and brute and barbaric force and might.
When the certainty of death as a common and inevitable human fate is ignored and belittled; when the notion of accountability before God is sought to be minimized and downplayed; and when human beings are educated, trained, enculturated, socialized and conditioned to treat this world as the be-all and end-all, as the alpha and the omega, of human existence.
It is a moment not just for reflection but also for great grief and mourning when our educational systems are geared to ground generations of humans at a base no higher than our lowest animality – their characters, personalities and values rooted in the quagmire of selfishness, corruption, greed and indifference for the fate of others including the very planet on which we live.
What kind of intelligence base do we require to understand that this is the planet, only one in fact, whose air we breathe; whose water we drink; and on which we make our abode and shelter. It is the planet that we presume to call home.
It is an occasion for serious concern and soul searching when the graduates of our educational institutions more resemble the robotic characters of R2D2 and C3PO from the movie Star Wars than Luke Skywalker and Han Solo, their human counterparts.
That is, when they are more like automatons than real human beings with clear values; with a robust sense of self; with a deep sense of connectedness with fellow humans, with God and with planet earth; and with an abiding sense of commitment and responsibility to those around them – including the very environment which envelops them from every side.
It is nothing but sheer barbarity and inhumanity, fig-leafed in cheap clichés and pricey public relations, when humans justify and rationalize enslavement of fellow humans on the flimsiest of grounds and the most transparent of pretexts; when they deprive their fellow humans of their most basic human rights, against all cannons of civilized conduct and painfully developed international norms and conventions; and when they plunder their wealth and resources and kill them in droves without offering them recourse to justice or opportunity for self-defense.
Fragmentation of Life
It is an ongoing disaster of the most horrendous kind when human life is shattered into a million little fragments, and when it is artificially cut up in a million water-tight little compartments, without any sense of the whole, and without any care or concern for an integrating or unifying principle that will pull those fragments together and give them meaning and cohesion.
When people become fixated on living a life most of which they shelter and protect from the natural radiance of divine guidance and grace – and from the sobering thought of ongoing and universal divine scrutiny and accountability.
And when they deign, thereafter, arrogantly and condescendingly, to donate one or two small shards and shreds of that life to God Almighty – the one who gave them life in the first place, and gave them all of it and every single aspect and facet of it – as a token of their self-professed love for him and in what they consider to be their vaunted acts of worshipping him.
Acts they carry out with great pomp and fanfare, but with little thought or understanding – on designated days, in designated ways, in designated places, using designated formulas and rituals, made available to them by designated individuals they so glibly proclaim to be “Holy” with designated titles, positions and appearances.
Neither Science nor Common Sense
It is neither science nor common sense, when human life is sundered into artificial compartments of sacred and secular, just because it is expedient to do so, and when all human effort is devoted to finding ways to live a life on earth in which tested and true divine guidance plays a minimal and ever-receding role on a day-to-day basis.
It is a shame and a disgrace, and it is an unmitigated disaster, when human character degenerates to a point when relations between men and women turn not on respect and caring but on exploitation, lying, cheating and abuse.
When for all too many men and women it becomes preferable to live together in the ignominy and shame of adultery and fornication, rather than seek the protection, sanctity, honor, dignity, glory and blessing of matrimony.
And when, on the other hand, men and women are forced to keep bad marriages and broken relationships festering and fostering sin and corruption, rather than use options of annulment and divorce made available to them by God that will allow all parties dignified and honorable exits out of irreparably broken marriages, to find more virtuous, peaceful and honorable ways to live.
The fact is that life for too many human beings on earth has becomes a roller-coaster of disasters and tragedies, each more grim, each more hair-raising and each more heart-breaking than the other.
Therefore, it is not that things have gone slightly wrong in our world. But it is rather that humanity is in a terrible, unspeakable, colossal mess. Our world is in a state of utter and unspeakable loss.
A Planet in Peril
Our planet is in peril. And human life is in peril, as the Qur’an says.
This was a diagnosis of the state of humanity and the world by no one other than the creator of humanity and the world. This was a diagnosis he provided in the very book that he sent down to save humanity and the world – the noble, the clear and open, the most accessible and easy and the most glorious Qur’an.
Thereafter, it is for you and me – for the educated, thinking, reasonable, conscious and caring people in the world – to gauge, determine and establish the nature and degree of that loss and disaster in which humanity is today mired.
And then it is up to all of us to decide how best to cope with this disastrous state of affairs that is upon us.
To get a sense of what is going on in the world today, all we need to do is to look around. All we need to do is to read the newspapers. All we need to do is talk to people. It would then become clear to us how terrible, how encompassing and how utterly overwhelming is the state of loss and suffering, pain and deprivation, trouble and tragedy which has enveloped us like a cocoon from every direction.
The analysis I provided above, gives us some clues as to where humanity’s loss and tragedy have gone from one disastrous outcome to another, each more terrible and tragic than the other.
Playing Catch-up to the Qur’an
At this point, it seems to me, a word about the Qur’an is in order. For one simple reason: whether we see it or not, and whether we say it or not, it is clear that the Qur’an seems to be quite clearly connected to much of what is going on in the world today – in one way or another, to one degree or another.
In fact, this has been the case since the first revelations of the Qur’an descended upon Prophet Muhammad, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, nearly 1400 years ago.
Ever since, much of the history of the world has been a history of the unfolding and advancing of the Qur’an in much of the world: in Arabia; in Syria, Egypt and Mesopotamia; in what later was to become Spain and a cultural capital and political, commercial and economic powerhouse in Europe and the world; in Italy; in Hungary; in India; in Prague; in France; in China; in Russia and elsewhere.
Ever since, it has really been a saga of the world learning to react to, deal with and adjust and adapt to the Qur’an – to the teachings and messages of the Qur’an as well as to the methods and approaches of the Qur’an.
Ever since, the Qur’an has stood at the center of events around the world. Ever since, as journalists would say, Qur’an has been news and headline news at that.
And ever since, it has been, in more ways than we have time here to recount, a story of the world catching up to the Qur’an – to its teachings, principles, precepts, mores, norms, ideals, methods, approaches and practices.
That means the world that took shape after the revelation of the Qur’an to the Prophet, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, is a world created in the image of the Qur’an.
That is the long and short of the story. There is no escaping this fact, no matter how you look at it.
A World in the Image of the Qur’an
That means we can argue all we want, we can fight all we want, we can disagree all we want, but the conclusion that repeatedly, inescapably and indelibly imposes its imprint on our consciousness is this: The post-Prophet, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, world is a world shaped largely and significantly in the image of the Qur’an.
Let me illustrate this by providing two examples – no more than two examples. Each one of these two illustrations is as simple and clear, as it is powerful and decisive.
Together these two examples cover two of the most important, most pervasive and most influential aspects or areas of human life.
- One is what people call “religion.”
- The other is education.
The word religion is a rather misunderstood and misused expression in the English language. Everybody uses it but not too many people seem to know what it really stands for.
But when it is applied to Islam, it is a total misnomer – nothing short of a disaster I should say. For, Islam is anything but a “religion” in the way the world understands and uses that expression.
Still, the historic fact is that “religion” is one aspect of human life that Islam totally transformed. Islam put the stamp of the Qur’an on religion and brought it closer to what it should be from a Qur’anic point of view.
As for education, we may not right now appear to be so, but we are the ultimate “education people” of the world. Even though present Muslim reality may belie this assertion but we have reason to proclaim to the world: Education Is Us!
Our current pathetic and deplorable condition not withstanding, we totally changed the way the world looked at education. We made education Qur’anic in its content, scope and application.
“Religion”: A Great Misnomer
I usually put the word religion in quotation marks – “religion.” There is a reason for that.
In the olden days, when the world used the expression religion, it meant some specific things. Everybody in the world understood it to mean certain specific things.
For example, religion had traditionally meant the division of human life – and the world – into sacred and secular, with the secular part of life being controlled by kings and tribal leaders and the sacred part of life being controlled by priests and the magic men.
One was “holy” and the other not so.
Life, the world, people, books, objects, acts and pretty much everything else was subjected to this division that I am here today so direly tempted to call “unholy.”
It was a practical mechanism that the world had developed for two competing kinds of aspirants to power and control over the lives, minds and souls of humans to co-exist in tolerable accommodation and adjustment in the same society. It was a mechanism for them – this division of the “holy” and what I call the “unholy” – to divide up, conquer, rule and exploit the world and its people together.
“Religion” was thus the prerogative of the priestly classes, of the lords and princes of the church – of the clergy – while the rest of the realm was under the authority of the royalty and the nobility – the kings, the lords, the barons and the nobles.
“Religion” thus became a set of “holy” rites, rituals and sacraments that needed “holy” men for their performance on “holy” occasions, in “holy” ways, using “holy” objects such as sacred water or fire, in “holy” places such as a temple or an altar using readings and chanting from the “holy” scripture.
That is what “Religion” meant to most people before Islam.
This represented a nice, neat and highly functional divvying up of the world of Allah, and the life of human beings, into two unequal parts – with the giant-size part going to kings, nobles and princes of the realm and the pint-size part going to the priests and the hierarchy of holy men – the lords, nobles and princes of the church.
This was the fractured and confused world upon which the Qur’an descended from heaven. The Qur’an came to set the world free from this artificial, unfair and unfortunate dichotomy of the sacred and the secular. And it came to set humanity free from the clutches and control of kings and nobles on the one hand and of the clergy and holy men on the other hand.
Qur’an Sets People Free
The fact is that for the first time in their life, the Qur’an set people free. It took human beings from the kind of chattel and personal property that the unholy alliance of the “holy” and the “unholy” men of the world had reduced them to and made them into real people – with full rights and control over their own lives except for the overarching control that God himself had over them.
Islam is none of that.
Islam is life as lived by people on a day-to-day basis, in all its richness and diversity, but lived according to the guidance and laws of God Almighty. Put simply, Islam changed the way religion was viewed, understood, followed and practiced in the world.
In doing this, Islam made religion much of what it is today – a central part of human life in all its aspects. Islam took it from obscure corners of life and made it a pervasive force in all of human life. Islam then took the multiplicity of gods that human beings worshipped and paid allegiance to and reduced them to all to one God Almighty.
Islam took superstition and blind belief out of religion and made it a rational enterprise based on sound scientific principles and careful analytical reasoning.
Islam abolished priesthood and punditry in all forms and shapes and made every ordinary human being a full participant and stakeholder in his or her own religious practice and experience. Islam removed all barriers and intermediaries between God and “Man,” with the exception of Prophet Muhammad, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, and made every human being their own priest.
If ever there was a complete religious and social revolution in the world, this was it. But Islam did not stop there. It broke more new ground and made women full partners in the practice of their own religion.
Thus, Islam made the Qur’an, a real book of guidance for all, rather than present it as yet another “holy book” that was accessible only to the “holy” hierarchy of the clergy – the priests and the pundits.
With the clarion call of Iqra, a most powerful global call for universal education and empowerment that was contained in the command of the Qur’an, Islam demolished the foundations of priesthood and punditry for all time to come and erased forever all forms of tyranny over the mind of man, as Thomas Jefferson once put it.
Islam, thus, established the creed and culture of monotheism, the worship of one God, in the four corners of the world, after the Jews had been struggling with it for centuries. That means when it comes to religion and monotheism, Islam pretty much made the world what it is today. And Islam used the Qur’an to do it.
The Qur’an gave the world a new culture – the culture of Tauheed. Pre-Prophet world was a world given to the worship of any and any number of gods. The Qur’an changed all that to make the worship of one true God – monotheism – the dominant culture and belief system of the world.
All this summed up in the four words of La Ilaha Illa Allah!
So, that is my first illustration to show how the world since the Seventh Century on is a world made in the image of the Qur’an.
Religion: Monotheism Is Us!
If we knew the history of the world, we would know that this was also the core message of the teachings of Abraham, Moses and Jesus, and all the other Biblical prophets, May Allah bless them all.
Know that there is no God but God, says the Qur’an.
Thou shall take no God besides God, commands the Old Testament.
And the New Testament says that the most important commandment is: Thou shall take no God besides God.
But neither the Jews nor the Christians had the worldly means to make this creed prevail in the world – the creed of La Ilaha Illa Allah! – the creed of “No God but God!”
The Jews were mostly in bondage, exile or under attack and invasion. The Christians were hunted, persecuted and on the run for more than three hundred years till Roman emperor Constantine became a convert and made Christianity the religion of the realm. Moreover, the Christians had, during this period, replaced the original monotheism of Jesus with the idea of trinity that their later leaders had developed. Thus, to the later Christians God was not one, as he was to Jesus, but three in one.
Thus, neither the Jews nor the Christians had the political, economic and military means or might to make “No God but God!” – La Ilaha Illa Allah! – the dominant creed and culture of the world.
Only the Muslims did.
The Muslims, unlike Christians, not only had an uncompromising commitment to the message of monotheism – that Jesus, Moses and Muhammad all preached, may God love and bless them all – they also, unlike Jews, possessed the worldly wherewithal to move that message forward in the world.
And that is precisely what the Muslims did. They made “No God but God!” – La Ilaha Illa Allah! – the dominant creed and culture of the world. They made monotheism a household idea. And they did so within a few short decades – with the speed of a whirlwind and with the certainty of fate. And they did so from Egypt to China and from Arabia to Spain.
No One Can Force Anyone to Believe Anything
Not that, as some in this world would have us believe, they forced it down the throat of reluctant, resisting humans. Far from it! No one can really force a human being to believe or not to believe in anything. That is simply not possible.
Besides, the message of the Qur’an rang clear in their ears all the time: Laa Ikraaha Fid-Deen. It means: There is no coercion in Deen. That means, no one can or should force anyone to believe or not to believe in anything.
So, it is a total fabrication for some people to go about trumpeting the false charge that Muslims made people Muslim by force. For, they could not and they did not.
But there is no doubt that Muslims were a powerful military force – and they provided security throughout the world. And they gave the people of the world an opportunity – for the first time in their lives – to think freely and for themselves. And then to choose the kind of belief they really liked – belief that made most sense to them.
Given the opportunity, people – most of them – chose the creed and culture of No God but God – of La Ilaha Illa Allah! Given a choice, people chose Islam.
As the Qur’an puts it, they came in Allah’s Deen in waves upon waves – Yadkhuloona fee deenillahi afwaaja.
Thus, God Almighty blessed the followers of Islam with the global political, economic, cultural and military means, tools, reach and presence that enabled them to plant this central creed in the heart of humanity everywhere.
Not just 800 years of Muslim rule in Europe and not just the presence of Muslim educational, cultural and scientific institutions in that continent, but centuries of Crusades brought this creed home to Europe. It exposed Europe – in many ways for the first time – to a rich and complex culture and civilization founded on the core creed of La Ilaha Illa Allah! No God but Allah.
In the Footsteps of Islam, Muslims and the Qur’an
Renaissance and Reformation are but stops, albeit major ones, for the stage coach of this divinely rooted civilization. They are but details, albeit significant ones, of the unfolding of the message of La Ilaha Illa Allah! – No God but God! – in Europe.
So is the martyrdom of the scientific revolutionary Copernicus and the religious reformer of Prague, Jan Huss. It was not for nothing that intellectual and “religious” dissidents of the day, including Jan Huss and Martin Luther, were vilified as speaking like Muslims.
This was one of the most powerful accusations that could be leveled against a Christian luminary at that time. It was also a most accurate one. For these people did speak the tongue and thought of the Muslims.
They had in effect turned Turk!
And here is how each one of them made the teachings of the Qur’an a central part of their own message:
- Huss invited his fellow Christians to read the Bible – just like Islam invites people to read the Qur’an.
- Luther asked his fellow-faithful to put the Bible first – and not the Pope.
These were Islamic teachings to the core. And they had been making waves in Europe for centuries.
The Protestant Christians of today, as well as the modern scientific community, both of them owe Islam, Muslims and the Qur’an a debt of gratitude. For, it was the Muslims who taught both groups the key elements of their new creed and culture.
Those in our own times who, for reasons of their own that I will not go into here, call for a Reformation of Islam, must take note that the entire Reformation-Renaissance ferment that Europe went through, and that spawned the modern Western civilization, was at bottom a Muslim and Islamic thing through and through.
It was Islam, Muslims and the Qur’an happening to that part of the human family which until then had by and large remained innocent of higher learning, culture and religious and scientific freedom and independence.
It was not entirely coincidental that the very day the last Muslim remnants were forced out of Granada was also the day when Christopher Columbus set sail on his voyage across the Atlantic. Islam and Muslims and the Qur’an had prepared and equipped the Spaniards for their great big voyage to the new world.
Europe Abandons Its Islamic Roots
But the terrible atrocities that Europe visited upon the Western Hemisphere – North, South and Central America and the Caribbean – Africa and the rest of the world in the wake of the voyages of Christopher Columbus, Vasco da Gamma and Ferdinand Magellan was Europe turning its back on the Qur’an, and on the impact and influence of Islam on its culture, and going back to its violent and barbaric roots.
It was Europe abandoning its Islamic past and roots.
Thus, the Qur’an, Islam and Muslims changed the culture of the world from one of polytheism, idol worship and paganism to one of the worship of one God. They made the central teaching of the Old Testament, the New Testament and the Qur’an – No God but God, La Ilaha Illa Allah! – the dominant culture of the day. They established the core creed of Tauheed – worship of one God – in the world. And it is this culture and creed that the bulk of humanity today professes allegiance to in one form or another.
On the question of how the Qur’an changed the world, my second illustration is education.
What people call religion mostly connects people on earth to their God in heaven. It teaches them how to purify their souls and live a life of truth, honesty, goodness, Godliness, piety, virtue, devotion, spirituality and integrity in their earthly lives
Education caters to people’s minds. It shows them how to make the most of their life on earth. Education gives people the tools and the techniques to make this world a better or place for themselves, for their future generations as well as for everyone else.
I said earlier that the Qur’an, Islam and Muslims pretty much made the world what it is in matters of religion so far as monotheism was concerned. I want to add now that they also pretty much made the world what it is when it comes to the question of education.
In other words, when the world talks about writing, about books, about pen, about reading, about knowledge – in a word about education – then it is about the Qur’an, about Islam and about us Muslims that the world is really talking.
For, we Muslims, believe it or not, and no matter how much our present reality may belie or besmirch that, are the ultimate education people of the world. We made education the dominant culture of the world, even as we made monotheism the dominant culture of the day.
And once again we did it using the Qur’an. The world ever since has been playing catch up to the culture of education that the Qur’an unleashed upon it fourteen hundred years ago.
Pre-Islamic World Banned People from Reading and Writing
Pre-Prophet world was a world of darkness in many ways. It was a world in which, by and large, knowledge was the prerogative of the clergy, the royalty and the nobility – the rich, the powerful and the privileged.
It is they – those with privilege of birth and title and none other – that were allowed to deal with things such as book, pen, reading, writing, knowledge, understanding – in a word, education.
We changed all that in one single stroke. We made education a household idea, even as we had also made monotheism a household idea in the world of religion.
Before we Muslims appeared on the scene, the common people – the laity – were not even considered people, leave alone allowed to read or write. They were regarded as the lowest grade of humanity and were referred to as the villains, the serfs, the peasants, the untouchables, the vulgar, the scum, the riffraff.
The Qur’an gave the world its humanity back and it gave humans the tools to be human. It gave humanity the tools of reading and writing. Thus, the Qur’an established humanity on a firm footing of education in this world.
The Qur’an introduced the world to a new concept called “The People” – Annaas or Al-Insaan. And it was not until recently – within our own living memory – that the world caught up with this idea and with this terminology. Until then our world – and our language, vocabulary and culture – were entirely male-dominated. Our word of choice for people was mankind.
But it was fourteen centuries ago that the Qur’an commanded the world – the people, all people, An-Naas – to read.
And it did so in one word: Iqra’!
The Qur’an, thus, taught the world how to use the power of the pen and of the book to discover and realize the fullest measure of its humanity. The Qur’an, thus, taught human beings the full and the true meaning of life on earth.
The Qur’an thus set humanity free and gave it the conceptual and operational means and tools to make it all happen. It gave the world education, in the fullest, truest and most complete and comprehensive sense of that expression.
What could be a more miraculous occurrence that the fact that the Qur’an mentions no less than 240 times the universal, gender-inclusive term “The people” or humanity or human beings – An-Naas – while the thought, discourse and culture of the world wallowed in misguided male-centered pride and arrogance referring to itself as Mankind.
Iqra’: Education Is Us!
Today, the world has finally realized its folly. It has seen the error of its ways. The world has now come to where the Qur’an wanted it to be to begin with – 1400 year ago. It has come around to calling people by their right name “The People,” and not men and Mankind. The world has thus come a full 1400 years back to its present and future.
You can talk all you want about education, but you know as well as I do that it is the Qur’an – and perhaps only the Qur’an – that calls itself The Book. And refers to itself as The Reading – The Thing to Be Read!
Not now, but 1400 years ago.
And what kind of education will you have without books? And the Qur’an is not just a book, any book, but the book. And it is that book which is at the root of all human education – and progress.
It is the Qur’an whose very first commandment – the very first sentence; the very first revelation – fourteen hundred years ago, was: “Read!”
The Qur’an then went on to say: “Read in the name of your master who created! The one who created the human out of a clot! Read and your master is very noble and generous! The one who taught by means of the pen. Taught the human that which he did not know.”
It is in fact a measure of our own honesty, integrity, humanity as well as our being truly educated and civilized whether or not we know this fact; and whether or not we acknowledge this fact; and whether or not we openly and fearlessly give credit where credit is due.
First Revelation of the Qur’an
For a moment now note the key components of this revelation – the first revelation of the final message of God to humanity, the Qur’an:
- The master who created.
- The Human.
- The pen.
- Inquiry and exploration of the unknown
If this does not make Islam a culture, and Muslims a people, of knowledge, pen, education, reading, book, writing, thinking, analysis, understanding and civilization what does?
You call all this religion if you want, and you can call Islam religion, it is your prerogative. But what I see in what I have said thus far is the core parameters of a new culture of education, knowledge, inquiry, exploration, discovery, science, reading and books.
What I see in it are the foundations of a truly progressive and inclusive civilization of the future. And what I see in it are the seeds of the technology that humans need in their pursuit of the fruits of life on earth. In other words, what the Qur’an has done here is to set the cultural, educational, scientific, technological, moral, political and spiritual agenda for humanity for the future rather than deal out the usual mumbo jumbo that so frequently passes for “religion.”
Therefore, when we talk about education, as a Muslim, I have little hesitation in saying: “Oh, that thing, education! Why, we know a thing or two about it. In fact, we started the whole thing in some ways. In fact, education is us.” And that is in spite of the cultural, educational, scientific and moral backwardness, confusion and tottering of the Muslims over the past centuries.
The fact is, Muslims may have shot through Islam like a rabbit, Muslims may live in Islam like total strangers, and Muslims may have through their ignorance and folly mangled and crushed Islam beyond recognition, but Islam itself remains the ideal to pursue when it comes to education.
© 2008 Syed Husain Pasha
Dr. Pasha is an educator and scholar of exceptional
talent, training and experience. He can be reached at DrSyedPasha [at]
AOL [dot] com or www.IslamicSolutions.com.