Tuesday, July 7, 2015

The knowledge imperative by Prof Datin Dr Azizah Baharuddin - The STAR

File picture
File picture
ONE of the highlights of Ramadan for Muslims is the commemoration of Nuzul Quran, which means the phenomenon of the Descendence or Revelation of the Quran to the Prophet Muhammad.
To understand the commemoration of knowledge as a critical imperative for the believer, look at the meaning of the term “Quran” itself.
The word Quran comes from the root qaraa, which means “to read/recite”.
Although it is regarded as the guide par excellence for Muslims not to be lost and ignorant, the question that is begging to be asked is to what extent/degree is it read, and read with understanding?
Besides being the mother of books (Ummul Kitab), the Quran is also ayah (signs), sent down (tanzil) at intervals.
It is hikmah/wisdom, discernment of truth and falsehood, huda/guide anddhikr/remembrance.
To illustrate its divine origin, the revelation occurred to the Prophet who was ummi(illiterate).
Recitation of the Quran is like a signature ibadah (worship) in Ramadan. That is why, in mosques and homes daily, recitation sessions (tadarus) are a must for many Muslims.
However, what needs to be highlighted is that tadabur or understanding the message of what is being read is often times taken for granted or left out altogether.
Those who have knowingly or unknowingly been in the latter situation could perhaps be reminded that God regards the recitation of the Quran as something that is of great priority for Him.
“It (the Quran) is for us to collect... and to promulgate.
“When we have promulgated it, follow thou its recital. Nay, more, it is for us to explain and make clear” (Quran – 75:17-19).
In other words, just the (proper) recitation of the Quran is itself already a very spiritually rewarding act, one in which God is at hand to ensure that enlightenment is the outcome of the recitation.
Those who have hesitated to actively synonymise the reading of the Quran with knowledge should also be reminded of another significant fact highlighting the knowledge imperative, which is that the first revelation (ayah) was/is the command to read “acquire knowledge” and learning.
“Read in the name of your Lord and Cherisher, Who created man out of a mere clot of congealed blood. Proclaim!
“Thy Lord is Most Bountiful. He who taught via use of the Pen. Taught man that which he knows not.” (Quran 96:1-5).
For Muslims, this ayah should be a constant in learning and knowledge-seeking.
That is, all learning must be in and with the name of the Creator, to Whom all acts are submitted and by Whom deeds will be judged.
This is so, to ensure that man will not transgress bounds which are brought on whenever he sees himself as self-sufficient, the same verse further explains.
This is why a condition in reading the Quran is avoidance of distractions. One should not be influenced by prejudices and small-mindedness.
Only then can the Quran speak directly to the heart. In doing this, the Quran also relies on our unfailing use of our reasoning (aqal).
This can be seen by the fact that all throughout the Quran, the expressions “do you not see...” or “do they not wonder...” and so on are very common. Faith in God is to be a product of understanding and having knowledge.
A lack of it or failure to harness such knowledge would sabotage faith, thus robbing it of its function in life, which would be doing grave injustice to the self and others.
In Islam, knowledge is linked to ibadah (worship). Learning and acquiring knowledge is worship, reading the Quran and pondering upon it (tadabur) is worship, travelling to seek knowledge is worship.
Practising or applying knowledge is inevitably tied up with akhlaq (good behaviour and morality), which principally is highlighting virtue and combatting vice, enjoining right and forbidding wrong (amar ma’arufnahi munkar).
Acquiring knowledge in order to be close to God translates into pursuing and practising it with modesty and humility so that it would lead to dignity, beauty, justice and freedom.
Knowledge is also not purely for the gratification of the mind or senses; it has to be linked to values and goals or intentions (niyyat).
To sum up, for Muslims, Nuzul Quran which takes place during Ramadan (hence the added significance of the month) is to remind them of the knowledge imperative, the main purpose of which is to gain the good of this world; not to cause destruction through waste, arrogance and greed in the reckless pursuit of materialism.
Another critical purpose of knowledge is the spreading of dignity and freedom, justice and truth. It is not to obtain power and dominance for its own sake.
Let us hope that the greatest lesson from our commemoration of Nuzul Quran would be the awareness that knowledge and power coupled with arrogance would lead us to tyranny and injustice, and that knowledge and power coupled with ethics will give us justice and freedom.

No comments: