Dr. Zeenath Shaukat Ali
Professor, Islamic Studies, St. Xavier’s College Mumbai
However controversial the definition of 'knowledge' whose acquisition constitutes a religious duty may be, there is little doubt that the Qur’anic verses and Prophetic sayings emphasise the importance of learning. The fact that the central symbol of the Islamic revelation is a book makes learning of utmost importance. The first place in which teaching was carried on in Islam was the mosque, and ever since the very first decades of Muslim history, the institutions of learning, have remained for the most part, inseparable from the mosque and have usually been supported by religious endowments.
Before discussing the mosque and its importance as a seat of education, I will first endeavour to show the cultivation of knowledge and learning as discussed in the primary sources of Islam viz. The Quran and Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad. At the outset, it is important to state that the word "Jim" (knowledge) and its derivatives in the Holy Quran have occurred 805 times; the word "albab " (minds) has occurred 16 times, and the word "aql" (reason) and its derivatives have occurred 49 times according to the survey made by Prof. Darwish Mustafa, Director of National Museum at Qatar in his article entitled i.e. History of Sciences in Islamic Civilization. This clearly indicates that man has been repeatedly asked in the Holy Book to apply his intelligence and reason to acquire knowledge.
A human being's superiority over angels in the following verses goes on to reinforce the significance of knowledge and learning. "And He taught Adam all the Names, then showed them to the Angels, saying Inform Me of the names of these if you are truthful".
They said: Be glorified: -we have no knowledge saving that which Thou hast taught us. Lo : Thou, only Thou art the Knower, the Wise.
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