The pleasures of learning

Updated 06 August 2015

The pleasures of learning

The rise of Muslims to the zenith of civilization in a period of four decades was based on Islam’s emphasis on learning.

This is obvious when one takes a look at the Qur’an and the traditions of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) which are filled with references to learning, education, observation, and the use of reason. The very first verse of the Qur’an revealed to the Prophet of Islam on the night of 27th of Ramadan in 611CE reads: “Read: In the name of thy Lord who created man from a clot. Read: And thy Lord is the Most Generous Who taught by the pen, taught man that which he knew not.” (Qur’an, 96:1-5)
“And they shall say had we but listened or used reason, we would not be among the inmates of the burning fire.” (Qur’an, 67:10)
“Are those who have knowledge and those who have no knowledge alike? Only the men of understanding are mindful.” (Qur’an, 39:9)
And the Qur’an exhorts the Muslims to do scientific research: “And whoso bringeth the truth and believeth therein such are the dutiful.” (Qur’an, 39:33)
Every Muslim man’s and every Muslim woman’s prayer should be: “My Lord! Enrich me with knowledge.” (Quran, 20:114)
The pursuit of knowledge and the use of reason, based on sense observation is made obligatory on every Muslim, man and woman. The following traditions of the Prophet (peace be upon him) supplement the foregoing teachings of the Qur’an in the following way: Seek knowledge “even though it be in China.”
“The acquisition of knowledge is compulsory for every Muslim, whether male or female.”
“The ink of the scholar is more sacred than the blood of the martyr.”
“Seek knowledge from the cradle to the grave.”
“God has revealed to me, ‘Whoever walks in the pursuit of knowledge I facilitate for him the way to heaven.’
“The best form of worship is the pursuit of knowledge.”
“Scholars should endeavor to spread knowledge and provide education to people who have been deprived of it. For, where knowledge is hidden it disappears.”
Some one asked the Prophet (peace be upon him): “Who is the biggest scholar?” He replied: “He who is constantly trying to learn from others, for a scholar is ever hungry for more knowledge.”
“Seek for knowledge and. wisdom, or whatever the ‘vessel from which it flows, you will never be the loser.”
“Thinking deep for one hour (with sincerity) is better than 70 years of (mechanical) worship.”
“Worship, without knowledge, has no goodness in it and knowledge without understanding has no goodness in it. And the recitation of the Qur’an, which is riot thoughtful has no goodness in it.”
“To listen to the words of the learned and to instil unto others the lessons of science is better than religious exercises.”
“Acquire knowledge: It enables its possessor to distinguish right from the wrong, it lights the way to heaven; it is Our friend in the desert, our society in solitude, our companion when friendless, it guides us to happiness; it sustains us in misery; it is an Ornament among friends and an armor against enemies.”
The Islamic Empire for more than 1,000 years remained the most advanced and civilized nation in the world.
This is because Islam stressed the importance and respect of learning, forbade destruction, developed in Muslims the respect for authority, discipline, and tolerance for other religions. The teachings of Qur’an and Sunnah drove many Muslims to their accomplishments in science and medicine.
By the 10th century their zeal and enthusiasms for learning resulted in all essential Greek medical and scientific writings being translated into Arabic in Damascus, Cairo, and Baghdad. Arabic became the international language of learning and diplomacy.
The center of scientific knowledge and activity shifted eastward, and Baghdad emerged as the capitol of the scientific world. The Muslims became scientific innovators with originality and productivity.
For example Islamic medicine is one of the most famous and best known facets of Islamic civilization, and in which the Muslims most excelled. The Muslims were the great torchbearers of international scientific research.
Some of the best and most eloquent praises of science ever written came from the pens of Muslim scientists who considered their work to be acts of worship. The same motives led to the establishment of Al-Azhar (800 CE) the first university in the world.
They hit the “source ball of knowledge” over the fence to Europe. In the words of Campbell, “The European medical system is Arabian not only in origin but also in its structure. The Arabs are the intellectual forbears of the Europeans.”
One of the secrets of success in any profession is to be the most learned or best-informed person in his/her own profession. Learning is a pleasure.
If it is not, then one should cultivate the enjoyment associated with learning. Although the pleasure of learning is universal, there are many dull incurious people in the world. There are several reasons for this. Some people are made dull by bad teaching, isolation and following a routine life-style. For some people it is the pressure of hard work and poverty.
For those who are rich, their ephemeral and trivial delights come in the way of the pleasures of learning. The human mind can survive not only poverty but also even wealth with luck, determination and guidance.
The process of learning starts right after birth. It is true that babies who can barely talk investigate problems with all the zeal and excitement of explorers, make discoveries with the passion and absorption of dedicated scientists.

To be continued next week

Couretsy: irfi.org


The beauty of prayer in Islam

Updated 23 September 2016

The beauty of prayer in Islam

GOING deeper into our spiritual state during prayers (salah) requires that we have a presence of heart and are mindful of the words being said during the prayers.
Our prayer will feel shorter, yet when we look at how much time we actually spent, we will think, “Did I just spend 10 minutes?” or even 15 and 20 minutes.
A person who began applying this said he wished the prayer would never end.
A feeling that Ibn Al-Qayyim describes as “what the competitors compete for… it is nourishment for the soul and the delight of the eyes,” and he also said, “If this feeling leaves the heart, it is as though it is a body with no soul.”

The love of Allah
Some people’s relationship with Allah is limited to following orders and leaving prohibitions, so that one does not enter hell. Of course, we must follow orders and leave prohibitions, but it needs to be done out of more than fear and hope; it should also be done out of love for Allah. Allah says in the Qur’an: “… Allah will bring forth [in place of them] a people He will love and who will love Him.” (Qur’an, 5:54)
We often find that when a lover meets the beloved, hearts are stirred and there is warmth in that meeting. Yet when we meet Allah, there is not even an ounce of this same feeling. Allah says in the Qur’an: “And (yet) among the people are those who take other than Allah as equals (to Him). They love them as they (should) love Allah. But those who believe are stronger in love for Allah.” (Qur’an, 2:165)
And those who believe are stronger in love for Allah. There should be a feeling of longing, and when we raise our hands to start the prayer, warmth and love should fill our hearts because we are now meeting with Allah. A dua of the Prophet (peace be upon him): “O Allah, I ask You for the longing to meet You” (An-Nisa’i, Al-Hakim)
Ibn Al-Qayyim says in his book Tareeq Al-Hijratain that Allah loves His Messengers and His believing servants, and they love Him and nothing is more beloved to them than Him. The love of one’s parents has a certain type of sweetness, as does the love of one’s children, but the love of Allah far supersedes any of that. The Prophet, peace be upon him, said: “Any person who combines these three qualities will experience the sweetness of faith: 1) that God and His messenger are dearer to him than anything else; 2) that his love of others is purely for God’s sake; and 3) that he hates to relapse into disbelief as much as he hates to be thrown in the fire.” (Bukhari)
Thus, the first thing he mentioned was: “… that God and His messenger are more beloved to him than anything else…”
Ibn Al-Qayyim says: “Since ‘there is nothing like unto Him’ (Qur’an, 42:11), there is nothing like experiencing love for Him.”
If you feel this love for Him, it will be a feeling so intense, so sweet, that you would wish the prayer would never ever end.
Do you truly want to feel this love? Then ask yourself: ‘why do you or should you love Allah?’
Know that you love people for one (or all, in varying degrees) of three reasons: For their beauty, because of their exalted character or/and because they have done good to you. And know that Allah combines all of these three to the utmost degree.

All-embracing beauty
We’ve all been touched by beauty. It is almost fitrah (natural disposition) to love what is beautiful. Ali ibn Abi Talib, may Allah be pleased with him, said about the Prophet, peace be upon him, that it was “as if the sun is shining from his face.” Jabir (may God be pleased with him) said: “The Messenger of Allah was more handsome, beautiful, and radiant than the full moon” (Tirmidhi)
Allah made all His Prophets have a certain beauty so that people would have a natural inclination toward them.
And beauty is more than what is in the face, because beauty is in all of creation and somehow has the ability to take our breath away and give us peace simultaneously. The glimmer of the crescent moon on a calm night, the intensity of a waterfall as the water drops for thousands of feet, the sunset by the sea … certain scenes of natural unspoiled beauty stirs something in us. As Allah is the One Who made it beautiful, so what of Allah’s beauty?
Ibn Al-Qayyim said: “And it is enough to realize Allah’s Beauty when we know that every internal and external beauty in this life and the next are created by Him, so what of the beauty of their Creator?”
This fitrah for loving what is beautiful is because Allah is beautiful. One of His Names is Al-Jameel (the Most Beautiful). Ibn Al-Qayyim states that the beauty of Allah is something that a person cannot imagine and only He knows it. There is nothing of it in creation save for glimpses.
Ibn Al-Qayyim says if all of creation were the most beautiful they could be (so let’s imagine, ever single human being looked as beautiful as Yusuf, peace be upon him, and the whole world was like Paradise), and all of them combined from the beginning of time until the Day of Judgment, they would not even be like a ray in comparison to the sun when compared to Allah. Allah’s beauty is so intense that we will not even be able to take it in this life. In the Qur’an, Allah describes Musa’s (peace be upon him) request: “And when Moses arrived at Our appointed time and his Lord spoke to him, he said, ‘My Lord, show me (Yourself) that I may look at You.’ (Allah) said: ‘You will not see Me but look at the mountain; if it should remain in place, then you will see Me.’ But when his Lord appeared to the mountain He rendered it level, and Moses fell unconscious.” (Qur’an, 7:143)
Even the mountain could not bear the beauty of Allah and crumbled, and when Musa, peace be upon him, saw this (he did not even see Allah), he fell unconscious. This is why on the Day of Judgment it is Allah’s light that will shine on everything. We talk about breathtaking beauty, but we have yet to experience Allah’s beauty. While things in this world can be beautiful or majestic or if they combine both they are finite, true majesty and beauty are for Allah: “And there will remain the Face of your Lord, Owner of Majesty and Honor.” (Qur’an, 55:27)
Keeping all of this in mind, the Prophet, peace be upon him, said: “Allah directs His Face toward the face of His servant who is praying, as long as he does not turn away” (Tirmidhi).
Remember this in your prayer, and ask Allah to allow you the joy of seeing Him in Paradise.