“We created man from sounding clay, from mud molded into shape.”
The Noble Qur’an, Sura Al-Hijr, Ayat 26
“The seeking of knowledge is obligatory for every Muslim…Whoever has a daughter, tutors her on good morals, educates her well and feeds her properly; she will be a protection for him from hell fire.”
–Prophet Muhammed (s)
“I think of it often and imagine the scene clearly. Even if they come to kill me, I will tell them what they are trying to do is wrong, that education is our basic right.”
–Malala Yousafzai on confronting the Taliban
Includes adaption from Genesis of New American Leadership – The Book
(Continued from Part 2)…The Power of the Pen in the Role of Education
“Proclaim! (or Read!) in the Name of thy Lord and Cherisher, Who created—Created man out of a mere clot of congealed blood.. Proclaim! and thy Lord is Most Bountiful,—He Who taught (the use of) the Pen,—taught man that which he knew not.” Al-Qur’an, Surah Al Alaq, Ayats 1-5.
The verses which introduce this section are the first five verses revealed to the Prophet. Since our Creator in the Final Revelation and the Seal of Scripture revealed these verses first, it is logical to surmise that they must be very significant on the notion that the beginning must lay the foundation for all that is to come after. The first command revealed in the Final Revelation is Iqraa! The word has dual meaning of an action taken to receive and impart the Divine Word. The historical account of this ultimately indescribable event relates that the Prophet was frightened, severely shaken, and that his reply was “I cannot read” whereupon he was pressed three times by the Angel Jibreel to read and recite, and thereafter the Prophet under the command and guidance of the Creator, began to read and recite.
In Surah Al-Alaq, Allah (SWT), the One Who created everything including man, says Read in His Name. Our Creator then relates how He grows man from a mere clot, something small, simple and insignificant to become His Crown of Creation the most complex creature to whom is given the responsibility to manage his life and his environment. Surah Al-Alaq simultaneously points to one of the gifts for man’s intellectual evolution and the blueprint for the progress of mankind—the use of the pen.
It is difficult to imagine what life would be like without the technology of writing. In fact, modem civilization, including the much talked about “information age” owes its very existence to the pen. Although today we may casually take these powerful abilities for granted, reading and writing changed the dynamics of communication and interaction, and essentially altered the human experience of cause and effect.
When man began to write and translate thought into symbols, he discovered he could impact others and alter outcomes without necessarily having to be present in the same place or even at the same time. He discovered a new and higher freedom of movement superior to just physical motion; he now had the ability to transfer his thinking independent of his physical presence. Such a monumental change in thinking ultimately changed man’s expectations and redefined the possibilities of greater communication by the powerful idea of impact without physical contact.
Today we have information conveyed by such mediums as satellite, television and radio which has lead to the phrase “real time” to describe the almost instantaneous exchange of information. I submit that these technologies could not exist were it not for the paradigm or concept of projecting oneself outside of the immediate space and time of here and now. It was the pen that changed man’s paradigm and him to arrive at more sophisticated communication concepts. And it is God Who gave the pen to man and showed him how to use it to record, design, account, research, navigate, analyze, verify, discover, calculate, legislate, map, schedule, plan, construct and perform every other aspect that reading and writing has given us.
The secret to progress is no longer a secret. It is right before us in the Qur’an. Throughout the Final Revelation, Allah (SWT) gives us similitudes of how best to manage complexity and the uncertainty of the future. We are told in Surah Al-Baqara (2:282) that there is a preference or superiority of a written agreement over a verbal agreement; while the issue is directly related to trade or commerce, the benefits of writing are universal irrespective of the discipline.
Similitudes such as The Book, The Record and The Pen occur throughout the Qur’an. There are numerous references, but a few shall suffice. Consider Surah Al-Infitar (82:10-12): “But verily over you (are appointed angels) to protect you,—kind and honorable,—writing down your deeds: they know (and understand) all that ye do.” There is Surah Ya-Sin (36:12): “Verily We shall give life to the dead, and we record that which they send before and that which they leave behind, and of all things have we taken account in a clear Book (of evidence).” Lastly, Surah Al-Ali Imran (3:145) relates, “Nor can a soul die except by God’s Leave, the term being fixed as by writing…” Our Lord is constantly calling our attention to the active process of recording or writing.
In addition to the obvious advantage of accountability of written over verbal expression, there are psychological and creative advantages associated with the processes of reading and writing that impact problem identification and resolution, goal identification and achievement, and the capability of bringing ideas into reality. Often times, we cannot begin to see solutions to a problem or that a problem even exists until the details are organized in print.
Imagine what it would be like to lose all that humanity has learned over the centuries or millennia; we would have to literally recreate the wheel. The descendants of Adam (AS) have been able to organize and advance themselves spiritually and technologically under the Guidance and Mercy of Allah through Divine Revelation and through the preservation and transfer of information from one era and civilization to another.
A Balanced Education
Leaders assuming the mantle of government do not have the right to grant legal permission to read. G-d has already given that right to every human being.
The command given to the Prophet in Surah Igraa is a command given to each of us personally and to mankind in general. To learn what Allah asks of us and to emulate the Prophet’s example we must read Revelation. To learn the practical implementation of Qur’an, we must read the history of the Prophet and the Sahaba.
The early ummah managed and advanced the material world with the same book that brought them the religious knowledge. The impetus imparted in the Qur’an by the Divine Mandate to Read allowed the ummah to also read (observe) the material world and advance the information previously discovered by Greek Civilization and others.
Our Islamic ancestors became world leaders because they sought a balanced education. Unlike the fundamental error in reasoning that separated religion and science and the spiritual from the material under the scholarship of earlier Christian savants, Al-Qur’an provided man with the correct equation for education:
REVELATION + OBSERVATION (INFORMATION) = EDUCATION
To neglect the first element of the equation is to become a secularist surreptitiously defined by a working premise that man’s creativity makes him God. To neglect the second is to be practically disoriented and hopelessly fatalistic…incapable of managing our own homes, much less the larger life of a community.
There is a reciprocal relationship between education and leadership. Balanced education promotes competent leadership; competent leadership in turn cultivates an environment for balanced education. Balanced education creates an environment wherein each believer is encouraged to seek Qur’anic knowledge and worldly knowledge without the fear of losing one’s faith. There is no inherent merit in illiteracy, religious or otherwise, any more than there is in poverty.
The failure of Pakistani (and Afghan) extremists to educate the masses regardless of gender denies basic human rights, undermines the very foundation of their society and future and denies to the rest of the world the valuable contributions that would otherwise emerge from Pakistan’s group intellect that includes Malala Yousafzai and every Muslimah and Muslim in Pakistan.
If Afghanistan is to take its seat at the table of global leadership, then its people must encourage and protect the right to balanced education and broad intellectual development structured upon the foundation of Qur’an and we must encourage them to continue the fight against those who would have them and us live in the dark ages.
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”— Martin Luther King Jr., Letter from Birmingham Jail, April 16, 1963
Left open for further thought and research…Peace until next time.
Sincerely & respectfully,