By Fatima Kermalli
Are those who have knowledge equal to those who do not have knowledge? (Quran, 39:9)
This is a rhetorical question to provoke thought. Obtaining and possessing knowledge is universally commendable: In all cultures and religions, a learned individual is invaluable and incomparable to an ignorant one — “Knowledge is power.”
Though the phrase has been quoted by the likes of Thomas Hobbes, Sir Francis Bacon and others, the earliest the phrase was documented is by Imam Ali (599-661 CE), the successor to Prophet Muhammad in the 10th-century book still widely read today, “Nahj Al-Balagha.”
IN “The Peak of Eloquence,” saying 146, Imam Ali says, “Knowledge is power and it can command obedience. A man of knowledge during his lifetime can make people obey and follow him, and he is praised and venerated after his death. Remember that knowledge is a ruler and wealth is its subject.”
The value of education is emphasized in Islam. The Prophet said, “Seek knowledge even [if it is] in China.” During his time, China was the farthest one could travel from Arabia, and yet he endorsed seeking knowledge there despite the hardship of travel.
In Islam, knowledge has a special status. One time, Prophet Muhammad entered a mosque. He saw two groups in the mosque. One group was busy with worship. The other group was in a corner busy learning. Looking at both, Prophet Muhammad said: “They are both engaged in useful pursuits. But I am a teacher. I shall join the group gathered to learn.” He sat with the group of students.
The first verse and command revealed to Prophet Muhammad in Chapter 96, which was to read: “Read. Read in the name of thy Lord who created …”
Jesus said, , “I managed to bring the dead back to life but I could not do it to the ignorant people.”
This is the state of the world today where racism and hatred prevail, and which have been fanned by ignorant individuals and groups. Ignorance of the true message of Islam has fueled ISIS and other terrorist groups. Ignorance of Islam has resulted in the banning Muslims and terrorizing them across the globe. It is only when we read, research and learn the truth that will seal the enormous cracks that separate us because of ignorance.
“Knowledge is power,” it always has been and always will be. For humanity to move forward, we need to educate ourselves and future generations in all areas of life so that we may be able to make better judgments and act more equitably.
Imam Jafar as Sadiq, the sixth successor after Prophet Muhammad whose death anniversary we commemorate this week, opened universities and taught thousands in various sciences.
His knowledge has affected humanity until today. Knowledge empowered him to create a better world; we must endeavor and continuously pray as taught by the Holy Qur’an, “O, my Lord, increase me in knowledge.” (20:114)
Fatima Kermalli is a member of and a Sunday school teacher in Pennsylvania in Allentown.