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REVEALED: Importance of knowledge in Islam


The Arabic word for knowledge is “Ilm”, which in most cases, indicates Islamic knowledge or matters related to Shari`ah (Islamic Law).  Although, some of the Qur`anic verses in this paper refers to the Islamic knowledge, yet they are generally in their meaning, and thus can be used to refer to learning in general.

The importance of knowledge is not a dispute matter. Education is the act of putting one`s knowledge potential to maximum use. One can safely say that human being is not in proper sense till he/she is educated. This importance of education is basically for two reasons.

  1. The training of human mind is not complete without education. Education make man or woman a right thinker, it tells one how to think and how to make a decision.
  2. Through the attainment of education man is enable to receive information from the external world; to acquaint him with past history and receive all necessary information regarding the present. So without education, man is as though in a closed room and with education he finds himself in a room with all its windows open towards the outside world.

This is why Islam attaches great importance to knowledge and education. When the Qur`an began to be revealed, the first word of its verse was `Iqra` that is, “read”.

Allah says, (what means): “Read! In the Name of your Lord Who has Created (all that exists). He created man from a clot (a piece of thick coagulated blood). Read! And your lord is the Most Generous. Who has taught (the writing) by pen. He has taught man what he knew not” (Qur`an, 96:1-5)

Education is thus the starting point of every human activity. Allah created man and provided him with the tools for acquiring knowledge, namely: hearing, sight, and wisdom.

Allah says in (Holy Qur`an, 16:78) (what means) “And Allah has brought you out from the wombs of your mothers while you know nothing. And He gave you hearing, sight, and the hearts that you might give thanks (to Allah)”

A knowledgeable person is accorded great respect in many Prophetic narrations.

The Prophet (S.A.W) made seeking knowledge an obligation upon every Muslim, and he explained that the superiority of the one who has knowledge over the one who merely worships is like the superiority of the moon over every other heavenly body.

He said that scholars are the heirs of the Prophets, and that the Prophets, may Allah exalt their mention did not leave behind any money, rather their inheritance was knowledge, so who ever acquires it has gained great share.

Furthermore, the Prophet (SAW) said the seeking of knowledge is a way leading to paradise.

He said in (Sahihul-Bukhari) that “Whoever follows a path in the pursuit of knowledge, Allah will make a path to paradise easy for him”.          

For example, the Holy Qur`an repeatedly asks us to observe earth and heavens. This instils in man a desire to learn natural science as well. All the book of Hadith have chapter on knowledge. In Saheeh Al-Bukhari there is a chapter entitled “the virtue of one who acquires learning and imparts that to others”.

Islam calls us to learn all kinds of beneficial knowledge.  Branches of knowledge vary in status, the highest of which is of Shari`ah (Islamic Law), then other fields of knowledge, such as medicine, engineering, Common Law, etc.

How great importance is attached to learning in Islam, can be understood from an event in the life of the Prophet (SAW) at the battle of Badr in which the Prophet gained victory over his opponents, seventy people of the enemy rank were taken prisoners. These prisoners of war were literate people. In order to benefit from their education, the prophet declared that if one prisoner teaches ten Muslim how to read and write, this will serve as ransom and he will be set free. I can therefore freely say that this was the first school in the history of Islam established by the Prophet (SAW) himself with all its teachers being non-Muslims. Furthermore, they were all war prisoners.   

Islam on one hand places great emphasis on learning, while on the other; Allah has provided all those factors which are necessary to make progress in learning. One of these factors is the Freedom of research. Also we should know that there is no goodness in knowledge which is not confirmed by actions or words of which are not confirmed by deeds.

Allah the Almighty says in the Glorious (Qur`an, 61:2-3): “O you who believe! Why do you say that which you do not do? Most hateful it is with Allah that you say that which you do not do”

Knowledge brings  great reward. The one who points the way to something good is like the one who does it. When the knowledgeable person dies, his reward with Allah does not cease when he dies, rather it continues to increase so long as people benefit from his Knowledge.

The Prophet (SAW) said: “when a man dies, all his deeds come to an end except for three – an ongoing charity, beneficial knowledge, or a righteous child who will pray for him”. (Muslim)

A person without knowledge is likening to someone walking along a track in complete darkness.  Most likely his steps will wander aside and Satan can easily deceive him. This shows that our greatest danger lies in our ignorance of Islamic teachings in the first place and in our knowledge of what the Qur`an teaches and the guidance of the Prophet (SAW).

On the other hand, if we are blessed with the light of knowledge we will be able to see plainly the clear path of Islam at every step of our lives. We shall also be able to identify and avoid the dangerous path of disbelief, “shirk” and immorality.  And, whenever a false guide meets us on the way, a few words with him will quickly establish that he is not a guide who should be followed.

Knowledge is pursued and practiced with modesty and humility and leads to dignity, freedom and justice. The main purpose of acquiring knowledge is to bring us closer to our creator. It is not simply for the gratification of the mind or the senses. It is not knowledge for the sake of knowledge only but knowledge must be linked with values and goals.

Another purpose of acquiring knowledge is to gain the good of this world, not to destroy it through wastage, arrogance and in the reckless pursuit of higher standards of material comfort.


Ibn Qayyim Al-Jawziyyah (R) said: There are six stages to knowledge:

First:           Asking questions in a good manner.

Second:      Remaining quite and listening attentively.

Third:         Understanding well.

Fourth:       Memorising.

Fifth:           Teaching.

Six:             And it is its fruit, Acting upon the knowledgeable and keeping to its limits.


According to Islamic perspective, knowledge is pre-requisite for the creation of a just world in which authentic peace can prevail.

Education or Knowledge is the pivot, around which any meaningful development anchors, whether formal or informal.

It is the weapon that can be used to fight illiteracy, poverty and all manners of prejudice.


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