Value of knowledge and the place of learning in Islam

What is the place and value of knowledge and education from the perspective of Islam?

In many Islamic verses and traditions, the fruits and releavance of knowledge and learning are mentioned. It is narrated from Hazrat Ali (AS) that knowledge is the goal of the creation of the world, , one of the essentials of management and leadership, the source of faith and piety, fear of God and power and so on. That is why we see that our religious leaders do not accept any restrictions on gender, time and place as an excuse to leave knowledge;

In the Holy Qur’an, several chapters have been compiled referring to the value and place of knowledge and learning in Islam .We will review this topic under the heading “Parts” of the most important verses and traditions here.

The value of knowledge:
The value of knowledge in Islamic teachings can be understood from the fact that the call to Islam began with the call to knowledge. God says in the first verses of Surah Al-Alaq:

: «اقْرَاْ بِسْمِ رَبِّکَ الَّذِى خَلَقَ خَلَقَ الاْنسَانَ مِنْ عَلَق اقْرَاْ وَرَبُّکَ الاْکْرَمُ الَّذِى عَلَّمَ بِالْقَلَمِ عَلَّمَ الاْنسَانَ مَا لَمْ یَعْلَمْ

Read, ˹O Prophet,˺ in the Name of your Lord Who created humans from a clinging clot. Created man from a clinging substance. Read! And your Lord is the Most Generous, taught humanity what they knew not..
These verses from the very first narrate sparks of revelation to the pure heart of the Prophet (peace be upon him) in the cave of Hira, begin and end with the topic of knowledge.These are enlightening proofs of the value and necessity of learning.
Imam Ali (as) said:
«كَفَى بِالْعِلْمِ شَرَفاً أَنْ يَدَّعِيَهُ مَنْ لَا يُحْسِنُهُ وَ يَفْرَحَ إِذَا نُسِبَ إِلَيْهِ وَ كَفَى بِالْجَهْلِ ذَمّاً يَبْرَأُ مِنْهُ مَنْ هُوَ فِيه
In the honor of this knowledge only those who are unaware of it claim it and if they are given it they will be happy. And in condemnation of this ignorance they just know that they do not know it).

Knowledge and goal creation:
In verse 12 of Surah Al-Talaq, knowledge and wisdom is the goal of the creation of the world. God says in this verse:
: «اللَّهُ الَّذِی خَلَقَ سَبْعَ سَمَاوَاتٍ وَمِنَ الْاَرْضِ مِثْلَهُنَّ یَتَنَزَّلُ الْاَمْرُ بَیْنَهُنَّ لِتَعْلَمُوا اَنَّ اللَّهَ عَلَى کُلِّ شَیْءٍ قَدِیرٌ وَاَنَّ اللَّهَ قَدْ اَحَاطَ بِکُلِّ شَیْءٍ عِلْمًا»
Allah is the One Who created seven heavens ˹in layers˺, and likewise for the earth. The ˹divine˺ command descends between them so you may know that Allah is Most Capable of everything and that Allah certainly encompasses all things in ˹His˺ knowledge.
This verse clarifies the fact that one of the goals of creation is to make people aware of the knowledge and power of God and the knowledge of his essence and attributes.

Knowledge of the purpose
Another issue that is frequently emphasized in the verses of the Qur’an which highlights the value of knowledge and training is that education and training were one of the goals of the revelation of the prophets. For example, in verse 151 of Surah Al-Baqarah, we read this meaning clearly:
: «کَمَا اَرْسَلْنَا فِیکُمْ رَسُولا مِنْکُمْ یَتْلُوا عَلَیْکُمْ آیَاتِنَا وَیُزَکِّیکُمْ وَیُعَلِّمُکُمْ الْکِتَابَ وَالْحِکْمَهَ وَیُعَلِّمُکُمْ مَا لَمْ تَکُونُوا تَعْلَمُونَ»؛
Since We have sent you a messenger from among yourselves—reciting to you Our revelations, purifying you, teaching you the Book and wisdom, and teaching you what you never knew—

Knowledge of the superiority of human beings:
Knowledge in the Qur’an is known as the reason for the distinction of human beings and the standard of human superiority. So in verse 33 of Surah Al-Baqarah we read
: «قَالَ یَا آدَمُ اَنْبِیْهُمْ بِاَسْمِآیِهِمْ فَلَمَّا اَنْبَاَهُمْ بِاَسْمِآیِهِمْ قَالَ اَلَمْ اَقُلْ لَّکُمْ اِنِّى اَعْلَمُ غَیْبَ السَّمَوَتِ وَالاْرْضِ وَاَعْلَمُ مَا تُبْدُونَ وَمَا کُنتُمْ تَکْتُمُونَ
He said: “O Adam! Inform them of their names” and when he had informed them of their names, He (Allah) said: “Did I not say to you that I surely know the Unseen (the Ghaib) in the heavens and the earth and I know what you manifest and what you hide (conceal)”.
It was said that the Lord had commanded the angels to immediately make the caliph and his representative “Adam” all equal and to prostrate and humble themselves and thus reveal his superiority.
The Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) also points out the value of man in his statement through knowledge and says:
: «اَكْثَرُ النّاسِ قَيمةً اَكْثَرُهُمْ علماً وَاَقَلُ النّاسِ قَيمةً اَقُلُهُمْ عِلْماً
(The one whose knowledge is more than all is more valuable than all and the one whose knowledge is less than all is less than all).

Also in the meaning of the same hadith, in verse 11 of Surah Al-Mujadilah, we read:
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا إِذَا قِيلَ لَكُمْ تَفَسَّحُوا فِي الْمَجَالِسِ فَافْسَحُوا يَفْسَحِ اللَّهُ لَكُمْ وَإِذَا قِيلَ انشُزُوا فَانشُزُوا يَرْفَعِ اللَّهُ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا مِنكُمْ وَالَّذِينَ أُوتُوا الْعِلْمَ دَرَجَاتٍ وَاللَّهُ بِمَا تَعْمَلُونَ خَبِيرٌ
O believers! When you are told to make room in gatherings, then do so. Allah will make room for you ˹in His grace˺. And if you are told to rise, then do so. Allah will elevate those of you who are faithful, and ˹raise˺ those gifted with knowledge in rank. And Allah is All-Aware of what you do.

Knowledge as management and leadership tool:
In Islamic discourse, science and knowledge are always recognized as one of the tools of management and leadership. In Surah Yusuf ,we read that an important position in the government was offered to him at that time.
: «اجْعَلْنِى عَلَى خَزَایِنِ الاْرْضِ اِنِّى حَفِیظٌ عَلِیمٌ
Joseph said:] place me upon the treasures of the earth, for I am the All-Knowing Guardian

Also in the story of the Bani Israel we read of the urgency of our readiness to fight against the tyrannical king called “Goliath” who was \ the self-proclaimed prophet of the age . Goliath fights the oppressors, the Prophet – in verse 247 of Surah Al-Baqarah – said to them:
: «اِنَّ اللهَ قَدْ بَعَثَ لَکُمْ طَالُوتَ مَلِکاً قَالُوا اَنَّى یَکُونُ لَهُ الْمُلْکُ عَلَیْنَا وَنَحْنُ اَحَقُّ بِالْمُلْکِ مِنْهُ وَلَمْ یُوْتَ سَعَهً مِنْ الْمَالِ قَالَ اِنَّ اللهَ اصْطَفَاهُ عَلَیْکُمْ وَزَادَهُ بَسْطَهً فِى الْعِلْمِ وَالْجِسْمِ وَاللهُ یُوْتِى مُلْکَهُ مَنْ یَشَاءُ وَاللهُ وَاسِعٌ عَلِیمٌ

And their Prophet said to them: “Surely Allah has raised Tâlût (Saul) to be a king over you”. They said: “How can he hold kingship over us while we are fitter than him for the kingdom, and he has not been given enough wealth”. (The prophet): “Verily, Allah has chosen him above you and He has increased him abundantly in knowledge and physique (strength) and Allah grants His kingdom to whom He wills”. And Allah is All-Embracing (His knowledge and Mercy includes everything), All-Knowing.
Talut, who was chosen to lead the important mission of the Bani Israel, that is, to fight against a powerful tyrant king, who lived anonymously on the shores of a river in Dehkdah,
These verses show that knowledge and awareness are the most basic elements of leadership and management.

Imam Sadiq (as) also refers to this effect and the work of knowledge and wisdom:
: «اَلْمُلوكُ حُكامُ عَلىَ النّاسِ وَالْعُلماءُ حُكامٌ عَلىَ الْمُلوك
(Leaders rule over the people and scholars rule over them).

Knowledge is the source of faith and piety:

Islamic teachings remind us that knowledge is the source of faith and there is a strong connection between them. The Holy Qur’an in several verses for example in verse 6 of Surah Saba – says:
: «وَیَرَى الَّذِینَ اُوتُوا الْعِلْمَ الَّذِى اُنزِلَ اِلَیْکَ مِنْ رَبِّکَ هُوَ الْحَقَّ وَیَهْدِى اِلَى صِرَاطِ الْعَزِیزِ الْحَمِیدِ»

And those to whom the knowledge has been given see that what is sent down to you from your Lord is the truth and that it guides (delivers) to the Path of the All-Mighty, the Praised (Allah) (Sıratı Mustakîm).

Knowledge often brings piety. Knowledge that is the source of faith is also the source of piety and ignorance is often the cause of piety and godlessness.
It has also been narrated from Hazrat Ali (as) that:«اَعْظَمُ النّاسِ عِلْماً اَشَدُهُمُ خَوُفاً مِنَ الله؛
(The one whose knowledge is greater than all, fears Allah morethan anyone.

Knowledge is the source of power:
God says in verse 40 of Surah An-Naml:

قَالَ الَّذِي عِندَهُ عِلْمٌ مِّنَ الْكِتَابِ أَنَا آتِيكَ بِهِ قَبْلَ أَن يَرْتَدَّ إِلَيْكَ طَرْفُكَ فَلَمَّا رَآهُ مُسْتَقِرًّا عِندَهُ قَالَ هَذَا مِن فَضْلِ رَبِّي لِيَبْلُوَنِي أَأَشْكُرُ أَمْ أَكْفُرُ وَمَن شَكَرَ فَإِنَّمَا يَشْكُرُ لِنَفْسِهِ وَمَن كَفَرَ فَإِنَّ رَبِّي غَنِيٌّ كَرِيمٌ
The one who had the knowledge from the Book (Khidr) said: “I will bring it to you before you blink your eye”. Then when (Solomon) saw it set in his presence (before him), he said: “This is a Virtue (blessing) of my Lord that he may try me whether I am grateful or ungrateful”. And whoever is grateful, he is grateful only for his own soul, and whoever is ungrateful, then surely my Lord is Self-Sufficient (Rich, Free of all needs), Honored (the Most Generous).

This verse, however, has been specifically mentioned. Why/ Because it is an example of power that originates from knowledge and summarizes the relationship between knowledge and power in a very clear way and encourages and motivates to acquire knowledge.

To summerise,The Holy Quran urges the mankind to think, ponder, reflect and acquire knowledge that would bring them closer to God. The prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and His Household commanded knowledge upon all Muslims, and urged them to seek knowledge as far they could reach, and also to seek it all times.

Translator: Salma Syeda
Keywords: Quran,Mankind,Prophet Muhammad, Knowledge,Leadership, Management, Prophet sulaiman,Muslim Umah,Power