Thursday, March 31, 2011

Knowledge is Power

I definitely put more time, energy and dollars into preparing our middle child for her kindergarten screening than I did for my college-entrance exams. (And the wait to hear back was also much more excruciating!)

But what's even more pitiful is I put more effort in both of the above than I do in gaining knowledge to ace the greatest test of all--this life. I realize this especially when my three-year-old stumps me with her questions.

It's hard to admit this (especially as I was once a Sunday school teacher myself!), but I need to go back and start with the ABCs of my religion and make sure I have a clear understanding of basic beliefs as well as practices. Not only that, if I want to pursuit the path of the most perfect women, my quest for knowledge can never end. As Prophet Muhammad (S) said: "Seeking knowledge is incumbent on every Muslim, male and female."

We can get a glimpse of the deep knowledge and understanding of one of our role models, Fatima (daughter of Muhammad (S),"the city of knowledge," and wife of Ali, "it's gate."), when we study her maid-servant Fizza. By living with Fatima, Fizza became so conversant with the Quran that for twenty years Fizza would reply to all questions with verses from the Holy Book!

Allah has repeatedly emphasized the importance of ilm, which usually translates into knowledge but means much more than that. It connotes knowledge, insight and social action, according to Dr. Sayyid Wahid Akhtar. (There are 704 Quranic verses related to ilm; aids of knowledge, such as book, pen, ink, etc. are mentioned in almost as many places, says Akhtar.)

When Prophet Muhammad (S) was asked: "What is knowledge?" He replied: "To keep silent." He was asked, "Then?" He said: "To listen attentively." He was asked, "Then?" He said, "To remember." He was asked, "Then?" He said: "To act upon (what is learned). He was asked, "Then?" He said: "To propagate."

But before we go hit the books, there's a caveat. Allah says in the Quran: "Then let man look at his food." (80:24) According to scholars, not only does this mean making sure our food is halal but also certifying that our sources of knowledge are pure, reliable and accurate.

With Islam and Muslims center stage in the world right now, there are all sorts of scholars, experts, media personalities and even bloggers with their own agendas telling us what to believe, think and do. We have to make sure we are tuned in to the ones calling us to God's way.

As scholar Abbas Ayleya says: "If a person gets deceived, that's a sign he's lacking taqwa (God-consciousness) and lacking knowledge of the religion and concepts of religion."

So as I get ready to prepare my youngest daughter for her kindergarten exam next year (I'm already getting palpitations!), I cannot neglect my own schooling, God willing.