By Ahsan Jafri, New Age Islam
19 January 2017
The Quran (49:13) says:
Mankind! We have created you from a male and female, and made you into peoples and tribes, so that you might come to know each other.
From this Quranic verse we can appreciate the importance that Islam stresses on acquiring knowledge—human diversity, our being created in the form of diverse ‘peoples and tribes’, itself being for the purpose of acquiring knowledge of each other.
Abu Huraira, a Companion of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) is reported to have said:
The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “The wise saying is the lost property of the believer, so wherever he finds it then he has a right to it.”
(Source: Sunan At-Tirmidhi)
This report is also translated as:
Abu Huraira reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him, said, “The statement of wisdom is the lost property of the believer, so wherever he finds it then he is more deserving of it.”
This report, too, underlines the importance that Islam pays to acquiring knowledge—here in the form of wisdom.
A wise word is the heritage of the whole of humankind. One should acquire wisdom wherever it is found. You should be open to acquiring wisdom from people of other faiths and cultures too, for any truth, no matter where it is found, is from God.
The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) is reported to have said that one should seek knowledge even if for that one has to go to China. Islam was born in Arabia, and if the intent behind this statement was that one can only gain knowledge from one’s own sacred books, the Prophet would not have talked about travelling all the way to China—a very distant land with no connection to Islam during that time—in order to gain knowledge. This clearly means that one should be open to learning new things from anyone irrespective of culture, race or religion.
This openness to learning good things from others, including people of other faiths, can be reinforced when we remember that according to Islam, God has sent prophets to all peoples and during all times. This means that their holy books were also the Word of God itself—the Bible being a notable example. Also, followers of Islam have been asked to respect all the Holy Books and all the prophets, which makes it incumbent on them to learn about other religions and respect them.
The purpose of gaining this knowledge is to know God, since God created this world and everything inside it for us to explore and make use of.We need to reflection on the creation of the world and the purpose of our creation in order to understand and know and love our Creator, who has created all of us and has taught us everything. He created us and distributed us in the form of different people and tribes, and He expects us to learn from each other, to live with each other in harmony, and to love each other. Only through loving His creation can we love God and appreciate all that He has done.
One should not look at who is saying something but what is he saying. One should be open to learn and gain beneficial knowledge from anywhere and anyone.One great source of learning is Nature.There is an immense treasure of wisdom that we can acquire from it. Aircraft were invented when humans saw the birds fly. Gravity was discovered by Newton when he observed an apple falling down from a tree. There are umpteen examples where the human race has invented new things by observing nature and learning from other living beings (including animals and plants) as well as inanimate things.
Of course there a great many things we can learn from fellow human beings, too. Every person is unique, and there is always something good to learn from our interactions with each other. Here there is no barrier of caste, religion, gender, community, nation and race. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) is reported to have said: “God created Adam in His image”.The more we learn, including from each other, the more we can grow to appreciate our Creator Who has created all of us human beings in His image.
Ahsan Jafri is an IT Professional working in Bangalore with a deep interest in Sufism and Interfaith Relations. He is connected with the Chishti and Qadri branches of Sufism.