Islam, May 1993

Importance of Knowledge, Science and Technology

Halil Necatioglu

Islam gives such a great importance to knowledge that the scholars and teachers are the "crowns on our heads." It instills such great love of knowledge that it made a prominent scholar of Islam say: "I would be a slave of a person who teaches me a letter." Ali ibn Abu Talib -- may Allah be pleased with him -- was willing to be a slave for learning only a letter, not a degree or entire subject matter of a particular topic. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) instructed us: "Seek knowledge even if it is in China." While the sources of the spiritual knowledge and wisdom were in Mecca and Madina, this hadith indicates that Muslims must also study science and technology.

Learning all branches of science and technology is fard kifaya, that is, there must be at least one Muslim in each branch. If there is no Muslim scientist or researcher in a field of science and technology, the whole Muslim Ummah will be responsible in the hereafter for the negligence. Hence, we must get involved in every area of science and technology and do active research at the leading edge of the fields.

The knowledge is classified into two categories: "High" knowledge and "instrumental" knowledge. The former includes the spiritual knowledge, Islamic Sciences and all knowledge leading to earning the pleasure of God and the paradise. The latter includes all other sciences that help one obtain the former.

Verily, the highest knowledge is Ma'rifatullah, the knowledge and recognition of Allah. However, this does not diminish the importance of the knowledge pertaining to this world. The bitter events Muslims have been experiencing prove that the negligence of the knowledge about this world, science and technology leads to catastrophic disasters, losses, great pain and oppression in this world and in the hereafter. For this reason, regardless of whether it is related to this world or to the hereafter, all knowledge is important and desirable to us.

Each and everyone of us must be well educated and well versed in our specialization field. We must be able to compete in the world market and play for the world championship in our fields. Each one of us must follow the professional publications and journals which could be found in university libraries. We must keep aside a time period -- few hours every day or a day every week -- to study the leading edge of the science and technology and update and increase our knowledge.

A book becomes "old" soon after its publication. It gives "classical" information that has been critiqued and discussed. It does not include the newest topics. The latest developments in all fields can only be found in professional journals. Without following these journals, one has little chance to excel and become an authority in his field. Obtain copies of the professional publications by your professional organization for your library.

To excel in a scientific or technological field, we have to be in touch with our colleagues and experts in that field. Even if our life styles and beliefs differ, we must communicate with them because the knowledge has no geographical bounds or ownership. We must keep a good professional relationship with experts in our scientific fields.

Try using the best means to do your job, and try to complete it the best way possible. Learn how to use computers and use them. Computers can classify, store, access, and display volumes of information in a short time. With a computer, you can access to various networks, data banks and libraries in various parts of the world and bring the information to your screen in the luxury of your home or office. This is great! Now, you may not have to worry about the libraries closing at 5:00 p.m. anymore; you can have all you need on your computer monitor at home.

To be able to take advantage of what the science and technology has to offer, one has to know a foreign language. Fluency in a foreign language is a must. Besides, how are you going to convey the message of Islam to non-Muslims without speaking their language?

In summary, all fields of knowledge are valuable to us, and each and everyone of us must try his best in seeking knowledge. Our researchers and scientists must be at the leading edge of their fields. The scientific methods and advanced technical tools must be utilized in every task that needs to be completed. We should give utmost importance to the knowledge, science and technology.

May Allah (Subhanahu wa Ta'ala) guide us to good deeds. May He give us the opportunity to be helpful to the Muslim Ummah. May He reward us with His Beauty in Paradise. Amen!