Educators should be wise and responsible and underscored the critical role of a religious educator. To be such an educator, one has to comprehend the basis of the philosophy of “Iqra’” which mean “Read”– the first revelation from Allah to our beloved Messenger, Prophet Muhammad. Allah says:
Meaning: “Recite in the name of your Lord who created – Created man from a clinging substance. Recite, and your Lord is the most Generous; Who taught by the pen; Taught man that which he knew not.” [Al-Quran, surah Al-‘Alaq, verse 1-5]
The commands to read, or Iqra’, was not meant solely for Prophet Muhammad but is also a continuous command to all humankind. This is because the essence of this noble command is the key to one’s happiness and success in this world and the hereafter.
If we study the opinions of experts in the Arabic language, we will find that their discussions on the meaning of Iqra’ is extensive and deep. It does not only mean “read”. The word has hidden meanings that can bring about positive effects to humankind. The command to read inspires every educator and teacher to continue to read, study, comprehend, explore its characteristics, and continue to pass it on. These early verses aim to remind us that when a Muslim reads any material, he has to read responsibly. This includes ensuring that whatever he reads is accurate and true to the source of the information as much as possible.
Furthermore, he should read in detail and examine if what he reads is truly beneficial, or otherwise. A believer (Mukmin) who reads for the sake of Allah, will not simply accept and believe news or information that reaches him without a comprehensive assessment of the material. For example, we may receive information via Whatsapp regarding food items, ingredients or products which are claimed to be haram. Sadly, there are many who often rush to forward such information to others without verifying its authenticity. What is more worrying is when it causes mass confusion, doubts (was-was) and misunderstanding. Such a trait does not correspond to the principle of knowledge, which requires one to study and be responsible for acquiring and spreading knowledge or information.
Besides that, the aforementioned Quranic verses also remind us that knowledge that we gain by reading books and papers should be enriched by studying its positive and negative effects, as well as the maslahah (greater good) towards mankind. For example, we know that many ulama or scholars have agreed that smoking is a habit that should be avoided seeing that it causes harm to the health of the individual as well as those around him. However, how do we deliver such religious advice?
We need to take into account the situation of an individual. Has he tried to throw away the habit for years, but still fail miserably? Or has he just returned to the right path, and is slowly living his life the Islamic way? Thus, he would have more important and critical things to learn and embrace. Hence, in trying to achieve a maslahah, do not neglect the maslahah of the individual who is working towards change and goodness. Based on this spirit of iqra’, we have witnessed and continue to witness, the persistence of the ulama in their continuous efforts to seek knowledge.
Knowledge or ‘ilm is something that is noble and extremely valuable. It cannot be acquired through shortcuts. Knowledge requires effort, diligence and a deep level of understanding. Rasulullah said,
Which means: “Ulama are the heirs of prophets, and prophets left no Dinar or Dirham but they left knowledge and anyone who takes from it will have inherited a great legacy.” [Hadith reported by Imam Tirmidzi].
This is why we read many stories on the diligence of the ulama in seeking and delving deeper into the search for knowledge. Observe the diligence of Imam Ibn Al-Mubarak. Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal said, “No one else during the time of Ibnul Mubarak was more diligent in seeking knowledge than him. He went to Yemen, Egypt, Syam, Basrah and Kuffah. He was among those who passed the knowledge and was perfect for it. He studied from the old and the young.”
Therefore, do not make the religious information that we obtain from the Internet, books, social media applications and so on, be the only methods of obtaining knowledge. If we truly want to acquire knowledge, there are several rules we need to observe. As mentioned by Imam As-Syafie:
“My brother, knowledge cannot be obtained except by these six ways and I will tell you the details: (1) intelligence, (2) zeal, (3) determination, (4) having sufficient means, (5) befriending (studying from) a teacher who can guide you, (6) a lengthy period of time.”
Hence as Muslims, we have to work hard to be a community that reads, thinks, and strive to dignify itself and develop future civilization for the benefit of future generations.
May Allah grant us opportunities and open the paths that will lead us to attain His pleasure in this world and the hereafter.