Seeking knowledge in Islam
Sayyed Fadlullah: We feel disgraceful when we read in the newspapers that the Arab world is one of the least reading peoples, since it means that it has reached the bottom or the civilization ladder.
To rectify such a state of affairs, we should mobilize all our efforts to encourage the members of the nation to read and learn about the experiences of others including those of the enemies and especially the Zionist experience in Palestine and its effects on the region and the world
Asked in his weekly seminar the following question:
How does Islam view the significance of reading?
The Religious Authority, Sayyed Muhammad Hussein
Fadlullah, said That the first verse that was revealed to the Prophet(p.)
was His saying: "Read" is a clear proof of the significance Islam
associates to reading as a way of acquiring knowledge that takes the
nation from the darkness of ignorance to the light of science.
In this respect, Islam was able, through the
methodology it established for reading, to move the illiterate nation
(The Jahiliya Arabs) to a civilized one that played an undeniable role in
the progress and civilization of mankind.
It also contributed in founding the pillars of modern
civilizations. And this fact was acknowledged by many international
leaders and thinkers including Jawaharlal Nehru who describes the Islamic
civilization as the mother of modern civilizations.
The Arabs and Muslims reached this position only
because they had a profound conception of reading that did not encourage
isolation and arrogance. It was an understanding that opened up on what
the others produce and adopted a humble approach to science regardless of
its sources. This conscious understanding of the cultural, intellectual
and scientific dimensions of reading is the major component that led to
the spread of Islam in the world. The Persians, for example, did not
abandon their great cultural heritage to adopt Islam as a result of
force. They did so because they found in Islam a religion that opens up
on the issues of this world and the Hereafter.
We are convinced that civilization was born through
reading, in the larger sense of the word that opens up on man universe
and life, and not on the conception of reading and science that is
reduced to the religious text and the neglect of studying life and the
universe. Such a wrong approach towards the concept of science glorifies
the theoretical and the religious sciences at the expense of the
practical sciences. And this led to the decline of the nation, which
became dependent on other nations in all its scientific needs. The nation
which God wanted to be the best nation and which the first verse in its
Book is "read" became, as the latest surveys indicate, the most ignorant
and the least reading nation.
We feel disgraceful when we read in the newspapers
that the Arab world is one of the least reading peoples, since it means
that it has reached the bottom or the civilization ladder.
To rectify such a state of affairs, we should mobilize
all our efforts to encourage the members of the nation to read and learn
about the experiences of others including that of the enemies, especially
the Zionist experience in Palestine and its effects on the region and the
We should also stay away from the misleading and
superficial culture that addresses the instincts, and tries to steel our
youth and make them focus on subjective trivial formalities that deepen
the instinctual aspect, at the expense of values and the broader
This problem in reading has been reflected in the
rhetoric, which is, in one way or another, a product of the culture. Any
decrease in the cultural level of any nation would lead to a decrease in
the level of the rhetoric. That is why we find our Islamic and Arab
rhetoric has turned into an emotional one that does not address the
nation's problems. Religion itself is no longer an effective civilized
element, since we have implicated it in our emotional mazes and our
tunnel of myths and legends. We have erected a wall of backwardness
between religion and science posing it as an enemy of science, and
forgetting that it urged for "seeking knowledge from birth to death" as
Muhammad (P.) has advised us.
Yet the problem is not only structural; it is also
formal, We can see this in some of the phenomena that invaded our lives.
it is not sufficient ,for example, that a city announces itself a
cultural capital without presenting a practical program to activate the
reading and the cultural movement in the city to become one.
I believe that the media, publicity and parading
facets have dominating our cultural life as it dominated our political
one, and that we have turned to be more concerned with the superficial
aspects of things at the expense of their content.
I call for an attentive reading that will lead us to a
sober and mindful criticism, which I consider as one of the major pillars
that can contribute to the return of the nation to its civilized and
scientific tracků We have to review our heritage to study it carefully so
as to eliminate the flaws that were added to it and clear the mines that
were implanted in it. We have also to develop the study centers that
could make us learn about our enemy's weak and strong points. Moreover,
exploring the universe and knowing its secrets is a task, which we are
entrusted with even before others.
We have to read the contemporary reality and try to
forecast the future regarding the movements of the states and the planned
projects for the region, as well as the change in the political sphere
between one stage and another, because we feel that there is a big danger
in that Israel has started to draw its future along the lines of the
plans it developed to accompany the changes in the region. Meanwhile, we
as a nation are drowning in our sectarian strife, and competing for the
shares the American arrogance will give us here and there. We are not
trying to draw our future us a nation, or even sit once to discuss in a
frank manner how can we build our nation or our countries, and not our
sectarian projects that are more like the castles built by the children
on the seashore, which would be soon be swept away by the waves.