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By Dr Adalat Khan

Knowledge is power and its acquisition makes people powerful. That is why Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said that “Seek knowledge from the Cradle to the Grave ” and “The acquisition of knowledge is compulsory for every Muslim, whether male or female”. The Holy Quran also glorifies knowledge acquisition through the verse “…Say: ‘Are those equal, those who know and those who do not know? It is those who are endowed with understanding that receive admonition.’” (Quran, 39:9) Prophetic Hadiths and Quranic wisdom clearly supports the acquisition of knowledge and as such it is the right of every Muslim Man and Woman to acquire it. However regrettably one of the leaders of a political movement in Swat from where I also hail, has started a crusade against female education. According to him girls education breeds obscenity and vulgarity and as such he has started propagation against it. I am sure no Muslim including Pukhtoons will tolerate or allow vulgarity and obscenity. I am also sure that they will also not allow others to take away the birth right of their children be they male or female to discard knowledge as in the world we live today knowledge and education is an ornament of wisdom, decency, and progress. History is full of many examples where the rise and fall of great civilization coincided with the rise and fall of the knowledge of the people. At the peak of its glory which is usually called as golden age of Islam, acquisition of knowledge both religious and scientific was also at its peak. In Baghdad, Cordoba, great libraries were set up where scientific, medical and mathematics books were kept along with religious ones. This was the time when the Islamic Civilization was flowering and leading in the acquisition and dispersal of knowledge while other cultures especially the European Christians were wallowing in superstition and ignorance of the medieval age. Science was regarded as black magic by Christians and only a few Christian clerics studied it and those who did were considered as heretics and were even burnt at the stakes or excommunicated. Muslims rose to the height of civilisation because of the importance the Muslims of that time attached to learning and knowledge. For more than 1,000 years the Islamic Civilisation remained the most advanced and progressive in the world. This is because Islam stressed the importance of and held great respect for learning and extensively promoted the learning culture. Muslims recognised excellence and hungered intellectually because the teachings of the Qur’an and Sunnah drove many Muslims to their accomplishment in all disciplines of knowledge.
During those glorious days in Spain, Christians and Jews spoke Arabic and were connoisseurs of Arabic literature and poetry. Seeing the progress and glory of Muslims in Spain and elsewhere the European Christians specially the French made great efforts to acquire access to the reservoir of knowledge in the great libraries of Al-andalus, particularly in Cardoba and Toledo. Extensive efforts were made to translate many of the Arabic texts including Quran to Latin. This ultimately played a catalytic role in the progress of the Western civilization. Ironically the demise of the Great Islamic Civilization is also traced to the fact when some dangerous movements which discouraged people from acquiring knowledge started among Muslims. The ascendancy of Al-Murabitun and the Al-Mohabidun movements initiated by some North Africans which postulated that non-religious knowledge should not be acquired by Muslims proved to be a turning point in Islamic history. For Muslims it was the start of the decline of the days of its glory in Spain as they lost Spain to Christians after ruling it for 800 years being given the choice of either converting to Christianity or expulsion to North Africa or death. The decline of Muslim glory coincided with the renaissance of Europe as it fully deployed the knowledge gained from the Arabic texts. This short history itself emphasizes how great civilizations and their people can perish if they do not keep continuous acquisition of knowledge and learning. The birth of new business giants like Microsoft, Netscape and Apple computer during the recent past have proved the point that knowledge is power and those who possess it can create great business entities. This trend has changed the conventional business wisdom where capital, land and labour were considered to be the necessary ingredients for starting and sustaining businesses. Today, knowledge has become the key determinant for business survival and growth. Those who acquire and continuously improve it can stay in business and those who don’t’, must say good bye to the business world. Politically too only those nations are strong who have acquired knowledge and technology and the capacity to protect themselves and at will harms those who do not obey them. Today the Muslim Ummah is at its weakest because for knowledge and technology we depend on others. Unless and until both the Muslim men and the women acquire knowledge we will remain as a helpless people. People whose country can be attacked and occupied, people whose religion can be ridiculed and demonised and people who would not be fit to live in this and coming centuries. Acquire we must both knowledge about Islam and the latest knowledge about science, technology, business, arts and other useful fields. As according to Tun Dr. Mahathir Muhammad the ex prime minister of Malaysia “ The religious Muslims must study science adequately and the Muslim scientist must study the fundamentals of the religion in order to save themselves and the word from the arrogance of partially knowledgeable or partially ignorant". Equating the acquisition of knowledge as vulgarity or obscenity either by men or woman is against the very tenets of Islam and both the general public, religious scholars, and the government must thwart the destructive propaganda against education acquisition by any quarter. Our brother and sisters who acquire education must also ensure that after acquiring knowledge through their actions and character they display such exemplary traits that the opposition to knowledge becomes a history. Educated girls and boys must become the beacon of knowledge and display such high degree of decency, modesty, good character and true Muslim traits that everyone including our half knowledgeable religious politicians start promoting rather discouraging the acquisition of knowledge either by male or female. In the new world, the Muslims men and women with his/her faith and Islamic knowledge as well as other well-rounded knowledge must show the way; the way to a religiously and morally upright, materially wealthy and deeply knowledgeable world. Only then we as the agents of Allah in this world would have performed our duties.Dr Adalat Khan can be reached at

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