The notion of knowledge in Islam

Article author: FUNCI

Date of publication of the article: 15/03/2018

Year of publication: 2018

This is what the Quran and hadith say about knowledge or science (‘ilm). This term, rather than referring to learning capacities, refers to Knowledge with capital letter, as well as to wisdom.

The holy book of Islam constantly refers to the importance of reason and reflection to understand things and reach faith, raising them to the notion of Knowledge. This science or knowledge doesn’t only allow to differentiate between people, making them better, but also helping them to understand the Revelation, not always obvious or unveiled to everyone.

This is the reason it is so important to know the sources used in order to understand the principles of Islam: to know what to ask and to whom to ask. As even the Quran explains, these principles are sometimes subject to human interpretation and, thus, to error and even manipulation. Only the wise can provide answers based on justice and equity.

This is a small selection of Quranic verses and hadiths on this topic:

يَرْفَعُ اللهُ الَّذينَ آمَنوا مِنْكُمْ وَالَّذينَ أوتوا العِلْمَ دَراجاتٍ

58:(11) “God will raise up in rank those of you who believe and have been given knowledge.”

هُوَ الَّذِي أَنْزَلَ عَلَيْكَ الْكِتَابَ مِنْهُ آيَاتٌ مُحْكَمَاتٌ هُنَّ أُمُّ الْكِتَابِ وَأُخَرُ مُتَشَابِهَاتٌ ۖ فَأَمَّا الَّذِينَ فِي قُلُوبِهِمْ زَيْغٌ فَيَتَّبِعُونَ مَا تَشَابَهَ مِنْهُ ابْتِغَاءَ الْفِتْنَةِ وَابْتِغَاءَ تَأْوِيلِهِ ۗ وَمَا يَعْلَمُ تَأْوِيلَهُ إِلَّا اللَّهُ ۗ وَالرَّاسِخُونَ فِي الْعِلْمِ يَقُولُونَ آمَنَّا بِهِ كُلٌّ مِنْ عِنْدِ رَبِّنَا ۗ وَمَا يَذَّكَّرُ إِلَّا أُولُو الْأَلْبَابِ

3:(7) “It is He who has sent down to you, [O Muhammad], the Book; in it are verses [that are] precise – they are the foundation of the Book – and others unspecific. As for those in whose hearts is deviation [from truth], they will follow that of it which is unspecific, seeking discord and seeking an interpretation [suitable to them]. And no one knows its [true] interpretation except Allah. But those firm in knowledge say, “We believe in it. All [of it] is from our Lord.” And no one will be reminded except those of understanding.”

شَهِدَ اللَّهُ أَنَّهُ لَا إِلَٰهَ إِلَّا هُوَ وَالْمَلَائِكَةُ وَأُولُو الْعِلْمِ قَائِمًا بِالْقِسْطِ ۚ لَا إِلَٰهَ إِلَّا هُوَ الْعَزِيزُ الْحَكِيمُ

3:(18) “Allah witnesses that there is no deity except Him, and [so do] the angels and those of knowledge – [that He is] maintaining [creation] in justice. There is no deity except Him, the Exalted in Might, the Wise.”

قُلْ هَلْ يَسْتَوي الَّذينَ يَعْلَمونَ وَالَّذينَ لا يَعْلَمونَ

39:(9) “Say: ‘Are they equal — those who know and those who know not?’”

وَتِلْكَ الأَمْثالُ نَضْرِبُها لِلنّاسِ وَما يَعْقِلُها إلاّ العالِمونَ

29:(43) “And those similitudes — We strike them for the people, but none understands them save those who know.”

Hadiths and knowledge

This hadiths, or actions and words of the Prophet, also refer to knowledge.

العُلَماءُ وَرَثةُ الأَنْبِياءِ

“The learned are the heirs of the Prophets.”

العالِمُ أَمينُ اللهِ في الأَرْضِ

“The learned are the Guardians of Allah on Earth.”