The adage that ignorance is bliss could not be farther from the truth when seriously put into practical application. Throughout the annals of time, what great accomplishments has ignorance made? What great empires and what marvels of science and technology now bear witness to ignorance's strength and power? That's right, none. Nothing of true worth is achieved without wisdom and knowledge.
It was with supreme knowledge that Allah Almighty laid the foundations of the heavens and the earth. It was with wisdom, knowledge and understanding that Hadhrat Sulaiman (Alaihis Salaam) ruled the greatest empire the world has ever known. Our own Prophet, Hadhrat Mohammad (Sall Allaho alaihe wasallam) told us that acquiring knowledge was a duty placed on each and every Muslim. But the knowledge of what and who, remains the question.
Many of us have used the above saying of the Holy Prophet (Sall Allaho alaihe wasallam), in order to send our sons and daughters to the finest universities to become doctors, lawyers and engineers. We use it to justify sending our children to private schools, because they supposedly have higher academic standing and prestige than ordinary Muslim schools. We say we are doing it, because the Holy Prophet (Sall Allaho alaihe wasallam) said to get knowledge, but is this the knowledge he was speaking about?
It is narrated by Hadhrat Abu Musa (Radhi Allaho anho) that the Holy Prophet (Sall Allaho alaihe wasallam) said: "The example of guidance and knowledge with which Allah has sent me is like abundant rain falling on the earth, some of which was fertile soil that absorbed rain-water and brought forth vegetation and grass in abundance. (And) another portion of it was hard and held the rain- water and Allah benefited the people with it and they utilised it for drinking, (making their animals drink from it) and to irrigate the land for cultivation. (And) a portion of it was barren, which could neither hold the water nor bring forth vegetation (then the land was of no benefit). The first is the example of the person who comprehends Allah's religion and gets benefit from the knowledge, which Allah has revealed through me and learns and then teaches it to others. The (last example is that of a) person who does not care for it and does not take Allah's Guidance revealed through me (He is like the barren land.)" (Bukhari)
Through the above narration, the Holy Prophet (Sall Allaho alaihe wasallam) is telling us of the superiority of religious knowledge. This is the knowledge that we should give priority to. All other knowledge will not be of benefit if we do not have this one. First and foremost, comes the knowledge of Allah. Knowing His names and His attributes. Knowing what is expected of us in regard to our servitude to Him, and what mutual rights exist between us.
Secondly, we should strive to know Allah's Book, the Holy Qur'aan. We should learn to read it in Arabic, if we don't already know how to do so. We should also be trying to memorise as much of it as possible, and stressing the importance of both of these things to our children. Reading the Holy Qur'aan should be something commonplace in every Muslim home, and is an activity that the whole family can, and should participate in.
Thirdly, we should know about Prophet Muhammad (Sall Allaho alaihe wasallam) and his Companions. It's by reading their stories that we learn of their bravery, love for the religion and their complete devotion to Allah. It's by knowing them that we grow to love them, and through loving them, we strive to become more and more like them. This is especially true, when most children nowadays want to be like Mike (Michael) or Janet Jackson or some other celebrity. They want to emulate these people, because they know so much about them. It then becomes increasingly important for us, Muslims, to introduce our children to our heroes. Who were braver in battle than Hadhrat Umar, Hadhrat Ali, Hadhrat Hamza and Hadhrat Khalid bin Waleed (Radhi Allaho anhuma); who was more wise and gentle than Hadhrat Abu Bakr (Radhi Allaho anho); and which women were more graceful and honourable than the wives of the Holy Prophet (Sall Allaho alaihe wasallam) were?
Yes, in these times of increasing technology and information superhighways, it is important to obtain secular knowledge. Also, as a nation, we do need doctors, lawyers and engineers. But we need people who are knowledgeable of their religion first and foremost. What good will it do us to have a nation of professional people who do not know how to make the salah, or to calculate the zakat, or how to perform Hajj? Knowledge is the key to success. It gives us the power to govern ourselves, our households, and ultimately our communities.