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Living The Quran

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From Issue: 1006 [Read full issue]

Knowledge Society
Al-Zumar (The Throngs) Sura 39: Verse 9 (partial)

"... how can those who know be equal to those who do not know? ..."

The Quran seeks to establish a society of 'those who know', a knowledge society, a society where reason and reflection, thought and learning, are not only valued but grounded in everyday reality. The situation in the Muslim world today, where science and learning are conspicuous by their almost total absence, where irrationality and fanaticism are the norms, indicates just how far many Muslims have deviated from the teachings of the Quran.

The world of faith that the Quran implies is one of reasoned argument among multiple points of view between Muslims as well as people of other faiths and no faith. Knowledge derives from seeking to transcend the limitations of our narrow perspectives. But knowledge like everything else has to be sought and exists within moral and ethical parameters. The search for knowledge can neither liberate nor exonerate us from careful consideration of consequences and risks, of the means and purpose by and for which it is sought.

The pursuit of knowledge is a basic requirement. However, that does not necessarily mean all enquiries, all techniques, all objectives for seeking knowledge are good or blameless in and of themselves. It is not merely that the search for knowledge needs to be conducted with humility, but we also have to recognise that ignorance is a constant companion of knowledge: our ignorance of the questions we do not ask. We need to appreciate the fact that as human knowledge has accumulated, so has our ignorance. The quest for knowledge is a challenge to seek to comprehend that which serves the purpose of achieving greater justice and equity for all, while accepting that however much we know, we remain limited, finite and fallible beings who do not know all. In a Quranic perspective, knowledge does not confer mastery and it always carries responsibilities and obligations to distinguish between what we can do and whether it ought to be done.

Compiled From:
"Reading the Qur'an: The Contemporary Relevance of the Sacred Text of Islam" - Ziauddin Sardar,  pp.253, 254

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