In the name of God, the Most Gracious, the Beneficent,
“Read in the name of your Master Who created! He created human beings dependent on each other. Read! Your Master is the Most Bountiful. He taught (to wrıte) wıth the pen; taught man what he did not know.” (Al-‘Alaq 96/1-5)
“Demanding knowledge is an obligation (fard) upon every muslim.” (Sunan Ibn Majah 219)
When we say the word “read”, the first thing which comes to our mind is the vocalization of the letters and symbols which compose an article and to grasp the idea behind it; that is to learn the idea which the article wants to convey to us. Most of us, when we say the word “read” perceive it as undertaking education in institutions such as primary schools, high schools, or universities. In reality, reading has a broader meaning. According to the Institute of the Turkish Language Dictionary, reading also means “through some indications, understanding and grasping a point, some information which is not mentioned in a text or an idea behind an issue.” For example, even though you don’t put your anger into words against your friend, it could be read from your facial expression. The doctors may diagnose your illness based on the symptoms of your body. If you compile the pieces of the information about a matter and evaluate it as a whole, you may comprehend the causes and effects of the incidents. This type of approach will benefit you from a wider perspective.
As we stated from the verses previously, the first order of our Holy Book is “Read in the name of your Master Who created you.” Have you ever thought about how you would implement this order? Do reading hundreds of books suffice to fulfill this order? Otherwise, does Allah order us to do something else? What does this order mean for someone who didn’t learn to read or go to school at all? Just thinking about the response to this question clearly proves that the word “read” in this verse does not mean reading several books but as it is mentioned before it means “through some indications, understanding and grasping a point, some information which is not mentioned in a text or an idea behind an issue.” To be able to do that, firstly we should compile information about whatever we are interested in. The school will provide us with most of this kind of information. We may obtain the rest of the information through our own research and observations. When we bring all this information together then we may come to a conclusion that will fulfill the meaning of the word “read”. As a matter of fact, in Arabic the word “read” in this verse means to compile information.
So school is a place where we may compile most of the information which is needed throughout our lives. However, just compiling, or in other words memorizing this information is useless unless we combine it with our own research and observations to solve the problems which we face throughout our lives. Let me give you an example: A tile setter wants to place some decorative tiles between the plain tiles to create a design in a bathroom for his customer. If this tile setter has geometrical knowledge, he can easily calculate where to start placing the decorative tiles and the spaces between them for a given area. There would be a big difference in the craftsmanship between a tile setter who has that knowledge and the one who does not. The one who combines his geometrical knowledge which he learned in school with his technical skills would be more successful than the other.
That’s why you should value the knowledge which you learn in school and think about where and when to use it in your life. However, do not limit yourself to what you learn at school. Continue with your own research and observations in every part of your life. As it is stated in the hadith which we mentioned in the beginning of our sermon (khutbah) “Demanding knowledge is an obligation (fard) upon every Muslim.”
By A. Zeynep Donmez – Ozlem Ata Translated from Turkish by Yilmaz Kaso A chapter from the book of ‘Friday of the Youth” Sydney, AUSTRALIA