Islam Gave the World Monotheism and Education

Sep 26, 2008

Ever since, much of the history of the world has been a history of the unfolding and advancing of the Qur’an in much of the world: in Arabia; in Syria, Egypt and Mesopotamia; in what later was to become Spain and a cultural capital and political, commercial and economic powerhouse in Europe and the world; in Italy; in Hungary; in India; in Prague; in France; in China; in Russia and elsewhere.

Ever since, it has really been a saga of the world learning to react to, deal with and adjust and adapt to the Qur’an – to the teachings and messages of the Qur’an as well as to the methods and approaches of the Qur’an.

Ever since, the Qur’an has stood at the center of events around the world. Ever since, as journalists would say, Qur’an has been news and headline news at that.

And ever since, it has been, in more ways than we have time here to recount, a story of the world catching up to the Qur’an – to its teachings, principles, precepts, mores, norms, ideals, methods, approaches and practices.

That means the world that took shape after the revelation of the Qur’an to the Prophet, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, is a world created in the image of the Qur’an.

That is the long and short of the story. There is no escaping this fact, no matter how you look at it.

A World in the Image of the Qur’an

That means we can argue all we want, we can fight all we want, we can disagree all we want, but the conclusion that repeatedly, inescapably and indelibly imposes its imprint on our consciousness is this: The post-Prophet, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, world is a world shaped largely and significantly in the image of the Qur’an.

Let me illustrate this by providing two examples – no more than two examples. Each one of these two illustrations is as simple and clear, as it is powerful and decisive.

Together these two examples cover two of the most important, most pervasive and most influential aspects or areas of human life.

  1. One is what people call “religion.”
  2. The other is education.

The word religion is a rather misunderstood and misused expression in the English language. Everybody uses it but not too many people seem to know what it really stands for.

But when it is applied to Islam, it is a total misnomer – nothing short of a disaster I should say. For, Islam is anything but a “religion” in the way the world understands and uses that expression.

Still, the historic fact is that “religion” is one aspect of human life that Islam totally transformed. Islam put the stamp of the Qur’an on religion and brought it closer to what it should be from a Qur’anic point of view.

As for education, we may not right now appear to be so, but we are the ultimate “education people” of the world. Even though present Muslim reality may belie this assertion but we have reason to proclaim to the world: Education Is Us!

Our current pathetic and deplorable condition not withstanding, we totally changed the way the world looked at education. We made education Qur’anic in its content, scope and application.

“Religion”: A Great Misnomer

I usually put the word religion in quotation marks – “religion.” There is a reason for that.

In the olden days, when the world used the expression religion, it meant some specific things. Everybody in the world understood it to mean certain specific things.

For example, religion had traditionally meant the division of human life – and the world – into sacred and secular, with the secular part of life being controlled by kings and tribal leaders and the sacred part of life being controlled by priests and the magic men.

One was “holy” and the other not so.

Life, the world, people, books, objects, acts and pretty much everything else was subjected to this division that I am here today so direly tempted to call “unholy.”

It was a practical mechanism that the world had developed for two competing kinds of aspirants to power and control over the lives, minds and souls of humans to co-exist in tolerable accommodation and adjustment in the same society. It was a mechanism for them – this division of the “holy” and what I call the “unholy” – to divide up, conquer, rule and exploit the world and its people together.

Religion” was thus the prerogative of the priestly classes, of the lords and princes of the church – of the clergy – while the rest of the realm was under the authority of the royalty and the nobility – the kings, the lords, the barons and the nobles.

Religion” thus became a set of “holy” rites, rituals and sacraments that needed “holy” men for their performance on “holy” occasions, in “holy” ways, using “holy” objects such as sacred water or fire, in “holy” places such as a temple or an altar using readings and chanting from the “holy” scripture.

That is what “Religion” meant to most people before Islam.

This represented a nice, neat and highly functional divvying up of the world of Allah, and the life of human beings, into two unequal parts – with the giant-size part going to kings, nobles and princes of the realm and the pint-size part going to the priests and the hierarchy of holy men – the lords, nobles and princes of the church.

This was the fractured and confused world upon which the Qur’an descended from heaven. The Qur’an came to set the world free from this artificial, unfair and unfortunate dichotomy of the sacred and the secular. And it came to set humanity free from the clutches and control of kings and nobles on the one hand and of the clergy and holy men on the other hand.

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