THE New Straits Times is a paper that lauds knowledge. It has taken this stand for the last 174 years.
Islam has celebrated knowledge much longer. To be exact, for 1,440 years. This paper’s Leader today, in its small way, joins in the celebration.
Islam grants knowledge or ilm, as it is called in Arabic, a very high place in the scheme of things. It has been so since the creation of the first man.
Islam tells us that there are two types of knowledge: one is given, the other is sought. Both are important to fulfil the purpose of man on Earth.
The seeker must ready himself to receive this knowledge. In striving shall the glory of such men be.
So readied and armed, he can then make his journey back to his true home. It is for this reason Muslims place a high premium on seeking knowledge. In fact, a prophetic tradition enjoins Muslims to seek knowledge even if it is in China (this being a distant place then).
But not all acquisition of knowledge can be considered “education”. Dr Syed Muhammad Naquib Al-Attas tells us so in his tome Prologomena To The Metaphysics Of Islam. It must come activated with a moral purpose whose origin is in wisdom.
The Malaysian philosopher and religious scholar puts it thus: knowledge is the recognition of the proper places of things in the order of creation (adab), such that it leads to the recognition of the proper place of God in the order of being and existence.
This is knowledge properly so-called. But the road to the acquisition of such knowledge is filled with more than cobblestones.
There will be distractions, diversions and disturbance. Distress even. For the seeker and teacher. A place in paradise must be earned; it is not a birthright of any.
But we live in a world that is fast becoming secular; it is afraid of its own shadow. In such a world, religion is either in second place or no place.
The Arabic din, meaning religion, is treated as the English “din” in such a confused and confusing world.
Delirium rules. It is to this world that preacher Dr Zakir Naik has come. Our position is this: no one should stand in the way of one who wants to deliver the message of Islam.
After all, Islam is the official religion in Malaysia. Perhaps, the fault lies in the method. This can be mended. But the media cannot try him, just as they cannot try any other men. Neither can Zakir be sentenced before being tried justly in a proper court. Kangaroo courts are so stone age.
By no measure, he should be made to prove his innocence. No man should be placed in such a position. If we want a just world, we must act justly.
To Zakir, we say this: we have no problems with your message, sir, but please work on your method. The message is of Islam, one that is as old as 1,440 years.
Neither one can nor should quarrel about this message. After all, who among us wants not to be enlightened?