The true meaning of Islam, where knowledge is part of ibadah

The practice and observance of Islam has been circumscribed mainly to deal with the Hereafter, focusing on rituals, rather than engage in its substance.

This is evident from the numerous preachers and ulama exhorting the technicality of prayers and doa on television and social media as the main medium of submission to Allah. It reflects their emphasis on such matters in Islam.

But during the Islamic renaissance, scholars and ulama had a wide spectrum of knowledge – of philosophy, science, sociology, astronomy, and medicine/healing.

Submission to Allah then was not merely through rituals and the recitation of the Quran, but through the learning and practice of various forms of knowledge that reflects God’s creation.

Such a mindset augured well for creative thinking and the exploration of ideas, as well as reflecting on the breadth of knowledge that forms the basis of existence.

In exercising these critical faculties, Muslims were able to develop treaties, manuscripts, and compendiums on philosophy, economics, metaphysics, and other facets of knowledge. They were pioneers in medicine, mathematics, philosophy, and metaphysics, among others. Thus, the golden age of Islam.

But today, Islam has been reduced to the mere observance of rituals, bereft of the creative and critical exploration of knowledge of God’s creation that celebrates His omnipotence, omniscience, and munificence.

The current crop of preachers, religious scholars and ulama, by virtue of merely focusing on rituals submission, neglected the communal precept of Islam that involves governance, economics, social interactions, education, and various other precepts of knowledge that are also a part of ibadah or worship.

It is simply because these preachers and ulama are only knowledgeable in the ritualistic aspects of ibadah and do not have the expertise in the other areas of knowledge to present the totality of the Islamic universe.

Thus, they are unable to take up the challenge of expanding the Muslim mind to be inquisitive, and explore the many facets and manifestations of knowledge.

Consequently, these preachers and ulama label knowledge, other than religious knowledge, as secular, when in fact, there is no such classification. All knowledge emanates from God, and learning them is worship, to improve oneself and better the lives of the ummah by implementing and applying the knowledge for the benefit of the community.

These preachers ignore the larger connotation of Tawheed as the emancipation of the mind, body, and soul, but instead, focus on rituals. Even then, they embellish these rituals with unnecessary stipulations that complicate the simplicity of practicing Islam.

It has, therefore, caused the myopia of the Muslim mind to focus on the ritual submission and the Hereafter , instead of using God-given critical faculties to engage the vistas of knowledge to achieve a meaningful life that is guided by the precept of the Quran and Sunnah.

As such, most of the common Muslim folks who only practice the required ritual of prayers, reading the Quran, reciting doa without really understanding them, except those who take the trouble to read the translations as well, are easily taken in by the preachers who flaunt their sermons with quotes of Quranic verses.

Everything that is preached is taken as gospel as they do not have the knowledge to assess the veracity of the statements, and thus, become lost in the melange of sermonic inconsistencies.

This closet mind of the Malays, due to their lack of religious knowledge, is easily manipulated by politicians in the guise of religious preachers, scholars, and teachers, quoting Quranic verses to be submissive to them, and to stoke fear and animosity towards non-Muslims, while promoting themselves as the saviour of Islam.

Therefore, there is a critical need for a proper and intellectually inspired religious education that not only teaches the theological aspects of Islam, but also the wider spectrum of Islamic knowledge, ranging from science, economics, philosophy, jurisprudence, and history, as well as the learning of the Arabic language to better understand the meaning and nuances of the Quran.

An informed ummah augurs well for promoting the universality of Islam as a religion of peace and tolerance that is progressive in promoting both the earthly life, and the Hereafter .

This is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily represent the views of Twentytwo13.