Imam Al-Ghazali’s Concept of Education
Imam al-Ghazali is one of the greatest reformers Islam has produced. His multifaceted service for Din has been acclaimed by the academia through centuries. One of his masterpieces is the Ihya Ulum al-Din (the regeneration of sciences). ‘Ulama say that, should all the books on different disciplines be burnt out, this book is sufficient to recreate them. One of the most appealing topics of this book is the chapter on Knowledge, where the great Imam shed light as to what is knowledge.
He has divided knowledge into two parts:
Religious knowledge (Ilm al-‘Áliyah’ ), and secular (or instrumental) knowledge (Ilm al-Áliyah). The former is acquired from the Qur’an and Sunnah. It is the most dignified knowledge and it is without doubt. The second type of knowledge is needed to enhance the understanding of the former since it was a revelation. Imam al-Ghazali subdivided the secular subjects into three subcategories:
Beneficial knowledge: This encapsulates those sciences that will benefit society and helps it to progress, e.g. medical knowledge and mathematics. Accordingly, the acquisition of these sciences and disciplines is Fard al-Kifayyah, i.e. if nobody acquires it, then the entire Muslim community of a particular locality will be sinful.
Neutral Knowledge: This category encapsulates those disciplines that will not really enhance one’s beneficial knowledge but there is nothing wrong if they are studied, e.g. the history of England.
Harmful Knowledge: This category comprises of those disciplines which are harmful, such as black magic and gambling. It is therefore, haram to acquire such knowledge.
In the light of the above, one must be obliged to be careful and be responsible in selecting his career. There are many fields that Muslims must take the lead. It is thus important to focus on these disciplines, and parents should ensure that their children study in the proper environment and with the right Islamic mindset in order to obtain the optimum result. Also it is incumbent for a person to learn the Islamic side of the field he is in.
Article Written by Shaikh Faizal Manjoo ©
Hadith: The Prophet (saw) said: “The acquisition of knowledge is compulsory upon every Muslim”.
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(Taken from Madrassah Ubay Bin Ka’ab (2 Overton Road, Leicester) Issue No:1)
(Btw permission was granted to post this article on sunniforum)