Islam is knowledge itself. Many chapters of the Qur'an al-karim enjoin seeking knowledge and praise men of knowledge. For example, the ninth verse of Chapter Zumar declares: "Are those who know, to be considered equal with those who do not know? Truly, men of understanding will take heed more."
Our Prophet's (sall-Allahu alaihi wa sallam) utterances praising and encouraging knowledge are so plentiful and so well known that even non-Muslims know of them.
For example, while describing the virtues of knowledge, the books Ihya al-'Ulum and Mawduat al-'Ulum quote the Hadith ash-Sharif: "Go and get knowledge even if it is in China?" which means: "Go and learn even if knowledge is in the farthest place in the world and even if possessed by disbelievers! Another Hadith ash-Sharif declares: "Work and learn from the cradle to the grave!" That is, even an old man of eighty who has one foot in the grave has to work. His learning is an act of worship. Another Hadith ash-Sharif declares: Work for the next world as if you were to die tomorrow, and work for this world as if you were never going to die." And another Hadith ash-Sharif: "Little worship done with understanding is better than much worship done with ignorance." And yet another Hadith ash-Sharif states:
"Satan fears a savant more than he does a thousand devoted worshippers who are uneducated."
In Islam a woman cannot go and perform supererogatory hajj (pilgrimage) without her husband's permission. Nor can she travel or visit others. But if her husband does not teach her Islam or allow her to study Islam she may go and study it without his permission. As it is seen, while it is sinful for her to go on hajj without his permission though it is a great act of worship loved by Allahu ta'ala, it is not sinful for her to go out seeking knowledge without his permission.
Here is another Hadith ash-Sharif in which our Prophet (sall-Allahu 'alaihi wa-sallam) commands us to learn: "Islam is where knowledge is; disbelief is where knowledge is absent." First, every Muslim has to learn his religion and then the secular sciences.
Nor can it be asserted that Islam is hostile to science. Science means, "observing creatures and events, studying on them so as to understand, and doing experiments to make the same." All these three are commanded by the Qur'an al-Karim. In fact, all these three are the things which Islam commands. That is, our religion commands us to learn scientific knowledge. In many places of the Qur'an al- karim, we are commanded to see and observe nature, that is, all creatures, living and lifeless beings. One day his Ashab al-kiram 'alaihim-ur-ridwan' asked our Prophet, "Some of us who have been to Yaman saw that they budded the date trees in a different way and got better dates. Shall we bud our trees in Medina as our fathers have been doing or as we have seen them do in Yaman, thus getting better and more plentiful dates?" Rasulullah could have answered them, "Wait a bit! When Hadrat Jabrail (Gabriel) comes, I will ask him and tell you what I learn," or "I must think for a while; when Allahu ta'ala lets my heart know the truth, I will tell you." He didn't. Instead, he said, "Try it! Bud some of the trees with your father's method, and others with the method you saw being used in Yaman! Then always use the method which gives better dates!" In other words, he commanded us to experiment and to rely on experimentation, which is the basis of science. He could have learned it from the angel or no doubt, it might have materialized in his blessed heart. But he pointed out that all over the world Muslims who will exist until the end of the world should rely on experimentation and science. The event about budding the date trees is written in Kimya-i se'adet and also on the hundred and eighteenth page of Marifatnama.
Islam emphatically commands every kind of work, working in all the branches of science, on knowledge and morals. It is written in books that all these efforts are fard-i kifaya (a fard which is no longer an obligation for other Muslims when one Muslim does it. That is, when one Muslim does it, the others don't have to do it any longer). Moreover, if a tool or a means newly discovered by science is not produced in an Islamic country, and if any Muslim suffers harm for his reason, the administrators, the authorities of that country, are held responsible according to Islam.
It was declared in a hadith, "Teach your sons how to swim and how to shoot arrows! What a beautiful amusement it is for women to spin threads in their homes." This hadith commands us to procure every kind of knowledge and weaponry necessary for war, never to remain idle, and to find useful amusements.
The knowledge which Muslims have to acquire and learn is called "Ulum-i Islamiyya" (Islamic knowledges). It is fard to learn some of this knowledge. It is sunnat to learn some other branches of it, and it is mubah to learn even more of it. Islamic knowledge is mainly divided into two branches. The first one is Ulum-i naqliyya. This is also called "religious knowledge." This originates from four sources called "Adilla-i Shariyya." Religious knowledge is also divided into two: the Zahiri (external) branches of knowledge and the batini (internal) branches of knowledge.
The first ones are called the Knowledge of fiqh or Shariat; the second ones are called the knowledge of tasawwuf (sufism) or Marifat. The Shariat is learned through murshids and through the books of fiqh. Marifat goes into hearts after flowing from murshids' hearts.
The second branch of Islamic knowledge is Ulum-i 'aqliyya (experimental sciences). The branch dealing with living creatures is called Ulum-i tibbiyya (science of medicine), and the branch dealing with non-living creatures is called Ulum-i hikemiyya. The branch dealing with the sky and stars is called Ulum-i falakiyya. The knowledge dealing with the earth is called Ulum-i tabiiyya. The subdivisions of Ulum-i 'aqliyya are mathematics, logic and experimental knowledge. They are acquired by perceiving through the five senses, by observing through the mind, experimentation and calculation. These fields of knowledge help us to understand and better carry out religious knowledge. They are necessary for this reason. They change, increase and improve in the course of time. For this reason, it has been said, "Takmil-i sina'at is fulfilled by talahuk-i afkar," which means that "improvement in arts, science and technology is realized by adding to one another's ideas and experiments."
The knowledge which is acquired through tradition, that is, religious knowledge, is very exalted. It is beyond and above the mind, the power of human brains. It can never be changed by any person at any time, and this is the meaning of the statement, "There can be no reform in the religion." Islam has not prohibited or limited the knowledge which is acquired through the mind; yet it has commanded us to learn it together with religious knowledge and to utilize its results compatibly with the Shariat. It has also commanded us to make it useful for people and not to use it as a medium for cruelty, torture and disasters. Muslims made and used many scientific productions. The compass was invented in 687 [1288 A.D.]. The rifle with a trigger was invented in 1282 [1866 A.D.]. The cannon was invented in 762 and used by Sultan Muhammad, the conqueror.
Islam prohibits the teaching and learning of immorality, false history and lies against Islam, which enemies of Islam, enemies of morality, put forward as education and give the name "lessons" or "duties". Islam wants useful and good things to be learned and abstinence from bad and harmful propaganda.
Islam is a religion which encourages every branch of knowledge, every branch of science and every sort of experimentation. Muslims like science and believe in the experiments of the men of science. But, they cannot be deceived by the slanders and lies of false scientists, who introduce themselves as scientists.] Disbelievers destroy and annihilate Muslims when they are able. Or, they mislead Muslims onto a path which they have made up. ).
Once again it is fard-i kifaya for Muslims to study science, art, and to try to make the most up-to-date weapons. Our religion commands us to toil more than our enemies. Hence, Islam is a dynamic religion that commands science, experiments, and positive developments. The Europeans took many of the fundamentals of their scientific understanding from the Muslim world. For example, the Europeans thought that the earth was flat like a tray and was surrounded by a wall, while the Muslims had realized the fact that it was a revolving globe. This is written in detail in the books Sharh-ul mawaqif and Marifatnama. They measured the length of the meridian on the Sinjar Desert, which is near Musul, and determined it as it is calculated today. Nur-ud-din Batruji, who died in 581 (1185), was a professor of astronomy at an Islamic University in Andalusia. His book Al-Hayat reflects today's astronomical information. When Galileo, Copernicus and Newton studied from Muslims' books and stated that the earth was rotating, their statements were deemed heresy. Galileo, as we have said above, was subjected to a trial and was sentenced to imprisonment by Christian priests. The natural sciences were also studied and taught in old Islamic madrasas. The Andalusian madrasas guided the whole world in this respect. The one who first found out that germs caused diseases was Ibni Sina, who was educated in a Muslim environment. It was 900 years ago when he said, "It is a very little worm that makes every disease. It is a pity we do not have an apparatus to see them."
One of the great Islamic doctors, Abu Bakr Razi (rahima-hullahu ta'ala) (854-952), was the first to distinguish between scarlatina, measles, and smallpox, which were thought to be the same disease during that time. The books of such Islamic scholars had been taught in all the universities of the world throughout the Middle Ages. While the mentally- handicapped were being burned alive because they were "possessed by Satan" in the Western world, hospitals had been constructed in the Eastern world for the medical treatment of such patients.
Today, everyone with an objective mind admits the facts written above, that is, the fact that positive knowledge and science was first founded by the Muslims. This, too, is also confirmed by many Western scholars. However, some enemies of Islam, who infiltrated Muslim countries, masquerading as Muslims, seized the opportunity to get the Muslims to listen to them. They told uneducated people about their new scientific findings and facilities, and about the new weapons they produced. Then they deceived the ignorant, saying, "These are non-Muslim findings, those who use them will become non-Muslim." They caused the Muslims to forget Allahu ta'ala's command: "Learn everything."