And say : 'O My Lord, Increase my Knowledge'! [Qur'an 20:114]
The Importance of acquiring an education has been the subject of great emphasis by teachers, politicians, community leaders and the like. The lack of knowledge, we are told, limits one's abilities to function, in a holistic sense, in society.
The same sort of lesson or moral is also applicable to Religious knowledge and education., whether we refer to an individual or a society. Dedication to God, when combined with ignorance or lack of knowledge, is quite dangerous and could actually damage a society culturally as well as spiritually.
I recently watched an Indian film called Chingaari ("Spark"), which depicted a Hindu priest who yielded unquestioned power in a small village of mostly illiterate residents. This priest abused his position to the extent that he engaged in cart blanche rape of a woman. Later, when she sought to marry another man, this priest was able to convince the villagers to kill the rival suitor, on the grounds that this was indeed Divine Will. Although a fictional account, this movie reminded me of the dangers of blind faith and unquestioning obedience. These dangers are not limited to Hindus, but to Muslims and all other groups as well.
"Islam" is a "faith" which has been revealed from God Almighty to prevent these very dangerous things from taking place. The very first word of the Qur'an given to the Prophet Muhammad was "Read" [ Iqraa ]. In this world today, complete with Internet, mass media, and television, it is much easier to obey this Divine command. Keeping that in mind, Taqleed, the deference to so called 'authorities' without self- confirmation, should no longer exist among any Religious community.
I have come across Muslims, born in Muslim societies to Muslim families, unaware that prayer is obligatory at least 5 times daily. I have come across Muslims who are unwilling to take seriously any text which was not published by their own particular group, race or sect. The same sort of examples exist among Christians, Jews and other people. This is not what is desired in religion. Religion should give us the basis by which we develop our relationship with God and how we act and live in society. Religion is not to be a tool of oppression, stagnation, or mental slavery.
I call upon all our readers to actively seek out information on any issue which they are curious about. Do not allow someone to tell you "don't read this person" or "That is not what you should read". Have an open mind, and your soul will expand to greater heights. Let the naysayers proclaim what they wish, they cannot stop anything. Trust in God alone, for he is the ultimate source of happiness, contentment and knowledge.
Glorified is Your Lord, Lord of Honor and Power. And peace be upon the messengers, and Praise is due to God, Lord of the Worlds Qur'an 37: 180: 182]