THE rise of Muslims to the zenith of civilization in a period of four decades was based on Islam’s emphasis on learning.

This is obvious when one takes a look at the Qur ‘an and the traditions of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) which are filled with references to learning, education, observation, and the use of reason.

The very first verse of the Qur’an revealed to the Prophet of Islam reads: “Read: In the name of your Lord who created man from a clot. Read: And your Lord is the Most Generous Who has taught by the pen, taught man that which he knew not.” (Qur’an 96:1-5)

The pursuit of knowledge and the use of reason, based on sense observation are made obligatory on every Muslim, man and woman.

The following traditions of the Prophet (peace be upon him) supplement the foregoing teachings of the Qur’an in the following way:

“The acquisition of knowledge is compulsory for every Muslim, whether male or female.”

“The ink of the scholar is more sacred than the blood of the martyr.”

“Seek knowledge from the cradle to the grave.”

“God has revealed to me, ‘Whoever walks in the pursuit of knowledge I facilitate for him the way to Heaven.'”

The Islamic Empire for more than 1,000 years remained the most advanced and civilized nation in the world. This is because Islam stressed the importance and respect for learning, forbade destruction, developed in Muslims the respect for authority, discipline, and tolerance for other religions. The teachings of the Qur ‘an and Sunnah drove many Muslims to their accomplishments in science and medicine.

Learning is a natural pleasure. This pleasure is inborn and instinctive. The pleasure of learning is one of the essential pleasures of the human race. Without learning, survival itself is threatened.

The process of learning starts right after birth. It is true that babies who can barely talk investigate problems with all the zeal and excitement of explorers, make discoveries with the passion and absorption of dedicated scientists. At the end of each successful investigation, one can see on the tiny face an expression of innocent and pure heartfelt pleasure.

The pleasure of learning is not confined to learning from textbooks, which are too often tedious. But it does include learning from magazines (periodicals), newspapers, TV, radio and travelers. When you stand in a library in front of thousands of books, do not think they are lumps of lifeless paper, but minds alive on the shelves. Each has its own voice, which is as inaudible as the radio broadcast waves falling directly on the ears.

There are many people in this world who have played themselves to death, or eaten and drunk themselves to death. Nobody ever died because of thinking or learning.

People who avoid learning, or abandon it, find no joy in life, find that life is drained dry. No learner has ever run short of subjects to explore.

The pleasures of learning lead to happiness. One can live longest and best and most rewardingly by attaining and preserving the pleasure of learning.

Learning is everyone’s birthright. Everyone – young or old, rich or poor, male or female – has access to learning. Exercise your birthright. Remember what you have learned cannot be stolen by others.