The purpose of seeking knowledge in Islam is to inculcate goodness in people as people and as individuals. The end of education in Islam is to build a ‘good man’, and not — as in the case Western civilization — to build a ‘good citizen’.
Islam, just like any other religion or philosophy, has a worldview that projects its vision of reality and truth, and that shapes the spiritual, legal, ethical and socio-political dimensions of Islam and its ideas and institutions. In Islam, all ethical human actions including skilled knowledge should be based on clear and true intellectual and conceptual understandings, grounded with sincere intentions.
Ethical actions are based on right and proper knowledge. The unitary nature of the worldview of Islam as reflected in the key concept of tawhid, directly implies that various principles and values, virtues (and their opposites) and human competence (such as hard and soft skills) are interrelated and cannot be treated independently.
There are some similar and overlapping aspects between the worldviews of the west and Islam, for instance, a universe created by God, an appreciation of sin and life in heaven are accepted by the West and Islam.
However, there are overlapping aspects among them such as human virtue, efforts to seek knowledge, respect of others and maintaining and protecting the universe.
The difference is, Islamic scientific principles are based on empirical knowledge (science) and common sense under the guidance of the Koran and the hadith.
All ideas and concepts of human science are derived from the thought of secular intellectuals who have been awed by logical and rational thinking. On the other hand, from Islamic teachings, man has a dual nature; he is both body and soul. He is at once a physical being and spirit.
People, however, have also been given limited knowledge of the spirit, of his true and real self or soul. Furthermore, it is said that the seat of knowledge in a person is a spiritual substance which is variously referred to in the Koran as the heart (al-qalb), the soul or self (nafs), the spirit (al-ruh) or the intellect (al-aql).
The process of the acquisition of knowledge is not called education unless the knowledge required includes a moral purpose, which is called “adab” — the right action that springs from self-discipline founded upon wisdom.
So, simply speaking, adab is “right action” based on the Koran and the Sunnah. A person may be a great general, distinguished scholar, first-class pilot, outstanding engineer or a renowned doctor but still remain semi-educated, ill-mannered, immoral, ill-disciplined, unrighteous and unjust.
Similarly, a person may be a very fine technician, a good poet whose love of beauty may be highly delicate and sensitive, but may, at the same time, be a cruel, brutal, untruthful and asocial individual.
People could be highly selfish and deliberately ignore their duty to others, such as their neighbors or even their families, spouses and children. This is not the aim of Islamic education.
A true believer is one who performs with sublime morality. In Islam, sublime morality constitutes the “fruit of Islamic tree which rooted faith (aqidah) and possess leaves of Islamic law (shariah)”. In Islam, human soft skills should be unified with the Koran and as Sunnah values of teaching.
Muslims may achieve excellent performance in this world but they should put first their intention to reach happiness in the life hereafter.
Muslims should become star performers to combine “worldly activities” (ad-dunya) and obedience to Islamic teachings for the life hereafter (al-akhirah).
Student at State Islamic University
Malang, East Java