Islamic Educational Institutions:Religious Knowledge and Secular Learning

He who leaves home in search of knowledge is walking in the way of God.
The Prophet Muhammad


Jahangir and a Sufi


The teachings of Islam are fundamentally gnostic in that all forms of knowledge are regarded as sacred, particularly if the ways of knowing coincide with approved modes of revelation.

In the Chapter "The Clot," the sacredness of knowledge is recognized in the following lines:

Read: In the name of thy Lord who createth,

Createth man from a clot.

Read: And thy Lord is the Most Bounteous,

Who teacheth by the pen,

Teacheth man that which he knew not.


Several verses in the Qur'an support the sacred nature of knowledge. One of God's names, scientia, ilm in fact means "He who knows" or al-alim. Muhammad himself was the means through which the revelation of the Qur'an, the sum of divine and human knowledge, was transmitted. Furthermore, Muhammad, reiterated the teachings of the Qur'an by stating that the acquisition of knowledge to the limits of one's abilities represents a critical part of a person's religious duties.

Some of Muhammad's injunctions include phrases such as "seek knowledge from the cradle to the grave, "or" seek knowledge, even in China!" These words would be used to justify arguments for teaching, as well as the dissemination of knowledge or ilm.

The emphasis on learning in Islam is materially conveyed in the central symbol of the Book, i.e. the Qur'an, as the revealed source of both divine and human wisdom. In this way, secular learning came to be seen as inseparable from religious practise.

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