The Value and Importance of a Student from the Viewpoint of Islam
By: Allamah Syed Muhammad Husain Tabataba'i
The importance of endeavor in attaining any objective equals the objective itself. Since every man, with his Allah given nature, considers the importance of knowledge in the human world higher than anything else, the value of one who seeks knowledge will be the highest of all. Since the religion of Islam is established on the basis of man's nature, it undoubtedly attaches the highest value to students. The Holy Prophet (S) stated: "He who is engaged in acquiring knowledge is loved by Allah."
Although jihad (Islamic war) is one of the pillars of Islam and if the Holy Prophet (S) or any of the infallible Imams (as) issues the order for war, all Muslims must take part in it, those who are engaged in learning Islamic sciences and theology are exempt from this duty. At all times, a sufficient number of Muslims must engage themselves in studying at Islamic education centers.
The Almighty Allah states: "And it does not beseem the believers that they should go forth all together; why should not then a section from every group from among them go forth that they may apply themselves to obtain understanding in religion, and that they may warn their people when they come back to them that they may be cautious (9:122)?"
The Importance of a Teacher and an Instructor
The teacher is a warm and luminous centre who gets strength from the light of knowledge in order to eradicate ignorance and illiteracy in the whole world. It is the teacher who makes the blind-hearted and the ignorant clear-sighted and wise and takes them, with the assistance of the luminous torch of knowledge and education, to the holy valley and the heaven of prosperity.
For this reason, respect for teachers is essential and obedience towards them is obligatory in the religion of Islam. Teachers are considered the holiest and the most exalted individuals in the human society. Regarding the great and deserving status of teachers, it suffices to say that Amir al-Mu'minin, 'Ali (as) states: "He who taught me a word has indeed made me his slave."
These wise words are very valuable in paying respect to the status of teachers.
Also, Amir al-Mu'minin (as) states: "The people are divided into three groups: the first group consists of the 'ulama' of Islam; the second one consists of those who acquire knowledge for the salvation of themselves and others; and the third one consists of those who lack knowledge and wisdom. These (people constituting the third group) people are like flies that sit on the head and face of animals and fly in different directions with the blow of each wind (or fly in any direction from which they smell bad odor of filth)".
Paying Respect to the Learned Men
While describing about the high status and value of knowledge and the dignity of the learned men, the Holy Qur'an states: "...Allah will exalt those of you who believe, and those who are given knowledge, in high degrees...(58:11)."
The value of scholars is so great to the Prophet (S) of Islam that he stated: "The death of a tribe is easier and less detrimental than the death of a scholar." Similarly, the Almighty Allah also states in another verse: "...Are those who know and those who do not know alike? Only the men of understanding are mindful (39:9)."
Thus the alim (Islamic scholar) and the ignorant are never alike. A learned and wise man has obvious superiority over anyone who lacks knowledge. The conclusion drawn from this Qur'anic verse indicates that in the view of the Qur'an the term 'knowledge' does not exclusively apply to Islamic knowledge, rather it covers anything which gives man insight and enlightenment and helps him in his worldly and heavenly affairs.
Regarding the superiority of scholars over the worshippers of Allah and the devout people, the following has been related from al-'Imam Muhammad al-Baqir (as): "A scholar who puts his knowledge into use is superior to seventy thousand worshippers and has preference over them."
The Prophet (S) of Islam believes that the status of personality of a man is determined by his knowledge. The Holy Prophet (S) states: "The most learned man is one who adds to his own knowledge by deriving benefit from the knowledge of others. The value of man is determined by his knowledge. Thus, the more knowledgeable a man is, the more valuable he is, and also the less knowledgeable a man is, the less valuable he is."
The Duties of Teachers and Students
The Holy Qur'an considers knowledge and learning as man's true life, because in the absence of knowledge, man would not have been different from an inanimate object and a deceased person.
Therefore, a student should consider his teacher as a focus of life from whom he gradually receives details of his actual life.
For this reason, he should owe his life to the teacher and should not fall short of respecting him. He must not show stubbornness in receiving lessons from the teacher even if they are accompanied with harshness. The student must respect his teacher in his presence or absence and during his lifetime and after his death.
Similarly, the teacher should also feel responsible for the life of his students. He must not be tired nor must he take rest as long as he has not led his students to the status of live and honorable men. The teacher should not get disappointed if at times the students do not exercise proper care to receiving his teachings. He must encourage and reward his students if they progress in their education. The teacher must never depress the morale of his students by his words and deeds.
Two Important Masterpieces in The Teachings Of Islam
Each of the social policies that is current in various human societies contains a series of secrets. If these secrets become manifest to the people, the status of the leaders of the society and their carnal desires will be jeopardized. For this reason, they always hide some realities from the public. The reason behind this is that most of the matters are the creations of their minds. Since these are against reason and the interest of the community and the individuals, they are afraid that they would face a flood of objections and the jeopardy of their interests if these secrets are discovered.
For this reason, Christian churches and the intellectual and spiritual centres of other religions do not allow the people to think freely, rather they reserve the right of changing and explaining the religious teachings and the contents of religious books for themselves. They say that it is the duty of the people to accept whatever they say indisputably and without any discussion and inquisitiveness. It is this very policy that h us marred many religious policies. The existing policy of Christianity is a veracious proof for this statement.
But since Islam has confidence in its rightfulness, unlike all other religious and non-religious policies, it sees no ambiguity or lack of clarity in its path.
(1) Islam does not conceal any rightful matter, nor does it allow its followers to keep any rightful matters as secrets. This is because the laws of this pure religion are formulated according to the laws of nature and creation, thus none of its truths and realities can be denied.
Concealing realities is one of the major sins. In His words, the Almighty Allah has cursed those who conceal the truth, where He states: "Surely those who conceal the clear proofs and the guidance that We revealed after We made it clear in the Book for men, these it is whom Allah shall curse and those who curse shall curse them (too) (2:159)."
(2) Islam has ordered its followers to think freely about the realities and the teachings and to stop moving along whenever they see the slightest ambiguity; so that their clear faiths may always remain intact from the harm of the darkness of any doubts and uncertainties. Islam also orders the people to try to remove any doubts and uncertainties in a just and truth-seeking manner and strive to solve them freely if they are faced with them. The Almighty Allah states: "And follow not that of which you have not the knowledge...(17:36)."
Abstaining from Free Thinking and Expression of Truth
The perception of the realities through thinking and reflection and their recognition are the most valuable virtues of man, the only feature of his superiority over other animals, and the basis of his dignity and honor. The feeling of love for humanity and the instinct of realism will never allow man to be deprived of the freedom of thought by the imposition of imitative thinking. Neither will they allow wisdom to be led astray by concealing the realities, so that divine thinking would cease.
This fact, however, should not be neglected that when man is unable to understand a reality or when, due to stubbornness and persistence of the other side, there is no hope for the establishment of reality and its expression will cause a loss to man's property, life, and, reputation, the instinct of realism and the love for humanity judge on the contrary. In order to respect the reality and to safeguard man from the danger of aberration and other dangers to his property, life, and honor, the instinct of realism and humanity call for the concealment of realities.
Through many ahadith, the Imams of Ahl al-Bayt (as) have seriously prohibited the people from thinking on some of the realities which are beyond the level of understanding of man.
The Almighty Allah authorizes the concealment of reality in the case of taqiyyah (dissimulation) in two instances .
In several cases, Islam considers the concealment of truths and realities not only harmless but also necessary:
(1) Taqiyyah is applied where there is no hope for the establishment of truth and when the expression of the truth will cause danger to one's property, life, and honor.
(2) When truth is not intelligible for someone and its expression may lead him astray or may cause disdain and insult towards the truth.
(3) When due to the lack of capability free thinking reveals the truth in an untrue way and leads to aberration.
Ijtihad (Deduction of Commandments Based On Islamic Fundamentals) And Taqlid (Following A Mujtahid In Practising Islamic Laws)
The requirements of man in his environment and the measures that he must take to arrange them are so great that a common man cannot enumerate them let alone specializing in all of them and obtaining enough knowledge concerning them.
On the other hand, since man performs his tasks by means of thinking and will power, he should have sufficient information when he wants to take a decision. He will be unable to take decisions if he lacks sufficient information. He must either be fully qualified himself to take any course of action or he must ask someone who is endowed with qualifications and so perform his duties according to his instructions. For instance, we instinctively refer to a doctor for the treatment of our ailments, to a civil engineer for the plan of a building, to a mason for masonry work, and to a carpenter for making doors and windows.
Thus we always spend our lives by means of taqlid or following others even for insignificant matters.
Whoever says: "I do not follow another person in my life", either he does not understand the meaning of his words or is affected by a mental sickness. Islam, which has based its religious laws on the human nature, has also adopted the same policy.
Islam orders its followers to learn the religious teachings and precepts. The source of these teachings is nothing but the Divine Book, i.e., Qur'an and the ahadith of the Holy Prophet (S) and the infallible Imams of Ahl al-Bayt (as).
It is obvious that obtaining all religious teachings from the Qur'an and the ahadith is not an easy task. Such a task is not possible for all Muslims and only a limited number of people can accomplish this task.
Therefore, this religious order naturally takes the form that a group of Muslims, who are not able to acquire the teachings and precepts through reasoning, should refer to those who have obtained the Islamic commandments through proofs and reasoning, and should then perform their duties.
A scholar who obtains Islamic commandments through proofs and reasoning is called "mujtahid" and his endeavour in this regard is called "ijtihad" One who refers to the mujtahid is called "muqallid" (one who follows a mujtahid's instructions for performing his deeds) and his referring to the mujtahid is called taqlid (following a mujtahid in practicing Islamic laws).
Surely, it should be known that taqlid holds true in worships, transactions, and other practical rules of Islam, but in regard to Usul al-Din (the fundamental principles of Islam) which are matters of belief, one can never have confidence in the views of others and cannot content himself with following them. This is because in the case of the fundamental principles of Islam, faith and belief are desirable and not action. We can never consider the faith of others to be our own.
It cannot be said that Allah is One because our fathers or scholars say so or that the Hereafter is true since all Muslims believe in it.
Therefore, it is incumbent upon every Muslim to know the Usul al-Din of his religion through reasoning and proof even if it may be a very simple one.