Knowledge And Our True Culture*

Knowledge And Our True Culture*

We shall rebuild our honeycombs cell by cell. We shall refill them, drop by drop, with the delicious and restorative honey we have collected from a thousand and one flowers. We shall do this so that we may live, healthy and hale, in joy and serenity, and so that we may be at peace in this world and the next.

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Prof. Dr. M. Es’ad Cosan
(May Allah have mercy on him)

In our true culture, the teaching and learning activities of the scholar, the student, the school, and the teacher have exceptional value and prestige.

The teacher is held higher than the father. If he strikes someone, a rose sprouts where he has struck. Even rulers show them respect and bow their heads, because the highest rank is the rank of knowledge.

The student is on the road to heaven. To strive for knowledge is an act of worship. Teaching and learning are meritorious acts on par with engaging in jihad. Scholarly thought and study is the equivalent of fasting through the day or performing prayers through the night. The knowledge one bestows upon others in teaching is as charity bestowed upon the poor. To impart knowledge to one’s people is to be close to Allāh; to withhold it from those who thirst for it is to be an oppressor. The quest for knowledge is the sacred duty of every Muslim man and woman. On this quest, every kind of hardship is bearable. One must seek out knowledge, even if it lies as far away as China.

In the past, knowledge for us was not haughty and arrogant. It was not cold and dry. It was neither cruel and bloodthirsty, nor aggressive and insolent. It was not spiritless and heartless, nor was it aimless and meaningless. Good breeding was the companion of knowledge. Good morals were its mate. Belief gave it life, and gnosis (ʿirfān) lent it color. Our scholars were graced with the piety it brought.

All branches of knowledge operated under the auspices of the knowledge of Allāh (maʿrifat Allāh), which is the highest knowledge. All other branches of knowledge were subsidiary to it. They were subordinate to it, and supported it. The head and the heart, the mind and the body, knowledge and gnosis were not in a state of conflict. Thinkers did not flounder or flip-flop in crises. They did not project their own imbalances onto people and lead them into confusion. With upright, learned scholars guiding our communities, we were happy and successful. We won the appreciation and admiration of the world. Our substance and our essence, our individuality and our society, and our state and our political condition were glorious and honorable because the type of people Allāh loves are those who have knowledge and gnosis, and breeding and piety (taqwá) together. And our Lord holds them dear, and with His aid, He confirms and corroborates them.

Now what is our condition? Knowledge has been separated from religion, from belief, from gnosis, from breeding, from good morals, from piety, and from a sense of responsibility. It has been left an empty and broken thing. It no longer promotes people’s prosperity, but rather propels them toward disaster. There is no use in sitting and crying. If our home is knocked down by tyrannical hands, we shall make it anew. Though our great tree, with its roots stretching down into the earth and its branches up into the sky, be felled by treacherous axes, fresh and lively shoots will spring forth once more.

We shall rebuild our honeycombs cell by cell. We shall refill them, drop by drop, with the delicious and restorative honey we have collected from a thousand and one flowers. We shall do this so that we may live, healthy and hale, in joy and serenity, and so that we may be at peace in this world and the next.


*Başmakaleler 3: İlim ve Sanat ve Panzehir Dergileri Başmakaleleri, Istanbul: Server İletişim, 2008, p. 23-24.

Article “Knowledge And Our True Culture” Professor M. Es'ad Coşan