Learning Within the Context of Faith and the Intellect

A Thinking Islam

Authored by: Naznin Hirji

The Routledge International Handbook of Learning

Print publication date:  December  2011
Online publication date:  May  2012

Print ISBN: 9780415571302
eBook ISBN: 9780203357385
Adobe ISBN: 9781136598562


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The role of the intellect in enabling human beings to expand their vision of creation and of ‘man as the best of creation’ 1 is a pivotal consideration in the Muslim tradition. This intertwining of the spiritual and learning is well illustrated in a dialogue between Ibn Sina (c.980–1037), 2 the philosopher, and Abu Said Abul-Khayr (967–1049), the Sufi mystic, in which the former says, ‘Whatever I know, he sees’ to which Abu Said responds, ‘Whatever I see, he knows’. In the understanding of life's necessities, to engage in intellectual search is to seek a fuller understanding of the mysteries of life itself. Accepting stewardship and trust of the environment means that this intrinsically places the onus on human beings to leave the world a better place than they found it – this categorically places the being of the human and all its faculties within the domain of acquisition of knowledge. Thus, what characterises this approach to learning is its esoteric quality. This personal search includes the spiritual and the material, both of which cornerstones are established on the ethics of Islam, which link the realms of faith and existence, offering a critical balance. However, no individual can achieve this balance in illiteracy, poverty or ill health.

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