By: Mohamed Mandour
Islam elevated the status of knowledge and those who seek it, and called for learning and the eradication of illiteracy. The first verse revealed to the Prophet (pbuh) was “Read, in the Name of your Lord Who created” (Qur’an, 96:1). Furthermore, the Noble Qur’an has a surah (chapter) called Surat Al-Qalam (the Pen), “Nūn. By the pen and what they write!” (Qur’an, 68: 1).
Islam also made seeking knowledge a path to heaven. The Prophet (pbuh) said, “He who follows a path in quest of knowledge, Allah will make the path of Paradise easy for him” (Muslim).
Because reading and writing are important, Islam urges Muslims to write down some matters of their livelihood and daily life to set their affairs straight, like writing down a debt. Allah Almighty says, “O believers! When you contract a debt for a fixed period of time, write it down” (Qur’an, 2: 282). Islam also urges a Muslim to make a will in writing; the Prophet (pbuh) said, “It is the duty of a Muslim who has something to leave as a bequest not to wait for more than two nights without writing down his will” Al-Bukhari).
To encourage the elimination of illiteracy, the Prophet (pbuh) made it a ransom for the captives of the Battle of Badr to teach some of the Anṣār children how to read and write. Ibn Abbas, may Allah be pleased with him, said, “Some of the prisoners on the day of Badr could not pay their own ransom, so the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) made their ransom teaching the children of the Anṣār to write” (Reported by Ahmad).
Knowledge is the light of minds and one of the reasons for the advancement of nations. Therefore, Al-Azhar Al-Sharif spares no effort to carry out its educational mission inside and outside Egypt, all over the world. It pays great attention to educating foreign students who come to study at Al-Azhar from more than a hundred countries around the world, and at the same time, it sends envoys to different countries to carry out the task of teaching and disseminating enlightened moderate thought.
Al-Azhar Al-Sharif calls on governments, organizations, and civil society organizations to continue their effective role in eradicating illiteracy among human beings to enlighten their minds, and increase their knowledge and skills so that peace may prevail and development be achieved.