by Dina Mohamed Basiony
Dear graduating students around the world,
Very soon, you’ll be holding your degree in your hand, taking pictures and updating your social media profiles…
You’re getting a proof that you’ve become a bit more knowledgeable.
I was hoping, though, you take a few moments to reflect on what this really means.
You see, they say that knowledge is power. But, I’ve been thinking, is our world today in need for more power? What kind of power is that?
It seems to me that knowledge and power- in and of themselves- are not the end. They are means to an end.
But what is this end?
While you think about it, I’ll share with you some interesting information I’ve come to learn.
Through one of my classes – a Qur’anic studies class- I came across an analysis of the word “knowledge” in the Qur’an in a lecture by Dr. Jeffrey Lang, Professor of Mathematics. He observed that the word for knowledge, “ilm” with its various forms are mentioned over 800 times. Can you imagine?
Now, again, knowledge- in and of itself- was not the ultimate goal or end. Knowledge is a mean to something greater. Knowledge is a mean to reach the All-Knowing, The Source of Knowledge…Al A’leem!
“[…] And above everyone who has knowledge there is the One who is all knowing.” (Qur’an 12: 76)
“[…] It is those of His servants who have knowledge who stand in true awe of God.” (Qur’an 35: 28)
Now, emphasis also was on the fact that the honor of human beings is in two aspects: their intellect and their ability to make moral choices.
In other words, we do have the ability to accumulate knowledge. But, the true test is in how this knowledge will be utilized!
So, one needs to ask: ‘how will my knowledge and choices affect this universe around me?’ We’re part of this universe, we’re active players in it, not just bystanders. This universe was created for us… to live in and reflect on and use to reach a higher purpose.
“It is He who created for you all of that which is on the earth….” (Qur’an 2: 29)
What I realized is that this universe- believe it or not- is intrinsically beautiful. Its Creator introduces Himself through The Beautiful Names. Those names include The Just, The Wise, The Merciful, The Source of Peace…
Those names of the Creator are the meanings/foundations of this universe. They are the essence of this universe. The more we seek those meanings, the more we unfold the beauty. The more we compromise them, the more we witness corruption around us.
For example, Allah is The Just. This universe intrinsically requires justice. It becomes a problem when we choose to side with injustice, so long as it doesn’t harm us.
Allah is The Most Merciful. This universe intrinsically requires mercy. It becomes a problem when we overlook cruelty, so long as it doesn’t befall us.
Allah created balance. This universe intrinsically requires balance. It needs the rich to take care of the poor. It needs the strong to take care of the weak and the oppressed. It needs balance!
It becomes a problem when we indulge in our own lives, our own welfare and ignore the increasing imbalance that is corrupting the world around us.
“Corruption has appeared throughout the land and sea by [reason of] what the hands of people have earned so He may let them taste part of [the consequence of] what they have done that perhaps they will return [to righteousness].” (Qur’an 30:41)
So, dear students, I do not know which paths you’re going to choose, but I urge you to never compromise our principles. The principles of this essentially beautiful universe that we’ve been entrusted with.
Our relationship with our Creator is not limited to ritual worship. It is in every choice we make and every path we take. Wherever you are, you can seek Him…His are the most beautiful names and most noble meanings…
One final note: what’s the word for ‘people’ in Arabic? It’s ‘nas’. ‘Nas’ comes from the root word ‘nasya’, which means forgot. In a way, people- in Arabic- means those who forget…
Sometimes, amidst all the chaos around us, we forget! We forget what makes us human, we forget our meaning, our purpose and our principles. So today is a good day to remember…
Very soon, you, the graduating students, will be holding your degree in your hand, taking pictures and updating your social media profiles…
But, what happens next will be the real test!
May Allah (swt) help us use our knowledge to spread goodness for our people and all of humanity.
May Allah (swt) help us use our knowledge to spread peace and justice for our people and all of humanity.
May Allah (swt) help us use our knowledge to unite our people and utilize the bridges of understanding that already exist between us and all of humanity.
Yes, my colleagues, knowledge is power. But it’s the honor and dignity of the human being to use this power to spread peace and mercy, not division and corruption.