Written vs Oral Tradition

11:13:00 AM

بِسْــــــــــــــــــــــمِ اﷲِارَّحْمَنِ ارَّحِيم

Attaining Knowledge

Dr. Kamran Riaz gave a lecture at the masjid last week speaking about the Etiquette's of Attaining Knowledge from Islamic Perspective. Some of the points that I had down...

In many educational institutes, when one gets into a research project or doctoral program, at the end of the course they would have to defend their theses. Theses are always about deconstructing what we think to be true. This is in contrast to the purpose of learning in Islam which is to construct. The construction of akhlaq within the realm of knowledge. Attaining knowledge of Islam, doesn't  require one to be literate. The learning didn't come through the writing down of words. If being knowledgable and educated equates literate, what hopes were there for the bedouin or people in jungle to live an ethical and moral life? What is civilization without moral, ethics and character? Rather than asking what's wrong with our civilzation, we must ask what's wrong with our knowledge?

As we know, the Messenger sallallahu alayhi wasalam was illiterate. He didn't read nor write. Had the ilm revealed in a form of literature, what's the use of prophets? For 23 years our Rasul sallallahu alayhi wasalam was with the sabaha (those who saw and spent time with him). Sahaba derives form the word Suhba which means companionship. Suhba is similar to the practice of fellowship that medic students have to go through. The actual spending time of, watching and treating patients with a mentor what makes up proper learning. This is the non-textbook style of teaching that is recommended.

Passing On To Others

The famous hadith of Jibreel whom Rasul sallallahu alayhi wasalam said "came to teach you your religion", posed some very simple yet fundamental questions about Islam, Iman and Ihsan. It was the knowledge that Rasul sallallahu alayhi wasalam had taught and prepared the sabaha for what made them able to handle the experience. With such adab and akhlaq, they were able face it without freaking out and backlashing. 

"بلغوا عني ولو آية /Convey from me even if it was a sentence" was an instruction by the Prophet sallallahu alayhi wasalam during the khutbah of hujjatul wida (last sermon of the pilgrimage to Makkah) for the people of learned. In other words, correct me if I'm wrong, after 23 years of tarbiyyah he said "Now you have learned you can convey". Ada correlation;rupa2nya antara ilmu + kefahaman + akhlaq dengan penyampaian. Belum check ayat 2 and 3 surah Al-Saff lg (I'm reacting to my words as I type. Indeed good reminders come from no one but Allah).
  1. Listen (oral tradition, companionship)
  2. Recite (verbalize)
  3. Memorize
  4. Practice
  5. Narrate and teach
Dr. Riaz further explained the ideal system of attaining the knowledge of Islam:
Taking someone as a teacher, requires us to judge for ourselves his/her moral characteristics. The ethos (credibility) of the sender as Aristotle highlighted in the theory of persuasion/rhetoric, is on top of the chart for effectiveness in communicating a message or teaching a concept. What use of knowledge if we don't use it? What use of knowledge if it doesn't increase our credibility? Tell me, how can a professor who's teaching persuasion let his class be so boring. I appreciate his effort, kindness and sharing of information, but he, to me, remains as no other than an informer. Informer is as informer does, informs information which anybody could've done with notes provided. I appreciate that he prepares test and exam papers for us. I also appreciate that he makes us write reflection papers. That's part of helping to reinforce our fikrah and perspectives on the presented subject. Nevertheless, I'm not convinced that he truly knows or takes seriously what he is teaching.  

Regardless, this note of lament is not to bash on anybody. It's a reminder for myself to embody those loads of information through my action. There's a difference between being informed and being educated.

Written vs Oral Tradition

Real ta'alim (education) should result in tazkiyyah (the purity of the person ethically and morally). Jadi bila kita tanya kenapa ramai pengajar berlagak seperti kurang diajar ethically and morally? Putarkan soalan kita, kenapa ramai yang kurang diajar ni berlagak seperti pengajar? Dush. Terkena sudah T_T 

Now that we are becoming more and more of a written tradition people, there's still the sanad system to go by to trace the authenticity of a message in attaining Islamic knowledge. It somewhat resembles the system of bibliography/work citation. 

Those who are obsess about books and solely take books as their teacher, consider this;
  1. Words can easily be changed, misinterpreted, mistranslated and miscommunicated. 
  2. You have the book but your forgot the oneness of Allah. 
  3. Holy books including the booked Quran, are just a textual back up for our understanding of Allah that's always going to be there. The sunnah (examples) of Rasulullah sallallahu alayhi wasalam and shari'ah (way) established are what made Islam pragmatic. It's a way of life not led blindlessly but through the best example, character and mannered of a teacher.  
  4. It's not about what's written but how sahaba understood it. 
The Will of the Founder

Last but not least, like the constitution of America, in interpreting the law, it's imperative to take into account and reflect upon the will of the founding fathers. The same applied with the will of our Prophet's sallallahu alayhi wasalam. Reflect on what was the will of the "founder" of ummah so that we don't deviate. Nauzubillah himinzalik. Like in surah Al-Kauthar, "Those who forsake you, they are cut off". The context pertained not only to those who used to slander him but also those who leave behind his sunnah. "They are cut off". May Allah help guide us all, amin. What's "mainstream" today is the ISIS. There's nothing scholarly about the claims and acts that they carry out. Then surely they'll be among those who got cut off. May Allah accept our repentence. Amin.

Categories of students in contemporary setting today. There should be...
  1. 90% Awwam (general population, majority) who learns to perfect their Fardu 'ain and conveying message to courage and discourage (targhib wa tarhib) while not imposing any fatwas.
  2. 5% Learn with scholars 
  3. 1-5% Connectors - Polymass (connect with scholars + secular studies + religious tradition)
Let us all be a community of learners. Ilm junkies who are addicted to learning and perfecting their characters.

O you who have believed, why do you say what you do not do? 
Great is hatred in the sight of Allah that you say what you do not do. 
(As-Saff 61:2-3)


Do you have any comments, concerns or inquiries? Or else, just drop me a note to say hi! :)