THE ESSENTIALITY OF KNOWLEDGE FOR BEING A MUSLIM
The greatest favour of Allah
Every Muslim sincerely believes that the greatest boon of Allah in this world is Islam. He feels grateful to Him for having included him in the Ummah of the Holy Prophet (peace and blessing of Allah be upon him) and for having bestowed upon him the blessings of Islam. Allah Himself has reckoned this as His greatest boon to His servants as is mentioned in the Qur'an:
"This day have I perfected your deen (way of life) for you and completed My favour unto you, and have chosen for you Al-Islam as deen."
Obligation for the favour
It is obligatory for you to render Allah His due because of the favour He has conferred on you. Whosoever does not render one his due for his favour, is an ungrateful person. And the worst possible ungratefulness on the part of man is to forget what he owes to God.
Now you may ask as to how can one render Allah His due for His favour to us? In reply I have to say that since Allah has included you in the Ummah of Muhammad (peace be on him) the best form of gratitude for this favour of His, is to become the sincere followers of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him). Since God has included you in the Muslim community the only way for you to reciprocate this kindness is to become full-fledged Muslims. In no other way can you render what is due to Allah for this immense favour by Him. And if you do not render this due, the punishment for this ungratefulness will be as great as is the favour of Allah. May Allah save all of us from this punishment! Amen.
First step to become Muslim
After this you will ask: how can a man become a Muslim in the true sense of the term? The answer to this question requires adequate details and I shall deal with each and every part of it with full elucidation in my lectures on coming Fridays. But in today's address, I shall explain to you that point which is of primary importance and which can be termed as the first and foremost step in this direction.
Is Muslim the name of a race?
Please strain your mind to think as to what actually does the word Muslim, you use, signify?
Does man bring Islam with him when he is born? Is a person Muslim because he is a son or grandson of a Muslim? Is a Muslim born as Muslim just as a Brahmin's son is born as Brahmin, or a Rajput's son as Rajput, or s Shudra's son as a Shudra? Is Muslim the name of a race or nation just as Englishmen? And just as a Jat is Jat because of being born in the Jat community, is a Muslim in the same way a Muslim for being born in a community which is called Muslim? What answers will you give to the questions, I have asked? You will surely reply: "No sir, such a man is not called Muslim. A Muslim is not a Muslim because of belonging to a particular racial group but because of accepting Islam, and if he renounces Islam, he ceases to be a Muslim. Any person who may be a Brahmin or a Rajput, an Englishman or a Jat, a Punjabi or a Negro, will be incorporated in the Muslim community on accepting Islam, while another person born in a Muslim home is expelled from the Muslim community if he gives up Islam, though he may be the son of a Sayyid or a Pathan".
Well, gentlemen! you will surely give the above answer to my questions. So now this fact has been established from your own answer that the greatest boon of God i.e., the boon of your being a Muslim, which you enjoy, is not a racial asset which you automatically inherit from your parents and which clings to you mechanically all your life whether you bother about it or not, but that it is a boon for acquiring which you must make efforts. If you make an endeavour for it then you can acquire it and if you don't care for it, it can also be snatched away from you. May God forbid.
Meaning of accepting Islam
Now let us go ahead. You say that a man becomes Muslim by accepting Islam. The question is : What does the acceptance of Islam signify? Does it mean that whoever makes a verbal profession: "I am Muslim or I have accepted Islam", becomes a Muslim? Or does it mean that just as a Brahmin worshipper recites a few mantras of Sanskrit without understanding them, if in the same way a man utters some phrases of Arabic without understanding them, he then and there becomes Muslim? Now you may tell what reply will you give to this question. Naturally you will answer that the meaning of accepting Islam is that a man should consciously, and deliberately accept what has been taught by Muhammad (peace be upon him) and act accordingly. Whosoever does this, is a Muslim and whosoever does not do this, is not a Muslim.
From this answer of yours the fact automatically comes to light that al-Islam is firstly the name of knowledge and then the name of putting that knowledge into practice. A man can be a Brahmin without having knowledge because he is born as a Brahmin and remains a Brahmin. So also a Jat can be Jat though he be bereft of knowledge because he is born as a Jat and remains a Jat all his life. But a man cannot become a Muslim without acquiring knowledge because he does not become a Muslim from birth but from knowledge. Unless he comes to know what is the teaching of Hazrat Muhammad (peace be upon him), how can he affirm faith in it and how can he act according to it? And if he has not affirmed faith knowingly and after full understanding of it, how can he become a Muslim? So it is clear that it is impossible to become a Muslim and remain a Muslim while in a state of ignorance. Whosoever is born in a Muslim home, bears a Muslim like name, dresses like a Muslim, and calls himself a Muslim, is in reality not a Muslim. But that person alone is a Muslim in the real sense who knows what Islam stands for and affirms faith in it with full consciousness. The real difference between a Kafir and a Muslim is not that of a name, that one is Ram Parshad and the other one is 'Abdullah, and so one is a Kafir and the other is a Muslim. Similarly, the real difference between a Kafir and a Muslim is not that of dress also, that one wears dhoti and the other pajamas, and so the former is a Kafir and the latter a Muslim. But the real difference between the two is that of knowledge. The one is a Kafir because he does not know what relation has God with him and what relation he was with God, and what is the right path for him to lead his life in the world in accordance with the wish of God. If a born Muslim too is ignorant in this respect, then tell me on what ground do you differentiate between him and a Kafir and why do you say that one is a Kafir and the other is a Muslim.
Gentlemen! Please listen carefully to the point I am stressing and reflect over it calmly. You must understand it thoroughly that to obtain or to be deprived of the greatest boon of Allah, on which you express thanks and gratefulness to Him, depends entirely on knowledge. If there is no knowledge, you cannot at all get this boon. Even if you have a little portion of it, then due to ignorance there is always the risk of losing the magnificent gift. The recipient, only due to simple-mindedness, will be under the impression that he is a Muslim while in fact he is not. The likeness of that person who is totally unaware of the difference between Islam and Kufr and the incongruity between Islam and Shirk, is as the likeness of one who is walking in darkness on a track. May be that while following a straight line his steps swerve to another path and he be unaware of this deviation from the right course. And it is also likely that he may meet a Dajjal on the way who may tell him: " O sonny! You have lost your way in darkness. Come, let me lead you to the destination". The poor wayfarer being enveloped in darkness cannot see with his own eyes as to which is the right path. Therefore unsophistically he will grasp the hand of Dajjal and the latter will lead him astray. These dangers are faced by the wayfarer for he very reason ha he himself does no possess any light and so is incapable of himself observing he road-marks. If he were endowed with light, he will obviously neither lose his way nor be led astray by another person. You may guess from this example that the greatest danger to a Muslim lies in his own ignorance of Islamic teaching and his unawareness of what the Qur'an teaches and what instructions were left by the Holy Prophet (peach be upon him). Due to lack of knowledge he will grope his way and will also be led astray by Dajjals. But if he is blessed with the light of knowledge he will be able to see the plain path of Islam at every step in his life, will discover and avoid the misleading paths of Kufr, Shirk, heresy and immorality, which will intercept him, and whenever an inveigler will meet him on the way he will realize after exchanging a few words with him that he is an evil force and so he should followed.
Importance of knowledge
Brethren! On this knowledge, the necessity of which I am explaining to you, depends yours and your children's being Muslims and remaining as Muslims. This is not an ordinary thing which may be neglected. You do not show any carelessness in cultivating your land, in irrigating and protecting your crops, in supplying fodder to your cattle and in other work of your profession, simply because if you do so you will be starved to death and will lose a precious thing like life. Then tell me why do you show negligence in acquiring that knowledge on which depends your becoming a Muslim and remaining a Muslim. Does not this entail the danger of losing a precious thing like Iman? Is not Iman dearer than life? Out of the time and labour you spend on things which sustain your life, can you not spend one-tenth part of them on things which protect your Imam?
I do not say that everyone of you should become a Maulvi, read voluminous books and spend ten to twelve years of your life in this pursuit. It is not necessary to read so much to become a Muslim. I only want this much that each one of you should spend only one hour out of the twenty-four hours of day and night in acquiring the knowledge of Deen. At least that much knowledge should be acquired by every Muslim youth, adult and old person as may enable him to understand the essence of the teaching of Qur'an and the purpose for which it was revealed. He should be able to clearly understand the mission of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) with which he came into this world. What was the wrong he wanted to be demolished and what was the right he wished to be established? He should also get acquainted with that particular mode of life which Allah has ordained for Muslims. Not much time is required to acquire this quantum of knowledge. And if Iman is dear to you, it is not so difficult to find one hour per day to acquire it.