Dear blessed Friday Jemaah,
I would like to remind myself and all of you, to strive to heighten our taqwa toward Allah s.w.t; to obey all of Allah’s commandments and avoid what He has prohibited upon us. Let us also increase our piety to Allah s.w.t by studying and reflecting upon Allah’s creations. This is the driving factor behind the success of early Muslims in the field of science and civilisation.
My dear brothers,
Last month’s sermons highlighted the need for every individual to deepen their religious knowledge and develop a sense of maturity in dealing with diverse opinions. The sermon for today and the coming weeks will highlight several early scholars who were well-rounded in their education. They were knowledgeable in various fields of study and had achieved spiritual maturity.
Today, I will share with you the story of an eminent figure in the study of mathematics, astronomy and geography. His name was Muhammad ibn Musa al-Khwarizmi. He was born in 780 AD in the region of Al-Khwarizmi, now in Uzbekistan.
Al-Khwarizmi is a sterling example of how the integration of secular and religious knowledge can be implemented and its importance in contributing to human civilization. Al-Khwarizmi’s academic discoveries did not only benefit the Muslims, but also left a significant impact, which then paved the way for various scientific discoveries.
Al-Khwarizmi was the first to introduce algebra to the world. This method of calculation is the basic concept for various mathematical calculations. This includes facilitating scientists to undertake in-depth studies for space exploration. Similarly, the creation of electronic devices, including smart phones that we use today, required the application of basic algebraic methods introduced by Al-Khwarizmi in the field of mathematics.
Not only that, Al-Khwarizmi also introduced the basic decimal system which has enabled more accurate calculations. Today, all sorts of calculations require the use of the decimal system. Without it, we would not be able to derive accurate calculations.
In the field of astronomy, Al-Khwarizmi wrote a book titled Zij As-Sindi wal Hindi. It is a compilation of calculations and data for the moon, sun and five planets that were known back then. The book paved the way for Muslim astronomers to produce other books on the movement of objects in space.
Al-Khwarizmi’s discoveries within the field of astronomy were major contributions to civilisation, crossing racial and religious lines. For example, a study Al-Khwarizmi conducted in his book, Risalah fi Istikhraj Tarikh Yahud benefited the calculations for the Jewish calendar.
Dear blessed jemaah
From what I have just shared, Al-Khwarizmi is a sterling example of how Muslims in the past had contributed greatly to the development of world civilisation. And today, we need even more Muslims like Al-Khwarizmi who can contribute to the body of knowledge as well as global development.
Although he was an obedient Muslim who was guided by Islamic teachings, Al-Khwarizmi never felt that Islam prevented a person from helping those of other faiths. In fact, he helped the Jews by producing a book that helped them in calculating their calendar. Rasulullah s.a.w. once said:
Which means: "The best of people are those that bring most benefit to the rest of mankind."
Indeed it is hard to emulate the academic prominence and abilities of Al-Khwarizmi because it is Allah’s gift to him. However, we can emulate the principles that guided Al-Khawarizmi. Among them:
First, Al-Khwarizmi was diligent and gave his very best in seeking knowledge. He spent many sleepless nights writing his book on astronomy because he had to make numerous careful observations and various calculations of space objects during the night. Indeed, this sense of diligence is something that is encouraged in Islam. Rasulullah s.a.w said:
Which means: Verily, Allah s.w.t loves those who are diligent and earnest in doing something.
This culture of research and learning needs to be encouraged within our community, and we should at least support our family members to continue seeking knowledge. We should never feel that we have enough knowledge; whether it is in the scientific fields of study or in matters of Islamic education, or even those related to our jobs. Knowledge is the key to opening our minds and hearts to become Allah’s servants who are not arrogant with what little knowledge that we has. Education will help us to become Muslims who are religiously resilient and able to overcome the challenges in life.
Second, we need to have the right intention in seeking knowledge. The right intention starts with studying for the sake of Allah s.w.t and to appreciate His Greatness. This is followed by seeking knowledge in order to help others, and not simply for the sake of increasing one’s knowledge. This was done by Al-Khwarizmi. To this day, his contributions to mankind are greatly appreciated. The right intention will determine whether the knowledge we have gained will be able to benefit others. My brothers, if by seeking knowledge makes one more arrogant, worsens one’s akhlak and character, or makes one more self-centred; then these are signs that one was not sincere in seeking knowledge for the sake of Allah s.w.t. Hence, we need to ensure that education makes us more well-mannered and calm, yet sensitive toward the sufferings of those around us.
Third, placing importance on studying Mathematics, Astronomy and Science. Al-Khwarizmi was a prominent scholar of these three important fields of study. Mathematics and Astronomy, for example, are crucial in determining certain aspects of obligatory acts of worship. If fact, we can conclude that performing four out of the five pillars of Islam depends on a deep understanding of astronomy. In order to determine prayer times, the direction of kiblah, when to pay zakat, when to start fasting and when to perform the Hajj, we need scholars well-versed in astronomy.
Allah s.w.t underscores the importance of Mathematics and Astronomy in several verses in the Quran. Among them, in surah Yunus verse 5:
Which means: "It is He who made the sun a shining light and the moon a derived light and determined for it phases – that you may know the number of years and account [of time]. Allah has not created this except in truth. He details the signs for a people who know."
Let us instil the principles and attitude as shown by Al-Khwarizmi in seeking knowledge. We do not necessarily have to separate religious knowledge from secular fields of study because every branch of knowledge is a gift from Allah s.w.t. to His servants. What is most important is that what we learn can benefit others. May we be able to be more dignified as Muslims, by contributing to the global community and spreading benefits to all of humankind.
Majlis Ugama Islam Singapura
Friday Sermon, 06 September 2013 / 30 Syawal 1434