Meditating in the Cave of Hira, Prophet Muhammad received the Angel of Allah, Jubril who asked him to read. Muhammad was surprised and did not understand what he was asked to do, for he could neither read nor write - an illiterate. Jubril charged him again to read, he did not until the third time. Without having any fore- knowledge, without attending any school, Muhammad received the light from Allah (SWT) and he began reading. This birthed the first verses of the holy Qur'an (96vs 1-6). The verses unveiled the darkness in Prophet's eyes. They opened the stream of knowledge and ordered man to fetch and drink therein. They are verses that define who a Muslim is, a seeker of knowledge. They make us know reading maketh a full man as Francis Bacon would put it, these verses affirm and reaffirm that Islam is not a religion of illiterate.
Read in the name of your lord who created.
He created man from a clot of blood
Read and your Lord is the Most Generous.
Who taught by the pen.
He taught man what he did not know. (Qur'an Chapter 96 verses 1-5)
For one to be called a Muslim, it is pertinent for one to have it in mind that Islam is of knowledge and knowledge is of a Muslim. Seeking knowledge is the first call of a Muslim and it is a step towards development of the mind and our environment. It can be so hard and the road can be so rough, the end shall bring happiness and success. Knowledge shall electrify our thinking towards knowing more about our religion. What would have been of Islam if there is no book to read? What would have been of Islam if Prophet Muhammad had not received the first revelation? How would killings, gambling and corruption engulfing Makkah in Jahilliyyah period be cleansed off if Muhammad had not received guidance from Allah?
Ignorance ruins a nation and throws pebbles to a very peaceful ocean. It fights knowledge, thinking it is knowledgeable. Ignorance blocks off thinking straight. It thinks downward. It has brought down Iraq and Syria through the hands of ISIS, destroys Afghanistan using the Taliban and has swallowed many lives in Nigeria through the swords of Boko haram. These terrorist organizations think they are performing the will of Allah and have paradise awaiting them are very ignorant of the scripture and thus listen to the selected verses to drive their aims home. They have only one interpretation, the one said by their leaders: to kill and kill. Indeed, how ignorance kills! How it sends people to grave!
Though these terrorists groups have verses to point out if asked to justify their claims of killing innocent people, they have little knowledge of what they refer to. They suffer intoxication for the little they gain. They are thirsty for blood instead of knowledge. They think they know much but we know they know little. Alexander Pope has advised them to drink not or they drink deep in knowledge so as to gain much: "A little learning is a dangerous thing; Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring".
Prophet Muhammad, throughout his entire life was a seeker of knowledge. He directed his companions to seek knowledge irrespective of where they could find it. He taught his companions what he was taught by Jubril. They memorized verses together whenever they were revealed to him. They built mind not face as we see now where many people concentrate on materialism. Hence, it made them practice Islam perfectly for they had knowledge of what Islam asked them to do and what it asked them not to. They did not only listen to the prophet who received the revelation, they looked at what Allah says themselves. They were not dogmatic: they reasoned before acting. Unlike this day where shallow minded Sheiks have infested the roof of this world with their personal interpretations of scripture for their unmindful and zealous followers who see them as their demi-gods. They get to the extreme of worshipping Nature rather than the God of Nature. They engage in Shirk ( associating partners with Allah).
As seeking knowledge is another form of Ibadah, it widens one's understanding about Islam and makes one follow the right path.
In conclusion, it is very important to note here that, knowledge in this context is not limited to Islamic affairs only, it is general: engaging books from Science, Literature, Classics, Philosophy, Geography and lots. It is a holistic approach to knowledge. Knowledge that brings several views.
Ladies and gentlemen, breathing or deceased
Let me tell you a story I am ignorant about
You need not listen,
just pay rapt attention
It is a genuine story,
fake within and without
On a shining day, in the midst of the night