The Internet as a tool for acquiring knowledge
24 Aug 2011 12:30 GMT
Can a person acquire knowledge by way of the Internet, as long as the sources are reliable and the information is substantiated and verified? Can a person attend classes online and study in an online program? Does Islam recognize this as a means of acquiring knowledge? Or is this an invalid means?

Answered by

Sheikh Târiq b. `Abd al-Rahmân al-Hawwâs, professor at al-Imâm University, al-Ahs⒠Campus

A person can acquire knowledge through any valid means. Knowledge can be gained through contemplation, investigation, and experimentation. It can be gained by learning from those who possess knowledge, either firsthand or from books and journals. Knowledge can be gained from attending lectures at schools, universities, and mosques. Knowledge can be gained from audio recordings and educational video programs.

Likewise, knowledge can be acquired through the Internet.

Allah says: “Allah brings you forth from your mothers’ knowing nothing. He gives you the ability to hear and see, and he gives you hearts. Perhaps you will be grateful.” [Sûrah al-Nahl: 78]

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Whoever embarks upon a path to acquire knowledge, Allah will make easy for him the path to Paradise.” [Sahîh Muslim (2699)]

Scholars agree that the methods and means of acquiring knowledge are not limited in Islam to certain pre-defined patterns or approaches. The hadîth is general. It covers every effective method of learning. We do not need a specific and direct reference from the scriptures to sanction a particular means of acquiring knowledge. We have, in the hadîth, a general ruling of permissibility.

Therefore, the burden of proof lies on the one claiming that a certain method or means is unlawful. In the absence of specific evidence indicating the unlawfulness of a specific means, it remains under the default ruling of permissibility.

This is nothing unusual in Islamic Law. A similar ruling applies to the means of transportation we use to get to Mecca for the Hajj. It does not matter whether we use a camel, a horse, a train, a car, a bus, or an airplane. What matters is that we get to Mecca safely and fulfill our duty to Allah. We do not need to look for specific scriptural evidence proving that we can use a bus, a car, or a plane.

Likewise, we do not need specific evidence to prove that we can give charity to the poor by writing a check or giving paper currency, or using PayPal. We are not restricted to gold and silver coins. What matters is that the needy person gets the relief that he or she needs.

There were no formal educational institutes and universities in Arabia at the Prophet’s time. There were no printing presses. Every historical period intruduced new means and new media tools for teaching, learning, and disseminating knowledge. As these means developed, the Muslims readily adopted them and availed themselves of their potential.

Religious knowledge is the most worthy form of knowledge to benefit from new pedagogical techniques and information technologies.

May Allah guide us and give us success in what pleases Him.

Source: Islam Today

-- Al Arabiya Digital