The subject addressed here is obviously not new to the readership. It has been discussed, written about and, I think, debated in this journal and elsewhere for some time. My aim in the following pages is to give this subject a perspective based upon my own experiences in both Islamic and Western learning.
‘Ilm (knowledge) is, of course, fundamentally important for man. When Allah (SWT) created ’Adam (AS), He gave him ‘ilm. So, in the case of man, ‘ilm is as important as wjd (existence). If man had only wujud and no ‘ilm, he would be of little consequence. The Qur’an tells us that when Allah (SWT) wanted to create ’Adam (AS), He informed the angels. They, however, did not like the idea. They responded: “Why are You creating this creature on the earth who will sow mischief therein and shed blood? We are here, praising Your Holiness, and exalting Your Glory.” In His reply, Allah (SWT) did not deny the charges that the angels brought against ’Adam (AS), but simply said: “I know what you do not know.” Then, after creating ’Adam (AS), Allah (SWT) brought the angels and ’Adam (AS) face to face, and asked the angels: “Tell me the names of these things?” It was a test: the original primordial test. The angels replied: ”Glory be to You! We do not know; we know what You have told us; we do not know anything else.’’ ’Adam (AS), however, in whom God had put the capacity for creative knowledge, was able to name these things. Thus, man, ’Adam (AS), possesses a great capacity for knowledge. Neither angels, nor any other creature have this capacity.