Ann Hallock, former Prof. Of behavioural medicine, Michigan State University, USA
Light upon light! Allah guides whom He will to His Light- Qur’an, Surih 24:35
Education produces the light of knowledge. As an example from nature: if a plant is carefully nurtured by a gardener, it will become strong, and produce better fruit. So must children be given good training from their earliest childhood. They must be given systematic training which will further their development from day to day, in order that they may receive greater insight, and so that their spiritual receptivity will be broadened.
Training in morals and good conduct is far more important than book learning. A child or adult that is agreeable, cleanly, of good character, well behaved - even though he may be ignorant - is preferable to one who is rude, unwashed, ill-natured, and yet deeply versed in all the sciences and arts. The reason for this is that the person who conducts himself well is of benefit to others even if he is ignorant, while an ill-natured, ill behaved person is corrupted and harmful to others, even though he be learned. If a person is both learned and and good, the result is light upon light.
Beginning in childhood each child must receive instruction. The hearts of all children are of the utmost purity. They are mirrors upon which no dust has fallen. But this purity is on account of their weakness and innocence, not on account of any strength and testing, because this is the early period of their childhood, and their hearts and minds are unsullied by the world. Having lived a short time they cannot display any great intelligence. They have not acquired either hypocrisy or deceit. This is on account of the child’s weakness, whereas the man becomes pure through his strength. Through the power of his intelligence a man becomes simple; through the greater power of his reason and understanding, but surely not because of weakness, he becomes sincere. When he attains to the state of perfection, he will receive these qualities; his heart becomes purified, his spirit enlightened, his soul becomes sensitized and tender—all through his great strength. This is the difference between the perfect man and the child. Both have the underlying qualities of simplicity and sincerity—the child through the power of weakness and the man through the power of strength. The life of a man is useful if he attains the perfections of a man. If he becomes the center of the imperfections of the world of humanity, death is better than life, and nonexistence better than existence.
Christ addressed the world, saying, “Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven”— what that means is, humans must become pure in heart to know God.
Spiritual teachings have been known to bestow great effects. Spiritual souls are tender souls! Therefore, if an effort is made in order that children may be rightly trained and educated, then each of them hopefully, may attain a level of perfection in the world of humanity.
Ignorance and lack of education are barriers that manifest separations among humankind. Reasearch is showing that lack of education and poverty go hand in hand. Universal education is certainly a factor that is important for the eradication of poverty. All must receive training and instruction. Through this provision the lack of mutual understanding will be remedied and the unity of humankind furthered and advanced. Universal education needs to be a universal law. The education of each child needs to be compulsory. In addition to wide-spread education each child must be taught a profession, art, or trade, so that every member of the community will be enabled to earn his own livelihood.
With education each person can become his own advocate. In India currently there are many people from impoverished backgrounds who now have an education and, while they may still live in poverty they have access to computers. They are able to read and see from the internet what is available to others in the world that is not yet available to them. The result is that they are now able to assert that knowledge and require their leaders to be more honest. They refuse to accept the lies they previously believed which is forcing the improvement of their neighborhoods and lives.
Currently there are factions in the world opposed to universal education. Many people like to have the advantage of knowing more than their compatriots. In the United States the privatization of schools and government institutions, under the guise of lowering taxes, is leading to unequal education for those at the lowest income strata. Many people who are without children are beginning to protest spending any tax money or public funds to educate“other people’s children”. There are even some movements making claims that we no longer need to educate the poorest
children because the digital world has no use for them. This is not only immoral but shows with certainty their lack of spiritual development and a definite lack of concern for others and for the future.
The recent epidemic of Ebola in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia shows the terrible consequences of these two intrinsically linked scourges: lack of education and poverty. This dreadful frightening disease becomes even more difficult to treat and prevent when there is no way to help the people who have no understanding of what is happening to their communities and families; in fact, out of fear they make the outcome worse and their suffering extreme. The lack of sanitation, which is managable under good conditions, becomes deadly, killing more and causing needless suffering.
To me, the contrast between the news reports reassurring people in the west about how quickly this disease could be isolated should any infected person return home with the virus, and seeing the terror on the faces of those men with weapons, fearful of the very people who could help them the most, was heartbreaking. All because they live in poverty and lack access to knowledge available to nearly everyone on earth. Injustice is the real true villain.
Human education should signify civilization and progress—that is to say, improving health and sciences, good government, honest administration, charitable works, trades, arts and handicrafts, great inventions and discoveries and elaborate institutions, which are the activities essential to man as distinguished from the animals. If an individual has virtues that shine out, and ones purpose in life is spiritual, and with inclinations focused towards the good of all, and in addition one also studies other branches of knowledge and the arts; then we do have light upon light: the outer being luminous, private character radiant, a sound heart, thoughts elevated, understanding swift, and rank noble.
All are blessed who attain this station in life.
The Ayat an-Nur (Arabic: "the Sign of Light" or the Verse of Light) is the 35th verse of the 24th sura of the Qur'an, Sura an Nur. The verse is renowned for its remarkable beauty and imagery, and perhaps more than any other verse lends itself to mystical or esoteric readings of the Qur'an. The verse was very commonly used in the decoration of mosque lamps.
Allah is the Light of the heavens and the earth. The parable of His Light is as if there were a Niche and within it a Lamp enclosed in Glass: the glass as it were a brilliant star: lit from a blessed Tree, an Olive, neither of the East nor of the West, whose oil is of itself luminous; though fire scarce touched it: light upon light! Allah does set forth Parables for men: and Allah does know all things.
Yusuf ‘Ali, The Holy Qur’an pp. 907-908
Ann Hallock is the director of Hope Consulting Institute, LLC. and former professor of Behavioral Sciences at Michigan State University and retired psychotherapist. She is currently doing volunteer work in Africa; working to better the lives of impoverished people and hoping to find ways to improve education and health delivery systems.