Spirit of Enquiry in Islam

Maulana Wahiduddin Khan | Teachings of Islam

According to a tradition, the Prophet of Islam once remarked: “The remedy for ignorance is asking questions.” (Sunan Abu Dawud, Hadith No. 336) If the ignorant man does not inquire, his ignorance will stay with him. But if he has a questioning mind, some knowledgeable person will answer him, and he will no longer remain ignorant.

There is a saying in Arabic to the same effect: To know that you do not know is half knowledge itself. If an ignorant person is not aware of his ignorance, he will continue to remain in the same state. But when he becomes aware of his ignorance, he sets about seeking for knowledge. He will try to turn his ignorance into knowledge. In this way his awareness of his ignorance will become the stepping-stone leading towards full knowledge.

This is called, in present-day parlance, the spirit of inquiry, and is given great importance. It is this spirit of inquiry, which has played the greatest role in bringing about the age of science. It is the zeal to discover which has led man to knowledge.

In ancient times the phenomena of nature were considered to be manifestations of God. The sight of the manifestations of nature, therefore, aroused in man the spirit of worship. It was only when these natural phenomena were divested of their divinity that the spirit of inquiry could be aroused in man. As a result, many of the mysteries of nature now lie unraveled.

An inquisitive mind is a sine qua non for the acquisition of knowledge. Only those who are possessed of this quality will achieve great success in intellectual and academic fields. Those devoid of this spirit will remain static, and will fail to climb to the top of the ladder of success.

It is this spirit, which is the foundation of all scientific progress.