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Obtaining Knowledge

Iqbal Ebrahim

Learning and obtaining knowledge is an obligation and honour for a Muslim. The first revealed word in the Quran is ‘Iqra’ meaning ‘read’. Education thus is the starting point of every successful human activity. We are born into this world knowing nothing: ‘And Allah has brought you out from the wombs of your mothers while you know nothing. And He gave you hearing, sight, and hearts that you might give thanks (to Allah)’ (Quran, 16:78). And your Lord is the Most Generous. Who has taught (the writing) by the pen.

He has taught man that which he knew not’ (Quran, 96: 1-5) There are many texts from the Qur'an and in the teachings of the Prophet Muhammed (pbuh) that talk about the virtue of knowledge and encourage its pursuit therefore the true Muslim should be a scholar and a seeker of knowledge throughout his life. This knowledge should be both spiritual / religious matters and secular learning. These two branches of knowledge must be learned side by side and used supplementing and complementing each other so that there is no conflict between the two.

Thus the Muslim believes that exercising his mind and seeking knowledge and discovering the signs of Allah in the universe, is an obligation, because amongst the teachings and sayings of the Prophet Muhammed (pbuh): “The acquisition of knowledge is compulsory for every Muslim, whether male or female”, and, “seek knowledge even though it be in China”, and, “Seek knowledge from the Cradle to the Grave”   and summed up by Prophet Muhammed (pbuh) when he prayed “O my Lord, do not let the sun set on any day during which I did not increase in knowledge”.  

Regrettably in today’s world we tend to look at education and learning in terms of schooling and obtaining degrees, nothing wrong with that, but true knowledge does not necessarily mean confining oneself to obtaining a degree or diploma that will let one earn an income and guarantee a good standard of living, after which one turns away from learning and does not explore the treasure of knowledge any further; The simple fact of life is that knowledge is not just what is taught in school, but it is a life-long journey of learning and experience that one has to undertake. True learning means that one continues to read and study, increasing one's learning day by day, continually seeking knowledge until death. In accordance with the words of the Qur'an: "…But say, 'O my Lord! Advance me in knowledge.'" (Quran 20: 114)

A Muslim should not restrict himself to his own field of study / learning, but should be open to learning about other areas too. We should read books and academic, literary and cultural journals about various useful branches of knowledge, especially those that are related to our own field. In this way, we gain knowledge about many things, which enriches our minds and broadens our horizons. "Say, 'Are those who know equal to those who do not know? (Quran 39:9)

It is a religious obligation that among the first things that a Muslim needs to gain, is Islamic knowledge, this means how to read the Qur'an properly and to understand its meaning. He should also learn something of the Hadith, the teachings, sayings and the lifestyles of the Prophet (pbuh), and other the prominent prophets sent by Allah. This is the foundation layer in life because it gives us the guidance to live a life that is in congruence with values and principles of Islam.   

He should acquire as much knowledge of various intricacies of Islamic life and its teachings so as to ensure that his worship and daily dealings are correct, and he should ensure that he has a sound grasp and understanding of the basic principles of his religion. When a Muslim has a sincere and wholesome intention to obtain knowledge, it will also have a positive effect on his faith. “Allah will raise those who believe and those who have been given knowledge." (Quran 58:11)


However life has many lessons to teach us, therefore we have to learn from those experiences and not confine ourselves to conditioned learning. Islam has made knowledge a duty, whereby the one who seeks it draws closer to Allah and adopts it as a means of earning His pleasure. "Indeed, in the creation of the heavens and the earth and the alternation of night and day are signs for those of understanding." (Quran 3:190)

Therefore the Muslim must continue to pursue knowledge, as long as the breadth of life remains in his body. The fact that Allah has raised the status of those who have knowledge, and described them alone as truly fearing Him, should be enough to encourage the Muslim to apply himself to seeking knowledge. For Allah said: "…Those truly fear Allah, among His Servants, who have knowledge…" (Quran 35: 28)

No one can truly fear disobeying Allah except those whose minds are enlightened enough to see the greatness and power of Allah as manifested in the creation of the universe and all living things, and these are the people of knowledge. The Holy Quran also glorifies knowledge acquisition through the following verse: "…Say: Are those equal, those who know and those who do not know?' It is those who are endued with understanding that receive admonition." (Quran 39: 9)

Whether we admit it or not we cannot deny that learning is a lifelong process; in our daily lives we make the wrong choices or make mistakes and thereafter try to avoid doing the same thing again. That is part of learning some may say we gained from our experience, as the saying goes: life is full of lessons, in school you are taught lessons then given a test. In life you are given a test that teaches you the lesson. Experience is not what happens to a man: It is what a man does with what happens to him.

This brings me to one area that we seem to forget or take for granted is that of the older generation. In the past we turned to our elders for guidance and advice on many issues, this was because we viewed them as a fountain of knowledge. Knowledge in this sense is not meant to mean ‘educational’ because in the past (prior to our Independence) most of the elder generation did not have the means nor were there schools available for them to attend. But through the challenges of life they learnt to navigate life. This brought about a ‘different’ type of education – that of wisdom.  

Regrettably in this day and age we tend to look down at our elders with disdain because they ‘do not have education’ in the form of certificates and degrees that we may be holding. But we forget that it is through their efforts that we stand where we are today. Let us not forget that it was through trials, tribulations and difficult times that they managed to find a path through life. This type of knowledge and wisdom cannot be taught neither can it be learnt at school – It can only be learnt in our journey through the school of life.

The fact is that today there is a growing ‘disconnect’ between the younger generation and the older; even parent / child relationships have suffered the same fate because we no longer sit in their company as was the case in the past. They used to share their life experiences with us and in many instances we learnt how to avoid and not to fall into the traps of this life, but more especially they gave us advice and guidance when we needed it.

Prophet Muhammed (pbuh) said: “No gift among the gifts of a father to his child is better than education.’ ‘When a man dies, all his deeds come to an end except for three — an ongoing charity, beneficial knowledge or a righteous child who will pray for him’.

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Export Processing Zones: How to Get SEZA to Sizzle

23rd September 2020
Export Processing Zone (EPZ) factory in Kenya

In 2005, the Business & Economic Advisory Council (BEAC) pitched the idea of the establishment of Special Economic Zones (SEZs) to the Mogae Administration.

It took five years before the SEZ policy was formulated, another five years before the relevant law was enacted, and a full three years before the Special Economic Zones Authority (SEZA) became operational.

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Egypt Bagged Again

23rd September 2020

… courtesy of infiltration stratagem by Jehovah-Enlil’s clan

With the passing of Joshua’s generation, General Atiku, the promised peace and prosperity of a land flowing with milk and honey disappeared, giving way to chaos and confusion.

Maybe Joshua himself was to blame for this shambolic state of affairs. He had failed to mentor a successor in the manner Moses had mentored him. He had left the nation without a central government or a human head of state but as a confederacy of twelve independent tribes without any unifying force except their Anunnaki gods.

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23rd September 2020

If I say the word ‘robot’ to you,  I can guess what would immediately spring to mind –  a cute little Android or animal-like creature with human or pet animal characteristics and a ‘heart’, that is to say to say a battery, of gold, the sort we’ve all seen in various movies and  tv shows.  Think R2D2 or 3CPO in Star Wars, Wall-E in the movie of the same name,  Sonny in I Robot, loveable rogue Bender in Futurama,  Johnny 5 in Short Circuit…

Of course there are the evil ones too, the sort that want to rise up and eliminate us  inferior humans – Roy Batty in Blade Runner, Schwarzenegger’s T-800 in The Terminator,  Box in Logan’s Run,  Police robots in Elysium and  Otomo in Robocop.

And that’s to name but a few.  As a general rule of thumb, the closer the robot is to human form, the more dangerous it is and of course the ultimate threat in any Sci-Fi movie is that the robots will turn the tables and become the masters, not the mechanical slaves.  And whilst we are in reality a long way from robotic domination, there are an increasing number of examples of  robotics in the workplace.

ROBOT BLOODHOUNDS Sometimes by the time that one of us smells something the damage has already begun – the smell of burning rubber or even worse, the smell of deadly gas. Thank goodness for a robot capable of quickly detecting and analyzing a smell from our very own footprint.

A*Library Bot The A*Star (Singapore) developed library bot which when books are equipped with RFID location chips, can scan shelves quickly seeking out-of-place titles.  It manoeuvres with ease around corners, enhances the sorting and searching of books, and can self-navigate the library facility during non-open hours.

DRUG-COMPOUNDING ROBOT Automated medicine distribution system, connected to the hospital prescription system. It’s goal? To manipulate a large variety of objects (i.e.: drug vials, syringes, and IV bags) normally used in the manual process of drugs compounding to facilitate stronger standardisation, create higher levels of patient safety, and lower the risk of hospital staff exposed to toxic substances.

AUTOMOTIVE INDUSTRY ROBOTS Applications include screw-driving, assembling, painting, trimming/cutting, pouring hazardous substances, labelling, welding, handling, quality control applications as well as tasks that require extreme precision,

AGRICULTURAL ROBOTS Ecrobotix, a Swiss technology firm has a solar-controlled ‘bot that not only can identify weeds but thereafter can treat them. Naio Technologies based in southwestern France has developed a robot with the ability to weed, hoe, and assist during harvesting. Energid Technologies has developed a citrus picking system that retrieves one piece of fruit every 2-3 seconds and Spain-based Agrobot has taken the treachery out of strawberry picking. Meanwhile, Blue River Technology has developed the LettuceBot2 that attaches itself to a tractor to thin out lettuce fields as well as prevent herbicide-resistant weeds. And that’s only scratching the finely-tilled soil.

INDUSTRIAL FLOOR SCRUBBERS The Global Automatic Floor Scrubber Machine boasts a 1.6HP motor that offers 113″ water lift, 180 RPM and a coverage rate of 17,000 sq. ft. per hour

These examples all come from the aptly-named site    because while these functions are labour-saving and ripe for automation, the increasing use of artificial intelligence in the workplace will undoubtedly lead to increasing reliance on machines and a resulting swathe of human redundancies in a broad spectrum of industries and services.

This process has been greatly boosted by the global pandemic due to a combination of a workforce on furlough, whether by decree or by choice, and the obvious advantages of using virus-free machines – I don’t think computer viruses count!  For example, it was suggested recently that their use might have a beneficial effect in care homes for the elderly, solving short staffing issues and cheering up the old folks with the novelty of having their tea, coffee and medicines delivered by glorified model cars.  It’s a theory, at any rate.

Already, customers at the South-Korean  fast-food chain No Brand Burger can avoid any interaction with a human server during the pandemic.  The chain is using robots to take orders, prepare food and bring meals out to diners.  Customers order and pay via touchscreen, then their request is sent to the kitchen where a cooking machine heats up the buns and patties. When it’s ready, a robot ‘waiter’ brings out their takeout bag.   

‘This is the first time I’ve actually seen such robots, so they are really amazing and fun,’ Shin Hyun Soo, an office worker at No Brand in Seoul for the first time, told the AP. 

Human workers add toppings to the burgers and wrap them up in takeout bags before passing them over to yellow-and-black serving robots, which have been compared to Minions. 

Also in Korea, the Italian restaurant chain Mad for Garlic is using serving robots even for sit-down customers. Using 3D space mapping and other technology, the electronic ‘waiter,’ known as Aglio Kim, navigates between tables with up to five orders.  Mad for Garlic manager Lee Young-ho said kids especially like the robots, which can carry up to 66lbs in their trays.

These catering robots look nothing like their human counterparts – in fact they are nothing more than glorified food trolleys so using our thumb rule from the movies, mankind is safe from imminent takeover but clearly  Korean hospitality sector workers’ jobs are not.

And right there is the dichotomy – replacement by stealth.  Remote-controlled robotic waiters and waitresses don’t need to be paid, they don’t go on strike and they don’t spread disease so it’s a sure bet their army is already on the march.

But there may be more redundancies on the way as well.  Have you noticed how AI designers have an inability to use words of more than one syllable?  So ‘robot’ has become ‘bot’ and ‘android’ simply ‘droid?  Well, guys, if you continue to build machines ultimately smarter than yourselves you ‘rons  may find yourself surplus to requirements too – that’s ‘moron’ to us polysyllabic humans”!

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