Who is the First Teacher of Humanity?
Who is our first teacher? Have we ever thought about this question? Yes, sometimes. I know that my mother, or my father, or my brother or my sister, or my primary school teacher who taught me how to write and read, was my first teacher. But is this answer correct? Do I know with certainty that this is the correct answer?
Why are we asking this question at this stage of our life? Why do we all need to take a moment and ask ourselves this question? Because it is an important question. Knowing the correct answer to this question affects the way we live our lives. Could it be wrong that my mother or father or primary school teachers are my first teachers?
Yes, it is wrong. We have read several times the correct answer, but we did not notice it. We read in the Quran that it is Allah ﷻ, who is the Creator of the entire universe, All-Knowledgeable, All-Wise, All-Hearing, All-Seeing, Self-Existent, Ever-Living, the Most Merciful, the Most Compassionate, who taught us that which we do not know especially the Right Way of life. He said: “He teaches you the Right Way and has full knowledge of everything” [2: 283]; “He taught you what you know not. Great indeed has been Allah’s favour upon you” [4: 113]. He taught us many things. Referring to the Prophet ʿĪsa, He said: “…recall My favour…when I taught you the Book and Wisdom” [5: 110]. Allah ﷻ taught to the Prophet Yūsuf how to comprehend the deeper meaning of things [12: 21[. He taught us about the truth and reality of life, society and the world. He has said this repeatedly in the Quran. Allah ﷻ taught man about all necessary things of this world so that we can deal with them properly. It is said in the Quran: “Then Allah taught Adam the names of all things”. [2: 31]
He taught us to read in the name of our Lord and Cherisher, Who created us and taught us the use of the pen. Allah taught us that which we knew not. He taught us that we should know our limitations and not transgress it [96: 1, & 4-6]. He also taught us the Right Way of life as He has full knowledge of everything [2: 282]. No one is equal to Him in this regard. We acknowledged this fact and said: “Glory to You! We have no knowledge except what You taught us. You, only You, are All-Knowing, All-Wise.” [2: 32]
Whatever was taught to us by Allah, ﷻ is recorded in the Quran. The Quran was introduced as not only the Book of knowledge but also of guidance and a mercy for all humankind [2:2]. Through His teachings, He granted us the Criterion by which we can distinguish truth from falsehood [3:3-4].
This Book, beyond all doubt, was revealed by the Lord of the Universe. It is the truth from your Lord [32: 2-3]
These are the āyats of a Book that clearly expounds the truth. [12: 1]
Allah ﷻ taught us through the Quran about the Truth and Reality of life and the world. He guided us so that we can understand and make our life, society and the world meaningful and worthy of living [16: 64]. He guided us to the way that is the Most- Straight so that we can do righteous works. He taught us about the Truth and Reality of the Next world. He taught us beyond any doubt that in the next world, He will take account of this worldly life and grant us the best and greatest reward. He also taught and warned us about the grievous chastisement that waits for us [17: 9-10]. We are taught it in the Quran:
He who follows the Right Way shall do so to his own advantage, and he who strays shall incur his own loss. No one shall carry other people's burdens. And never shall We punish any until We send a Messenger [to make the truth distinct to them from falsehood. [17: 15]
Hence, Allah ﷻ invited humankind through the Quran to understand the Truth and Reality of life and this world.
O mankind, serve your Lord Who has created you as well as those before you; do so that you are saved. It is He Who has made the earth a resting-place for you, and the sky a canopy, and sent down water from above with which He brought forth fruits for your sustenance, Do not, then, set up rivals to Allah when you know[the truth]. [2: 21-22]
The Quran presents a challenge to the thinking minds of all ages and urges them to disprove the claims of the Quran. It has again and again stated with clarity that Allah ﷻ is the only Creator of man and universe Who revealed to man the True, Authentic, and Universal Knowledge [Islamic Revealed Knowledge] of the physical and metaphysical world. Therefore, should not this knowledge revealed by Him occupy the central place in the scheme of production of further knowledge and education?
As Allah ﷻ is our First Teacher and the one Who revealed to us the Quran, it is the content of the Quran, the overall teachings, the morals, the values, the laws, and the principles that should be our guide in the development of people and societies. If the Knowledge-Giver's Book is practised and followed sincerely by people, individually and collectively, then everyone can live a peaceful and happy life. Yet, so many of us have forgotten that Allah ﷻ and His Book should always be our first source of knowledge and guidance. How many times have we turned to others around us rather than the Quran? We pursue our education and make choices in our lives, unguided by the First Teacher. Is this not a form of ingratitude? This is the reason that Allah ﷻ is asking people how we can be ungrateful to Him.
How can you be ungrateful to Allah who bestowed life upon you when you were lifeless, will later cause you to die and will again bring you back to life so that you will be returned to Him. [2: 28]
Whether we like it or not, surely, we all will return to Allah ﷻ to give an account of our life spent here. This is the truth of our life which He has informed us. In fact, one of the most important lessons from our First Teacher, which we must never forget: "There is no God but Allah. To Him are all destined to return [40: 3]. This lesson about the Next Life is to guard us against all evils and remind us to always turn to Him. Allah ﷻ says in the Quran that on the Day of Resurrection and Judgement, all people will see and confess the Truth and Reality of the Next world [40: 11]. On that Day All ﷻ will ask: “Whose is the Command today?” All the people of the entire generations would say: “It is Allah’s, the One, the Overpowering” [40: 16].
On that Day of Judgement, which we have forgotten totally, Allah ﷻ would say: "Today shall everyone be fully recompensed for his deeds. None shall be wronged today. Surely Allah is Swift in Reckoning" [40: 17]. On that Day the hearts of those people who fail to recognize the truth of the Next world in this world would be full of suppressed grief with a leap up to their throats, and they would not find any sincere friend nor intercessor whose word would be headed by Allah ﷻ [40: 18]. Allah ﷻ would reveal all the secrets that the hearts of people had concealed and would make His judgement. Allah would judge with justice, and no one can escape on that Day from His justice. Whosoever would have committed any wrong in this world would see the result of it. Allah ﷻ is indeed Strong, Terrible in Retribution [40: 22]. We would cry out to one another for help [40: 32]. We would turn around to retreat; there would be none to protect us from Allah ﷻ [40: 33]. Just as there will be no saviour but Allah in the Next Life, in this life too, our True Saviour and Guide is Allah and His Book. These are the fundamental life lessons which we have been taught by Allah ﷻ. Living by these teachings, and turning to Allah ﷻ for knowledge and guidance can alone save us from walking blindly in the alleys of falsehood, pride, and gloom.
There is no compulsion in Din [accepting truth]. The right way now stands clearly distinguished from the wrong. Hence, he who rejects the evil ones and believes in Allah has indeed taken hold of the firm, unbreakable handle. And Allah [Whom he has held for support] is All-Hearing, All-Knowing. [2: 256] Allah is the Guardian of those who believe and brings them out of thick darkness into light. And those who disbelieve, their guardians are the evil ones; they get them out of light into all kinds of darkness. These are destined for the Fire, and there they shall abide. [2: 257]
(Dr Muhammad Mumtaz Ali is Professor of Usuluddin and Comparative Religion at Kulliyyah of Islamic Revealed Knowledge and Human Sciences, International Islamic University Malaysia)
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily mirror Islamonweb’s editorial stance.