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IslamQA: Is seeking scientific and empirical knowledge obligatory on Muslims?

assalamu aleykom, i truly hope my questions is going to be clear and reach u in good health. i would like to know what's the position of reading (the act of reading but also the act of seeking all sorts of knowledge) in islam. is it truthful to say that islam in itself is the love and the will to seek knowledge and (the ability) to read is fundamental? I believe Allah (swt) told our Prophet (pbuh) to read 3 times, is that accurate? jazakAllahu khayran

Alaikumassalam wa rahmatullah,

The Quran constantly tells us to look into the world, the heavens, and the history of the nations before us. So seeking empirical knowledge is one of the fundamental commands of the Quran:

Many societies have passed away before you. So travel the earth and note the fate of the deniers. (Verse 3:137)

Say, “Travel the earth and observe the final fate of the deniers.” (Verse 6:11)

And it is He who sends down water from the sky. With it We produce vegetation of all kinds, from which We bring greenery, from which We produce grains in clusters. And palm-trees with hanging clusters, and vineyards, and olives, and pomegranates—similar and dissimilar. Watch their fruits as they grow and ripen. Surely in this are signs for people who believe. (Verse 6:99)

Have they not observed the government of the heavens and the earth, and all the things that God created, and that their time may have drawn near? Which message, besides this, will they believe in? (Verse 7:185)

Say, “Look at what is in the heavens and the earth.” But signs and warnings are of no avail for people who do not believe. (Verse 10:101)

Do they not see how We deal with the earth, diminishing it at its edges? God judges; and nothing can hold back His judgment. And He is quick to settle accounts. (Verse 13:41)

To every community We sent a messenger: “Worship God, and avoid idolatry.” Some of them God guided, while others deserved misguidance. So travel through the earth, and see what the fate of the deniers was. (Verse 16:36)

Have they not observed what God has created? Their shadows revolve from the right and the left, bowing to God as they shrink away. (Verse 16:48)

Have they not seen the earth, and how many beautiful pairs We produced therein? (Verse 26:7)

Do they not see that We made the night for them to rest therein, and the day for visibility? Surely in that are signs for people who believe. (Verse 27:86)

Have they not seen how God originates the creation, and then reproduces it? This is easy for God. Say, “Roam the earth, and observe how He originated the creation.” Then God will bring about the next existence. God has power over all things.” (Verses 29:19-20)

Do they not see how We conduct the water to a dry land, and with it We produce vegetation, from which their livestock eat, and themselves? Do they not see? (Verse 32:27)

Do they not reflect upon what lies before them and behind them, of the heaven and the earth? If We will, We can make the earth cave in beneath them, or make pieces of the sky fall down on them. In that is a sign for every devout servant. (Verse 34:9)

Seeking religious knowledge is obligatory on every Muslim, and seeking empirical/scientific/historical knowledge is obligatory on every Muslim community. This is known as a farḍ kifāya, which means that it is sufficient if only some members of the community carry it out. So not every person has to be a scientist or historian, but some members of the global Muslim community are required to be involved in every field of knowledge. So whatever field of knowledge you study, you are carrying out God’s command. Not every Muslim is required to be a scientist or historian, but it is an obligation on the global Muslim community to be involved in every field of knowledge, having some individuals who are scientists, others who are medical researchers, or historians, or astronomers, and so on.

As for the Prophet being told to read three times, the word used was iqraʾ, which means both “Read!” and “Recite!”. So this is not necessarily related to general reading, it seems more likely that the command was to the Prophet to start reciting the Quran as Gabriel started teaching him.

And God knows best.
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