Thank you for joining us at our August Community Night!

The topic of the program, “The First Message Started with Iqra,” was presented as a lecture and discussion led by Sh. Hassan Aly, the Mecca Center’s Imam and Religious Director. The event focused on the importance of reading and gaining knowledge even before worshipping Allah (swt) as the first command from Allah (swt) to the Prophet Muhammad (saw) was “iqra” – even before prayer or fasting. For Muslims, knowledge comes before speech or action. This Islamic tenet is a critical reminder in our day and age as most of humanity’s problems and crises today are a result of not first seeking knowledge.

In his lecture, Sh. Hassan reminded us that Allah (swt) created man and provided him with the tools for earning knowledge, namely hearing, sight and wisdom – as Allah says: “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).” With Islam being a religion of knowledge, the first ayah of the Qur’an revealed reading as the first instruction in gaining knowledge, as Allah says: “Read! In the Name of your Lord Who has created (all that exists).”

In Islam, knowledge comes before action; and there can be no action without knowledge, as Allah says: “So know (O Muhammad) that Laa ilaaha ill-Allah (none has the right to be worshipped but Allah), and ask forgiveness for your sin, and also for (the sin of) believing men and believing women” [Muhammad 47:19].

Because of the importance of knowledge, Allah commanded His Messenger to seek more of it. Allah Says: “and say: ‘My Lord! Increase me in knowledge’” [Ta-Ha 20:114].

The statistics on literacy today are startling. According to the World’s Women 2015 report, nearly 17% of the world’s adult population is still not literate; two thirds of them are women, making gender equality even harder to achieve. The scale of illiteracy among youth also represents an enormous challenge as an estimated 122 million youth globally are illiterate, of which young women represent 60.7%. The 67.4 million children who are out of school are likely to encounter great difficulties in the future, as deficient or non-existent basic education is the root cause of illiteracy. In the United States, the average American reads only 11 books every year!

For these reasons, it is now more important than ever that we ask ourselves what we are doing to increase our literacy knowledge and to help others increase theirs as well. with the aim of increasing our literacy and knowledge.

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