Tuesday November 29, 2011
Finding truth in fact and fabrication
By Mohamad Azhar Hashim
Fellow, Centre for Economics and Social Studies
Many Muslim scholars are still debating the authenticity of the expression ‘seek knowledge even as far as China’. While Muslims continue to be divided on this, China is fast becoming the largest economy in the world.
WHILE Muslims are engaging in a long debate whether the expression, “seek knowledge even as far as China” is really the words of the Prophet or a hadith, China has already emerged as the second largest economy in the world.
Economic experts made it official early this year that China has surpassed Japan to become the world’s second largest economy.
Indeed, the huge nation cannot wait any longer for Muslims to resolve their nagging debate on the authenticity of the expression and other trivialities, as toppling the United States as the largest economy in the world is now within sight.
Today, China’s economy is the fastest growing in the world, with the output growth rate in its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growing consistently at an average 10% over the past 30 years.
China is currently the largest exporter and second largest importer of goods, as well as the world’s largest car market and the biggest energy consumer.
The significant growth in its investments, consumption and living standards is the result of its economic reforms initiated in the late 70s. The reforms have been successful in resolving poverty issues and driving China’s active participation in the global market.
China’s emergence in the world economy today not only has been made through the government but also through private companies.
Its currency, the renminbi or yuan, has become stronger and regarded as a benchmark currency for international transactions, especially on a regional basis.
Economic superpowers often feel threatened by the rising power of the yuan, accusing China that their currency brought about instability in the world trade.
For many years, Muslims have been debating on expression, whether it can be classified as authentic hadith or not. There were also disputes whether it was actually pronounced by the Prophet or just words of wisdom.
There have been differences in opinion. There are scholars who place this expression in the category of weak hadith (dhaeef), and there are also scholars who reject the expression as a hadith all together.
They opined that this expression was fabricated (mawdhu’) or fake words attributed to the Prophet, which means it was not the words of the Prophet at all, as there was no basis to claim so.
In addition, there are scholars who opined that even if this expression is an authentic hadith, it does not mean that there is an obligation for Muslims to seek knowledge in China in the literal sense.
In essence, Muslims are urged to seek knowledge related to Syariah or religious knowledge, even if it takes a person to faraway lands.
These opinions over the years may have had a psychological impact on Muslims, both in pursuing the type of knowledge and the position of China.
Muslims scholars may have found the truth that the expression is not from the Prophet, based on their study in the knowledge of hadith. As laymen, we are obliged to uphold and respect the opinion of the scholars.
However, imagine if Muslims did not engage in the debate on the authenticity of the expression but instead, acknowledge it, and act accordingly to the explicit intention of the message contained in the expression.
Who knows, today Muslims may have done well economically, and may have dominated the world economy in ways that could be superior than present advanced economies.
Whoever uttered or designed or fabricated the expression, “seek knowledge even as far as China” centuries ago, he was wise, as he probably saw the future vividly.
While Muslims have heard the expression for ages, and have been all the while arguing, debating and disputing it with different opinions, other nations have been building bridges with modern China and made an impact on the huge nation.
Indeed, China has successfully transformed its economy from an impoverished communist nation to an economic powerhouse. It has overtaken Europe and Japan, and is now set to take the number one position from the United States, which many economic experts believe can be achieved between 2020 and 2030.
While Muslims continue to embrace and subscribe to the words or expressions of wisdom of every visionary in the world without much hesitation, we still debate at length words of wisdom from visionaries of our rich intellectual civilisation. Only Allah knows best.