Significance of the Quest for Islamic Knowedge
Why should we seek Islamic knowledge in particular? In other words, what is the incentive or motivation for the quest for Islamic knowledge?
1) Allah (SWT) has praised Islamic knowledge as well as the people who seek it. In Surat Al Mujadila for instance in ayah 10, Allah (SWT) says, “Allah will raise the status of those amongst you who have knowledge.”
2) Knowledge is the distinguishing factor that raises us humans above all of Allah’s (SWT) creations–even the angels. If you remember, Allah (SWT) in Surat Al Baqara showed the distinctive superiority of Adam (as) over the angels as that of knowledge. When Allah (swt) created Adam (as) the angels question Allah’s choice, and Allah (SWT) justified this new creation by teaching him the names of all things–in other words knowledge. If you were to think of it, who is created of light, bigger[in size], more powerful [in strength]l, and not susceptible to death [until the trumpet is blown]? The angels of course! Yet, Adam (as) is better than the angels, and the only determining factor was that Adam (as) had knowledge that the angels did not have. Knowledge trumped all of these factors.
3) It was through this distinguished status of knowledge that Allah (SWT) raised the ranks of the prophet (as). Consider Surat Al Anbiyaa ayahs 78-79 , “Remember David and Soloman, as they judged in the matter of the orchards, when a people’s flock pastured therein. We were there to witness their judgment. We instructed Soloman as to that judgment, and upon all bestowed right counsel and knowledge.” Other verses include, Surat Al Nisa 113 in which Allah (SWT) addressed Prophet Muhammad (saw) saying, “Nor will they harm you in any way, for God has revealed to you the Book and the Wisdom and taught you that which you did not know. The bounty of God upon you has been immeasurable.” As well as in Surat Al Imran verse 18, ” God bears witness that there is no god except He, As do the angels and men of knowledge, upholding justice.” Regarding this ayah, Ibn Al Qayyim says it is the highest praise Allah (SWT) has given the people of knowledge in the Qur’an. Why? Because that people of knowledge are mentioned in a list among which are Allah (SWT) and the angels. It is indeed the greatest testimony because it is Allah (SWT) who is testifying on their behalf–and sufficient is His testimony– as being those who stand up for justice and truth. It is as if Allah (SWT) Himself represents them.
4) Only scholars truly understand the words of Allah (SWT), as expressed in Surat Al Ankaboot ayah 43, “These parables we strike for mankind, and only those of knowledge understand them.”
5) Only through knowledge, will you fear Allah (SWT) Surat Al Fater ayah 28, “From among His worshippers, only the learned fear God, God is Almighty, All-Forgiving.”
6) The people of knowledge neither flow with the current nor are taken by it. In Surat Al-Qasas ayah 79 in which Allah (SWT) narrates the story of Qaroon in which all but those of knowledge saw the graveness and transitory nature of the life that Qaroon had chosen, “Those granted knowledge said, ‘You wretches! God’s reward is better for one who believes and does good deeds. Only the steadfast shall encounter it.'” In our day and age, those on magazine covers are the Qaroons of our time. May have taken as leaders, idols and examples to follow and like sheep they are waiting to be led by a shepherd of either good or evil. People of knowledge do not follow follow fads like nationalism, prestige, grandeur etc. Today we have people consumed emotionally by what is going on in the Ummah, and they want to make a melodramatic change, they want to exit with a bang. If only they were willing to open up their hearts to know whether it is the right thing to do. The Khawarej who were the first splinter group in the history of Islam, were described in the hadith of the Prophet (saw) as not understanding the meanings in the Qur’an:
“There would arise a people from the progeny of this (man) who would recite the Qur’an glibly, but it would not go beyond their throats; they would (hurriedly) pass through (the teachings of their) Deen just as the arrow passes through the prey. I conceive that he (the Holy Prophet) also said this: If I find them I would certainly kill them as were killed the (people of) Thamud.” [Sahih Muslim: Book 005, Number 2319]
7)The scholars are the inheritors of the Prophets (as) . Just think of that! You have the opportunity to inherit from the greatest/best man who walked on this earth.
Abud-Dardaa (raa) reported: “I heard the Messenger of Allaah (saw) say: ‘Whoever treads a path due to which he seeks knowledge, Allaah will make him tread one of the paths towards Paradise. And the angels lower their wings out of contentment for the seeker of knowledge. And verily all those in the heavens and in the earth, even the fish in the depths of the sea ask forgiveness for the scholar. And verily, the virtue of the scholar over the worshipper is like the virtue of the moon on the night of Al-Badr over all of the stars. Indeed, the scholars are the inheritors of the prophets, for the prophets do not leave behind a dinar or a dirham [gold of silver] for inheritance, but rather, they leave behind knowledge. So whoever takes hold of it, has acquired a large share (i.e. of inheritance).’” [Reported by Abu Dawood, At-Tirmidhee and Ibn Hibbaan, and this is the wording found in his collection, in abridged form. Al-Bukhaaree mentioned in his Saheeh Collection in his Book of Knowledge, Chapter: Knowledge precedes Speech and Action, the part from it: “The scholars are the inheritors of the Prophets.”]
Abu Haatim Ibn Hibbaan (raa) said about this hadith: “There is a clear explanation in this hadith that the scholars, who possess the virtue we mentioned before, are the ones who teach the people the knowledge of the Prophet, apart from all of the other types of knowledge. Did you not see him say: ‘The scholars are the inheritors of the prophets?’ The prophets do not leave behind any inheritance except knowledge, and the knowledge of our Prophet r is his Sunnah. So whoever is deprived of learning it is not from the inheritors of the prophets.” [Al-Ihsaan bi-Taqreeb Saheeh Ibn Hibbaan: (1/295, under no. 88)]
8 ) Knowledge is the sign of Allah’s love for a person:“Whoever Allah wishes well for, He gives deep understanding (fiqh) of religion.” [Bukhari & Muslim] It is important to note that Allah’s [ultimate] blessing is shown not shown by the clothes one wears, or how expensive ones purse is, or how flashy ones watch is. Rather it is shown by the knowledge of this religion. If you have a genuine love for and to study Islamic knowledge; if you dedicate your time, effort, and money to it that is a sign that Allah (SWT) wants good for you. Conversely, if your situation is otherwise then you should be worried for yourself, and it is indeed a situation that you should seek refuge in Allah (SWT) from.
9) Knowledge will benefit you even when you are dead unlike other forms of worship:
Abu Huraira (raa) reported Allah’s Messenger (saw ) as saying:”When a man dies, his acts come to an end, but three: 1) Recurring/ongoing/perpetual charity [built a hospital in which people are still receiving healthcare; supporte an orphan whose good deeds are placed on your scale; built a masjed in which the name of Allah (SWT) is remembered]; 2) Or knowledge (by which people) benefit [wrote a book; taught someone to pray in which a portion of the reward goes to you without taking away any of their rewards. Imagine Al Bukhari for instance who wrote one famous book “Sahih Al Bukhari–every time someone quotes him he is accruing astronomical rewards. It is as if his life is lived over and over]; 3) Or a pious son, who prays for him (for the deceased) [if you spend your life teaching them the religion, when they practice their religion and grow up and become good Muslims they will be making dua for you, as well as you reaping the rewards of their good deeds].” [Sahih Muslim : Book 13 Kitab Al-Wasiyya, Number 4005]
10) The blessings of knowledge are expressed in a hadith reported in Al Bukhari;
Abud-Dardaa (raa) reported: “I heard the Messenger of Allaah (saw) say: ‘Whoever treads a path due to which he seeks knowledge, Allaah will make him tread one of the paths towards Paradise. And the angels lower their wings out of contentment for the seeker of knowledge. And verily all those in the heavens and in the earth, even the fish in the depths of the sea ask forgiveness for the scholar. And verily, the virtue of the scholar over the worshipper is like the virtue of the moon on the night of Al-Badr over all of the stars. Indeed, the scholars are the inheritors of the prophets, for the prophets do not leave behind a dinar or a dirham for inheritance, but rather, they leave behind knowledge. So whoever takes hold of it, has acquired a large share (i.e. of inheritance).’” [Reported by Abu Dawood, At-Tirmidhee and Ibn Hibbaan, and this is the wording found in his collection, in abridged form. Al-Bukhaaree mentioned in his Saheeh Collection in his Book of Knowledge, Chapter: Knowledge precedes Speech and Action, the part from it: “The scholars are the inheritors of the Prophets.”]
The profundity of the hadith is that one scholar [‘alem] eclipses millions and billions of worshipers. A single scholar [ ‘alem] lights up the earth/world. A worshiper worships for himself, his light emanates for him but does not affect/influence others. Indeed, we have seen a single da’ee revolutionize a whole place [be it a community, society, nation etc] by bringing it back to Islam. A scholar benefits both you and the whole of humanity around you. Al Ghazali says, “A sholarly person is more blessed than someone who is praying and fasting.” His presence is blessed because he exhumes lights wherever he goes.
It is important to note that the knowledge that is being referred to as inherently blessed is Islamic knowledge (Qur’an, tafseer, hadith, Seerah etc.), But what about secular knowledge?
Having it is better than not having it. A person who is a doctor, or has a PhD in nuclear science and a peasant are equivalent in the eyes of Allah (SWT–and Islamic knowledge indeed encourages us to have secular knowledge for our worldly life but it does not exclusively bring us closer to Allah and in turn take us to Jannah. It is in other words missing a component–which is Islamic knowledge–which enables us to convert it into knowledge that will inherently lead us to Jannah. If we were to consider for instance, the knowledge that the Prophets (as) came with we realize it is knowledge of the religion. We are not saying it is not worthwhile to study secular knowledge, indeed it is essential/useful for the Ummah. But the problem is that we have a surplus of secular degrees–but we are running short of people with Islamic knowledge, we are sorely lacking in the quantity and quality of Islamic scholars.
Islamic knowledge deserves just as much time and effort from us as secular knowledge, if not more. If we do a fraction of what we do for secular knowledge, at the least we would be good students of Islamic knowledge. If you aren’t going to become a scholar don’t be a Jahel–an ignorant person.
Knowledge of Deen has facilitated etiquettes of the student of knowledge–in other words, a student of Islamic knowledge ought to learn the mannerisms of being the student of Islamic knowledge. Muhammad ibn Sireen said: “They[the companions/sahabah] used to learn manners just as they used to learn knowledge.” So what are the manners of the student of Islamic knowledge:
1) Sincerity to Allah (SWT) for Islamic knowledge is an act of worship. Once acquiring cannot have the intention to flashing that knowledge to gain people’s respect and honor–flashing ones credentials.
The Prophet (saw) said,”Do not seek knowledge in order to compete with the scholars, to debate with the ignorants, to beautify gatherings. Whoever does so let him fear the fire of Hell” [Ibn Majah]
We are learning to get closer to Allah (SWT); to purify our heart from jealousy and hatred of others. Hence, if someone were to have more knowledg than us we should be happy rather than jealous. Being jealous or doubting the intention of another person’s quest for Islamic knowledge, shows that the problem exists in the sincerity seeker of Islamic knowledge and not that of others.
2) Knowledge should be acted upon; should bring you become closer to Allah (SWT). It won’t result in you becoming an angel, but rather it should affect you positively–uplift you, increase your acts of worship, decrease your sins. Conversely, if knowledge is having the exact adverse affect on you–making you more passive, decreasing your acts of worship, causing you do commit more sins then it is a time to reflect.
Al bin Abi talibi (raa) also said:”Knowledge calls out to action to join it. If action responds all well and good [solidifies it], otherwise knowledge will depart.” [Related in Ali ibn abi Talib by Dr. al Sallabi, 2010]
3) Knowledge brings about seriousness in its seeker. Of course, people of knowledge can be jovial, funny etc. but they are witty and professional so they offer is always profound and of quality.
4) Acquiring and retaining good studying habits. One is not going to pass with flying colors without good studying habits in secular knowledge and the same applies to Islamic knowledge. Among the best study habits are:
a) Studying early in the morning,
b) Being regular and consistent: it is like body-building–one has to workout regularly]
c) Studying in an environment that is nurturing: no music in the background; remembering you are not a slave to your cell phone which nowadays calls for the same response as that of the Adhan. You are only a slave to Allah (SWT).
d) Choosing the right material to study: means starting at the apropriate level.
e) Having good companions: it is highly liked that you will immerse yourself in what your fiends do, so if they are obsessed in sport or in the scandals of Hollywood/ Bollywood you will be too to an extent.
Manners of the student of Islamic knowledge with his/her teacher:
1) Choose the right teacher: How? Through the content being taught, intuitive sense, asking Allah (SWT) for guidance. If a teacher is bringing you close to Allah (SWT) that is a good sign. If the teacher is always quoting Qur’an and Hadith. But on the other hand if the teacher tells you not to question and just believe, or calls you to them rather than to the Qur’an and Sunnah feel free to question despite their long beard or where they graduated from. Always make dua to Allah (SWT) to bless you with good teachers .
2) Respect and honor your teacher: The Prophet (saw), “The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “He is not of us who does not have mercy on young children, nor honor the elderly” (Al-Tirmidhi) Waki’ ibn al-Jarrah said he wold be indebted for life to his teacher for teaching him one hadith.
3) Having proper etiquette in front of him. Al Shafi’i was a student of Anas ibn Malik and he was worried about disturbing him while turning the pages of his book.
4) To make dua, love him with the love of Islam and to bless him for the knowledge that they benefitted from them.
5) To be patient with the faults of the teacher. If it is personal the student should overlook them, but if about content the student should ask for clarification. Remember, every teacher is human and will have human traits. If something irritates you about the teacher, you can choose to leave that teacher in which case you will lose, but if you choose to stay you will benefit and will overlook their faults. If you look for perfection in any teacher you will never find it. The most common fault is that the teacher becomes irritated– and it is understandable only to those who have been in that person’s shoes. A teacher is constantly being bombard with questions wherever and whenever. So, overlook such trivial issues.
Manners with your fellow students:
1) Know that knowledge gained in company is better than knowledge gained alone. Learning from a teacher is better than learning from a book–and the best form of learning is through a teacher directly in a classroom environment. Reading and listening on your own is disadvantegeous, because you can’t ask for clarification .
2) Knowledge is like blood relationship between those who study it–it brings a an entirely different meaning to companionship, a pact to make it to Jannah insha Allah.
3) Not to be jealous of your fellow-students–not to be selfish with them, i.e. unwilling to share your notes for instance. If your intention is for Allah (SWT) then you will lovingly and willingly share and help others to understand. The success of a Muslim is of benefit to the Ummah at large.