The Importance of Knowledge

Bahishti Zewar, Fiqh, Part 1-Beliefs & Laws of Tahara / Saturday, August 16th, 2008

The Importance of Knowledge

Allah Ta’ala says: “Allah raises in rank those who believe among you and those who have been given knowledge.” That is, Allah Ta’ala elevates the rank of those who have brought Iman among you. That is, they have completed their Iman by doing good deeds and following the Shariah. It should be noted that wherever the Quran and the Hadith mention any virtue of bringing Iman, they refer to complete Iman. He also elevates the rank of those who have been given knowledge over those who have not been given knowledge. Here, the lofty status of the knowledgeable has been established from the Holy Quran. First He praised those who have brought faith. Thereafter, He specifically mentions the people of knowledge and says that they have very high ranks. And when Allah Ta’ala says that a particular person is of a high rank, how great that person must be! In another place Allah Ta’ala says: “Say, (O Muhammad!), are those who know equal to those who know not?” Here the question is used for negation. That is, those who have attained knowledge are much higher than those who have not.

Ahadeeth Related to the Acquisition of Knowledge

1.There is a Sahih Hadith which has been narrated in the Jaami as-Sahih: “Seeking knowledge is compulsory (fardh) on every Muslim.” (irrespective of whether he is a male or a female). We know that to leave out a compulsory act is a major sin. It should be also known that it is compulsory to learn the method of doing an act which in itself is compulsory. And it is mustahab to learn the method of doing something that is mustahab. So if salaat is fardh, then to learn the mas’alas in regard to it are also fardh. The same applies to fasting and other acts of Ibadah. If a person is employed somewhere or starts a business, etc., it becomes incumbent upon him to learn and put into practice the rules of the Shariah that are connected to employment, business transactions, etc. All this that has been explained is in regard to that knowledge which is compulsory on every person. There are other branches of knowledge which, if acquired by a few people, absolve the rest of the community from acquiring them. For example, it is necessary to have at least one Aalim in every town and city who is well versed in the Quran, Hadith, jurisprudence, etc. He must be able to defend Islam against the onslaughts of the opposition, and if asked a mas’ala, he must be able to answer it with ease. To acquire knowledge of this type is not compulsory on every person. However, if someone has the time, the desire and the opportunity to acquire this type of knowledge despite it not being compulsory on him, then to acquire it will be mustahab and there is great reward in it. This was a brief explanation to show that the acquisition of knowledge is compulsory.

2. It is mentioned in a Hadith that Rasulullah sallallahu alayhi wa sallam said: “When Allah desires good for a person, He gives him an understanding of the Deen. I am a distributor of knowledge and Allah is the real giver.” (Bukhari and Muslim)

3. It is also related in a Hadith that when a person dies, his deeds are cut off, except the reward of three deeds: (1) sadaqah-e-jaariyah (continuous charity – example endowing a property, building, well, or musjid in the name of Allah), (2) knowledge which benefits the people (for example by teaching, writing books, etc.), (3) a pious child that makes duas for the deceased. (Muslim) The meaning of this Hadith is that the reward of all good deeds ceases once the person dies. This is so because a dead person cannot do any good, so why should he get any reward? However, these three deeds are such that their rewards continue after death as well. These deeds are such, that they continue even after death because in sadaqah-e-jaariyah the people continue benefitting from it. Similarly, the benefit of knowledge also continues. And pious children make duas for their parents, so this act also remains after one’s death.

4. Kathir bin Qays (he is a taabi’ee – a taabi’ee is one who saw a Sahabi in a state of Islam and also died as a Muslim) relates: “I was sitting in the musjid of Damascus with Hadrat Abu Darda radiallahu anhu. A person came to Hadrat Abu Darda radiallahu anhu and said: “O Abu Darda, I have left Madinah and come to you so that I may learn a particular Hadith from you. I have been given to understand that you have heard this Hadith from Rasulullah sallallahu alayhi wa sallam. I have not come to you for any other purpose.” Hadrat Abu Darda replied: “Without doubt, I have heard Rasulullah sallallahu alayhi wa sallam saying: “Whoever takes a path seeking knowledge therein, Allah Ta’ala will make easy for him, a path to jannah. The angels, out of happiness, will place down their wings for the seeker of knowledge (laying down the wings is out of humility for the seeker of knowledge. Or it means that they have kindness and mercy for the seeker of knowledge, the result of which is making dua for his success. This is a sign that the person is accepted in the eyes of Allah because angels are sinless and are the special servants of Allah. To be accepted by the angels is like being accepted by Allah Ta’ala because your friend’s friend is also your friend) and whatever is in the heavens and the earth seek forgiveness for the seeker of knowledge (that is they seek forgiveness for his sins) and even the fish in the sea seek forgiveness for him. It is apparent that the disbelievers and the shayateen are not included among those who seek forgiveness, because they do not deserve this bounty. If they disobey the Creator, how can they have good relations with the friends of the Creator? This is something that is obvious, therefore it was not mentioned in the Hadith. The Ulama say that it refers to all animals and not only fish. Fish have been specifically mentioned because water comes into existence through the barakah of the ulama and it is also the source of life, and we also know that fish are dependent on water. The superiority of an aalim over an aabid (worshipper) is like the superiority of the fourteenth moon over all the stars. In other words, it is as if the aalim is the fourteenth moon and the worshipper is like the stars. The aalim is likened to the moon of the fourteenth night which illuminates the entire universe. Because the benefit of knowledge extends to others as well, and the entire universe is illuminated with this knowledge, he has therefore been likened to the moon of the fourteenth night. As for the worshipper, his benefit is restricted to himself. Others cannot benefit from him. He has therefore been compared to the stars. If someone argues that by looking at the aabid one also yearns to do Ibaadat and that through the blessings of his Ibaadat, the mercy of Allah descends on the people. And in the same way, the land is also illuminated by the stars. Then the answer to all this is that all these benefits are nothing compared to the benefits of the aalim and the moon. In fact, they are not even worthy of consideration.

Aalim in this context refers to that person who knows more than the basic tenets (such as salaat, fasting, etc.) of Islam while an aabid refers to that worshipper who has a basic knowledge of Deen and occupies himself in Ibaadat and is not inclined towards intellectual pursuits. It does not refer to an ignorant worshipper because what Ibaadat can he make, and how can his Ibaadat be correct? It is therefore necessary for the aabid to have a basic knowledge of the Deen.

There is no doubt that the Ulama are the inheritors of the Prophets. We know that they did not leave behind any dinars or dirhams (i.e. they did not make anyone inheritors of worldly possessions). They did not leave behind any inheritance besides knowledge. So the one who acquires this knowledge has in fact acquired a lot of good. (This Hadith has been quoted from Mishkaat and narrated by Imam Ahmad, Tirmidhi, Ibn Majah, Abu Daud and Daarimi).

5.Hadrat Abdullah bin Abbas radiallahu anhu narrates that to acquire and transmit knowledge (by writing etc) for a portion of the night is better than making Ibaadat for the entire night. (Daarimi). One should understand that by mentioning all these virtues of knowledge, it does not mean that optional prayers should be discarded completely. Instead, some time should be kept aside for optional prayers. However, more time should be spent in intellectual pursuits because this is the greatest form of Ibaadat. Knowledge in the above context refers to Deeni knowledge.

6. It is mentioned in a Hadith: “Wayl is for the one who has no knowledge.” (Wayl is the name of a pit in hell as has been mentioned in another Hadith. It also means destruction or terrible doom). In other words, the abode of a jaahil (ignorant person) is hell because very seldom does a jaahil die with Iman.

7. It is related in a Hadith that Rasulullah sallallahu alayhi wa sallam said: “I swear by Allah that He will not put any of His beloved servants into hell.” This Hadith has been narrated through a correct chain of narrators in Jaami as-Sagheer. It is obvious that only an aalim who practises on his knowledge can be the beloved and close one of Allah. As for the jaahil, he can never be accepted by Allah. In order to save one’s self from the fearful punishment of Allah Ta’ala and gain His pleasure, it is necessary for one to occupy oneself with knowledge and to practise on that knowledge. A poet says: “Whatever difficulties the friends of Allah experience in this world, are in reality their punishment. And forgiveness for their sins is sufficient. By Allah! hell will not punish them after this.” But understand well that the friend of Allah, for whom such great glad tidings have been given, can only be that person who seeks His pleasure and follows His commands all the time. If by chance a sin is committed, one should repent immediately.

8. It is mentioned in a Hadith that “You should make Allah beloved in the eyes of the people and Allah Ta’ala will make you His beloved.” (Kanzul Ummaal) That is, address the people, and by reminding them of the favours and bounties of Allah, make them turn towards Allah. Educate them in such a way that they begin to yearn for Allah Ta’ala. The result of this will be that Allah Ta’ala will begin to love you. That is, He will shower you with the highest form of mercy. It is obvious that this work can only be carried out by an aalim who practises on his knowledge and no one else. What great glad-tidings are in this for the ulama and sufis! What bounty can be greater in this world and in the hereafter than becoming the beloved of the Real Master? (O Allah! make me Your best servant as well – Aameen).

9. It is related in a Hadith that the one who will practise on his knowledge, Allah will grant him knowledge which he does not know. (Hulyatul Awliyaa) That is, he will be given the knowledge of unknown things and thereby progress even further with his knowledge.

10. It is related in a Hadith that when an aalim intends to please his Creator with his knowledge, then everything else (in the world) will fear him. (i.e. he will have nothing to fear).

11. In another Hadith it is mentioned that if the ulama are not the friends of Allah, then in the hereafter Allah has no friend. Meaning that an aalim is in reality a wali. (Sakhaawi).

12. It is mentioned in a Hadith that to look at the face of an aalim is an act of Ibaadat. (Daylami – on the authority of Anas radiallahu anhu)

Rasulullah sallallahu alayhi wa sallam is reported to have said: “Allah be pleased with that man (and woman) who hears something from me and then conveys it to others exactly as he heard it. The reason is that often, the person who receives the message is more knowledgeable than the one who conveys it.” (Tirmidhi and Ibn Majah). How great a virtue has been attached to the knowledge of Deen that Rasulullah sallallahu alayhi wa sallam honoured the one who serves the Deen, especially the one who serves the science of Hadith by including him in his blessed dua. The Ulama have stated that through the learning and teaching of Hadith, if there was no other benefit apart from the blessings of this dua; even then one cannot afford to leave these blessings. In reality, great rewards apart from the blessings of this dua are found. O people! value this pious dua, seek knowledge of the Deen and there will be success in this world and in the hereafter.

13. It is mentioned in a Hadith that even if one person accepts Islam at the hands of someone, he will definitely get paradise. (Tabrani) In this Hadith there are glad tidings of dying in a state of Iman because if a person dies in a state of Iman, he will definitely enter paradise. To make someone a Muslim is actually the work of an aalim. What guidance will a jaahil who does not even know the rules himself be able to give to others? Here, aalim does not refer to a top ranking aalim. Instead, his virtue will be according to whatever knowledge he has.

14. It is related in a Sahih Hadith that Rasulullah sallallahu alayhi wa sallam said: “Whoever conveys forty Ahadeeth to my ummah, I will make a special intercession for him on the day of Qiyamat.” (Jaami as-Sagheer) Here, “conveying” is general – it could be done through teaching, through writing, or by delivering lectures. In other words, convey it in any way as long as it is conveyed to the people. It is for this reason that the ulama have written many compilations of “Forty Ahadeeth”.

15. It is mentioned in a Hadith: “Most certainly, Allah does not like an aalim who is fat.” (Bayhaqi) This means that the aalim who is a practising aalim can never be fat on account of his services to the Deen and fear of the Hereafter. Being fat is actually an indication of living a life of luxury and pleasure and falling into negligence. Such a person cannot be accepted. At times negligence, luxuries and pleasures are considered to be sins. Some of them are makruh, while others are below the stage of perfection. The dislike of Allah will be according to the level of negligence. However, if a person is fat from birth or due to some illness, then this obesity will not be a cause of dislike on the part of Allah Ta’ala.

16. It is mentioned in a Hadith that the most severely punished person on the day of Qiyamat will be that aalim who did not benefit from his knowledge. (Jaami as-Sagheer)

17. It is mentioned in a Hadith that there is a valley in hell which seeks refuge four hundred times daily. The proud and haughty ulama will be entered into it. (Mishkaat) This refers to that aalim who renders religious services in order to show people. He acquires and imparts knowledge so that people may regard him as an aalim, respect him, give him money and regard him as a pious person. To offer acts of worship in order to show anyone other than Allah is a major sin and is also a form of shirk (ascribing partners to Allah).

18. Hadrat Abdullah bin Mas’ud radiallahu anhu says that if the people of knowledge valued knowledge and placed it in the right hands (i.e. passed it on to those who have the capability of acquiring it and becoming leaders. To teach that which is compulsory, is necessary on every person, but more than the basic with which a person can lead others, should only be taught to those who have the capability); then without doubt, the Jews and the Christians would have become leaders of the time on account of their knowledge. However, they wasted their knowledge on the worldly people in order that they may gain some worldly benefit from them. As a result, they became wretched and disgraced in the eyes of the worldly people. (This happened because the right of knowledge was that through it the pleasure of Allah should have been sought. By seeking the benefits of this world, they actually disgraced knowledge, the result of which was that they themselves became disgraced. If an aalim does not have any greed and fulfils the rights of the Deen, Allah Ta’ala will automatically put respect in the hearts of the people for him. In the same way, the one who seeks the world through knowledge and does not fulfil the rights of knowledge, Allah Ta’ala disgraces him. Such a person will suffer a loss in both the worlds). I have heard Rasulullah sallallahu alayhi wa sallam saying that the person who makes all his concerns and objects into one object alone, and that is the object of the hereafter (i.e. his aim and object is the hereafter and he continually tries to put this aim in order and leaves all his other aims and concerns to Allah according to the rules of the Shariah), then Allah Ta’ala will fulfil all his aims of this world. In other words, Allah Ta’ala will fulfil all his worldly affairs in a way that will be most beneficial to him. As for the one who is in turmoil on account of sorrow and worldly aims and objectives, Allah will not worry in which valley of this world he will be destroyed.” (here, valley refers to difficulties and hardships). (Ibn Majah)

O Muslim brothers and sisters! Ponder a little and save yourselves and your children from the darkness of ignorance and confine yourselves to the commandments of Allah Ta’ala all the time. When a person devotes himself totally to Allah Ta’ala, then Allah loves him and helps him in many ways. And when Allah becomes a person’s, then what can he be short of? Is there a shortfall of anything in the treasures of Allah? But all these favours can only be attained by obeying Him. It is mentioned in a Hadith that whatever can be received from Allah Ta’ala can only be got by obeying Him. These days, the ways of thinking have become so corrupt that religious education is regarded as a drawback and defect. And it is said that by acquiring religious education, what can one achieve besides poverty? Modern culture, modern ways of thinking, following the footsteps of the kuffaar (disbelievers) – all these things have become a source of pride and honour, and are regarded as progress. In actual fact, these are the very things which cause the wrath of Allah to descend daily. At times there is a plague, at times there is a flood of poverty and anxieties, and at times there is a drought. These are only the difficulties of this world. As for the punishment of the hereafter, it will be multiplied manifold. May Allah Ta’ala have mercy on the Muslims.

We do not say that, according to need, worldly knowledge should not be acquired, or that a profession or business be abandoned. What we are saying is that do not remain ignorant of the Deen. Do not destroy the Deen but do everything according to the Shariah. Following the Shariah without knowledge is impossible. It has been experienced that the one who follows the Deen completely also lives a life of honour and comfort. Even a single person will not be found who is extremely pious, and yet is in poverty and living a life of anxiety, contempt and wretchedness.

This world is a place of trials. The actual abode is the hereafter and it is there that one will live forever. It is necessary to make preparations for inhabiting that world, and as for this world, live in it as you would stay in a hotel or lodge.

Save yourself and your children from the darkness of modernism. This apparent light of modernism is actually very dark and would destroy one’s Deen. When a person holds on tight to the Deen, he gets the world submissive to him, and he in turn does not even pay any attention to it – as has been mentioned in a Hadith. Hadrat Abdullah ibn Abbas radiallahu anhuma narrates that Allah Ta’ala gave Hadrat Sulayman alayhis salaam to choose between knowledge and kingship. He chose knowledge. Allah Ta’ala gave him knowledge and kingship as well. And He gave him such a kingdom that it became a proverb – when a person wants to exalt a kingdom, he refers to it as Mulk-e-Sulaymani (the Kingdom of Sulayman). No one will receive a kingdom like his right until the day of Qiyamat, and no one before Sulayman alayhis salaam received such a kingdom. It is obvious that the mastery of Sulayman alayhis salaam over the world was through the barakah of Deen – that he gave preference to knowledge over kingship.

Hadrat Saalim bin Abi al-Ja’d, a great tabi’ee, says: “When my master freed me (he was a slave), I pondered over what occupation I should choose with which I could pass my time. Until now I was fulfilling the orders of my master and all my time used to pass in that. Now that I am free, some other arrangement will have to be made. It came to my mind that I should acquire knowledge, so I did this. One year had not even passed, when the governor of Madinah wanted to meet me, but I did not allow him to come to me. What I mean is that because of a specific reason, I did not meet him even though to refuse to meet him without any special reason is contrary to the Deen and also amounts to disrespect. Anyhow, what I am trying to say is that in this short period my status increased to such an extent that governors began visiting me. And without realizing it, I could not meet them and clearly refused them.” Really, this is the barakah of Deen. Fear of anyone except Allah does not remain in the heart. Whoever fears Allah alone, everything else fears him. Such people do not become disgraced out of greed nor do they become dependent on anyone. Read these themes with full concentration. Both these stories, i.e. the story of Hadrat Sulayman alayhis salaam and Hadrat Saalim, have both been extracted from the book Ihyaa ul-Uloom and its commentary.

19. It is mentioned in a Hadith that one should seek knowledge on Mondays. In doing so, there is ease in acquiring knowledge. (Kanzul Ummaal) A similar narration has come in regard to Thursdays. What this means is that it is better to commence a book on a Monday or Thursday. Similarly, it is better to commence any other intellectual pursuit on these days.

20. It is related in a Hadith that: “Whoever teaches someone even one verse of the Quran, then that teacher becomes a master over that student.” (Tabrani) That is, the teacher has become a master, and the student, his slave. What this means is that the teacher has many rights. As far as possible, the teacher and spiritual guide should be obeyed and their pleasure sought. They are the ones who remove one from darkness into light, and lead one to the original beloved, that is Allah Ta’ala. Can there be any kindness better than this? To be a slave does not mean that the teacher can sell the student. What it means is that he has to expound the truth in the best way possible. One should understand well that the rights of the teacher and spiritual guide are less than that of the parents.

21. It is related in a Hadith that if an aalim is asked a mas’ala, and he conceals it without any Shar’ee reason, then he will be made to wear a necklace of fire on the day of Resurrection. (Mishkaat) Here it refers to knowledge whose exposition is necessary. To be miserly with knowledge without any Shar’ee reason, irrespective of whether its exposition is fardh or mustahab, is extremely disgraceful.

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