by Sheikh Furqan Jabbar
There is a famous adage that states: “Knowledge is Power.”
Even though this quote is attributed to Francis Bacon. It is something which we Muslims would wholeheartedly agree with.
In Surat al-Mujadilah, Allah makes a promise.
يَرْفَعِ اللَّهُ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا مِنْكُمْ
“Allah will increase in status, those that believe from amongst you…”
وَالَّذِينَ أُوتُوا الْعِلْمَ دَرَجَاتٍ
“And especially those that possess knowledge…”
In other words, Allah has singled out knowledge as being one of the pivotal factors which will raise a person in His sight…
Similarly, the Prophet (peace be upon him) told us that the one who leaves his home in search of knowledge will be a person for whom the angels will lower their wings in approval for his action. (Ibn Majah, authenticated by Albani)
As well as being a source of mercy and glad-tidings, the Prophet (peace be upon him) has indicated that the possession of deep constructive knowledge is a sign that Allah loves this person.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) said:
مَنْ يُرِدِ اَللَّهُ بِهِ خَيْرًا, يُفَقِّهْهُ فِي اَلدِّينِ
“Whoever Allah intends good for He endows upon him a deep understanding of the religion” [Bukhari & Muslim]
In simpler terms, the person that will achieve a high-rank of knowledge will obtain a high-rank with Allah.
Having understood this, the question that must then be asked is why is it that we find people neglecting reading and gatherings wherein knowledge is explained and discussed.
Why is it that we find people busying themselves with everything else except the acquisition of beneficial knowledge. Please note, that I have said “Beneficial knowledge.”
So important is beneficial knowledge that the Prophet (peace be upon him) would exclusively ask Allah for it in an authentic hadith found in Sunan of Ibn Majah, the Prophet (peace be upon him) was reported to have said in his du’a:
اللَّهُمَّ إِنِّي أَسْأَلُكَ عِلْمًا نَافِعًا
وَرِزْقًا طَيِّبًا وَعَمَلاً مُتَقَبَّلاً
“Oh Allah I ask you for beneficial knowledge, pure provision and deeds that are accepted.”
Similarly, according to some narrations, the Prophet (peace be upon him) instructed others to seek refuge in Allah from knowledge which does not benefit. It goes without saying that the Prophet (peace be upon him) made such a supplication so that we in turn would practice it.
Unfortunately, we find in some situations and circumstances, people focusing on obscure issues which have little relevance to establishing a prosperous community. In other cases, we find that knowledge has become nothing else but a means by which one gains the upper-hand over others.
If there is a people or group that have a legitimate difference of opinion which one does not agree with, that person may take to labelling them or mocking them behind their back, all the while he or she will claim that this behaviour is being done in the name of Islam.
In response to such behaviour, we may refer to what Sheikh Bakr Abu Zayd said in his book Hilyat Taalibul ‘Ilm. He said:
“If you think that the Sheikh has made a mistake, do not let him lose respect in your eyes because that will deprive you of his knowledge….”
It is sad to see individuals discussing and debating precise issues pertaining to theology and Islamic jurisprudence when they lack the most basic of qualities which the Prophet (peace be upon him) spoke about. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said:
إِنَّمَا بُعِثْتُ لِأُتَمِّمَ صَالِحَ الأَخْلاقِ
“I have been sent to perfect good character.”
Let us be clear as to what this implies. It is not befitting that a believer thrive off the differences in the community and create a greater level of animosity between brothers. It is likewise not befitting that a Muslim be one who carries and spreads tales in order to harm an Imam or anyone else within the community for that matter.
My dear Brothers and Sisters, Imam ash-Shafi’i (may Allah have mercy on him) said: “After the obligatory deeds, nothing is more beloved to Allah than seeking knowledge…”
We live in a situation where it is very easy to drive to masjid to learn more about one’s religion. If we wish for a more easier option, we have the lectures and classes of many respectable people of knowledge online.
Nowadays, we have knowledge at finger-tips. In previous times scholars such as Imam al-Bukhari (may Allah have mercy on him) travelled from country to country for many years for the purposes of seeking knowledge. It truly is a shame that some of us fail to utilise whatever resources we have around ourselves let alone those in other countries.
What is the reason for this weakness? Is it because we are unaware that more knowledge leads to Paradise? The Prophet (peace be upon him) said:
مَنْ سَلَكَ طَرِيقاً يَلْتَمِسُ فِيهِ عِلْماً
سَهَّلَ اللَّهُ لَهُ طَرِيقًا إِلَى الْجَنَّةِ
“Whoever follows a path in the pursuit of knowledge, Allah will make easy for him a path to Paradise”
Regarding the process of seeking knowledge, Ibn Hazm (may Allah have mercy on him) said: “If the learned ponders how the hours he spent learning saved him from the humiliation of being dominated by the ignorant and from the distress of having no access to the facts, and how those hours provided him with the joy of discovering that which is hidden from others, he would excel in praising Allah, the exalted, full of majesty, and would be more pleased with the knowledge he has and would deepen his desire to increase his knowledge.”
Given that this is the case, knowledge should make a person more fearful in front of Allah, for knowledge without action is like a plate without food. In other words, something which looks nice, but does not serve an actual purpose.
On this topic, Sufyaan Ath-Thawri (may Allah have mercy on him) said: “Knowledge knocks on the door of action, if it receives a reply, it stays, otherwise it departs.”
If knowledge has not created a difference in your behaviour as a Muslim then perhaps it is not benefitting you at all. Allah has said:
إِنَّمَا يَخْشَى اللَّهَ مِنْ عِبَادِهِ الْعُلَمَاءُ
“Truly, it is only the knowledge ones from His slaves that fear Allah…”
A general fruit stemming from this fear of Allah should be humbleness towards the people. Abdullah Ibn Mas’ud (may Allah be pleased with him) said “The sign of knowledge is not narrating many ahaadeeth. Rather, the sign of knowledge is fearing Allah a great deal.”
Likewise, As-Sa’di (may Allah have mercy on him) said in his Tafseer: “The more a person knows Allah, the more he will fear Him, and the fear of Allah will make him refrain from sin and prepare to meet the One Whom he fears. This is indicative of the virtue of knowledge, for it calls one to fear Allah.”
In the end, we ask Allah for Beneficial Knowledge, the ability to act upon it and to make us a people who practice what they preach.”