Al-Usool Ath-Thalaathah – Lesson 3

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Seeking Knowledge

Striving to Seek knowledge, so that you will know Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala), his Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wa salam) and the religion of Islam, is from the greatest acts of worship and it is better than doing the extra voluntary acts of worship (nawaafil). Az-Zuhri (rahimahullah) said “Allah was never worshiped with anything better than knowledge (‘ilm)”. Imam Ahmad (rahimahullah) said “seeking knowledge is the best of the deeds for the one who has the correct intention”.

Knowledge is the prophetic inheritance and a light for the hearts, and the people of knowledge are the people of Allah (azza wa jal) and his party. They are also the people who are most deserving and the closest to him, they are the most fearful to him and the highest in terms of levels and degrees.

Knowledge is from the greatest of actions, Imam Ahmad (rahimahullah) said “knowledge, there is nothing that is equal to it”. Ibnul Qayyim (rahimahullah) said “knowledge is life for the hearts, light for the insight (baseerah), healing for the chests, gardens for the intellect, joy for the souls, comfort for the alienated, guide for the confused, the scales by which statements, actions and conditions are to be weighed, through it Allah is known and worshiped, through it Allah is remembered and held to be one, through it Allah is praised and glorified, through it those that are on the path to Allah are guided, through it those that reached, reached their destination, through it entered its doors those who aimed for Allah and his way, through it legislation and rulings are known, through it halaal is distinguished from haraam, through it connecting with blood relatives is established. It is an imam (leader) while action is ma’muum (follower), it is a companion when you are a stranger in a foreign land, it converses with you when you are in seclusion, it is the comforter in times of alienation, it unveils and removes doubts and misconceptions, it is the type of wealth which the one who has gained its treasure will never be poor”.

The need of the human being for knowledge is greater than their need for food or drink. Imam Ahmad said “people, their need for knowledge is more than their need to food and drink because the man needs to eat or drink once or twice a day, but his need for knowledge is as many times as he takes a breath”.

Seeking knowledge is given excellence over striving in the way of Allah. Ibn Abbas said (radiyallahu anhuma) “the going and coming of seeking knowledge is better with Allah than striving in the way of Allah”. Imam Ahmed said “learning knowledge and teaching it is better than jihad and other than it”. Imam Abu Haneefa and Imam Malik (rahimahumullah) said “the best of the voluntary actions is learning knowledge and teaching it”. Ibnul Qayyim (rahimahullah) said “nothing is equal to the ink of the scholars except the blood of the martyrs”.

Knowledge is the best thing that you can use to fill your time, it is the best way to spend your moments, it is the best thing to offer your soul for. Imam an-Nawawi (rahimahullah) said “it is agreed upon by the pious predecessors (salaf) that busying oneself with knowledge is better than busying oneself with the optional (nawaafil) prayers, optional fasting, optional glorification of Allah (tasbeeh) and similar actions from the actions of the body parts”. Ali ibn abi taalib (radiyallahu anhu) said  “live with knowledge and do not seek a replacement in place of it, the people are actually dead but the people of knowledge are the ones who are alive”.

Advice of the scholars regarding knowledge

The advice of the scholars is to seek more of knowledge. Ibn Jawzi (rahimahullah) said “I continue to encourage the people to seek knowledge because it is the light by which one is guided”. Happiness is only achieved by seeking knowledge. Ibnul Qayyim (rahimahullah) said “happiness, all of it, lies in knowledge and what it necessitates, Allah gives facilitation (tawfeeq) to whoever he wishes, there is none that can withhold what he has given and there is none that can give what he has withheld. Some of the people turn away from earning and achieving this happiness only because of the difficulty of the path, the bitterness of its beginning, the tiredness in achieving it. Knowledge is not achieved except with a big amount of toil and exclusive seriousness”.

Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) commanded his Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wa salam) in the Quran to seek extra in knowledge by saying: “say, O Lord, increase me in knowledge”. The Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wa salam) said “the one whom Allah wants good for him, he will make him understand the religion”  – agreed upon by Bukhari and Muslim.

The one who knows that this worldly life is an abode for competing and achieving virtues and excellences, and the higher the level of his knowledge and deeds get, the higher his level in the abode of reward i.e. paradise will be, he will seize the opportunity of his time and will not waste even a single moment. He will not leave an excellence except he will strive to achieve it. So, the one who is given this facilitation to use his time for the aakhirah then let him rush to use his time for acquiring knowledge, and let him show extra patience towards every trial and every poverty, until he achieves what he wants, for resting cannot be achieved by resting. Fudayl ibn iyaad said (rahimahullah) in a line of poetry “work for yourself before your death, striving hard, for only profit and loss are in doing actions”.

The person should be sincere in seeking knowledge, acting upon it and preserving it. The one who is lacking in  sincerity (ikhlaas) then it is only wasting time and losing the reward. The one who is lacking in acting upon knowledge then this only serves to strengthen the proof against his own-self and the punishment more severe.

praiseworthy knowledge is knowledge of the religion

What is meant by knowledge here is the religious legal knowledge, that which knowing it will benefit the person what he must know of the affairs of his religion. This knowledge which there is no life for the soul without it, for it is the one that will bring for you the fear of Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala), as Allah said in the Quran “there only fears Allah of his servants the scholars”. Ibnul Qayyim (rahimahullah) said “Allah was not worshiped or tawheed was done for him or he was praised except through knowledge. The excellence of Islam was not known except through knowledge. Halaal and haraam was not distinguished except through knowledge. Islam was not given excellence over other religions except through knowledge”.

There is no guide to Allah (azza wa jal) and jannah except through the kitaab and sunnah. There is no rectification for the servants in their livelihood and in their next life except through knowing Allah. In ignorance and in heedlessness of knowledge there is the removal of favours and bounties and the coming of problems and calamities. Ibnul Qayyim said “the ruin that happens to the world is nothing but because of ignorance and maintenance is not except through knowledge. If knowledge emerges in a place, then evil becomes less in the people who live in that area. If knowledge was scarce in that place then evil and corruption will emerge there”.

It is upon the wise person that he does not waste the times of his life and the hours of his lifetime except in seeking beneficial knowledge.

This entry is part 3 of 4 in the series The Three Fundamental Principles