20 Muharram 1441

The Importance of Knowledge

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May 6th, 2015
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Today’s topic is about the importance of knowledge.

The first thing that Allah ordered our Prophet salla Allahu alaihi wa sallam was to ‘Read’, so our religion has great value about knowledge, {reciting, reading and anything that increases our knowledge}. However, is it an open thing? Islam encourages knowledge and this is without any doubt. Allah says, “Allah will elevate the status of those who believe among you and those who have knowledge.” Therefore, those who have knowledge are not similar to those who do not. If you go from the beginning to the end of the Qur’an, what did Allah order Prophet salla Allahu alaihi wa sallam to ask? He ordered him to ask for increase. What did He tell him to ask Allah for and to increase him in, in health, in wealth, in power? No. The only thing that Allah azza wa jal ordered our Prophet salla Allahu alaihi wa sallam to ask Allah to increase him in, was ‘knowledge’: ‘Wa Qur Rabbi Zidni ilman.’ Therefore, knowledge has great status in Islam, to the extent that Prophet salla Allahu alaihi wa sallam said, “Those whom Allah wants good for them, Allah would grant them the comprehension and understanding in Deen.” Now reverse this, those whom Allah does not want well for them, He will make them ignorant in Deen!

This is a very important aspect to look when you acquire knowledge. Do I have PhD and Masters Degree or all of these things? Comparatively, what is the level of my Islamic knowledge? One would always look at this Hadith and appreciate the gift of knowledge: our Prophet salla Allahu alaihi wa sallam says, “Whoever follows a path to seek knowledge, Allah will make easy for him the path to paradise.” I believe that the brothers and sisters who graduated would say, “Allah has made these 3 years easy for us, Alhamdulillah we gained knowledge and our path to paradise would be easy now!” When you begin something, so many times there are so many hurdles in front of you, especially if you want to go to university. One might feel, ‘the course is so long, the fees is so expensive, the university is too far, I have so many things to do!’ whenever someone asks me to do something, I always use this justification ‘I have so many things to do.’ This is a fact, but you have to prioritize. After the students finish their studies, they would say what people say when they break their fast, “The thirst has gone, my veins have been moistened {by the food and drink that I consumed after breaking the fast} and the reward has been confirmed, if Allah wills.” And it is the same thing that we do whenever we have accomplished something. Allah azza wa jal would make the path to paradise easy for him. Prophet salla Allahu alaihi wa sallam goes on to say, “The angels beat their wings in approval of the seeker of knowledge and those who are in the heavens and in the earth, pray for his forgiveness, even the fish in the water.” The whole universe worships Allah azza wa jal, Who created it to worship Him. Yet everything in this universe works for your favor, if you are with Allah. Even the fish, they seek forgiveness for you, if you seek the proper knowledge. The Prophet salla Allahu alaihi wa sallam said, “The superiority of the scholar over the worshipper is similar to the superiority of the moon over all other heavenly bodies.” You may see people who pray 10 hours of night prayer, they might fast every alternate day and they have long beard and short Thobe {these are all good attributes of a Muslim} but what if they don’t have knowledge?

Prophet salla Allahu alaihi wa sallam tells us that the superiority of the Scholars over those who are the worshipers is similar to the superiority of the moon over all other heavenly bodies. If you go out and the sky is clear, look at how bright the moon is then you can look at the small and tiny stars all around it and you can feel how tiny and far away they are. Prophet salla Allahu alaihi wa sallam said that the scholars are the heirs of the Prophets. They will inherit the Prophets of Allah azza wa jal, for the prophets did not leave behind dinar or dirham, rather they left behind knowledge. Therefore, whoever gains knowledge has gained a great, good fortune. Allah azza wa jal has limited the true fear of Allah in those who have knowledge, ‘Verily, those who fear Allah the most amongst His servants and slaves are those who have knowledge.’ Define knowledge. Is Newton a person of knowledge? Is Einstein a person of knowledge? Knowledge is divided into three types: Islamic knowledge, which is what Allah azza wa jal means when He speaks about knowledge in the Quran and also what the Prophet salla Allahu alaihi wa sallam means when he speaks about it in the Sunnah.

Islamic knowledge includes the knowledge of the Quran, the knowledge of the Tafseer, the knowledge of the Hadeeth, the knowledge of the foundations of Fiqh, the knowledge of Fiqh itself, the knowledge of the Arabic language. All of these things combined lead to Allah azza wa jal. This type of knowledge is recommended in Islam. These are the sciences that you are rewarded for studying, if you are sincere and that you are doing it for the sake of Allah. Even if you are not sincere, if you study the Quran and the Sunnah, you will be rewarded once you change your intention. The scholars of the Salaf used to say, “We have sought knowledge not for the sake of Allah, but Allah azza wa jal made us and forced us to make it for His sake.” Therefore, you may begin seeking knowledge in the beginning for a job, or for people to praise you, but somewhere down the line, Allah azza wa Jall will make you change your intention and make it clearly for Him. This is because you are studying the Quran and the Sunnah. No hypocrite would study the Quran and the Sunnah and remain a hypocrite, except if he is a good hypocrite! It is difficult to imagine people memorizing the Quran, studying it and yet still do not fear Allah azza wa jal or do not comply with the Qur’an and with the Sunnah.

 

The second type of knowledge is ‘permissible knowledge’, which people study in schools: Mathematics, Chemistry, Physics, and Languages etc; all of these are permissible. You are not sinful if you study them, as long as they do not go against Islam and you are not rewarded if you study them, unless you have the intention to serve Islam and the Muslims. If I am in medical school, a medical student, why am I studying this? If you say, “Well, because it pays really well!” this is permissible, go ahead and do it; no problem. However, if you are doing it to help the Muslims {and I have seen so many great doctors here in India, who chose this profession for the sake of Allah, they treat poor people for nothing.} Now this is something that Allah would definitely reward them for and this permissible knowledge becomes a form of worship in getting closer to Allah azza wa jal. The third type of knowledge is the forbidden knowledge {we should seek refuge in Allah from knowledge that does not benefit us} if someone says, “I want to do my graduation in Music!” Well, this is Haram. If he says, “But, this is knowledge, you work hard and get a degree for that!” well, this is forbidden knowledge. One who works as an Astrologer, his job is Haram {the zodiac signs are themselves Haram} this is not even Haram but also stupid. People say, “What sign are you?” ‘I am a scorpion!” Well the Prophet salla Allahu alaihi wa sallam ordered us to kill scorpions and snakes and you call yourselves that; it is strange. People do not know that even if you read your zodiac sign forecast for fun, 40 days of your prayers will not be accepted. Someone might say, “Well, 40 days of my prayers are not being accepted so I might as well not pray!” you do not pray and you will become a Kafir! You will have to pray but you will not be rewarded for that. And if you read it believing in it and say, “Oh, it says ‘Tomorrow you will have an accident’, well, tomorrow I will not go outside,” then you become a Kafir because then you believe that there’s other than Allah who knows the Ghaib {The unseen} Therefore this is part of the knowledge that is Haram for you to learn. Now we agree that the knowledge that benefits us is the knowledge of Islam, of the Qur’an, of the Sunnah and those who are graduating today, Alhamdulillah, they have not attained that thing yet. It is only the tip of an iceberg because the years are nothing; academically or even islamically, you are still on your legs and hands, you are still an infant, you have not walked yet.

The biggest problem with Islamic studies is, if your intention is not good; if you do not walk the talk then the knowledge is not good enough. If I preach well and I do not practice then I will be the first to be thrown in to hell! In the Hadith of Abu Hurairah, in Sahih of Imam Muslim, the Prophet salla Allahu alaihi wa sallam tells us that the first 3 to be thrown in to hell are: a Qari, a person who gives in charity and a person who died fighting in the cause of Allah. They are the first to be thrown in the Hellfire. The Qari, the knowledgeable person to whom Allah azza wa jal would show him His favours and blessings and He would ask him, “What did you do?” he would say, “I had learnt the Qur’an and I taught it for your sake.” Allah tells him, “You are a liar! You did this so that the people would say ‘Oh, he is knowledgeable.’ Take him and throw him in hell.” Therefore a true Scholar, a true person of knowledge is not the one who has a degree, stating that this degree is from this Islamic college or that, it is a person who acts upon his knowledge: ‘Verily, that those who fear Allah most from His slaves are those with knowledge.’ Therefore, your fear of Allah proves that you are knowledgeable and that is why when the Prophet salla Allahu alaihi wa sallam was challenged by one of the hypocrites, he said, “I am the most knowledgeable among you and the most fearful of Allah.” Knowledge and fear of Allah goes side by side. Therefore, if you find someone who claims to be a student of knowledge but he is arrogant, he thinks that he is better than everyone else, he is rude, he is not generous, he is not kind and you find him abusing his wife or children.

If you find him disconnecting with his kinship and not keeping ties with them, if you find him using obscene words or find profanity in him, if you find him not kind to his neighbours, Muslims and non-Muslims alike. If you do not find him praying in the Masjid or he does not fast voluntary days like Mondays and Thursdays, if he does not pray night prayers, if he does not finish the Qur’an at least once a month from cover to cover. If you find someone who claims to be knowledgeable but who does not walk the talk, know that he is not knowledgeable and he is in great danger. Osama Ibn Zaid {may Allah be pleased with him and with his father} tells us that the Prophet salla Allahu alaihi wa sallam told us that on the Day of Judgement there would be a man in hell whose guts would come out. Moreover, he would go round it like the donkey that operates a water mill or something like that and the people would come to him and would say, “In the Duniya, you used to tell us to do good and to stay away from Haram. You used to command us to virtues and righteous things and forbid us from doing vice and evil things.” He would say, “Yes, I used to order you to do good things but I would not do them myself and I used to forbid you from doing bad things but I used to do them.” Therefore, this is what he will be punished with, on the Day of Judgement.

It is a very important thing that we should always keep in mind. Today is a celebration because you students are graduating today so we are supposed to give glad tidings, it is not a time for threatening you all but those who love you would tell you what benefits you. We can all sugar coat it and say, “Ma sha Allah, now you are becoming scholars…” No, you are not, with this degree in your hands, you have a long-long way to go, at least you have to look into learning and perfecting Arabic and you will find that most of your teachers are perfect in the Arabic language so once you are on that level maybe you can relax a bit. Not only that, this degree should make you more humble, it should make you more submissive, it should make you know about the reality of your knowledge. Not to make you arrogant and think that, “I know and you don’t know!” if you think this way then it is a big problem and this is what Allah azza wa jal taught His Prophet Musa alaihissalam. Musa alaihissalam was once speaking and someone asked him, “Who is the most knowledgeable person on earth?” What did he say? Musa alaihissalam said, “I am the most knowledgeable person on earth.” Allah azza wa jal taught him not to say this and told him there is someone more knowledgeable than him and He ordered him to travel to Al Khidar and you know the story about him which is mentioned in Surat Al Kahaf. Finally, whatever we know, whatever you and I know, this is only because of Allah’s favor upon us. Allah has chosen us and Allah has taught us. Allah says in the Qur’an, “Allah has extracted you from the wombs of your mothers while you did not know a thing.” Remember how old you are now, if you are like me, like a half a century old then remember half a century ago when I was born, Ma sha Allah, was I fluent in Arabic, little English and I knew the books of Taharah {purity} and Zakah? No, this is not the case. We were all born with zero knowledge and who made us who we are? Someone might say, “O myself, I am a self made man!” someone else might say, “My family, my wealth!” No, Whoever made you what you are today is Allah azza wa jal so you should attribute every single favor, every single blessing to the One who gave it to you and that is Allah. Therefore, whenever you think that you know everything or you try to look down at those who are lesser in knowledge than you are, always be warned that if you do this then Allah may deprive you from this knowledge. Allah is the One who gave you the knowledge so act upon it, as He wants you to act. With this, I seek Allah’s forgiveness for you and myself. May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon our beloved Prophet salla Allahu alaihi wa sallam.

 

Quotations from the Qur’an and Hadiths in this article are a rough translation of the meanings of the original text!

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