“The scholars are heirs of the Prophets. The Prophets do not leave behind an inheritance of gold and silver; they leave behind the inheritance of knowledge. Whoever acquires knowledge, has acquired a lot of wealth.”(Tirmidhi)
The above quoted saying of the Prophet (SAW) never fails to inspire me with the love and desire of seeking knowledge. When I think of the connection and incomparable rewards promised for such a seeker, my heart only desires to attain it even more, as our Prophet (SAW) has said, “Whoever follows a path in the pursuit of knowledge, Allah will make a path to Paradise easy for him.” (Bukhari)
Seeking knowledge – ‘Ilm – is an obligatory act of worship upon every man and woman, whether young or old. It is a form of devotion that separates the true believer from one who merely claims belief, as Allah (SWT) says, “Are those who know equal with those who do not know? But only men of understanding will pay heed.” (Az-Zumar: 9)
The Prophets of Allah (AS) were all endowed with the gift of knowledge – a necessity for their call to one God. The beauty of their knowledge was defined amongst them, each having a wealth of understanding in a particular field relating to the people of their time, as well as knowledge of the existence of their Lord.
The significance of knowledge is highlighted further in the first word and ayat revealed to the Messenger of Allah (SAW):
“Iqra – Read! In the Name of your Lord Who created. Created man from a clot of congealed blood. Read! And your Lord is the Most Generous. Who has taught by the pen. He has taught man that which he knew not.” (Al-Alaq: 1-5)
As acquiring knowledge is not synonymous for everyone, Islam accommodates individual circumstances, enabling us to attain the required knowledge according to our abilities. Thus, we can attain knowledge of our religion by reading authentic sources; listening to Islamic lectures; partaking in online classes; attending weekly sisters’ study circles and Islamic courses or by studying under a learned teacher, for ‘one will gain ‘ilm when one attempts to seek that ‘ilm (i.e. teaching oneself).’ (Saheeh Al-Jaami)
The blessing of knowledge takes one out of darkness into light, making clear truth from falsehood. As knowledge is the first step towards ridding oneself of doubt, when it is accompanied by actions, Allah (SWT) removes from us ignorance and humiliation in exchange for the light of divine guidance. Sisters, were we to ponder how and why sin is committed we would find that it is produced in the roots of jaahil (ignorance). Would we commit an act of sin if we had certain knowledge that it would cause us harm? When one sins, one does so out of lack of knowledge of the evil that will prevail as a result of committing such an action. One thus remains ignorant of the blessings contained in refraining from the act: “Verily, the offspring of sin is heedlessness. Verily, this heedlessness brings about the hardness of the heart. And verily, this hardness of the heart makes a person distant from Allah (SWT) and verily being distant from Allah brings about the fire!” (Al Hasanatu was Saiyi ’ah)
The Salaf have said that ‘Ilm is the way to every type of virtue’, however it may be that a person seeks knowledge for evil intent: to quarrel, to gain status, material gain or power. For such a person they will achieve nothing but the wrath of Allah (SWT). So, the main purpose of acquiring knowledge must always be to seek nearness to our Creator, in the hope of attaining goodness in this world and The Next. Thus, seek knowledge purely for the pleasure of the Almighty, as Al-Hasan al-Basri (rahimahullah) once said, “Whosoever seeks ‘ilm for the dunya, then that is his portion of it and whoever seeks ‘ilm for the Aakhira shall attain it.” (in Iqtidaa ‘ul Ilmil ‘Amal)
Ibn Al-Mubaarak (rahimahullah) describes five beneficial steps in seeking knowledge:
“The beginning of ‘Ilm is to have the correct niyyah (intention), then for you to take heed and listen, then understand it, then memorise it, then to act upon it and then to spread it.” (Jaami’ Baayanul Ilm wa fadlihi) Ibn Qayyim (rahimahullah) also mentions these steps, with particular reference to ‘good manners’ as being the first step towards seeking knowledge.
Of all the words of wisdom shared by the Salaf on seeking ‘ilm, Yusuf ibn Al Hunain (rahimahullah) gives one of the most beautiful and heartrending descriptions on the seeker:
“With good manners you understand the knowledge and with knowledge your actions are corrected and with the action wisdom is obtained and with wisdom you understand Zuhud (renunciation) and are granted the benefit of it and with Zuhud comes abandoning the world and with abandoning the world comes longing for the Hereafter and with longing for the Hereafter – the Pleasure of Allah Azzawajal is obtained.” (Fadl Ilm is-Salaf of al-Khateeb al-Baghdaadee)
The acquisition of knowledge is a blessing bestowed upon those truly deserving of the gift; an honour endowed upon those who seek to learn, and a privilege for those loved by Allah (SWT).
Knowledge brings a great reward. The one who points the way to something good is rewarded as though they themselves completed the action. And when the knowledgeable person dies, her reward with Allah (SWT) does not cease, rather it continues to increase so long as people benefit from her knowledge: “When a man dies, all his deeds come to an end except for three — an ongoing charity, beneficial knowledge or a righteous child who will pray for him.” (Muslim)
May Allah (SWT) favour us with the light of knowledge and understanding; honour us with His Divine Guidance; gift us with His Love and mention us amongst His Angels, as those who acquired the best of all inheritance, purely for the sake of our Beloved.
Hina Ilyas sheds light on how we can gain the most benefit from our Qur’anic reading.
Umm Thameenah is a university lecturer and has been working in the dawah for several years, teaching, mentoring and bringing spiritual awareness to Muslim women and children about Islam. Raised in London, UK, she now resides in the blessed city of the Prophet (SAW). She blogs her experiences and welcomes you to read of her magnificent journey to Allah (SWT): www.ourmagnificentjourney.blogspot.com and ‘Sisters of The Pen’ blog: akhawaatulqalam.wordpress.com