Allah has set a cause and a way with which, one arrives at anything desired and anything sought after. For a surety, the greatest of all pursuits and the one that holds the most extensive of benefits, is none other than iman.
Allah has devised many constituents for it that bring it about and strengthen it, and many causes that increase and develop it. If the servants act on them, their certainty strengthens and their iman increases. Allah has elaborated on these in His Book, as has His Messenger - sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam - in hisSunnah. Possibly the more important of these causes are the following:
Ibn Rajab defines this knowledge, saying: "Beneficial knowledge is to define, accurately and meticulously, the texts of the Book andSunnah and to understand them. It is to confine oneself in regard to this, to the reports transmitted from the Companions, their successors and their successors in turn which pertain to the explanation and understanding of the Qur'an and Ahadith, as well as the discourse related from them on issues of the lawful, unlawful, zuhd (i.e., asceticism), raqa'iq (i.e., matters that soften the heart), the (various) branches of knowledge and so on.
"It is also, to firstly exert efforts towards distinguishing the authentic reports from the unauthentic, then secondly to exert efforts towards seeking out their meanings and gaining an understanding of them. This is sufficient for the intelligent and (enough) labor for the one who is concerned and preoccupies himself with the beneficial knowledge ... "4
Related in Al-Musnad and other sources, is the hadith of Abu ad-Darda', may Allah be pleased with him, in which he says, The Messenger of Allah - sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam - said: "He who treads a path in search of knowledge Allah will direct him to tread a path from the paths of Paradise. The Angels lower their wings for the student of knowledge in approval of what he does. All in the heavens and earth and the fish in the depth of the water seek forgiveness for the scholar, and the superiority of the scholar over the worshipper is like the superiority of the full moon at night over the rest of the stars. Verily the scholars are the heirs to the Prophets. Verily, the Prophets did not bequeath dinars or dirhams. All they left behind was knowledge, so whoever takes it, has indeed acquired a huge fortune." 7
In At-Tirmidhi and other sources, is the hadith of Abu Umamah, may Allah be pleased with him, in which he says, "The Messenger of Allah - sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam - said: 'The excellence of the scholar over the worshipper is like my excellence over the lowermost of you. Indeed, Allah, His Angels, the inhabitants of the heavens and earth, even the ant in its hole and the fish, supplicate for one who teaches good to the people.' ''8
The aforementioned texts manifest the rank and status of Knowledge, and its great standing and importance. They also show the commendable effects and noble qualities in this world and the Hereafter, which are a consequence of knowledge, as well as the results they bear, such as humility and submission to the Laws of Allah and compliance and adherence to His commands.
Thus, the scholar knows his Lord, his Prophet and the commands and boundaries set by Allah. He distinguishes between that which Allah loves and is pleased with, and that which He hates and rejects. Thus, he acts in accordance to the commands of Allah with respect to that which he approaches and refrains from. This is true for the one who is given the tawfiq towards acting upon that which He knows, if however the case is the opposite, his knowledge will be a curse for him.
Al-Ajurri states in the introduction to his book Akhlaq al-Ulama:
"Allah, sanctified are His Names, singled out those of His creation whom He loved and then guided them to iman. He further singed out from amongst the believers those whom He loved and favored them by teaching them the Book and Hikmah. He granted them the tawfiq in the religion, taught them the explanation and favored them over the rest of the believers. This is the case in every age and place. Allah elevated them with knowledge and adorned them with forbearance. Through them, the lawful is known from the unlawful, the truth from falsehood, the harmful from the beneficial, and the good from the bad.
Their virtue is enormous and their standing is great. They are the heirs to the Prophets and a pleasure to the eyes of the righteous. The fish in the sea seek forgiveness for them, the Angels lower their wings for them and they are second after the Prophets who will intercede on the (Day of) Resurrection. Their gatherings impart wisdom. Through their actions, the heedless are restrained and scolded.
They are the best of the slaves and are higher in rank than the zuhad (i.e., ascetics). Their life is a treasure and their death is a calamity. They remind the negligent and enlighten the ignorant. Trouble and ill treatment is not expected or feared from them. By their fine instruction, the obedient ones dispute and by their eloquent sermon, the slack ones return. Everyone is in need of their knowledge ... so they are the lamps for the servants, the landmarks of communities, the backbone of the ummah, and the sources of wisdom. They are the subject of Shaytan's rage. Because of them, the hearts of the people of truth come to life and the hearts of the people of deviation die.
Their similitude upon this earth is that of the stars; they guide one in the darkness of the land and sea. If the stars blacken out, people become confused and when the darkness unveils the stars, they see." 9
Al-Ajurri then related texts from the Book and Sunnah, as well as statements of the people of knowledge, which support what he mentioned.
Thus, knowledge possesses a lofty rank and a very high status. Knowledge has only been granted this great status, as it is a means to the greatest of all aims: that is the worship of Allah alone, without any partner, and the establishment of Tawhid of Him in the required way.
Knowledge is therefore, not sought after in itself but for something else10, and that is action. Consequently, every type of knowledge within the Shari'ah that the law of Islam calls for is demanded because it is a means to the worship of Allah and for no other reason. This is proven by the following facts:
The first: The Shari'ah has not brought anything but worship, this is the reason behind the dispatching of the Prophets. Allah says: -"O Mankind! Worship your Lord ... " [Al-Qur'an 2:21]
"Alif Lam Ra. (This is) a Book, the ayat whereof are perfected, and then explained in detail from One who is All-Wise and Well-Acquainted, that you worship none but Allah ... '' [Al-Qur'an 11:1-2]
"And We did not send any Messenger before you but We inspired him (saying),'None has the right to be worshipped but I, so worship Me (alone).' " [Al-Qur'an 21:25]
"Verily We have sent down the Book to you in truth. So, worship Allah by making your religion sincerely for Him alone. Surely, to Allah alone belongs the sincere religion … " [Al-Qur'an 39:2-3]
Likewise, there are so many other ayat that cannot easily be enumerated without some effort. They all point towards the fact that the intention behind knowledge is worship of Allah and to direct all acts of worship and obedience to Him.
The second: The evidences that indicate the spirit of knowledge to be action and that without action, knowledge is bare and of no benefit. Allah has said:
" ... It is only those who have knowledge amongst His slaves who fear Allah ... " [Al-Qur'an 35:28]
"Is one who is obedient to Allah, prostrating himself or standing (in prayer) during the hours of the night, fearing the Hereafter and hoping for the Mercy of his Lord (like one who disbelieves)? Say,' Are those who know equal to those who know not?' It is only people of understanding who will remember." [Al-Qur'an 39:9]
These and other evidences show that knowledge is a particular type of means and is not in the view of the Shari'ah, sought after in itself. It is none other than the way to action, Furthermore, all the reports related on the excellence of knowledge are only established from the perspective that the person is obliged to act upon this knowledge.
It is of common fact that the best branch of knowledge is knowledge of Allah. Nevertheless, this knowledge is not regarded a virtue for it's holder unless he remains true to its dictates and that is (to actually possess) iman in Allah.
The third: The severe warnings, threats and harsh reprimands mentioned in the texts of the Shari'ah for the one who does not act in accordance to hits knowledge. The fact that the scholar will be questioned on what he did with his knowledge, and that it will be a source of grievance, regret and (the) curse (of Allah) for the one who does not act upon it.
"Do you enjoin righteousness upon the people and forget yourselves (to practice it) whilst you recite the scripture? Have you then no sense?" [Al-Qur'an 2:44]
"O you who believe! Why do you say that which you do not do? Most hateful it is with Allah that you say that which you do not do." [Al-Qur'an 61:2-3]
Allah says relating what Shu'ayb declared to his community:
" ... I wish not to contradict you and do that which I forbid you. I only desire reform as far as I am able to do so, and mytawfiq cannot come about except by Allah. In Him I trust and Unto Him I repent." [Al-Qur'an 11:88]
There are many other texts of this nature. In addition, there exists numerous reports from the Salaf on this issue; they are of great benefit and sublime value, scholars have related and passed on these reports in their works.11
Shaykh ul-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah states: " ... this is why it is said, 'Knowledge is of two types: knowledge in the heart and knowledge upon the tongue. The knowledge in the heart is the beneficial knowledge and the knowledge upon the tongue is the proof of Allah upon His slaves'12 … so the faqih whose heart has acquired understanding and enlightenment is not like the khatib who addresses with his tongue. The heart may attain great matters of knowledge and understanding and its occupier may not speak of it to anyone. Similarly, one may speak about many issues concerning the heart and its states and the person may be at the same time void and bare of such matters."13]
By what has preceded, one can now comprehend the rank and status knowledge possesses as well as its immense benefits and returns. One can apprehend the powerful effect it has on the strength and steadfastness of iman, and the fact that it is the greatest cause for the increase, growth and strength of iman. This holds true for the one who acts in accordance with this knowledge.
In fact, actions themselves differ, with respect to their increase, decrease, acceptance and rejection, in proportion to their agreement and conformity to knowledge. Ibn al-Qayyim, may Allah have mercy upon him, mentioned this: "Actions differ with respect to acceptance and rejection in proportion to their agreement or opposition to knowledge. Thus, the action that conforms to knowledge is the acceptable type, whereas, the action that opposes knowledge is the rejected type. Knowledge is the scale and it is the criterion."14
He also said: "Any knowledge or action that does not increase iman in strength is diseased ... "15
The increase of iman brought about by knowledge is achieved in many ways: to travel in search of knowledge; to sit with people of knowledge in their gatherings; to study issues of knowledge in company; to increase in knowledge of Allah and His Shari'ah; to practice what one learns and as for those who acquire knowledge, there is a reward. These are some of the ways in which imanincreases as a result of knowledge and its attainment.
The author of this excellent discussion is Shaykh 'Abdur-Razzaq, the son of the illustrious scholar; Shaykh 'Abdul-Muhsin ibn Hamad al-Abbad al-Badr who is one of the scholars of Al-Madinah an-Nabawiyyah and a lecturer at the Prophet's - sallallahu ''alayhi wa sallam - mosque, may Allah preserve them both. Shaykh 'Abdur-Razzaq himself is a distinguished person of knowledge and he is an associate professor at the Department of 'Aqidah in the Faculty of Da'wah and Usul ad-Din at the Islamic University in Al-Madinah.
Translated by: Abu Safwan Farid ibn Abdul’wahid Haibata
4 Fadl Ilm as-Salaf alaa Ilm al-Khalaf, page 45
5 Soorah Aal-Imraan (3): I 8
6 Soorah an-Nisaa (4): 162
7 Soorah aI-Israa’ (17): 107-109
8 Soorah aI-Hajj (22):54
9 Soorah Saba (34):6
10 Soorah Faatir (35):2
11 Soorah al-Mujaadilah (58):11
12 Related by al-Bukhaaree, (1/164, 6/217, 12,294 Fath) and Muslim, 4/1524
13 Al-Musnad, 5/196. Also related by Aboo Daawood, 3/317; atTirmidhee 5/49; Ibn Maajah 1/81, ad-Daarimee, 1/98 and ibn Hibbaan, 1/152 (al-Ihsaan). It was declared saheeh by Al-Albaanee; see Saheeh al-Jaami 5/302. Ibn Rajab has provided a commentary to this Hadeeth in a small work of his, so one should refer to it.
14 Related by at-Tirmidhee, 5/50. AI-Mundharee mentioned it in at-Targheeb wa at-Tarheeb 1/10 and he related from atTirmidhee that he said: “The hadeeth is hasan Saheeh”. It has been declared saheeh by al-Albaanee, see Saheeh at-Tirmidhee, 2/343
15 Ahklaaq al-Ulamaa, page 13 &1