Quran and Sunnah: Let’s Talk About Knowledge
Being a student of knowledge is a huge responsibility, whoever carries out the responsibility as required will definitely have a great reward in this world and the hereafter. There are several verses of the Quran and authentic narrations to this effect. The scholars of Islam-past and present- have also written books to explain the virtues of being a student of knowledge. For brevity sake, we will only mention one verse of the Quran to show the importance of seeking Islamic knowledge. Allaah (Exalted and Sublime is He) says:
Say: “Are those who know equal to those who know not?
Meaning of Student of Knowledge
What we mean by ‘student of knowledge’ is student of Islamic knowledge. Islamic knowledge is the knowledge of the Quran, Sunnah and every knowledge that helps us to understand the Quran and Sunnah. The knowledge of the Quran and Sunnah are the actual knowledge that we seek, but we cannot achieve them without the knowledge of (Islamic) history, Arabic morphology, syntax, eloquence and similar fields of knowledge that help us to understand the Quran and Sunnah better.
Classes of knowledge
From the above, we can deduce that knowledge can be categorised into two:
- Islamic Knowledge
- Non-Islamic knowledge.
Islamic knowledge is further classified into two:
- Knowledge of the Quran and Sunnah: this is the primary knowledge and the peak of all knowledge.
- Knowledge that helps us to understand the Quran and Sunnah: This includes the principles of tafseer, sciences of hadith, Arabic language, (Islamic) history, Arabic poetry etc.
This is because the knowledge of the Quran and Sunnah is the only knowledge that –in itself- takes one closer to Allaah. Also, seeking the knowledge of the Quran and Sunnah is an act of worship in itself unlike the other types of knowledge which require some other conditions before one can expect reward for learning or practicing them. We ask Allaah to increase us in knowledge. Even when those conditions are fulfilled the virtue and reward of Islamic knowledge still outmatches them in every way.
The non-Islamic knowledge is also divided into two:
- Non anti-Islamic knowledge: This includes all mundane knowledge that does not contradict any Islamic ruling. Examples include: medicine, architecture, geography etc. The Quran itself implicitly encourages us to study these sciences and arts. Imam Sa’diyy explained this in his book, al-qawaaedul hisaan: principle 23
As Muslims we must know that whatever ‘discovery’ we make that contradicts the texts of the Quran and/or the Sunnah is a false truth and should therefore be neglected. May Allaah assist us.
- Anti-Islamic knowledge: This includes any field of study that is based on or majorly deals with what Allaah has forbidden in His book or on the tongue of his messenger (commendations and peace of Allaah be upon him). For example it is impermissible for a Muslim to study magic, singing, dancing, Greek and Roman philosophy etc. The fact that they are studied in world-renowned universities or some so-called Islamic countries does not change the fact that they are impermissible.
Muslims have boycotted Islamic knowledge
In the time we live today, only a few people devote a portion of their life to learn about the Book of their Creator and the ways of their model (commendations and peace of Allaah be upon him). Many Muslim parents would rather send their children to study the most irrelevant course in the university than send them to study the Noblest of books. The holiday period is not left out, their children must prepare for the next academic session not for the meeting of their Lord. The best of them are those who let them attend a make-shift madrasah from 4pm to 6pm, and that is after they have used the most fruitful part of their day in school.
What could be worse? Many parents don’t even want their children to attend Muslim schools: “they are not standard” they say foolishly and ignorantly! We ask Allaah to save us from the evils of our time.
Sheep in Wolves Clothing
If what we stated above was the only problem it would have been less-severe. The Muslim society would simply comprise of two classes of people:
- Ignorant and nominal Muslims
- The scholars and students of knowledge
But there is a greater tragedy. There are many people who call themselves students and even scholars of Islamic knowledge but they are not in any way students (let alone scholars) of Islamic knowledge. The most saddening part is that they have the loudest voice in the society, they are what the people see as the epitome of Islamic scholarship and they are the Islamic advisors of the government in Islamic matters.
They deceive the ignorant masses with the Arabic language they speak (which many of them are actually horrible at!). The ability to read, write and speak Arabic language is not what makes you a scholar or student of knowledge. There is no one on earth today who speaks better Arabic than Abu Lahab and Abu Jahl yet both of them are dwellers of hell.
Who are the true students of (Islamic) knowledge?
They are a group of people who devote their time, energy and wealth to seeking the knowledge of the Quran and Sunnah, they strive sincerely to practice and call to what they learn. May Allaah benefit us with what He has taught us and teach us what will benefit us and increase us in knowledge.
This group of people are the hope of the ummah, they are the inheritors of the prophets as the messenger of Allaah (commendations and peace of Allaah be upon him) said:
“And indeed the scholars are the inheritors of the prophet, for surely the prophets did not bequeath a dinar nor dirham, they bequeathed knowledge, so whoever takes it (knowledge) has taken a great share”
Sunan Abi Dawood: 3641, 3642 (authenticated by Sheikh Albany)
May Allaah make us inheritors of the prophets. Aameen.
The general and nominal Muslims are not able to differentiate between the students of knowledge and those who camouflage themselves as students of knowledge. This is because their knowledge of the Quran is too little to enable them tell the difference between the sheep and the wolves in disguise. So they have no Quran to guide them because they didn’t bother to study it. This is very saddening but it is the reality. We ask Allaah for safety.
…but the Cloud has a Silver Lining
However, nominal Muslims have a principle which they use to ‘differentiate’ a true student or scholar of Islam from the liars; GOOD MANNERS! While we cannot recommend this as the perfect criterion for telling a true scholar from a false, there is no doubt that it is not a baseless yardstick.
This makes us realise the wisdom of Allaah (the all-wise) when He praised his messenger (commendations and peace of Allaah be upon him) with good manners:
And verily, you (O Muhammad) are on an exalted standard of character.
The messenger of Allaah (commendations and peace of Allaah be upon him) said:
I have only been raised to perfect good manners
Musnad Ahmad: 8952
Of course, Islam is good manners; good manners to our creator, prophet (commendations and peace of Allaah be upon him), our leaders, our parents, family, employer, co-workers, employees, siblings, fellow member of mosque congregation, animals and even to yourself! We would have loved to go into details but we don’t want to overwhelm you with words so the detailed explanation of this paragraph is a topic for another time.
Therefore, it is important for the student of knowledge to not only care about his prayers, fasting, charity etc. he should also strive to improve his manners of speaking, dressing, walking, eating and every aspect of his life. This is because it is not only an important aspect of worship it is also very important it is also a strong means of calling people to Islam.
A True Story Before We Conclude
Once I went out with my father, on the way we met one his father’s friends. My father greeted him in the Yoruba way but I greeted him in the Islamic way (which is the blessed and by far better greeting). Then my father said to him (in Yoruba):
“Don’t be annoyed sir that is how they greet in their group (referring to the people of Sunnah in our locality)”.
Then the man made a comment that amazed me, he said:
“I love them, in fact I am with them, yes they don’t bow and prostrate but they obey parents and always do their best to give all they can … one of my children is among them, he is very obedient…”
Then the man spoke at length praising the youths that practice the Sunnah till my father had no choice but to agree with him (and we do not sanctify ourselves but we ask Allaaah to sanctify us).
There are many similar examples of this experience which I will not mention for fear of overwhelming you with words.
Sheikh Muhammad Nasirud-deen Albany said:
“I have observed that people today pay attention to the first aspect which is knowledge but they do not pay attention to the other aspect which is mannners and composure…”
(Fatawa Jiddah tape 34/ mins 4-34) as received from a whatsapp broadcast.
Next issue to discuss is “what are the roots of good manners” and “how can one acquire good manners”. May Allaah make it easy for us to write and may He put barakah in what the writer has written and what the reader has read. Aameen.