A Believer’s Guide to Knowledge

By Zahra

There are always some pre-decided manners to accomplish any task. This is true when it comes to gaining beneficial knowledge. Gaining knowledge is easy but if one truly wants to be benefited from the acquired knowledge, these guidelines and etiquette must be followed.  

  1. Have pure intentions for the sake of Allah and to gain His pleasure

This means that you need to be sincere in your knowledge journey. Your intentions have to be purely for the sake of Allah. If you are learning tafseer, your intention should be understand the Quran better so you can implement its teaching and teach those around you about it. Your intention should not to show-off with your knowledge or impress other people. You should only aim to please Allah with the time and effort you are investing in gaining knowledge. 

The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said:

“…Then will be brought forward a man who acquired knowledge and imparted it (to others) and recited the Qur’an. He will be brought And Allah will make him recount His blessings and he will recount them (and admit having enjoyed them in his lifetime). Then will Allah ask: What did you do (to requite these blessings)? He will say: I acquired knowledge and disseminated it and recited the Qur’an seeking Thy pleasure. Allah will say: You have told a lie. You acquired knowledge so that you might be called “a scholar,” and you recited the Qur’an so that it might be said: “He is a Qari” and such has been said. Then orders will be passed against him and he shall be dragged with his face downward and cast into the Fire.”

(Sahih Muslim: Book 33, Hadith 218)

“He who does not acquire knowledge with the sole intention of seeking the Pleasure of Allah but for worldly gain, will not smell the fragrance of Jannah on the Day of Resurrection.” 

(Riyad as-Salihin: Book 12, Hadith 16)

  1. Make Dua to Allah

Ask Allah for help before starting any work. There are numerous duas that we can recite for an increase in knowledge but a really simple and easy one is:

ربِّ زِدْنِي عِلْماً

Rabbi zidnee ilma” meaning “O my Lord, increase me in knowledge.”

Another beautiful dua that we can recite before we begin the task of acquiring knowledge (and indeed any other task) is. 

“Allahumma la sahla illa ma ja’altahu sahla, wa ‘anta taj-alul hazna idha shi’ta sahla”

اللهُمَّ لا سَهْلَ إلا مَا جَعَلتَهُ سَهْلا وَ أنتَ تَجْعَلُ الحزْنَ إذا شِئْتَ سَهْلا 

“O, Allah! There is nothing easy except what You make easy, and You make the difficult easy if it be Your Will.”

  1. Identify what is beneficial knowledge

Beneficial knowledge is knowledge of the deen that makes you a better Muslim. This knowledge should bring you closer to Allah SWT and make you more sincere in your actions. Beneficial knowledge is not knowledge that you use only to discuss controversies about the deen or to admonish others. Beneficial knowledge is a way to seek Allah’s pleasure in this world and in the hereafter.  

“Ask Allah for beneficial knowledge and seek refuge with Allah from the knowledge that is of no benefit.”

(Sunan Ibn Majah : Book 34, Hadith 17) 

It was narrated that Abu Al-Aliyah said:

“Ibn Abbas said: “On the morning of Al-Aqabah, while he was on his mount, the Messenger of Allah said to me: “Pick up (some pebbles) for me.” So I picked up some pebbles for him that were the size of date stones or fingertips, and when I placed them in his hand he said: “Like these. And beware of going to extremes in religious matters, for those who came before you were destroyed because of going to extremes in religious matters.”

(Sunan an- Nasa’I: Book 24, Hadith 440)

  1. Allah has made The Quran easy to remember and understand

Allah says in the Quran that,

“And we have certainly made the Qur’an easy for remembrance, so is there any who will remember.” 

(Surah Al-Qamar, 54:17)

When Allah SWT Himself has said this, who are we to claim that the Quran is too difficult to understand and learn? It may be in a different language to yours, but that is an obstacle that can easily be overcome by applying yourself wholeheartedly to the study of Quran. Assure yourself that the Quran was made to be remembered and understood by mankind, and so you are definitely capable of learning and studying the Quran. 

  1. Perfection of manners in seeking and teaching knowledge

When you seek knowledge or when you convey it to others, make sure you are doing so with the best of manners. When we are conveying or learning beneficial knowledge,e should be aware of and respectful to our teachers, our students, and most importantly to Allah SWT whose words and commands we are discussing. 

Malik ibn Anas, may Allah have mercy on him, said:

تَعَلَّمِ الأَدَبَ قَبْلَ أَنْ تَتَعَلَّمَ الْعِلْمَ

“Learn good manners before seeking knowledge.”

Source: Gharāʼib Mālik ibn Anas 45

Imran ibn Muslim reported: Umar ibn al-Khattab, may Allah be pleased with him, said:

“Acquire knowledge and teach people. Learn along with it dignity and tranquillity and humility for those who teach you and humility for those whom you teach. Do not be tyrannical scholars and thus base your knowledge upon your ignorance.”

(Source: Shu’b al-Imān 1650, Grade: Sahih)

  1. Verify before speaking

It is important to first confirm the knowledge before spreading it to prevent falsehood. We cannot speak on every controversy or viral information that we come across. Verify the facts of the issue. Verify its sources. Always rely on the Quran and Sunnah first as your primary sources of truth. And never speak about something you are not certain is the truth. 

RasoolAllah (ﷺ) said :

“It is enough falsehood for a man to relate everything he hears.” 

(Mishkat al-Masabih: Book 1, Hadith 149)

  1. How to deal with difference of opinion

It is natural to have arguments or differences in views between people. Be respectful when holding different opinions. Don’t become emotional and hot-headed. Discuss and seek guidance from the people of knowledge. Hold fast to the rope of Allah and seek refuge from Allah from being divided. Allah narrated in the Quran,

“Ask the people of knowledge if you do not know.”

(Surah An-Nahl 16:43)

“(And) if you differ in anything amongst yourselves, refer it to Allah and His Messenger, if you believe in Allah and the Last Day. That is better and more suitable for final determination”

[al-Nisa’ 4:59]

“And hold firmly to the rope of Allah all together and do not become divided.”

(Surah Ali ‘Imran 3:103)

  1. Do not be lazy in gaining knowledge

Being proactive while gaining knowledge is very essential. We need to manage our time, and disciple ourselves better if we want to really acquire knowledge. 

Abdullah narrated it on the authority of his father Yahya:

“Knowledge cannot be acquired with sloth.”

(Sahih Muslim: Book 5, Hadith 224)

  1. Status of those who seek knowledge

Finally, understand that as a seeker and conveyor of knowledge, you have a special status in the eyes of Allah SWT. Stay steadfast and purify your intentions in your journey to seek beneficial knowledge. 

Narrated Abu Umamah Al-Bahili:

“Two men were mentioned before the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ). One of them a worshiper, and the other a scholar. So the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said: ‘The superiority of the scholar over the worshiper is like my superiority over the least of you. ‘ Then the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said: ‘Indeed Allah, His Angels, the inhabitants of the heavens and the earth – even the ant in his hole, even the fish, say salat upon the one who teaches the people to do good. 

(Jami` at-Tirmidhi: Book 41, Hadith 41)

It was narrated from ‘Uthman bin’ Affan that the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said:

“Three will intercede on the Day of Resurrection: The Prophets, then the scholars, then the martyrs.”

(Sunan Ibn Majah : Book 37, Hadith 4456)

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