It’s the time of year when many children and adults are getting ready to go back to school. Whatever the level of education we are pursuing, it seems that when September rolls around, we become inundated with advertising for the sale of school supplies, the current fashion crazes and, of course, the latest technology to keep us connected throughout the academic year. Furthermore, for many of us, we continually hear that furthering our education will help us get a good job so that we can work to support ourselves and our families. And while this may be important, seeking knowledge for the sake of your religion is heavily valued and considered compulsory for every Muslim.
To understand the centrality of knowledge in Islam, we need look no further than the first word of revelation that was spoken to Muhammad by the Angel Jibreel in the Cave of Hira over 1400 years ago: Read! Recite in the name of your Lord who created, created man from a clot (Qur’an 96:1-2). The very act of receiving revelation, praying for it and seeking it is the first compulsion ordered upon Muhammad by the Qur’an. By extension, our own thirst for knowledge of the Deen should be equally insatiable. This is for many reasons including the following:
- It increases your rank and status in this life and the next. According to Ayat 58:11 of the Qur’an, Allah will raise those who have believed among you and those who were given knowledge, by degrees. This means that not only are belief and knowledge inextricably linked to one another, but that by engaging in both, you will be exalted. Islamic scholars agree that this applies to both an increase in the bounties of this dunya and those found in Jannah. While many of us are pursuing promotions of the worldly kind, how many of us are looking for them from Allah, The Most High?
- It makes you a person of understanding. When we seek knowledge in this life, particularly knowledge of our religion, we find that our understanding of this life’s illusion and the true guidance of Islam automatically increases. All people who learn, read and understand the Qur’an are those who will comprehend its lessons and parables appropriately for themselves, helping them to avoid sin and practice good deeds more effectively. And these examples We present to the people, but none will understand them except those of knowledge. (Qur’an 29:43)
- It shows that Allah loves you. Most people are seeking acceptance and praise from others in their lives, whether it be our parents, our friends, our spouses and so forth. Signs that they are pleased with us and love us might be their verbal praise, gifts, quality time and so forth. Allah, The Most Merciful, expresses His Love for us by increasing our knowledge. This is His Sign. According to Sahih Bukhari and Muslim, the Prophet Muhammad stated that “Whosoever Allah wishes good for, He gives him understanding (fiqh) of the Religion.”
Additionally, knowledge earns you a place of respect and superiority among your peers. In this way, your pursuit of knowledge inspires others to seek it on their own and motivates them to take the action they need to learn their Deen for themselves. Like anything in Islam, the intention is important but an action that follows also critical. When we have acquired knowledge for ourselves, we have some obligation to use it to benefit ourselves, our families, our communities and our Ummah. “Knowledge from which no benefit is derived is like a treasure out of which nothing is spent in the cause of Allah.” (Tirmidhi, Hadith 108). One of the best things we can do with our knowledge is to offer it as a gift for others. In fact, it is an act that is recommended by the Prophet who said, “Acquire knowledge and impart it to the people.” (Tirmidhi 107) To do this is to call down the blessings upon yourself of “Allah, His Angels, all those in the Heavens and on Earth, even ants in their hills and fish in the water…” (Tirmidhi 422)