The Importance of Seeking Knowledge (From Surat Al-Fatiha)
Posted by Enlightenment into Islam Center
The Shaytan knows about the importance of knowledge very well, which is why he makes it very heavy on the heart of the believer. The Shaytan prefers a person to be an عابد (worshipper), not an عالم (knowledgeable person).
If knowledge is not purely sought for the sake of Allah, it will not benefit the person. Surah Al-Fatihah, which we recite in our prayers, teaches us the importance of seeking knowledge.
The Prophet ﷺ said,
“Seeking knowledge is a duty upon every Muslim…” [Ibn Majah]
اهْدِنَا الصِّرَاطَ الْمُسْتَقِيمَ
Guide us to the Straight Way
صِرَاطَ الَّذِينَ أَنْعَمْتَ عَلَيْهِمْ غَيْرِ الْمَغْضُوبِ عَلَيْهِمْ وَلَا الضَّالِّينَ
The Way of those on whom You have bestowed Your Grace , not (the way) of those who earned Your Anger (such as the Jews), nor of those who went astray (such as the Christians).
You ask Allah to guide you to the Siraat Al-Mustaqeem, to show you its signs, to open the gate of knowledge for you, to help you act upon it, and to keep you firm on it until the end.
And you ask Allah to make you of those whom Allah conferred His favours upon; like the Prophets, Messengers, the Companions, the Righteous, and the Martyrs.
These people attained a high status with Allah because they learned, and acted upon what they learnt.
The Prophet ﷺ said:
“The Jews are those whom Allah’s wrath is with, and the Christians have strayed.”[At-Tirmithi #3212]
But of course, this is not restricted to the Jews and Christians; they are just an example.
What did the Jews do that caused Allah to become Angry with them? They had knowledge but did not act upon it. In order to not be like them, our intention when seeking knowledge should be a truthful one;- to act upon whatever we learn – not to learn for the sake of mere education or compiling.
What did “الضَّالِّين” do? They took actions, but without knowledge. So in order to not be like them, we should seek knowledge before we take action. The Christians are a model and clear example to that, no matter how much one exerts efforts in worshipping Allah, if he does not learn prior to that, he will go astray. And a person is not excused of not knowing about the actions he performs.
We need to learn, and when we learn, we need to act upon it.
The aforementioned are two categories whom Allah warns us against. In the present times, knowledge is very easy to acquire; there is no need to get up from your place. With the press of a button you can ask Ibn Uthaimeen رحمه الله or Ibn Baz رحمه الله. This is a blessing. But whenever a blessing becomes very easy to attain, the attitude of most people is that they show ungratefulness (بطر).
We should be afraid of the punishment of Allah. If this is how we deal with the blessings of Allah, we will end up being deprived from them.
In a Hadith, the Prophet ﷺ mentioned some of the signs of the nearness of the Day of Judgement, and among those he mentioned was:
“The appearance of the pen (the spread of writing)” [Authenticated and graded Sahih by Ahmed Shakir]
The Scholars said this means:
1) Spread of Worldly Knowledge
2) An increase in Writing Materials
This is what we see nowadays; there are lots of books, newspapers, magazines published. However, ignorance with regards to religious knowledge is prevalent. Most of the people on the earth do not know who Allah and His Messenger ﷺ is.
In Surah Yusuf Verse 106
وَمَا يُؤْمِنُ أَكْثَرُهُم بِاللَّهِ إِلَّا وَهُم مُّشْرِكُونَ
And most of them believe not in Allah except that they attribute partners unto Him
In Surah Al-An’am Verse 116
وَإِن تُطِعْ أَكْثَرَ مَن فِي الْأَرْضِ يُضِلُّوكَ عَن سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ ۚ إِن يَتَّبِعُونَ إِلَّا الظَّنَّ وَإِنْ هُمْ إِلَّا يَخْرُصُونَ
And if you obey most of those on earth, they will mislead you far away from Allah’s Path. They follow nothing but conjectures, and they do nothing but lie.
In Surah Hud Verse 40
وَمَا آمَنَ مَعَهُ إِلَّا قَلِيلٌ
…And none believed with him, except a few.
The Muwwahideen ( The Monotheists) are very few, although we live in the age of “the spread of writing”. Acquiring knowledge has become more easy, but as the blessing of Allah increases upon us, the ingratitude from our side increases. The blessings come to us and we do not take benefit from it. The knowledge comes to you while you are at home without any effort, and you do not get benefit from it. This is dangerous. When we acquire knowledge we should do so with the intention of Acting upon it.
And action should begin with the heart, then end up on the tongue and limbs. Many learn but do not act upon their knowledge, thus resembling the Jews in this regard.
This verse in Surah Al-Fatihah teaches us that when we acquire knowledge, our intention should be:
1) To learn about the Siraat AlMustaqeem
2) To seek the pleasure of Allah
3) For Allah to reward every step you take when you come out from your house
4) When you sit in the assembly, you hope that Allah mentions your name to those who are close to Him in the heavens.
When your intention is such, the knowledge you take in will benefit and affect you. The first thing it will change in you is your heart. It will reform your heart; It will change your thinking.
The quality of your worship will change; it will become more perfect and more pleasing to Allah.
Many people think: I am learning, but I am still the same? It is impossible that you are the same unless you sleep throughout the class. The change that will happen to you is the change in your heart and in your thinking. The first thing it will change in your heart is that your feelings of Allah’s Greatness will increase.
Why did the Jews abandon acting upon the command of Allah? The knowledge they had, did not make them comply with the command of Allah, due to lack of magnification of Allah. They did not have that honour, respect, and glorification of Allah. If you look in the Qur’an, they said Allah is Poor, that His Hands are tied, that He took rest after He created the heavens and earth. They did not honour the Messenger of Allah; Musa عليه السلام.
The knowledge they had did not make them honour and glorify Allah, and this is something very serious. We should be afraid of this. How much does the knowledge we have make us glorify Allah?
How do we know if we are glorifying Allah or not? Look at your obedience to Allah’s Commands. – How much are you obeying Allah and His Messenger ﷺ? This indicates the level of your تعظيم (magnification) of Allah.
A Common Misconception: Many people think that as long as they are born into a Muslim family, are praying and fasting, they do not need to learn.
Surah Az-Zukhruf Verse 22
بَلْ قَالُوا إِنَّا وَجَدْنَا آبَاءَنَا عَلَىٰ أُمَّةٍ وَإِنَّا عَلَىٰ آثَارِهِم مُّهْتَدُونَ
Rather, they say, “Indeed, we found our fathers upon a religion, and we are in their footsteps [rightly] guided.”
People believe that the goal and purpose behind acquiring knowledge is only in order to get a job. This is a philosophy which has spread among people nowadays. They think that one should only know what is needed for Dunya related work. In some Muslim countries they even cancel Islamic Studies as a subject, deeming it of no use. They belittle acquiring religious knowledge because it does not bring them money.
And even more riskier than that are people who learn the religion for the sake of work; and this is considered Minor Shirk. Learning knowledge is an act of worship like Salaat and Siyaam – so you would be doing an act of worship for the sake of the Dunya.
The knowledge which is praised in the Qur’an and Sunnah is knowledge which will make a person reach his Lord.
Surah Mujadilah Verse 11
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا إِذَا قِيلَ لَكُمْ تَفَسَّحُوا فِي الْمَجَالِسِ فَافْسَحُوا يَفْسَحِ اللَّهُ لَكُمْ ۖ وَإِذَا قِيلَ انشُزُوا فَانشُزُوا يَرْفَعِ اللَّهُ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا مِنكُمْ وَالَّذِينَ أُوتُوا الْعِلْمَ دَرَجَاتٍ ۚ وَاللَّهُ بِمَا تَعْمَلُونَ خَبِيرٌ
O you who have believed, when you are told, “Space yourselves” in assemblies, then make space; Allah will make space for you. And when you are told, “Arise,” then arise; Allah will raise those who have believed among you and those who were given knowledge, by degrees. And Allah is Acquainted with what you do.
Allah will exalt those who believed, were truthful, and exerted their utmost in learning and acting upon it.
Surah Al-Fatihah tells us the importance of knowledge, beginning from the first verse until the last. We should know what these people did such that they were of the ضالين and مغضوب عليهم.