Means which will aid a person in Seeking Knowledge
Acquiring knowledge is one of the noblest acts of worship with which one can draw nearer to Allaah. Allaah made knowledge a counterpart to Jihaad in Surat at-Tawbah [9:122]:
“And it is not (proper) for the believers to go out to fight (Jihaad) all together. Of every troop of them, a party only (i.e. some of them) should go forth, that they (who are left behind) may receive instructions in (Islamic) religion, and that they may warn their people when they return to them, so that they may beware (of evil).”
The Prophet ﷺ said:
من يرد الله به خيرًا يفقه في الدين
“If Allaah wants to do good to a person, He makes him comprehend the Religion (I.e. understand the Qur’an and Sunnah.” [Al-Bukhaari]
So if you see that Allaah (Ta’ala) has opened the gates of understanding the Religion for you, then receive the glad tidings that Allaah wants good for you. This is a blessing from Allaah for certain people whom He chooses; not just for anyone.
Ibn ‘Uthaimeen (رحمه الله) mentioned some means that will help the student of knowledge seek knowledge in ‘كتاب العلم‘ (The Book of Knowledge):
1- (Taqwa – Fear of Allaah and keeping your duty towards Him) – التقوى
This is the most important means which will help you acquire knowledge.
Allaah advised the former and later generations with Taqwa. He said in Surat an-Nisaa’ [4:131]:
“And to Allaah belongs all that is in the heavens and all that is in the earth. And verily, We have recommended to the people of the Scripture before you, and to you (O Muslims) that you (all) fear Allaah, and keep your duty to Him. But if you disbelieve, then unto Allaah belongs all that is in the heavens and all that is in the earth, and Allaah is Ever Rich (Free of all wants), Worthy of all praise.”
Taqwa was also the advice of the Prophet ﷺ for his nation. He ﷺ said:
ربكم جنة تدخلوا أمراءَكم، أطيعوا و أموالكم، زكاة وأدُّوا شهرَكم، وصوموا خمسَكم، وصلُّوا ربكم، الله اتقوا
Have Taqwa of Allaah, your Lord, and pray your five (daily prayers), and fast your month (Ramadan), and observe the Zakaat of your money, and obey your leaders, you will enter the Paradise of your Lord. [At-Tirmidhi]
If you act upon those five commands, you will enter the Paradise of your Lord.
And he ﷺ used to advise every leader before an expedition, to have Taqwa with regards to himself and the people around him.
The righteous predecessors used to advise each other with Taqwa in their Khutbahs, letters, and wills. ‘Umar (رضي الله عنه) once wrote to his son ‘Abdullaah (رضي الله عنهما) saying:
أما بعد فإني أوصيك بتقوى الله فإنه من إتقاه وقاه، و من أقرضه جزاه، و من شكره زاده
I advise you with Taqwa of Allaah because whoever fears Allaah will be protected; and whoever gives a loan to Allaah, Allaah will recompense him; and whoever thanks Allaah, Allaah will increase him.
‘Ali (رضي الله عنه) advised a man:
أوصيك بتقوى الذي لا بد لك من لقائه و لا منتهى لك دونه و هو يملك الدنيا و الآخرة
I advise you to have Taqwa of the One Whom you are undoubtedly going to meet one day, and Whom there is no end for you other than Him, and Who owns the Dunya and the Hereafter.
One of the righteous wrote to his brother saying,
أوصيك بتقوى الله الذي هو نجيك في سريرك و رقيبك في علانيتك فاجعل الله من بالك على كل حال في ليلك و نهارك و خُف الله بقدر قربه منك و قدرته عليك، واعلم أنك بعينه ليس تخرج من سلطانه إلى سلطان غيره و لا من ملكه إلى ملك غيره فليعظم منه حذرك وليكثر منه وجلك و السلام
I advise you to have Taqwa of Allaah, Who is your confidant in private and Who is watchful over you in your public. So be aware of Him in all your states; in your day and in your night. Fear Allaah as much as His nearness is to you and fear His power over you. Bear in mind that you cannot let go of His power to the power of someone else, nor can you get loose from His dominion to the dominion of someone else. So be cautious of Him greatly and fear Him much.
What is the meaning of Taqwa? Literally it is derived from Waqaa وقى.
وقاية Waqaya is a shield. You put a shield between you and what you fear of the anger and punishment of Allaah; you want to make a protection (Waqaya وقاية) for yourself from the anger and punishment of Allaah.
How can you put this وقايا (Waqaya)? By carrying out the command of Allaah and refraining from what He has prohibited.
In the Qur’an, البر (Birr) is usually mentioned with التقوى (Taqwa). When they are mentioned together, as in Surat al-Maa’idah [5:2]:
وَتَعَاوَنُوا عَلَى الْبِرِّ وَالتَّقْوَىٰ
“Help you one another in Al-Birr and At-Taqwa (virtue, righteousness and piety)”
البر (Al-Birr) refers to carrying out the command of Allaah, and التقوى (At-Taqwa) refers to abstaining from the prohibitions. Whenever التقوى (Taqwa) is mentioned alone, it takes both meanings.
Allaah mentioned that He had prepared Paradise for (أعدت للمتقين) Al-Muttaqeen (pious). If you are really seeking Paradise, you have to practice Taqwa. The people of Taqwa are the people of Jannah; therefore one should have Taqwa by acting upon His commandments and abstaining from His prohibitions.
As a student of knowledge, how will Taqwa benefit you?
In Surat al-Anfaal [8:29]:
“O you who believe! If you obey and fear Allaah, He will grant you Furqaan a criterion [(to judge between right and wrong), or (Makhraj, i.e. making a way for you to get out from every difficulty)], and will expiate for you your sins, and forgive you, and Allaah is the Owner of the Great Bounty.”
If you have Taqwa of Allaah, you will secure three benefits:
The first benefit– “يجعلكم فرقانا” – Allaah (Ta’ala) will grant you Furqaan [a criterion (to judge between right and wrong)]
If you fear Allaah (Ta’ala) and keep your duty to Him, He will give you the ability to distinguish between truth and falsehood, which He will not give to other than the Muttaqeen (pious).
This means that Allaah (Ta’ala) will open the gate of knowledge for the Muttaqeen which He will not open for other than them, because the person distinguishes truth from falsehood through knowledge. Allaah will thus increase in knowledge, understanding, and guidance, the one who fears Allaah.
You may see two people memorizing the same verse. One of them will deduce three benefits from that, while Allaah may open more benefits for the other one. This is a gift from Allaah. Allaah opens for the other one which he did not open for the first, based on his Taqwa. The more you fear Allaah, the more He will help you understand.
Allaah will give the person who is Firasah فراسة – a distinctive intelligence; insight, by which he can judge people and know a liar from the truthful. Allaah will give him this intelligence, without him having accompanied the person he knows about. Allaah will not give this aid to other than Al-Muttaqeen.
If you fear Allaah and keep your duty towards Him, He will increase your knowledge, open the gate of understanding, guide you and give you this فراسة Firasah (insight) which He will not give to others.
Imaam Ash-Shafi’i (رحمه الله) said in a poem:
”I complained to Wakee’ of my weak memorization. He guided me to abandon sins, and said: ‘Know that knowledge is light, and the light of Allaah will not be given to a sinner.’”
Check your Taqwa if you are complaining of weak memorization, because Allaah (Ta’ala) will not give this light to everyone. He will only give it to the Muttaqi.
Second benefit – “و يكفر عنكم سيئاتكم” – and will expiate for you, your sins
How? By guiding them to perform righteous deeds with which He expiates the misdeeds.
In Surat Hud [11:114]:
“And perform As-Salaat (Iqaamat-as-Salaat), at the two ends of the day and in some hours of the night [i.e. the five compulsory Salaat (prayers)]. Verily, the good deeds remove the evil deeds (i.e. small sins). That is a reminder (an advice) for the mindful (those who accept advice).”
The Prophet ﷺ said:
الصلوات الخمس والجمعة إلى الجمعة، ورمضان إلى رمضان، مكفرات ما بينهن إذا اجتنبت الكبائر
The five daily (prescribed) Salaat, and Friday (prayer) to the next Friday (prayer), and the fasting of Ramadan to the next Ramadan, is expiation of the sins committed in between them, so long as major sins are avoided. [Muslim]
Third benefit – “و يغفر لكم” – and forgive you
Allaah will guide a person to repentance, and this is one of the favors of Allaah. If Allaah has forgiven the sins of a person, it means He will open the gate of knowledge for him. Knowledge is a light which will not be given to the sinner, so if he asks Allaah to forgive him, Allaah will give him this light.
The one who gives Fatwas, or is asked by the people, is advised to first ask Allaah for forgiveness when someone comes asking him. If Allaah forgives him, Allaah will show him the right from wrong and the truth. This is based on scholar’s interpretation of Surat an-Nisaa’ [4:105-106]:
“Surely, We have sent down to you [O Muhammad (Salla-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam the Book (this Qur’an) in truth that you might judge between men by that which Allaah has shown you (i.e. has taught you through Divine Inspiration), so be not a pleader for the treacherous.”
“And seek the Forgiveness of Allaah, certainly, Allaah is Ever Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.”
The student of knowledge is advised with Taqwa of Allaah in his secret and open affairs, in the day and night, in front of the people and behind the people. He should fear Allaah with regards to what he sees, hears, speaks, and writes.
If you want Allaah to open the gate of knowledge for you, then fear Allaah. Do not show one face in front of the people and have another image behind them. This is not Taqwa of Allaah. The Muttaqi has one image; he is the same person inside the house and outside. He speaks the same, has the same behavior, thoughts, etc.
If you want to be a true student of knowledge, you need to begin with Taqwa of Allaah.