Seeking knowledge, educating oneself, and learning are all activities with very beneficial consequences in our lives and acknowledging this reality, Islam encourages and prefers inculcating such traits in a Muslim and the society as a whole. The stress in education is significant to the point where it considers acquiring knowledge compulsory for becoming and progressing as a good, practicing Muslim. For this purpose Allah not only ranks seeking knowledge as an act of worship but also elevates the status of a learned believer.
“Are those who know and those who do not know alike? Only the men of understanding are mindful.” (Surah Al Zumar 39:9)
Types of Knowledge and their Significance
In concerning different types of knowledge Islam distinguishes between the religious and the worldly. Worldly knowledge such as math, science, history, and literacy is beneficial and should be sought as it benefits you and those around you in this life. Islam puts a greater emphasis on religious knowledge and makes it an obligation and compulsion for every Muslim to become educated. It is not only beneficial but also required for one to be well versed in matters of the Islamic faith as without such knowledge one may deviate from the principles of Islam and the consequences for this deviation will spread much farther than this life but also touch you in the hereafter. The importance Islam puts on religious knowledge does not diminish the value of worldly knowledge, however. Muslims should learn how to prosper in this life as long as the worldly knowledge doesn’t endanger their faith or the attainment of religious knowledge.
Narrated by Abu Musa: The Prophet said, “The example of guidance and knowledge with which Allah has sent me is like abundant rain falling on the earth, some of which was fertile soil that absorbed rain water and brought forth vegetation and grass in abundance. Another portion of it was hard and held the rain water and Allah benefited the people with it and they utilized it for drinking, making their animals drink from it and for irrigation of the land for cultivation. A portion of it was barren which could neither hold the water nor bring forth vegetation and that land gave no benefits. The first is the example of the person who comprehends Allah’s religion and gets benefit from the knowledge which Allah has revealed through me. The last example is that of a person who does not care for it and does not take Allah’s guidance revealed through me.” (Bukhari)
Benefits of Seeking Religious Knowledge
Narrated by Abdullah bin Mas’ud: The Prophet said, “Do not wish to be like anyone except in two cases. The first is a person whom Allah has given wealth and he spends it righteously. The second is one whom Allah has given wisdom and he acts according to it and teaches it to others.” (Bukhari)
Just as educating ourselves in worldly matters offers benefit in this life, so too does educating ourselves in religious matters offer benefit in our current life and the hereafter. Some of these benefits include:
Better understanding of Allah: The main goal for the believer to seek knowledge is to better appreciate and understand Allah. This includes learning about his unity, attributes, and capabilities. Consequently it helps in having a stronger faith, fostering the the love and fear of Allah and (inshallah) helps protect the believer from plunging into polytheism and shirk.
“And among people and moving creatures and grazing livestock are various colors similarly. Only those fear Allah, from among His servants, who have knowledge. Indeed, Allah is exalted in might and forgiving.” (Surah Al Fatir 35:28)
Increasing our Knowledge of Islam: Learning about the methods of worship, manners, etiquette of dealing with other in our personal and public life, Islamic history and lessons to be learned from these stories. Gaining insight on the Prophet by learning about his life and the life of his companions. These are some of the basic items in this category and each of them help us live our lives according to the Islamic faith.
Potential of Earning Good Deeds: Seeking knowledge is Allah’s command to us and thus fulfillment of this command is a worship. Our reward will increase as we pursue this obligation, become educated, and use this education to benefit ourselves and others as well as pass it on.
Raising Righteous Children: As adults, knowing about religion not only helps us follow Islam and seek Allah’s pleasure, but also lets us fulfill our responsibility to teach our children and ensure that they are brought up to become decent believers. The importance of instilling the proper belief of Islam and fostering positive behavior is touched on by the following hadith narrated by Abu Hurairah: Allah’s Messenger said, “When a man dies, accrual of merit in his favor from good deeds ceases except from three actions. A charity which continues after his death, knowledge left behind from which men continue to benefit, and righteous offspring who pray for him.” (Muslim)
Developing a Productive and Peaceful Society: Putting religious knowledge to use creates a society full of peaceful, kind, and cooperative people. Such a society would also prefer to abstain from evil, suppress it, and instead promote good deeds. Having knowledgeable people in the society also ensures constant transfer of knowledge through the education of others.
With the attainment and privilege of knowledge comes responsibility and this is true with Islamic knowledge most of all. Those who seek to attain knowledge or have it already should keep the following in mind:
“And know that your possessions and you children are but a trial, and that it is Allah with whom lies your highest reward.” (Surah Al Anfal 8:28)
In Islam the pursuit of knowledge, understanding, and reasoning is a significant characteristic of a Muslim and the society as a whole. It is imperative for every Muslim to strive hard and engage in its propagation especially with their families and nearby community. With great effort and sincere intentions we can benefit from the rewards the stem from Islamic knowledge. With this in mind Allah facilitates our task by providing us with the following supplication:
“O my Lord! Increase me in knowledge.” (Surah Taha 20:114)