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What is knowledge?

Knowledge is the noblest thing that one can ask for, and the best thing a seeker can strive to attain. Knowledge consists of many branches, but according to the scholars of Islam: “What is meant by knowledge in the absolute sense is Islamic Knowledge.” i.e. what “ Allaah said….” And “ The Messenger (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) said…”, which is called ‘Ilm-e-Sharah. It is the knowledge of the Book of Allaah and the Sunnah of the Messenger (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) and all that assists it’s understanding (e.g.: the sayings of the Sahabah (radhi allahu anhu). This is the intended meaning of knowledge in the Book of Allaah and the Sunnah of His Messenger (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam).

Shaykh al-Isalm Ibn Taymiyyah (rahimahullah) says  “…the source of all good and blessings is that one seeks help from Allaah in acquiring knowledge inherited from the Prophet (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam), because that is what is truly fit to be named knowledge. Anything else is either not knowledge at all, even though people call it so, or it is knowledge which is not beneficial knowledge, in which case it is necessarily true that there exists in the inheritance of Muhammad (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) that which replaces it, being similar to it or better than it. Thus, the person's effort should be to understand the purposes of the Messenger (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) in his commands, prohibitions and his various other sayings.” [Abul `Aasim al-Qaasim bin Yoosuf bin Muhammad at-Tajeebee as-Sabtee al-Maghribee]

Muadh Ibn Jabal (radhi allahu anhu), who was praised by the Prophet of Allaah (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) for his excellence in Deen, said: "Verily, when the people of knowledge will be present before their Lord, the Mighty and Sublime, Mu’aadh (radiyallahu anhu) will be one step ahead of them." [Saheeh - Ibn Sa`d, Aboo Nu`aim, at-Tabaraanee]

He (Muadh Ibn Jabal (radhi allahu anhu)) described knowledge saying: "Knowledge is a comforting friend in times of loneliness, it is the best companion during travels, and it is the inner friend who speaks to you in your privacy. Knowledge is the discerning proof of what is right and what is wrong, and it is the positive force that will help you surmount the trials of comfort, as well as those of hardships. Knowledge is your most powerful sword against your enemy, and finally, it is your most dignifying raiment in the company of your close companions." [Reported by Aboo Nu`aim]

Islamic Knowledge is the best of sciences worth acquiring because through it Allah is recognized and acknowledge. In the absolute sense, it is the knowledge regarding Allah, His names and attributes, knowledge of His rights over His creation, and what He the Most High has prescribed for them. It is the detailed knowledge of the path that leads to Allah, knowledge of the purpose of our creation, and the end in which the slave will result. One who possesses this knowledge knows what Allah has made lawful for him and what He has prohibited him from, what pleases Him and what evokes His anger. Amongst those who have taken upon themselves to observe the precepts of the religion will result in Paradise and bliss, and the rest will result in a place of disgrace, humiliation and misery. Moreover, seeking knowledge is an obligation on every Muslim

Knowledge - Guidance and A Cure to Ignorance and Disunity of the Ummah

Knowledge serves multiple purposes in Islam. For instance, seeking Islamic knowledge is a means of eliminating (getting rid of) one of the major factors that contribute to the disunity of the Ummah – namely, ignorance.

Ignorance directly effects every aspect of our lives. Moreover, we cannot unite in the absence of knowledge, which should be precipitated (hastened) by correct belief and correct understanding. When individuals in a society are armed with the necessary knowledge in regards to the religion, as well as how to deal with each other justly, only then can a society unite. Individuals firmly grounded in correct beliefs, knowledge, and understanding would unite in order to formulate a strong, healthy and united Ummah. Only such an ummah would be deserving of Allah’s protection and victory from Him. Therefore, it becomes essential to oppose it in a fashion that tackles (deals with) not simply the symptoms but the root cause of this disease itself.

Cure for Ignorance

The most fundamental ingredient of such a cure is to question and inquire (i.e. acquire knowledge.) As the Prophet of Allah (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) said: "Indeed, the cure for ignorance is to ask. (Inquire)" [Hasan - Reported by Abu Daawood # 337 narrated Abdullah ibn Abbas, Ahmed and Ibn Maajah.]

And Allah, the All Knowledgeable has revealed unto us the method by which we can obtain this cure: He said: "And We sent not (as Our Messenger) before you (O Muhammad (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam)) any but men, whom We inspired (to preach and invite mankind to believe in the Oneness of Allah) So, ask of the people of knowledge if you do not know." [Soorah An-Nahl (16): 43]

The primary role that knowledge plays is one of guidance. It enables us to possess the correct and necessary understanding of the Qur’aan and the Sunnah. In order to worship Allah, it is imperative to know the instructions laid down by Allah and His Messenger (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) in regards to the religion contained within the Qur’aan and the Sunnah as Allah revealed to us in the Qur'aan: "And thus, We have sent to you (O Muhammad (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam)) Ruhan (an Inspiration and a Mercy) of Our Command. You knew not what is the Book, nor what is Faith? But We have made it (this Qur’aan) a light wherewith We guide whosoever of Our slaves. And verily, you (O Muhammad (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam)) are indeed guiding (mankind) to the straight path. (Allah’s Religion of Islamic Monotheism)" [Soorah Ash-Shoorah (42): 52]

And He made the Qur’aan and the Sunnah as limits regarding religious matters. He said: "These are the limits (set by) Allah, and whosoever obeys Allah and His Messenger (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) will be admitted to gardens under which rivers flow (in Paradise), to abide therein, and that will be the great success. And, whosoever disobeys Allah and His Messenger (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) and transgresses His limits He will cast him in the Fire, to abide therein; and he shall have a disgraceful torment." [Soorah An-Nisa (4): 13-14]

Furthermore, Allah reminds us the main purpose of the creation of mankind saying: "And I created not the jinn and men except that they should worship Me." [Soorah Az-Zariyat (51): 56]

The aforementioned verses clarify the fact that Allah wants us to worship Him alone, and that this worship should be completely based upon what He revealed to His slave, Prophet Muhammad (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam). And Knowledge is the factor that enables us to possess the correct and necessary understanding of the Qur’aan and the Sunnah.

As Prophet Muhammad (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) said:  “Knowledge ensures our acts as lawful for us. It provides the basis of worship.” [Abu Dawood and Saheeh at-Tirmidhee # 2590]  

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