Seeking Knowledge is Obligatory
In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.
(Friday speech delivered by Imam Mohamed Baianonie at the Islamic Center or Raleigh, NC on January 21, 2000)
The messenger Muhammad (S.A.W.) was sent to an illiterate Ummah. Allah (S.W.T.) said in surat Al-Jumu'ah, (Verse 2), what can be translated as, "He it is who sent among the unlettered ones a messenger (Muhammad) from among themselves…"
Allah (S.W.T.) wanted to change this Ummah from an illiterate Ummah to a learned Ummah. With knowledge, Allah (S.W.T.) was preparing this Ummah to carry the great message of Islam. So, the first revelation that was sent down to this Ummah, encouraged this Ummah to learn and seek knowledge, addressing the prophet (S.A.W.) first. Allah (S.W.T.) said in surat Al-'Alaq, (Verses 1 to 5), what can be translated as, "Read! In the name of your Lord, Who has created (all that exists). Has created man from a clot. Read! And your Lord is the most Generous, who has taught (the writing) by the pen. Has taught man that which he did not know."
Allah (S.W.T.) made this great task for the prophet (S.A.W.) to learn and teach; to learn what Allah (S.W.T.) taught him from the book and wisdom, and teach the people around him what Allah (S.W.T.) had taught him. Allah (S.W.T.) said in surat Al-Jumu'ah, (Verse 2), what can be translated as, "…And teaching them the Book (this Qur'an) and Al-Hekmah."
We see many verses in the Qur'an and many Ahadith emphasizing the importance of knowledge and seeking knowledge. We mention some of them today:
Knowledge is the road to Iman belief, and leads the person to fear Allah (S.W.T.). The fear, that is based on knowledge, regulates the person's deeds. Knowledge is the one that leads to fear of Allah, which in turn entices action. Allah (S.W.T.) said in surat Fatir, (Verse 28), what can be translated as, "It is only those who have knowledge among His slaves that fear Allah." Because of that, Allah (S.W.T.) brought the people of knowledge to different higher levels according to their knowledge, For that reason Allah (S.W.T.) raised up the degree of those who have knowledge, He (S.W.T.) said in surat Al-Mujadilah, (Verse 11), what can be translated as, "Allah will exalt in degree those of you who believe, and those who have been granted knowledge."
Knowledge of deen gathers and contains all righteous deeds and it is a sign of acceptance and pleasure of Allah (S.W.T.) with His servant. Imams Bukhari and Muslim reported that the prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.) said: "If Allah wants to do good to a person, He makes him understand and learn the deen."
Knowledge comes before Ibadah and regulates it, so no Ibadah is accepted unless it is based upon correct knowledge. For this reason, the prophet (S.A.W.) considered the person of knowledge to have much higher status than the worshipper. The prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.) elevated the one who has knowledge over the worshiper, He (S.A.W.) said in a good hadith reported by Imam At-Tirmithi, "An ‘Aalim (learned person in the deen) is as much superior to an ‘Aabid (Worshiper) as I am superior to the lowest among you." In another hadith reported by Imam Abu-Dawoud and At-Tirmithi, that the prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.) said: "An ‘Aalim (learned person in the deen) is as much superior to an ‘Aabid (Worshiper) as the full moon is superior to all stars."
The prophet (S.A.W.) considered seeking knowledge obligatory upon every Muslim, male or female. His teaching included all with no exception. Even the women took their share in seeking knowledge. Imam Bukhari reported that some woman requested the prophet (S.A.W.) to fix a day for them as the men were taking all his time. On that he promised them one day for lessons, so he preached and commanded them…"
Shyness did not prevent the women from seeking knowledge. Imam Bukhari reported that A'isha (R.A.) said: "The best woman are the woman of ansar because their shyness did not stop them from learning the deen."
The companions of the prophet were very eager to seek knowledge. They use to ask the prophet about every matter in their lives, and the prophet (S.A.W.) used to answer them with what Allah (S.W.T.) had taught him with humbleness and kindness.
The companions of the prophet (S.A.W.) used to alternate and rotate going to the Masjid of the prophet (S.A.W.) so that they do not put off their worldly work and nothing of seeking knowledge slips away. Umar (R.A.) is one example. Imam Bukhari reported that Umar Bin Alkhattab (R.A.) said: "My Ansari neighbor and I used to live far away from the masjid of the prophet (S.A.W.), and we used to visit the prophet (S.A.W.) by turns. He used to go one day and I go another day. When I went I used to bring him the news of that day regarding the revelation and other thing, and when he went, he used to do the same for me…"
Even the Bedouins used to travel a long distance to Madinah to seek knowledge by asking the prophet (S.A.W.). Imam Bukhari reported that Dimam bin Tha'labah came riding on a camel. He made his camel kneel down in the mosque, tied its foreleg and then said: "Who amongst you is Muhammad? At that time the prophet was sitting among his companions leaning on his arm. The companions replied, "This white man leaning on his arm. The man then addressed him. "O son of Abdl Muttaleb, I want to ask you something and will be hard in questioning. So do not get angry. The prophet said: "Ask whatever you want…" (Then the Bedouin, asked him many questions, and the prophet (S.A.W.) answered them all.)
The prophet (S.A.W.) ordered his companions who learned to teach others even if it is little. Imam Bukhari reported that the prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.) said: "Convey on my behalf even if it is only a verse (of the Qur'an)…"
Also Imam At-Termithi reported a good hadith that the prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.) said: "May Allah prosper the affairs of a person who hears something from us and communicates it to others exactly as he has heard it. Many a man to whom something is convened retains it in his memory and understands it better than the one who has heard it."
The prophet (S.A.W.) warned from keeping knowledge secret. Imams At-Tirmithi and Abo Dawud reported a good hadith that the prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.) said: "He who is asked about knowledge and conceals it, will be bridled with a bridle of fire on the Day of Resurrection."
The companions of the prophet (S.A.W.) were keen on seeking knowledge and spreading it during the life of the prophet (S.A.W.) and after. They traveled in the land to teach people and became within less than a quarter of a century the strongest Ummah on the face of the earth with what they had carried from the knowledge of deen and the knowledge the worldly life. With that, they became prosperous and the whole humanity became prosperous. This prosperity remained for so many centuries that history could not ignore. Many scientific remains in all aspects of science are still around.
Regression of this Muslim Ummah then started sometime in its history. This regression closely accompanied the attitude of laziness and carelessness and turning away from knowledge, so ignorance started to spread in place of knowledge until this Ummah became the most backward Ummah.
To revive this Ummah and empower it again with knowledge and leadership that it once had, we must spread the correct knowledge of the deenuAllah (S.W.T.) because from this knowledge stems all other knowledge. And it is a must that we take practical steps to achieve this.
So, as a contribution from us, here at the Islamic Center of Raleigh we devised a curriculum and a program for every one of us, male and female. This program will be given in Arabic for those who speak it, and in English for those who do not speak Arabic. This program will be held after Maghrib, of every Sunday, starting with this Sunday with the will of Allah (S.W.T.). We engorge you all to attend.
We ask Allah (S.W.T.) to help us to seek knowledge and to bless us with sincerity in our sayings and deeds. O Allah! Increase our knowledge. "Ameen"