Regardless of the number of hours you put in or how efficiently you try to work, it is important to remember that ultimately all knowledge comes to us from Allah (swt). It is Allah who has blessed us with our minds and given us the ability and opportunity to seek knowledge. The following Qur’anic du’a is a good one to repeat often: “O my Lord! Increase me in knowledge.” (Taha: 114)

We must also remember that in seeking knowledge we should not neglect the commandments of Allah. For example, there are a number of students who miss the obligatory fasts of Ramadhan, making the excuse that it would interfere with their study or exams.

In fact, you will find that without the distraction of lunchtime during Ramadhan, you have more time to devote to your studies. Having lunch at university for me was a social activity which took at least an hour and sometimes more by the time I had met up with all my friends, decided on where to eat, made our way there, decided on what to eat and then just having a chit chat after the meal. During Ramadhan, I had an extra hour or two every day that I could use for study.

Allah does not burden a soul with more than it can handle so if we have been commended to fast and the exam season happens to be beckoning then so be it. Insha Allah, Allah will help the student who does not neglect their worship in comparison to the one who does. Having said that, you have to study as best you can. Knowledge will not come to you in your sleep as a miraculous reward for fasting during the exam season! The point is to keep both study and ‘ibadah in perspective and not neglect either one.

Seeking knowledge

Gaining knowledge does not end when your course at university finishes. Most graduates in their respective positions need to acquire further skills or pass professional exams usually in the form of Continuing Professional Development (CPD) so that their skills and knowledge are always up to date. In addition, most professionals become members of their relevant profession’s society or institute after they graduate. These institutes publish regular subject journals and organize seminars that members can attend to keep abreast of what is happening in the field as well as providing the opportunity to meet like-minded people.

If we want to continually develop our self and our soul in order to become better human beings, then we need to continue to seek knowledge throughout our lives. As the Prophet (saw) said: “To acquire knowledge is the duty of every Muslim man and woman.” (Ibn Majah)

Does that mean that once you have obtained your degree, you will have fulfilled your duty to acquire knowledge? Not quite. You may have become a good scientist or historian, but if you have not acquired the basic knowledge about religious obligations, you will remain an uneducated person. Today, there are millions of Muslims who have many degrees and a string of letters after their names and are very capable in their respective fields. However, it is worthless if they have not even learnt to read the Qur’an or perform salah, let alone knowing how to conduct themselves as Muslims in their daily home, business and social lives.

Al-Imam Ash-Shafi’i said: “All humans are dead except those who have knowledge. And those who have knowledge are asleep, except those who do good deeds. And those who good deeds are deceived, except those who are sincere. And those who are sincere are always in a state of worry.

This tells us that knowledge in itself is not enough. It has to be accompanied by good deeds and sincere intentions. Our Qur’an should not be sitting wrapped up in cloth on our bookshelves unread and not understood. That would be like expecting to pass your course by just buying the course text book! It is beneficial knowledge that we should look to seek and when we acquire it, our actions should reflect it. Imam Hasan Al-Basri said: “When a young man is devout, we don’t recognize him by his speech. We recognize him by his actions. That is beneficial knowledge.

Does this mean that every individual Muslim must also become a religious scholar? Not at all. We are required to seek knowledge to the best of our ability and circumstances and have sufficient knowledge to enable us to carry out our religious obligations. Knowledge of the deen gives us knowledge of the reality of this world, of the Hereafter, of Allah and what pleases and displeases Him. Acting sincerely upon this knowledge, therefore, should bring us closer to Jannah.

Seeking knowledge can have its pitfalls if done for the wrong reason. The Prophet (saw) said: “Do not attain learning in order to express pride before the ulama (scholars), nor by its help to quarrel with foolish people, nor through it try to overwhelm meetings, but he who does so, his destination is fire.” (Ibn Majah)

The purpose of seeking knowledge of the deen is solely to be in a better position to seek Allah’s pleasure. Ignorance is not a valid excuse for neglecting ibadah, as we will be held accountable for the things which we could have found out but didn’t.

by Idris Zahoor