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The Importance of Seeking Knowledge in Islam

Ramadan Series 2014, Volume 25

Mawlana Shaykh Hisham Kabbani

23 July 2014 Fenton Zawiya, Michigan


A`oodhu billahi min ash-Shaytani ‘r-rajeem. Bismillahi 'r-Rahmani 'r-Raheem.

Nawaytu 'l-arba`'een, nawaytu 'l-`itikaaf, nawaytu 'l-khalwah, nawaytu 'l-`uzlah, nawaytu 'r-riyaada, nawaytu 's-salook, wa nawayna as-siyaam, lillahi ta'ala al-`Azheem fee hadha 'l-masjid.

Kull `aam wa antum bi-khayr and inshaa-Allah Allah will accept your Laylat al-Qadr and inshaa-Allah `Eid Mubarak for all of you for the `Eid that is coming, that is in front of us. As-salaamu `alaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakaatuh, brothers and sisters in Islam. Allah (swt) said in Holy Qur’an:

وَقُلِ اعْمَلُوا فَسَيَرَى اللَّـهُ عَمَلَكُمْ وَرَسُولُهُ وَالْمُؤْمِنُونَ

And say [to them, O Muhammad!], “Act [in righteousness] for Allah will see your actions and so will His Messenger and the Believers.” (Surat at-Tawbah, 9:105)

“Say, yaa Muhammad,” for everyone to know it, “Allah and His Prophet (s) will look at what you have done.” This means when everyone knows that Allah is looking, our `amal will be different from when we are thinking Allah is not looking at us. When Allah (swt) says, “Act [in righteousness] for Allah will see your actions and so will His Messenger and the Believers,” it means, “Allah is going to see what you have done.” So `ilm without `amal cannot be `ilm, and `amal without `ilm cannot be `amal. Deeds must follow the `ilm, knowledge, as you cannot act without knowledge or your actions might be wrong and you may take a different way from what Allah wants. So in order to perfect our `amal we have to perfect our knowledge.

We have spoken on the importance of Tazkiyyat an-Nafs, Purification of the Self, and the level of Moral Excellence, Maqaam al-Ihsaan, about which Prophet (s) is saying another time, like the above ayah of Holy Qur’an, that Allah is looking at us:

أن تعبد الله كأنك تراه، فإن لم تكن تراه فإنه يراك

That you worship Allah as if you see Him, for, if you don't see Him, truly He sees you. (Bukhari)

“Worship Allah as if you are seeing Him, for if you are not seeing Him, still He is seeing you.” When Allah is looking at us and seeing us, and we have perfected faith in our hearts, our `amal will be straightforward. So we have spoken about Tasawwuf, what scholars have mentioned and what the different principles of Tasawwuf are, but one of the main principles of Tasawwuf is `Ilm, Shari`ah. You cannot claim you are a Sufi or someone that has spiritually purified himself without knowing your `Aqeedah, your belief, imaan, you cannot perfect yourself without following the obligations that the Prophet (s) put forward by Allah's Orders:

وَمَا آتَاكُمُ الرَّسُولُ فَخُذُوهُ وَمَا نَهَاكُمْ عَنْهُ فَانتَهُوا

Leave what Prophet (s) forbade and take what he ordered. (Surat al-Hashr, 59:7)

Whatever the Prophet (s) brought take it, you cannot say, “I take this but I don’t take that.” No, we have to accept everything he brought. So `ilm will guide us to what we have to take and what we have to drop. What we have to take is important as long as it is from Shari`ah, and that is why we have said many times as Imam Malik said, Tasawwuf without Shari`ah ends with you in a state of hypocrisy, in heresy. You cannot leave one and take one, so we need both sides. Ahlu ‘l-Shari`ah, the People of Shari`ah have to take `ilm, knowledge, and Tasawwuf, Purification of the Self. What if you have a rude personality and give rude answers to people and you don’t show softness? People will run away from you, saying, “What kind of a shaykh or `alim is this trying to guide me and he is not guiding himself?” So that’s why it is very important to acknowledge that we need to learn `ilm, Shari`ah:

وَاتَّقُواْ اللّهَ وَيُعَلِّمُكُمُ اللّهُ

Fear Allah and Allah will teach you. (Surat al-Baqarah, 2:282)

And Allah (swt) said, “It is easy: have taqwa, I will teach you!” When you reach the level of `abd, servant, Allah teaches you:

فَوَجَدَا عَبْدًا مِّنْ عِبَادِنَا آتَيْنَاهُ رَحْمَةً مِنْ عِندِنَا وَعَلَّمْنَاهُ مِن لَّدُنَّا عِلْمًا

So they found one of Our Servants, on whom We had bestowed Mercy from Ourselves and whom We had taught knowledge from Our Own Presence. (Surat al-Kahf, 18:65)

Allah said in Holy Qur’an, “We taught him [al-Khidr] knowledge from Our Heavenly Knowledge,” when Sayyidina al-Khidr (a) reached the level of `abd. “When he reached that level, We gave him Heavenly Knowledge.” And the Shari`ah of Sayyidina Musa (a) could not digest that knowledge; I don’t want to say he was not accepting, but Sayyidina al-Khidr actions were difficult for him to process: when he drilled a hole in boat and killed the boy, it didn’t make sense to Sayyidina Musa (a). But in reality when you reach a level of divine knowledge Allah inspires in some hearts, not all, it depends on your level and state, you will act on it and be raised.

This is like when Prophet (s) taught Sayyidina `Ali (r) as we mentioned before, when Sayyidina `Ali said, “Give me something special, yaa Rasoolullah.” Prophet (s) said, “Keep reciting ‘laa ilaaha illa-Llah’, and Sayyidina `Ali (r) said, “Everyone recites that, give something uniquely special to me.” And the Prophet (s) said, “This is the best of what I and all prophets brought.” Then Sayyidina `Ali (r) said, “Teach me how to say it, teach me how I can handle it,” because it’s not easy to say “laa ilaaha illa-Llah” without believing it, because it is a phrase that can put dunya upside down! When you believe in it completely, at that time you reach the level an ta`bud Allaha ka-annaka taraah, worshipping Allah as if you see Him. Of course you are not seeing, but that meditation or contemplation in salaat, focusing and thinking about the creation of this Earth and Heaven is what Allah (swt) likes.

الَّذِينَ يَذْكُرُونَ اللّهَ قِيَامًا وَقُعُودًا وَعَلَىَ جُنُوبِهِمْ

Those who remember Allah (always, and in prayers) standing, sitting and lying down.

(Surat Aali `Imraan, 3:191)

If you know this, then when you say , “laa ilaaha illa-Llah” you can move mountains: it’s Maqaam at-Tawheed, the best that Allah (swt) loves from His servant. Now we are saying it and nothing happens, because we are not saying it really, which requires higher knowledge. That’s why Sayyidina `Ali (r) said, “Teach me how to say it.” Prophet (s) said, “Close your eyes,” be in in a position of meditation; when you close your eyes you disconnect from dunya, because our eyes make us focus on dunya, so disconnect yourself from dunya and you won’t see the ugly, you don’t see the nice, everything will become similar. We don’t want to be blind, we want to see. So when the Prophet (s) said, aghmid `aynayk, “Close your eyes,” it means disconnect yourself from dunya.

In response to this same matter, Imam Ghazali (r) said, “When you die, then you really see.” It means when you are disconnected from dunya then you know the truth, when they are taking you to the grave, there you know if Allah is happy with what you have done in dunya or not. So `ilm can take us to a higher level and correct our `amal, as the Prophet (s) mentioned the importance of `ilm and the `alim:

العلماء ورثة الانبياء

The (genuine) scholars are Inheritors of the Prophets.

Abi Darda (r) related, qaala sami`tu rasoolallahi (s) yaqool, “I heard Prophet (s) say.” ‘Heard’ means he was near him, both hearing and seeing him, and sitting with Prophet (s) means sitting in the highest level of Paradise. That’s why no one can reach the high levels of his Sahaabah, his grandchildren and Family (r). Abi Darda (r) heard Prophet (s) say:

من سلك طريقًا يبتغي فيه علمًا سهل الله له طريقًا إلى الجنة

He who follows a path in quest of knowledge, Allah will make the path of Jannah easy to him.

(Narrated Abu Darda, Tirmidhi)

“Whoever takes a road to learn Islamic knowledge”, which is Shari`ah and Tasawwuf; we can say Shari`ah and Tasawwuf or Tasawwuf and Shari`ah, they are twins, you cannot separate them, they look the same. So when you take one you have to take the other. That is why the Prophet (s) perfected the Sahaabah’s knowledge and character by correcting their `ilm, knowledge. He gave them Shari`ah and Tasawwuf, Tazkiyyat an-Nafs. The Prophet (s) said, “Whoever went in that journey seeking knowledge of Shari`ah and Tasawwuf, Allah will make for him an easy way to Paradise.” Allah will give him a way directly to Paradise, which makes it easy for him to take that journey. So what do we need to do? We must follow the journey of `ilm, knowledge.

Allah (swt) said in Holy Qur'an:

إِنَّمَا يَخْشَى اللَّهَ مِنْ عِبَادِهِ الْعُلَمَاء

Only those fear Allah, from among His servants who have knowledge. (35:28)

“Those who fear Allah correctly” not only fear His punishment, but fear being away from His love, two distinct types of fear. So if a person fears Allah’s punishment and being away from Him on the Day of Judgement, He said, “Those who fear Him are those who have knowledge, they are seeking ma`rifatullah.” That is why Allah (swt) said in Holy Qur'an:

أَطِيعُواْ اللّهَ وَأَطِيعُواْ الرَّسُولَ وَأُوْلِي الأَمْرِ مِنكُمْ

Obey Allah, obey the Prophet, and obey those in authority among you. (Surat an-Nisa, 4:59)

And also:

مَّنْ يُطِعِ الرَّسُولَ فَقَدْ أَطَاعَ اللّهَ

Whoever obeys the Prophet is obeying Allah. (Surat an-Nisa, 4:80)

You have to obey what Allah said in Holy Qur’an and what Prophet (s) said in Shari`ah. To do that you have to follow the journey that teaches you the limits and boundaries of Islam, what you cannot transgress or trespass. So if you want the way to Paradise, study `ilm, learn something that will increase your knowledge so that when you meditate it is correct. And that is why Allah said, at the beginning, “Don’t make meditation to Me directly.” First make meditation to yatafakkaroona fee khalqi ’s-samawati wa 'l-ard, those who contemplate in the creation of Heaven and Earth. Before you go high, first of all look at that creation of Heavens and Earth. From that you will know the Allah’s Greatness and Maqaam at-Tawheed. For example, when you look at Google Maps in space, you see unending stars, zooming and zooming further. That shows you Allah (swt) is The Creator, because no human being or creature can create that. Allah (swt) said in Holy Qur’an:

قل هَلْ يَسْتَوِي الَّذِينَ يَعْلَمُونَ وَالَّذِينَ لَا يَعْلَمُونَ إِنَّمَا يَتَذَكَّرُ أُوْلُوا الْأَلْبَابِ

Say, “Are they equal, those who know and those who do not know?” It is those endued with understanding that receive admonition. (Surat az-Zumar, 39:9)

“Is it going to be the same to the one who knows and the one who doesn’t know?” It means the one who knows is perfect and the one who doesn’t know is not perfect because he is not trying to go on that journey to acquire knowledge. So knowledge is important in Tasawwuf and without it your understanding of Tasawwuf is on the fringe. What is the benefit? There are people who say, “We are Sufis,” but they don’t pray, and prayer is, as Prophet (s) described, between the Hands of Allah (swt). When you say, “Allahu Akbar” and begin the prayer, you are entering in that Divine Presence, so without prayer, fasting, Hajj, Zakaat, Shahaadah, if you don’t perfect these, how are you going to perfect yourself? And to be perfect we must know them.

يَرْفَعِ اللَّهُ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا مِنكُمْ وَالَّذِينَ أُوتُوا الْعِلْمَ دَرَجَاتٍ وَاللَّهُ بِمَا تَعْمَلُونَ خَبِيرٌ

Allah will exalt those among you who believe and those who have knowledge to high ranks. Allah is well acquainted with all that you do. (Surat al-Mujadilah, 58:11)

Allah (swt) said, yarfa` Allahu, “Allah will exalt those among you who believe and those who have knowledge”, who reached the level of Imaan, Allah will raise those who are granted knowledge in darajaat, levels. So Allah is stressing the issue of knowledge in Holy Qur'an. Prophet (s) said, “The one who follows a way,” that journey of looking for `ilm, to learn, Allah will make it easy for him and guide him to reach Paradise:

وان الملائكة لتضع أجنحتها لطالب العلم رضا بما يصنع

The angels lower their wings over the seeker of knowledge, being pleased with what he does. (Tirmidhi)

“And verily, the angels will open their wings for the student of knowledge, who is seeking to learn Shari`ah.”

Allah is happy from that person who is trying to learn, so angels will extend their wings, Prophet (s) said, to raise that person higher and higher. So just as you are studying secular, dunya sciences, you have to give some time to study heavenly knowledge, Shari`ah, and the angels will extend their wings over you. It is not enough to come for dhikr; that’s good, alhamdulillah, but you must also learn the protocols and adab.

وان العالم ليستغفر له من في السماوات ومن في الارض حتى الحيتان في الماء

The inhabitants of the Heavens and the Earth and even the fish in the depth of the oceans seek forgiveness for him. (Tirmidhi)

“And for sure pertaining to the knower, `alim, scholar, the Heavens and whoever inhabits them and the inhabitants of the Earth will make istighfaar on his behalf,” because Allah is happy with him. Even the ‘big fish in the ocean’, meaning whales, and all the big and the small inhabitants of the oceans will make istighfaar for that person by Allah’s Order. Do we need that or not? So all people around the world, Muslim, Mu’mins, this is our creed, our belief: Shari`ah without Tasawwuf is not worth it, it is not going to take us anywhere, but Shari`ah with Tasawwuf is dhu-janahayn, two wings to fly with! Tasawwuf alone without Shari`ah, as Imam Malik (r) said, will make you a heretic because you will mix things up and cannot visualise what is correct, but with both of them you reach Haqiqat, as he said.

وفضل العالم على العابد كفضل القمر على سائر الكواكب، وإن العلماء ورثة الأنبياء

Prophet (s) said: The superiority of the learned man over the devout worshipper is like that of the full moon to the rest of the stars (i.e., in brightness). (Tirmidhi)

The respect or the honor of the scholar compared to normal people is like the honor of the moon compared to the stars. At night, the moon gives light to the people on Earth. Allah (swt) created it to show His Greatness; nothing else would give you light at night except the moon and when compared to the stars, which are far from you and appear very small, don’t give you any kind of light, so why did he mention the moon? To indicate light in the darkness, because you cannot see the moon except when it is dark. So we are now in darkness and when that ‘light of the moon’ rises up in our hearts, it is better than the darkness that has small lights going here and there, which don’t give enough light by which to see.

العلماء ورثة الانبياء

The (genuine) scholars are Inheritors of the Prophets.

“And for sure the scholars are the Inheritors of the Prophets,” and to continue the Hadith:

وإن الأنبياء لم يورثوا دينارًا ولا درهما

Prophets bequeath neither dinar nor dirham. (Tirmidhi)

“And the prophets never left any inheritance to anyone of dinar nor dirham.” They gave everything in their lives before they died, leaving nothing behind.

وإنما ورثوا العلم‏

But only that of knowledge. (Tirmidhi)

“They did not leave inheritance of gold or money, but they left behind knowledge,” and the best of knowledge is Holy Qur’an. No one can come and write something like the Holy Qur’an that the Prophet (s) came with; Holy Qur’an is Allah's Words while everything else is human beings’ words. Even the Bible, the Tawrat and the Zaboor are people’s words, it’s not by Sayyidina `Isa (a), because they wrote the Bible 400 years after him.

فمن أخذه أخذ بحظ وافر

And he who acquires it has in fact acquired an abundant portion. (at-Tirmidhi)

“Whoever chooses to learn and perfect his knowledge in order to perfect its twin, Tasawwuf, is the one who got good luck and he will get everything from Allah and the Prophet (s).” (at-Tirmidhi, Abu Dawud, Ibn Majah fee Kitaab al-`Ilm, in The Book of Knowledge.)

Wa `an Abi Dharrin radi Allahu ta`ala `anhu wa ardaa, another Hadith narrated by Abu Dharr (r), it is said that the Prophet (s) said, “Yaa Abaa Dharr,” meaning that the Prophet (s) is addressing his message directly to Abu Dharr:

قَالَ لِي رَسُولُ اللَّهِ ـ صلى الله عليه وسلم ـ ‏ "‏ يَا أَبَا ذَرٍّ لأَنْ تَغْدُوَ فَتَعَلَّمَ آيَةً مِنْ كِتَابِ اللَّهِ خَيْرٌ لَكَ مِنْ أَنْ تُصَلِّيَ مِائَةَ رَكْعَةٍ وَلأَنْ تَغْدُوَ فَتَعَلَّمَ بَابًا مِنَ الْعِلْمِ عُمِلَ بِهِ أَوْ لَمْ يُعْمَلْ خَيْرٌ لَكَ مِنْ أَنْ تُصَلِّيَ أَلْفَ رَكْعَةٍ ‏"‏

The Messenger of Allah said: “O Abu Dharr! For you to come out in the morning and learn one Verse from the Book of Allah is better for you than praying one hundred raka`ats, and for you to come out and learn a matter of knowledge, whether it is acted upon or not, is better for you than praying one thousand raka`ats.” (Narrated Abu Dharr, Ibn Majah)

Yaa Abaa Dharr la-in taghdoo fa-ta`alama ayatan min kitaab Allah khayrun min an tusallee mi’ata raka`ah. “If you go and learn from the Holy Qur’an it is better for you than praying 100 raka`ats,” here (it means) to learn and to study the Holy Qur’an or to teach; you can teach what you have learned. And the Prophet (s) is saying to him, “It will be better than praying 100 raka`ats.” How many hours does it take to pray 100 raka`ats? Two or three hours. If you teach one ayah to one person, because he said ayatan min kitabillah, “one ayah from Holy Qur’an,” one verse you learn or teach is better than 100 raka`ats. If we say, “Alhamdulillah rabbi ’l-`alameen,” say: alhamdulillahi rabbi ’l-`alameen, if you make people to say it like you, then it is better than praying 100 raka`ats. So we have to teach Surat al-Fatihah everywhere.

تَغْدُوَ فَتَعَلَّمَ آيَةً مِنْ كِتَابِ اللَّهِ خَيْرٌ لَكَ مِنْ أَنْ تُصَلِّيَ مِائَةَ رَكْعَةٍ وَلأَنْ

For you to come out in the morning and learn one Verse from the Book of Allah is better for you than praying one hundred rak`ats.

“And if you go and teach one knowledge from Islam…” For example, if you teach about prayer, how to pray two raka`ats, or about aqeeda, to say: laa ilaaha illa-Llah Muhammad Rasoolullah, if you teach it once, regardless if they act on it or not, you will still get the reward that will be better than 1000 raka`ats.

فتعلم بابا من العلم عمل به او لم يعمل به خير لك من ان تصلي الف ركعة

Learning one chapter of knowledge, whether you act upon it or not, is better for you than praying one thousand raka`ats. (Ibn Majah)

What are we doing here? We are all learning from the Prophet (s). Whether we follow or not, but we are learning and we will get a reward that will be better than 1000 raka`ats. 1,000 raka`ats takes how many hours? That takes 24 hours to pray. And we are mentioning this, in order to say to people, as we are coming to end of this subject of Tasawwuf. `Ilm is more important than Tasawwuf. You might be able to get good manners without Shari`ah, as you might be soft and not an oppressor, but it is not going to be accepted and you will not get the complete benefit without Shari`ah, as that is the main pillar of Islam for Muslims mu’mins. It is narrated by Sayyidina `Uthman (r) that the Prophet (s) said:

يَشْفَعُ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ ثَلاَثَةٌ الأَنْبِيَاءُ ثُمَّ الْعُلَمَاءُ ثُمَّ الشُّهَدَاءُ

Three will intercede on the Day of Resurrection: The Prophets, then the scholars, then the martyrs.

(Narrated Sayyidina Uthman bin ‘Affan, Ibn Majah)

“Three types of people will intercede for you on the Day of Judgement,” he mentions the lower ones, but anbiya are the higher ones, and the Prophet (s) is the highest. Everyone will run to the Prophet (s) for shafa`a, even the prophets and these three groups. So he said, “Three groups will intercede for you on the Day of Judgement, first of them are anbiya,” because anbiyaullah are infallible so they intercede for their ummah, but all of them find out at the last moment that they need the Prophet (s). And that is why he said:

‏‏أنا سيد ولد آدم ولا فخر

Anaa sayyidi waladi Adam was laa fakhr.

I am the Master (leader) of the Children of Adam and I say this with no arrogance. (Musnad Ahmad)

“I am the Master of human beings, the Children of Adam, and I say this with no pride.” So he said the first group are the prophets, the scholars are the second group, al`ulama. However, scholars have to be real ones who have knowledge of Shari`ah and knowledge of Tazkiyyat an-Nafs. The third are the martyrs. These are the three groups that will intercede for us on the Day of Judgement. First the prophets, then scholars, meaning for sure awliyaullah, and then the martyrs.

Wa `an Ibn Ma`sood, radi Allahu anhu, qaal, and Ibn Mas`ood (r) said that Prophet (s) said:

إِذَا أَرَادَ اللَّهُ بِعَبْدٍ خَيْرًا فَقَّهَهُ فِي الدِّينِ وَأَلْهَمَهُ رُشْدَهُ

If Allah wants good for His servant He grants him understanding of the religion and inspires righteousness in him. (Bayhaqi)

These last two Hadith are narrated by Ibn Majah. He said, “If Allah (swt) wants goodness for His servant He will make him know about his religion, make him perfect his religion,” He will make him understand Fiqh, to understand eloquence, to understand every detail in Shari`ah and Haqiqah, wa alhamahu rushdahu, “He will inspire him with guidance towards Him.”

May Allah (swt) guide us on the Right Way and to know that knowledge is important. There are different conditions of knowledge that you have to know.

1. Fardu `ayn, the individual obligations that you have to do.

2. The knowledge that you have to Believe; the `aqeedah of Ahl as-Sunnah wa 'l-Jama`ah, to know what the difference is between the `aqeedah of Ahl as-Sunnah wa 'l-Jama`ah and the `aqeedah of other people.

May Allah (swt) guide us. Abu ’l-Hasan ash-Shadhili, radi Allahu ta`ala `anhu, one of the great scholars and awliya of Egypt, said: man maata wa lam yataghalghal fee `ilminaa hadhaa maata musirran `ala 'l-kabaa’ir wa huwa la yash`ur, “Whoever does not accept the knowledge of Ahl as-Sunnah wa 'l-Jama`ah and makes a different kind of knowledge for himself, that person will die as if he committed all the big sins, kabaa'ir,” ma`a `ilm anna 'l-kabaa’ira wa ’l-fawaahisha minhaa zhaahira wa minhaa baatina “and the grave sins. Some of them are seen and some are hidden.

Examples of those that can be seen are adultery or drinking alcohol, and examples of the hidden ones are arrogance or hypocrisy. Those you don’t see are from within us and the others are from outside. So there are two kinds of kabaa'ir: one you can see people doing and the other you don’t see, whatever is in you. Allah said to us, “I am forbidding to you these kabaa'ir that you are committing.”

وَلَا تَقْرَبُوا الْفَوَاحِشَ مَا ظَهَرَ مِنْهَا وَمَا بَطَنَ

Do not approach sins, be they open or hidden. (Surat al-Anaam, 6:151)

Don’t approach the big sins, wherever they are apparent, those you can see or those you cannot.

We will stop here inshaa-Allah and we will see you next time. We would like to thank Ummah Channel for broadcasting this series in Ramadan.

As-salaam `alaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakaatuh.


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