By Sheikh Abdul-Muhsin ibn Muhammad al-Qasim - 19 Rabi ath-thaani 1437
His Eminence Sheikh Abdul-Muhsin ibn Muhammad al-Qasim, may Allah preserve him, delivered the Friday khutbah entitled, “Knowledge: Its Virtues and Benefits,” in which he talked about knowledge, stating that it is one of the greatest acts of worship that draw one nearer to Allah, Exalted be He. He cited many Qur’anic verses and Prophetic hadiths on the virtue of knowledge and those who acquire or seek it as well as the rewards which Allah has prepared for them both in this world and in the hereafter.
Praise be to Allah. We praise Him and seek His help and forgiveness. We seek refuge in Allah from the evil within ourselves and from our wrong deeds. He whom Allah guides, none can misguide, and he whom Allah sends astray, none can guide. I bear witness that there is no god but Allah alone, Who has no partners, and I bear witness that Muhammad is His servant and messenger. May Allah bestow his bountiful peace and blessings upon him and upon his family and Companions.
Fear Allah, servants of Allah, as He should be feared. For fear of Allah is the light of guidance and the source of life for the heart and the conscience.
Worshipping Allah alone is the ultimate reason behind creating people and the divine commands given to them. It is for this ultimate goal that Allah sent messengers and revealed scriptures to mankind, and it is through it that people attain honour, happiness, success, and salvation. The ranks that Allah has for His servants are determined according to their level of worship:
"... Verily, the most honourable of you with Allah is that (believer) who has At-Taqwa [i.e. he is one of the Al-Muttaqun (the pious)] ..." (Al-Hujurat:13)
Part of Allah’s grace and generosity is that He has made acts of worship of various types so that His servants may enjoy various forms of spiritual pleasure and raise their degrees with them. There is a great act of worship in Islam that precedes and corrects other acts of worship. Those who perform it will be successful, and those who neglect it will be regretful.
Allah has praised those who perform it and favoured them over others because of it. This act of worship guides the servant to his Lord and lights up the paths of his life. Man’s perfection and salvation are contingent on it, and the Lord has never been worshipped with any act of worship comparable to it. With it the Lord is recognized, worshipped, remembered, and glorified. With it the rights of the Creator and the rights of the creatures also become known, and the distinction between the lawful (halal) and the unlawful (haram) becomes clear.
This act of worship provides company in times of seclusion and acts as a reminder in times of heedlessness. Seeking it is a form of obedience to Allah, and practising it draws one nearer to Him. It adorns its seekers, provides safety for those who practise it, lights up the heart and the insight, and strengthens the mind and conscience. Those who practise it are like stars to the sky. They are examples to be followed; they are adornment and beauty for mankind, and a fortress and a shield for the Ummah. Were it not for them, the landmarks of Islam would have been obliterated.
With this act of worship, the Ummah gains glory and its condition is set aright, souls are perfected and purified, people are guided and granted happiness, and generations of Muslims are given protection and safety. The need for it is given priority over all other needs, and without it the world will end up in devastation and corruption. Imam Ahmed ibn Hanbal, may Allah have mercy on his soul, said, “People need knowledge more than they need food and drink, for while food and drink are needed twice or three times a day, knowledge is needed all the time.”
Ours is an Ummah of knowledge. The first verse of the Qur’an that was revealed to the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, urges Muslims to seek knowledge: "Read! In the Name of your Lord Who has created (all that exists)." (Al-‘Alaq: 1)
Commenting on this verse, Ibn Kathir, may Allah have mercy on his soul, said, “The first verses revealed in the Qur’an were these noble and blessed verses. They are the first mercy that Allah bestowed upon His servants, and the first favour which Allah bestowed on them.”
Allah has named Himself “the All-Knower,” attributed knowledge to Himself, and introduced Himself to His creation through knowledge. He says: "Who has taught (the writing) by the pen. He has taught man that which he knew not." (Al-‘Alaq: 4-5)
The entire message of Islam comprises knowledge and action. Thus, knowledge makes up half the message of Islam. Allah, Exalted be He, says: "It is He Who has sent His Messenger (Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him) with guidance and the religion of truth (Islam) ..." (At-Taubah: 33)
“Guidance” here means useful knowledge, and “the religion of truth” refers to righteous deeds that Islam calls for.
There is nothing better for the servant of Allah and more beneficial to his heart than the love of Allah, and there is no means to attain this love except through knowledge, which is the wisdom that Allah gives to whom He wills from among His servants. Allah, Glorified be He, says: "He grants Hikmah to whom He pleases, and he, to whom Hikmah is granted, is indeed granted abundant good. But none remember (will receive admonition) except men of understanding." (Al-Baqarah: 269)
It is by virtue of knowledge that Allah conferred favour upon Adam, peace be upon him, and showed his superiority to the angels:
"And He taught Adam all the names (of everything), then he showed them to the angels and said, “Tell me the names of these if you are truthful." (Al-Baqarah: 31)
Allah, Glorified be He, has favoured with knowledge His prophets, messengers, and those whom He wills from among His creation. The angels gave the wife of Ibrahim (Prophet Abraham) the good tidings of a son who would possess much knowledge and wisdom. In addition, Allah says about Yusuf (Prophet Joseph), peace be upon him: "And when he [Yusuf (Joseph)] attained his full manhood, We gave him wisdom and knowledge (the Prophethood) ..." (Yusuf: 22)
Yusuf, peace be upon him, mentioned the favour that Allah bestowed upon him, saying: "... I will indeed guard them with full knowledge” ..." (Yusuf: 55)
Musa (Prophet Moses), peace be upon him, was also honoured with knowledge. Allah says: "And when he attained his full strength, and was perfect (in manhood), We bestowed on him Hukm (Prophethood, and right judgment of affairs) and religious knowledge [of the religion of his forefathers i.e. Islamic Monotheism]. ..." (Al-Qasas: 14)
Allah says about Dawud (Prophet David) and Sulaiman (Prophet Solomon), peace be upon them: "... and to each of them we gave Hukm (right judgement of the affairs and Prophethood) and knowledge ..." (Al-Anbiya’: 79)
He also reminded ‘Isa (Prophet Jesus), peace be upon him, of the knowledge He had conferred upon him, saying: "... Remember My Favour to you and your mother when I supported you with Ruh-ul-Qudus [Jibril (Gabriel)] so that you spoke to the people in the cradle and in maturity; and when I taught you writing, Al-Hikmah (the power of understanding), the Taurat (Torah) and the Injeel (Gospel) ..." (Al-Ma’idah: 110)
When Allah favoured al-Khidr with knowledge that none else possessed, one of the prophets of strong will (i.e. Prophet Musa) set out on a long journey to meet him. Allah says: "Then they found one of Our slaves, on whom We had bestowed mercy from Us, and whom We had taught knowledge from Us." (Al-Kahf: 65)
The most knowledgeable of the soldiers of Sulaiman (Solomon), peace be upon him, was the strongest among them. "One with whom was knowledge of the Scripture said: “I will bring it to you within the twinkling of an eye!” ..." (An-Naml: 40)
Allah bestowed numerous bounties upon His messenger Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, and considered knowledge the most sublime of them all. He says: "... Allah has sent down to you the Book (The Qur’an), and Al-Hikmah (Islamic laws, knowledge of legal and illegal things, i.e. the Prophet’s Sunnah – legal ways), and taught you that which you knew not ..." (An-Nisa’: 113)
Allah did not command him to ask for increase in anything except in knowledge. He says: "... and say: “My Lord! Increase me in knowledge." (Ta-Ha: 114)
Knowledge is the inheritance from the prophets, and those who inherit the prophets’ knowledge are the best of mankind after them and the closest to them. The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “The learned are the heirs of the prophets. The prophets leave behind neither dinars nor dirhams, but only knowledge; therefore, he who acquires it has in fact acquired an abundant portion” (Reported by at-Tirmidhi).
Allah, Glorified be He, has made those who have knowledge testify that there is no god but He. He says: "Allah bears witness that la ilaha illa Huwa (none has the right to be worshipped but He), and the angels, and those having knowledge (also give this witness); (He always) maintains His creation in Justice ..." (Al ‘Imran: 18)
It is by virtue of knowledge that people fear and obey Allah. Allah says: "... It is only those who have knowledge among His slaves that fear Allah. ..." (Fatir: 28)
Al-Zuhri, may Allah have mercy on his soul, said, “No act of worship of Allah is comparable to knowledge.” Gaining knowledge is goodness and success. The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “When Allah wills good for a person, He gives him sound understanding of the religion” (Agreed upon).
The best among people are the most knowledgeable among them. The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “The best among people in al-Jahiliyyah (the days of ignorance before Islam) are the best among them in Islam, provided they have sound understanding of the religion” (Agreed upon).
Knowledge is the criterion by which deeds and their grades are measured, and with it deeds are set right and purified. Man’s faith will not become pure and he cannot demonstrate sincerity to his Lord except through knowledge. Allah, Glorified be He, says: "So know (O Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him) that La ilaha illallah (none has the right to be worshipped but Allah) ..." (Muhammad: 19)
In this verse, Allah mentions knowledge before words and deeds.
People will remain guided as long as knowledge remains on earth. He who worships Allah without knowledge does more harm than good. Associating partners with Allah (Shirk) and innovations in religion (bid‘ahs) have only spread because of lack of knowledge and staying away from scholars. Misguidance is clearly the result of ignorance. Therefore, Allah commands us to seek refuge in Him in every rak‘ah in our prayer from the way of those who have gone astray: "... not (the way) of those who earned Your Anger (i.e. those whose intention are perverted: they know the Truth, yet do not follow it), nor of those who went astray (i.e. those who have lost the (true) knowledge, so they wander in error, and are not guided to the Truth)." (Al-Fatihah: 7)
Allah does not equate those who have been granted knowledge with those who have not. They are by no means equal, just as the living and the dead and the blind and the seeing are not equal. Allah, Glorified be He, says: "... Say: “Are those who know equal to those who know not?” ..." (Az-Zumar: 9)
With knowledge, people are given real life and the light of belief: "Is he who was dead (without Faith by ignorance and disbelief) and We gave him life (by knowledge and Faith) and set for him a light (of Belief) whereby he can walk amongst men – like him who is in the darkness (of disbelief, polytheism and hypocrisy) from which he can never come out? ..." (Al-An’am: 122)
Good manners and the sound understanding of religion are among the chief defining qualities of the believers, whose hearts are enlightened with knowledge: "Nay, but they, the clear Ayat [i.e. the description and the qualities of Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, written in the Taurat (Torah) and the Injeel (Gospel)] are preserved in the breasts of those who have been given knowledge (among the people of the Scriptures) ..." (Al-‘Ankabut: 49)
Allah grants people of knowledge the ability to understand the similitudes in the Great Qur’an and to perceive their meanings:
"And these similitudes We put forward for mankind; but none will understand them except those who have knowledge (of Allah and His Signs)." (Al-‘Ankabut: 43)
Mercy envelops the gatherings of those who seeking knowledge, tranquillity descends upon them, and the angels surround them. The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, says, “...The angels will lower their wings in their great pleasure with one who seeks knowledge” (Reported by at-Tirmidhi).
Ibn Al-Qayyim, may Allah have mercy on his soul, said, “If getting closer to the Lord of the Worlds and joining the world of the higher group of the angels were the only virtues of knowledge, this alone would be enough merit and honour. But knowledge also has other virtues, for no one can gain glory in this world and in the hereafter without it.”
Those who have knowledge of Allah and are aware of what He has commanded and prohibited provide the best example to people. Their goodness benefits others as well as themselves, and it is for this reason that the whole creation praises them and prays for them. The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “Allah, His angels, the dwellers of the heaven and the earth, and even the ant in its hole and the fish (in water) invoke Allah’s blessings on those who teach people good knowledge” (Reported by at-Tirmidhi).
Striving hard to acquire knowledge is a form of striving in the cause of Allah. Abud-Darda’, may Allah be pleased with him, said, “He who believes that setting out in the early morning or in the evening in order to acquire knowledge is not a form of striving in the cause of Allah is definitely lacking in reason and has poor thinking.”
Competing with one another to acquire knowledge is a praiseworthy deed, for it is permissible to envy and try to be like two types of people: those who do good deeds and those who have wealth and spend it for the sake of Allah. Apart from these two types of people, it is not permissible to envy others and wish to be like them. The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “Envy is not justified except in two cases: the case of a person whom Allah has given wealth and he spends it righteously, and the case of a person whom Allah has given wisdom and he acts according to it and teaches it to others” (Agreed upon).
Both the religion and Allah’s ways in the universe tell us that punishment or reward will be commensurate with one’s deeds. Knowledge leads to the path of Allah by taking the nearest road to Him. Thus, he who follows a path in order to acquire knowledge will be close to Allah and will go to Paradise through the nearest and easiest ways. The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “If anyone follows a path in quest of knowledge, Allah will make easy for him a path to Paradise” (Reported by Muslim).
Religious knowledge serves to fortify the Muslim Ummah against trials. Imam Malik, may Allah have mercy on his soul, said, “Some people have dedicated themselves to worship but have neglected knowledge, and so they have taken arms against the Ummah of Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him. Had they acquired religious knowledge, it would have prevented them from doing so.”
Due to its great benefits, Islam commands that knowledge should be conveyed to others – even if it be a little portion of it – and disseminate it everywhere. The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “Convey (my teachings) to the people even if it were a single verse” (Reported by al-Bukhari). Allah, Exalted be He, commands us to refer to scholars and ask them: "... So ask of those who know, if you know not." (An-Nahl: 43)
The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, prayed to Allah to gladden those who seek knowledge, cause their faces to shine, and grant them happiness and delight. He said, “May Allah gladden a person who hears something from us and communicates it to others exactly as he has heard it, for it may be that the recipient of knowledge understands it better than the one who has heard it” (Reported by at-Tirmidhi). The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, also prayed for those he loved and asked Allah to make them knowledgeable in the religion. He once prayed to Allah for Abdullah ibn Abbas, may Allah be pleased with him and his father, saying “O Allah! Grant him sound understanding of the religion” (Reported by al-Bukhari).
Allah raises people who acquire religious knowledge in degree both in this life and in the hereafter. Allah, Exalted be He, says:
"... Allah will exalt in degree those of you who believe, and those who have been granted knowledge ..." (Al-Mujadilah: 11)
Ibn Al-Qayyim, may Allah have mercy upon his soul, said, “He who acquires religious knowledge, acts on its dictates, and teaches it to others will be called a great person in the kingdom of the heavens.”
Indeed, the benefit of knowledge goes to those who acquire it even after their death. The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “When a man dies, his deeds come to an end except for three: an ongoing charity, knowledge from which people will continue to benefit, or a righteous child who prays for him” (Reported by Muslim).
The best and noblest form of knowledge, which is highly commended in religious texts, is that which stems from the Qur’an and the Sunnah. The greatest form of it is knowledge of Allah and His names and attributes. Indeed, this type of knowledge constitutes the reason behind divine creation and command. Allah, Glorified be He, says:
"It is Allah Who has created seven heavens and of the earth the like thereof (i.e. seven). His Command descends between them (heavens and earth), that you may know that Allah has power over all things, and that Allah surrounds all things in (His) Knowledge." (At-Talaq: 12)
Every Muslim must strive hard to acquire as much religious knowledge as is considered obligatory for him to ensure that his beliefs and acts of worship, such as the prayer and fasting, are correct. He should devote some of his time to this end and should not consider study circles and gatherings where knowledge is acquired burdensome at all. Those who seek knowledge should have great regard for it, should ask Allah to grant them beneficial knowledge while having good hope in Him, Glorified be He, and should have fear of Him at all times, for this is the best thing to help them acquire knowledge. Their intention should be to acquire knowledge sincerely for the sake of Allah alone, and not to use this knowledge to argue with the foolish or dispute with scholars. If anyone applies the knowledge he has acquired and acts on it, Allah will increase him in knowledge.
Now then, O Muslims!
Allah has promised that He will make the path to knowledge easy for those who seek it, and that He will, in His immense kindness, grant them more knowledge than they have expected. Allah, Glorified be He, says, "Read! And your Lord is the Most Generous." (Al-‘Alaq: 3)
The way to acquire religious knowledge is not hard at all. One should memorise the Glorious Book of Allah and some of the traditions of the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, read a good selection of scholars’ works, and apply and act upon all that he has learnt. The more knowledge one acquires, the higher in degree one will be. In this way, one will gain Allah’s good pleasure and the highest places in Paradise. I seek refuge in Allah from the accursed Devil:
"And it is not (proper) for the believers to go out to fight (Jihad) all together. Of every troop of them, a party only should go forth, that they (who are left behind) may get instructions in (Islamic) religion, and that they may warn their people when they return to them, so that they may beware (of evil)." (At-Taubah: 122)
May Allah bless you and me with the Great Qur’an and make us benefit from its verses and wise words. I have said what you have heard and I ask forgiveness of Allah for myself, for you, and for all Muslims, for any sin that we have committed. Ask Allah for forgiveness. He is the Oft-Forgiving, the Most Merciful.