Pitfalls in the Quest for Knowledge

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  • Pitfalls in the Quest for Knowledge

    Seeking Knowledge for the Sake of Knowledge

    Sometimes a student will say:“I am seeking knowledge for the sake of knowledge”, implying that he is not after a diploma or a degree or something else of that sort. However,what he is doing is also wrong.

    One of the pitfalls that a student can fall into is to seek knowledge for its own sake. Knowledge is a desire like any other human desire.It can be sought for the pure pleasure of acquiring it and not for the sake of Allah.People love to discover new things.It is a natural human inclination.When a person strives long and hard to find something out, then comes upon the answer,it can be quite exhilarating.This encourages him to study further.

    Islam,however,does not call upon us to seek Islamic knowledge for its own sake,but to put it to use.The scholars of old used to say:“Knowledge calls out to us with actions.It is either answered by actions or it goes away.” Allah describes the people of knowledge in the following way:“Those who were given knowledge beforehand,when it is recited to them,fall on their faces in prostration.And they say:‘Glory be to our Lord.Truly the promise of our Lord is fulfilled.They fall on their faces crying and it increases them in humility.”[Sûrah al-Isrâ’:107-109] Here we see how knowledge gives them humility and makes them fall in prostration to Allah.

    Allah says:“Only those who have knowledge truly fear Allah.”[Sûrah Fâtir:28]Using this verse as their evidence,some people of knowledge have opined that the scholars are the “best of Creation”referred to in Allah’s words:“Those who have faith and do righteous deeds,they are the best of Creation.There reward is with Allah;gardens beneath which rivers flow.They will dwell therein forever.Allah will be well pleased with them and they with Him.This is for those who fear their Lord.”[Sûrah al-Bayyinah: 7-8].

    They argue that since the “best of Creation”are “those who fear their Lord”and since the only people who truly fear their Lord are the scholars,it follows then that the scholars are the best of Creation.

    How could it be otherwise when Sunnah declares the scholars to be the inheritors of the Prophets?This means that scholars are the best people after the Prophets,if they are true scholars.People today have become confused about the meaning of the word “scholar”in this context.Some assume it refers to any person with specialized knowledge in any field, like medicine,engineering,or chemistry.The true scholar in the context of our discussion is a person who has knowledge about Allah,His religion,and His Law.Knowledge,in an abstract,theoretical sense,is not enough.It must also affect the heart.

    Our pious predecessors did not recognize anyone as a scholar merely because had amassed a lot of knowledge.His knowledge had to show in his behavior.He had to be humble,ascetic,and reserved.Some of the pious predecessors had said:“The scholar is the one who fears Allah so much that it affects his character,his conduct –and his knowledge.”

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