Knowledge is acquired by exploring and studying the Deen of Islaam, known according to the saying of Allah’s Messenger: “Knowledge is acquired by studying..” [Shaykh Al-Albanee’s Silsilatul Ahadeeth as-Saheehah (1/605/342)]
Sources of Knowledge.
Narrated Jabir Ibn Abdullah (radhi allahu anhu): “When Allah’s Messenger (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) gave a Khutbah (sermon) his eyes became reddened, his voice raised, and his anger grew to the extent that it were as if he were one exhorting an army saying. “They will attack you morning and evening,” and he would say, “I have been sent along with the (Last) Hour like these two and he joined his forefingers and middle finger, and would say, “To proceed: Indeed the best speech is the book of Allah and the best guidance is the guidance of Muhammad and the worst affairs are the newly invented matters, and every innovation is misguidance.” [Saheeh – Muslim eng.trans. vol.2, p.410, no. 1885]
From Abdullah ibn Mas’ood (radhi allahu anhu) who said: “Allah’s Messenger (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) drew a line for us, then he said: “This is my Way.” Then he drew lines to it’s right and left and said: “These are different ways, upon each is a devil calling to it.” Then he recited: “And verily this is my straight path, so follow it, and do not follow other paths for they will separate you away from His Path.” [Soorah An’am (6):153] [Hasan -Ahmad (1/435, 465) ]
Clarification of the way
Al-Irbaad Ibn Saaryah who said: “Allah’s Messenger (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) gave us an admonition which caused our to shed tears and the hearts to fear, so we said: “O Messenger of Allah (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam), this is as if it were a farewell sermon, so with what do you counsel us?” So he (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) said, “I have left you upon clear proofs, its night if like its day, no one deviates from it except one who is destroyed, and whoever lives (long) from amongst you will see great controversy. So stick to what you know from my Sunnah and the Sunnah of the orthodox, rightly guided caliphs. Cling to that with your molar teeth, and stick to obedience even if it is took an Abyssinian slave since the believer is like the submissive camel, wherever he is led, he follows.” [Ahmad 4/126, Ibn Majah # 43, Haakim 1/96, Baihaqee in al-Madkhal # 51]
So the way is white and pure, manifest and untainted, such that its night is like its day! And so are the its signposts, as mentioned in the hadeeth of Prophet (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam): “O people I have left amongst you that which if you cling onto you will never go astray: The Book of Allah and my Sunnah.” [Hasan – Haakim (1/93), al- Baihaqee (10/114) and iBn Hazam in al-Ahkaam (/108)]
Consequently, the two main signposts for this way are the Book and the Sunnah, there is a fine point here which must be noted and mentioned, that being the matter of how these two references points are to be understood – and the answer is that it can only be understood by the criterion.
Allah’s Messenger (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) was asked: “Which of the people are the best?” So he replied: “Myself and those with me, and then those who follow them, and then those who follow them.” [Hasan – Ahmad (2/297, 340)]
Then it is as if he declined those who remained. So the criterion for the correct understanding of the Book and the Sunnah is the practice of the Companions and those who followed their way after them since they are the best of the people, and those who do not follow their way contain no good. Whoever claims to be following the Book and the Sunnah without this criterion, then without doubt they are going astray.
What to start with?
Tawheed is the first matter, which is obligatory for a person to have knowledge of, since it is the first pillar of Islam, one does not enter Islam without it.
This is also known by the hadeeth narrated by Ibn Abbaas (radhi allahu anhu): “When the Prophet of Allah (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) sent Mua’dh (radhi allahu anhu) to the people ofYemenhe said to him: “You are going to the people of the Book. So let the first thing you call them to that they should make all worship solely for Allaah, the Most High. So if they realize that then inform them that Allah has obliged upon them zakaat from their wealth – to be taken from their riches and given to their poor. If they accept then take it from them, but avoid the best part of the people’s property. [Al-Bukhari,Eng.trans. vol.9, p.348, no.469 and Muslim Eng. trans. Vol.1, p.15, no.28]
Allah, the All Merciful, also emphasized this essence by pointing out to the basis of salvation i.e. Tawheed without which, it is impossible to be forgiven. He said: “So know (O Muhammad (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam)) that La ilaha illa Allah’ And ask forgiveness for your sins and …” [Soorah Muhammad (47): 19]
“Verily! Allah forgives not (the sin of) setting up partners with Allah in worship with Him, but He forgives whom he pleases sins other than that, and whomever sets up partners in worship with Allah, has indeed strayed far away.” [Soorah An-Nisa: (4): 116]
The above mentioned verses establish that Allah orders us through Prophet Muhammad (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam), to know first that La ilaha illa Allah i.e. Tawheed and then ask forgiveness, he also emphasized that He does not forgive shirk (i.e. setting up rivals in worship with Him) except complete Tawheed, therefore most importantly a Muslim must seek the knowledge of Allah’s Unity, Tawheed, which opposes Shirk and all that relates to it in the first place.
This essence is also manifested when we contemplate over the Manhaj (way) of Prophet Muhammad’s (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) Dawah. He (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) after attaining the Prophet-hood lived in Makkah for 13 years. In this entire period he (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) invited people to affirm of only one formula, he (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) said: “O People say ‘La ilaha illalla’ and you will prosper.” Apart from this there was no mentioning of performing Prayers, Fasting, Zakaat, Hajj etc. The invitation was only to one belief viz; the Unity of Allah. The main theme of the Prophet of Allah (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) during his life in Makkah was to lay a strong foundation in the Unity of Allah.
As the Prophet’s wife – Aaishah (radhi allahu anha) narrated, “(Be informed) that the first thing that was revealed thereof was a Soorah from Al-Mufassal, and in it was mentionedParadiseand the Fire. When the people embraced Islam, the Verses regarding legal and illegal things were revealed. If the first thing to be revealed was: ‘Do not drink alcoholic drinks,’ people would have said, ‘We will never leave alcoholic drinks,’ and if there had been revealed, ‘Do not commit illegal sexual intercourse,’ they would have said, ‘We will never give up illegal sexual intercourse.’ While I was a young girl of playing age, the following Verse was revealed inMeccato Muhammad: ‘Nay! But the Hour is their appointed time (for their full recompense), and the Hour will be more grievous and more bitter.’ [Soorah al-Qamar (54): 46] [Sahih al-Bukhari vol.6, no.515.]
This is because all the actions depend on the heart’s conviction (belief) and therefore, heart is considered as the most important organ of the body, known in a Hadeeth of Prophet (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) said:
“Indeed, there is a piece of flesh in your body that, if it be sound, then the whole body will be sound and if it be corrupt then the whole body will be corrupt. Indeed, it is the heart.” [Saheeh Muslim (4/6221)]
Acting upon the Knowledge is Obligatory
While proceeding in knowledge, one should always be aware of busying himself with the means [(i.e. gathering knowledge) for knowledge is the tool of action] at the expense of goals [worship of Allah], so much that the intend behind it become oblivious. Acting in accordance with the knowledge should not be neglected. Before assembling more knowledge one should first turn to the knowledge which has already been collected. One should spend time doing things that, which has been made obligatory, before anything else. For the fear that this might fall under the saying of Allah:
“The mutual rivalry for piling up of worldly things diverts you.” [Soorah at-Takaathur (102): 1]
And the fact that the virtues and Merits of Knowledge vary depending upon the adherence to it. So if the action is less then the knowledge, the scholar’s knowledge is a burden upon him. Just as wealth has no benefit unless it is spent, knowledge does not benefit except one acts upon it and observes its obligations.
Abu Hurairah (radhi allahu anhu) said: “ The example of knowledge not acted upon is like the treasure, none of which, is spent in the way of Allah, the Mighty and Majestic. “Whoever speaks good things yet does not act righteously; Allah does not accept his good speech. Whereas he who speaks good things and works righteous acts, his speech is raised by his good deeds. That is because Allah said: “To Him ascends the goodly word, and the righteous actions raises it.” [Soorah al-Faatir (35): 10]
Ibn Mas`ood, (radhi allahu anhu) said: “True knowledge is not measured in relationship to how much you memorize and then narrate, but rather, true knowledge is an expression of piety [protecting oneself from what Allah prohibited and acting upon what He mandated].”Also, “Study and act upon what you learn.” [Related by Abu Na`eem]
Verses of the Qur’aan regarding the Rewards of Actions
Allah says in the Qur’aan: “Eat and drink with happiness because of what you used to do.” [Soorah at-Toor (52): 19]
And it will be cried out to them: “This is theParadiseyou have inherited for what you have inherited for what you used to do!” [Soorah al-A’raaf (7): 43]
Thus, Allah rewards the pious, those whose lives the Angels take while, they are in a pious state saying: ‘Peace be upon you, enter yourParadisebecause of that which you used to do.” [Soorah an-Nahl: (16): 32]
The Punishment of not acting upon one’s knowledge.
Narrated Ibn al-Khattab (radhi allahu anhu) that the Messenger of Allah (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) said: “Islam will dominate so that traders frequent the seas and horses enter into the path of Allah. Then there will appear a people who will recite the Qur’aan saying: “Who amongst us has memorized the most Qur’aan? Who is most knowledgeable of us? Which one of us has the most understanding? Then he asked the companions: “Is there any good in them?” They replied, “Allah and His Messenger know best,” He said, “They are from you and from this Ummah and they are from the fuel of the Fire.”[Reported by At-Tabaranee in Al-Awsat and al-Bazaar, Saheeh at-Targeeh wa-Tarheeh # 131.]
Allah makes clear the destination of all created beings. Their different ascending and descending ranks will only be in accordance to their actions:“O you who believe! Why do you say that which you do not do? Most hateful it is in the sight of Allah that you say that which you do not do,” [Soorah As-Saff (61): 2-3]
Hindrances in Action
On the authority of Aboo Bakr Ibn Abdullah ibn Qays from his father who, said that he heard his father say whilst he was facing the enemy “The Messenger of Allah (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) said: “Surely, the gates ofParadiseare under the shadows of the swords. A man in a shabby condition got up and said: “Abu Musa, did you hear the Messenger (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) of Allah (peace be upon him) say this? He said: ‘Yes. (The narrator said): He returned to his friends and said: ‘I greet you (a farewell greeting). Then he broke the sheath of his sword, threw it away, advanced with his (naked) sword towards the enemy and fought (them) with it until he was killed“ [Sahih Muslim no 468]
On the authority of Jabir (radhi allahu anhu) who said: ‘A man said: “O Messenger of Allah (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) where will I be if I am killed?” He replied: “InParadise” So he threw the dates he had in his hands then went and fought until he was killed.” [Muslim Eng. Vol.3, page 1052, # 4681.]
“A man in a shabby condition got up and said: ‘Abu Musa, did you hear the Messenger of Allah say this?”
So the first thing we must race towards is to remove all that is unauthentic attributes to the Messenger of Allah (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam)
“Then he broke the sheath of his sword, threw it away, advanced with his (naked) sword towards the enemy and fought (them) with it until he was killed.”
Then, after removing the important barrier, he (man in a shabby condition) broke the sheath of his sword not even thinking about returning.
Similarly, the Companion (radhi allahu anhu) who asked the Prophet (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) about his place if he was killed, as soon as he heard about Paradise, he threw away the dates that were in his hand only because he believed that these dates would delay him and hinder him from entering Paradise.
So Secondly, as a result one should hasten to do good deeds and righteous actions as ones ability, and refrain from delaying and being lazy, keeping the saying of the Messenger of Allah (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam): “There is hesitation I everything except in the actions of the Hereafter.” [Aboo Dawood # 4792, [Shaykh Al-Albanee’s Silsilatul Ahadeeth as-Saheehah # 1794]
Islam consists of acting and abstaining, so it becomes important for us to build the levels of knowledge and actions upon a firm foundation, as the Prophet of Allah (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) said: “From a man’s perfecting his religion is his leaving alone that does not concern him.” [Musnad Ahmed, at-Tirmidhee, Ibn Majah and others. Sharah Aqeedah at-Tahawiyyah # 268]
It is understood from this narration that from a man’s deficiency in his religion is his indulging in that, which does not concern him. This includes everything of secondary importance, whichever form it may take. What should concern a believer is all that relates to the essentials of his lively-hood, he should be concerned with all that relates to his salvation in the Hereafter, that being Islam, Eeman, Ihsan.
Whereas striving to accomplish other than that is loss of irreplaceable valuable time. In this way knowledge, speech and studies are purified, every attribute denounced in the Book of Allah and the Sunnah is removed and what remains are the beneficial and worthy actions. This is the way a Muslim arranges and plans his affairs with generosity whether it be intention, speech or actions. As mentioned in a hadeeth:
“Verily Allah the All Mighty and Majestic is Generous, He loves generosity and noble character and hates the despicable character.” [As-Silsilah As-Saheehah #1378]
Spreading Knowledge is an Obligation
Allah has ordered us to spread His Deen amongst the people, which reads: “Invite to the Way of your Lord with wisdom and fair preaching and argue with them in a way that is better.” [Soorah An-Nahl (16): 125]
The Messenger of Allah (sallallahu alahi wa-sallam) said: “The first defect that permeated Banu Isra’il was that a man (of them) met another man and said: O so-and-so, fear Allah, and abandon what you are doing, for it is not lawful for you. He then met him the next day and that did not prevent him from eating with him, drinking with him and sitting with him. When they did so. Allah mingled their hearts with each other. He then recited the verse: “curses were pronounced on those among the children of Isra’il who rejected Faith, by the tongue of David and of Jesus the son of Mary”…up to “wrongdoers”. He then said: By no means, I swear by Allah, you must enjoin what is good and prohibit what is evil, prevent the wrongdoer, bend him into conformity with what is right, and restrict him to what is right.” [Sunan of Abu-Dawood # 4322, narrated by Abdullah ibn Mas’ud]
The Prophet (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) said encouraged making Dawah by addressing it as a Sadaqa: “Enjoining all that is good is a Sadaqa.” [Sahih Al-Bukhari # 8.50, narrated by Jabir bin Abdullah]
The Messenger of Allah (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) forbade his Ummah to refrain from enjoining good and forbidding evil. He (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) also alarmed us from the punishment of Allah, if we desist in it. He said: “By Him in Who’s Hand is my soul, you will enjoin good and prohibit evil or (else), Allah will soon send upon you a punishment from Him, then you will call Him and He will not answer you.” [Ahmad Musnad, Saheeh At-Tirmidhee. No. 1712]