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O Seekers of Knowledge!

Words of wisdom from the Imāms of the Salaf concerning the strong encouragement to seek knowledge of Islām.

Knowledge is one of the delights and pleasures of the world. So when it is acted upon, it becomes for the Hereafter.

Indeed all praise is for Allāh, We praise Him, seek His aid and seek His forgiveness. We seek refuge in from the evils of our own souls and from our evil actions. He whom Allāh guides, then none can misguide him; and he whom Allāh misguides, then none can guide him. I bear witness that none has the right to be worshipped except Allāh alone, having no partner; and I bear witness that Muḥammad (ﷺ) is His servant and Messenger.

“O you who believe! Have taqwá (fear) of Allāh as you should have of Him and do not die except as Muslims.”1

“O mankind! Have (fear) of your Lord, who created you from a single person and from him, He created his wife and from them both He created many men and women; and have taqwá of Allāh through whom you demand your mutual rights and do not cut relations of the wombs. Indeed, Allāh is ever an All­-Watcher over you.”2

“O you who believe! Have taqwá of Allāh and always speak the truth. He will direct you to do righteous and correct actions and forgive you your sins. Whosoever obeys Allāh and His Messenger has indeed attained a great achievement.”3

To proceed:

The tābiʿī, Talq Ibn Habeeb – raḥimahullāh – said, “Taqwá is acting in obedience to Allāh hoping in His mercy, upon a light from Him; and taqwá is leaving acts of disobedience to Allāh out of fear of Him, upon a light from Him.”

Characteristics of the Seekers of Knowledge

Imām al­-Aajurree (d.360H)5 – raḥimahullāh – said, “The seeker of knowledge should know that – the Mighty and Majestic – has made the worship of obligatory upon Him; and that this worship is not possible except with knowledge, the seeking has also been made obligatory upon him. He should also realise that ignorance is not befitting for a Believer. He should seek knowledge in order to dispel ignorance from himself, and to worship – the Mighty and Majestic – as Allāh has commanded; not as he desires to worship Him. So the seeker of knowledge should strive hard in this quest, be sincere in this striving and should not become amazed at himself. Rather, he should that this is a favour from Allāh upon him since it was Allāh who gave him the ability to acquire such knowledge, by which he is able to fulfil his obligations and keep away from that which is forbidden.”6

Knowledge with Action

Said al­-Khateeb al-Baghdādī7 – raḥimahullāh, “I advise you – O seeker of knowledge – to make the intention pure and sincere and strive to make the soul act upon what this knowledge demands. Since knowledge is a tree and actions are its fruits and the one who does not act upon his knowledge is not counted as a Scholar. It has been said, ‘Knowledge is the father and actions are the offspring.’ Indeed, knowledge comes with actions; and riwāyah (narrating) comes with a dirāyah (investigating).

So do not feel satisfied with action as long as you are lacking in knowledge, and do not feel satisfied with knowledge when you fall short in action. Rather, combine them both – even if your share of the two is small. There is nothing worse than a Scholar whose knowledge the people abandon, due to the corruption of his ways, nor an ignorant person whose ignorance the people accept, because they look at his worship. So a little knowledge, along with a little action, will more likely save you in the end – when grants His Mercy bounteously and completely. However, as regards laziness, love of ease and leisure, preferring lowliness and repose, and leaning toward relaxation – then the results of these traits are blameworthy and hateful. And knowledge leads to action, just as action leads to being saved. So if the action is lesser than the knowledge, then knowledge is a burden upon the Scholar and we seek Allāh’s protection from knowledge which becomes a burden and produces lowliness, becoming a yoke on the neck of its owner.

Sahl ibn Muzāhim said, “The matter is tighter upon the Scholar than clenching the fist tightly, even though the ignorant one is not excused due to his ignorance. However, the Scholar receives a greater punishment if he abandons what he knows and does not act upon it.”

So did the Salaf (the Pious Predecessors) of the past reach the high levels which they reached, except through sincerity of ʿaqīdah (beliefs), righteous and correct actions and over­powering zuhd (abstinence) in all the attracting things of this world. And did the wise ones reach the great satisfaction, except by avoiding hastening to worldly things and being pleased with what was easy, and giving what was surplus from their needs to the poor and those who asked.

Is not the one who gathers books of knowledge just like the one who gathers gold and silver? Is not the one who has an insatiable greed for them just like the one who is greedy about gold and silver? Is not the one who is a prisoner of the love of the former like the one who hoards the latter? So just as wealth does not benefit except by spending it, then likewise, knowledge does not benefit except by acting upon it and carrying out its obligations. So let a person examine himself and take advantage of his time, because the stopping is little, the riding beast near, the road is fearful; and going astray upon it is what is usual, the danger is great, the one who discerns has insight, – the Most High – is watching over and to Him is the return.

“And whoever does an atom’s weight of good shall see it, and whoever does an atom’s weight of evil shall see it.” 8 9

Words of Wisdom

Ibn Masʿūd – raḍī Allāhu ʿanhu – said,“Learn, learn! So when you learn, then act.”10

Said az-­Zuhrī (d.124H) – raḥimahullāh, “The people will not trust the actions of a person who acts without knowledge. And they will not be pleased with the saying of a Scholar who does not.”11

Sahl Ibn ʿAbdullāh (d.283) – raḥimahullāh – said, “All of mankind are drunk, except the Scholars. And all the Scholars are confused, except whoever acts according to his knowledge.”12

He – raḥimahullāh – also said, “Knowledge is one of the delights and pleasures of the world. So when it is acted upon, it becomes for the Hereafter.”13

Abū ʿAbdullāh ar­Roodhabaaree said, “Knowledge rests upon actions and actions rest upon sincerity, and sincerity for Allāh inherits understanding about Allāh – the Mighty and Majestic.”14

Habeeb Ibn ʿUbayd – raḥimahullāh – said, “Learn knowledge and understand and be benefited by it. Do not learn it for beautifying yourselves by it. Then it may happen – if you live long – that a person beautifies himself with knowledge, just as a man beautifies himself with clothes.”15

Said al-­Ḥasan al-­Bʿasree (d.110H) – raḥimahullāh, “The concern of the Scholar is tending to the flock, whilst the concern of the foolish one is just to narrate.”16

Fuḍayl Ibn ’Iyyaad (d.187H) – raḥimahullāh – said, “The Scholar continues to be ignorant of what he has learnt until he acts upon it. So when he acts upon it, he becomes knowledgeable.”17

Said al-­Ḥasan al-­Basrī – raḥimahullāh – said, “Īmān (faith) is not outer decoration, nor mere hope. Rather it is what settles in the heart and what is affirmed by actions. Whoever spoke good, but did not act righteously, then Allāh throws it back upon his saying. Whoever spoke good and acted righteously, Allāh raises up the actions. This is because Allāh – the Most High – says,

“To Him ascend all goodly words, and righteous actions raise it.”18


[1]  Sūrah Āl ʿImrān [3:102]
[2] Sūrah al-­Nisāʾ [4:1]
[3] Sūrah al-­Aḥzāb [33:70-71]
[4] Related by Ibn Abī Shaybah in Kitābul­Īmān (no. 99) and it was declared Ṣaḥīḥ by Shaykh al-­Albānī.[5] He is the Scholar, the Imām, the muhaddith, Muḥammad Ibn Husayn al-Ājurrī. Imām adh­Dhahabee said, “He was one Scholars who firmly followed the Sunnah.’’ He died in the year 360H. For his biography refer to Taareekh Baghdād (2/243) of al-Khaṭīb, Tadhkiratul-Huffaadh (3/936) of al-Dhahabī and Tabaqaatush-Shaafi’iyyah (3/149) of al-Subkī.
[6] Akhlāq al-ʿUlamāʾ (p. 43) of Imām al-Ājurrī
[7] He is the Imām, the Ḥāfiẓ, the Scholar of ḥadīth, fiqh and history, Abū Bakr Ibn ʿAlī Ibn Thābit better known as al-­Khateeb al-Baghdādī. Ibn Maakawlā said about him, “After ad-­Daaraqutnee, no one entered Baghdād the like of him.’’ For his biography refer to: Siyar Aʿlām al-Nubʿalāʾ‘ (18/270) of al-Dhahabī and al-Bidāyah wa-al-Nihāyah (12/101-103) of Ibn Kathīr. He died in the year 463H may Allāh have mercy upon him.
[8] Sūrah al­-Zalzalah [99:7-8]
[9] Iqtidaa‘ul­’Ilmil-­’Aml (p. 13-­16) of al-­Khateeb al-­Baghdādī.
[10] Iqtidaa‘ul-­’Ilmil-­’Aml (no.10)
[11] Iqtidaa‘ul­-’Ilmil­-’Aml (no.13)
[12] Iqtidaa‘ul-­’Ilmil­-’Aml (no.21)
[13] Iqtidaa‘ul-­’Ilmil­-’Aml (no.23)
[14] Iqtidaa‘ul­-’Ilmil­-’Aml (no.30)
[15] Iqtidaa‘ul­-’Ilmil­-’Aml (no.35)
[16] Iqtidaa‘ul­-’Ilmil­-’Aml (no.39)
[17] Iqtidaa‘ul­-’Ilmil­-’Aml (no.43)
[18] Iqtidaa‘ul­-’Ilmil­-’Aml (no.56)

Published: June 23, 2007
Edited: August 21, 2022


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