“Seeking knowledge at a young age is like engraving on a stone” Hasan Al Basri


Asalaam Wa Alykum Wa Rahmat Allah Hi Wa Barakat


Many years ago in Uzbekistan, a baby boy was born blind. His Mother, the strong Mu’minah that she was, did not lose sight of He who had the Power to cure him. She prayed and prayed for her son’s sight. And within a few years the boy regained his eyes.

She was widowed. She traveled with him to Makkah so that he could receive an Islamic Education. She arranged that he attend the circles of the scholars, and in those circles, he began excelling in the science of Hadith. He traveled to distant villages in search of the most authentic sayings of Rasul Allah (PBUH). He would pray two raka’at before accepting a hadith. His mother named him: Muhammad ibn Isma’il. And many of us know him today by the book he compiled, the book that stands after the Quran in authenticity: Saheeh Al-Imam Al-Bukhari!

In another land, in another time, chilly Baghdad winds would wake up another boy. Much before Fajr, his mother would bundle him in warm shawls and escort him through the darkness, making sure he reached the Masjid safely. After Fajr, she would wait for him as he read Hadith to the biggest scholars of the land. Then, long after the sun had come up, she would meet him outside and together they would walk home. She was a strong mother indeed, for her son grew up to become an Imam of the Muslim Ummah, an Imam by the name of Ahmad ibn Hanbal.

This religious knowledge is the law of Allah and the inheritance of the Prophets. It is our duty to preserve and protect the estate of our Prophet (PBUH), something that cannot happen without there being serious and sincere brothers and sisters spending long days and nights reading, reflecting, and teaching others.

Why bother gaining  (religious) knowledge?

A sincere man once stood on the beach shore watching, to his dismay, the waves thrashing a fish up and down, left and right. The man concluded that he must save the fish. He thrashed into the water and grabbed the fish by the tail. He then thrashed back to shore and threw the fish on the beach, satisfied that he had saved it from the water!

When we work for the sake of Allah without knowledge of what the path of Allah is, many times we do as that young man did. We might be doing Bid’ah or shirk without even knowing.

Undoubtedly seeking knowledge is one of the best of deeds; indeed it is a kind of jihaad for the sake of Allah, especially in these modern times when bid’ahs have begun to appear in Muslim societies and are becoming widespread, and ignorance is common among those who issue fatwas without knowledge, and people have started to argue a great deal. These three issues all make it essential that young people be keen to seek knowledge.

The Prophet (PBUH) said: “This world is cursed, as is everything in it, except for remembrance of Allaah (dhikr) and what He likes (righteous deeds etc), and a scholar or a student.” {Al-Tirmidhi (2322). It was also classed as hasan by Ibn al-Qayyim in ‘Uddat al-Saabireen (260) and by al-Albaani in al-Saheehah (2797)}

Twenties are the best age to seek knowledge, because you are still young and strong. The scholars chose this age for learning difficult matters, and what comes before that is only memorizing Qur’an and some texts.

Though seeking detailed Islamic knowledge is fard kifaayah: if enough people undertake this duty, it becomes Sunnah for the rest of them, seeking knowledge may become obligatory on each individual, i.e. fard ‘ayn, in the case of knowledge of an act of worship (like Salaah) he wants to do or interaction he wants to engage in. In this case he has to know how to worship Allah by this act of worship, or how to engage in this interaction.

Rewards for seeking Islamic knowledge  (Everyone needs some incentives to keep them going and keep their spirits high)

“Whoever follows a path to seek knowledge, Allah will make easy for him the path to Paradise. The angels beat their wings in approval of the seeker of knowledge, and those who are in the heavens and on earth pray for forgiveness for the scholar, even the fish in the water. The superiority of the scholar over the worshipper is like the superiority of the moon over all other heavenly bodies. The scholars are the heirs of the Prophets, for the Prophets did not leave behind dinars or dirhams, rather they left behind knowledge, so whoever gains knowledge has gained great good fortune.’” (Al-Tirmidhi, 2606; classed as saheeh by al-Albaani)

The above Hadith is in itself enough an incentive for a true believer to seek religious knowledge.

“Allah will exalt in degree those of you who believe, and those who have been granted knowledge” [Al-Mujaadilah 58:11—interpretation of the meaning]

Etiquettes of seeking Islamic knowledge

Some scholars said “knowledge is a secretive prayer and the worship of the heart.” Therefore the condition of worship is:

1 – Patience

2 – Always being aware that Allah is watching

3 – Make the best use of time

4 – Precision and focus

5 – Studying books

6-Purity of intention in action

Adhere to purity of intention in what you do. Let your aim be to seek the pleasure of Allah and the Home of the Hereafter. Beware of showing off and the love of making oneself appear to be superior to one’s peers.

The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said: “Whoever seeks knowledge in order to compete with the scholars or to prove himself superior to the ignorant or to make the people look up to him, Allah will cause him to enter Hell.” {Al-Nasaa’i, 2654; classed as saheeh by al-Albaani in Saheeh al-Nasaa’i}

7 – Acting upon what you know

Know that acting upon what you know is the fruit of knowledge. Whoever knows but does not act upon his knowledge is like the Jews whom Allah likened to the ugliest things in His Book, when He said:

“The likeness of those who were entrusted with the (obligation of the) Tawraat (Torah) (i.e. to obey its commandments and to practise its laws), but who subsequently failed in those (obligations), is as the likeness of a donkey which carries huge burdens of books (but understands nothing from them). How bad is the example of people who deny the Ayaat (proofs, evidences, verses, signs, revelations, etc.) of Allah. And Allah guides not the people who are Zaalimoon (polytheists, wrongdoers, disbelievers)” [al-Jumu’ah 62:5—interpretation of the meaning]

8 – Be cautious

Beware of being preoccupied in the beginning with the disputes among the scholars, or among people in general, because this confuses the mind. Also beware of musannafaat , because they will waste your time and make you confused. Instead, give your all to the book which you are reading or the topic which you are studying until you become competent in it. Beware of moving from one book to another (before completing the former), for that is a sign of boredom and failure. You must pay attention to each branch of knowledge, in order of importance.

9 – Choosing companions

Strive to choose righteous friends who are preoccupied with seeking knowledge and are of a good nature, who can help you in achieving your aim, add to the benefits you have already gained, encourage you to seek more knowledge and stop you from feeling bored and tired; friends who are religiously-committed, trustworthy and of good character, who are sincere towards Allah and who are not merely messing about.

10 – Finally, good manners towards the shaykh

Knowledge cannot be gained only from books; you must also have a shaykh whom you trust to open the door to knowledge and keep you from making mistakes. So you must have good manners towards him, for this is the way to success, learning and strength.

If you think that the shaykh has made a mistake, do not let that make him lose respect in your eyes, because that will deprive you of his knowledge. Who is there who is entirely free from error?

How will the Satan sit on your face:

1. He will tell you to study tomorrow, and when tomorrow comes, study tomorrow. Procrastination is from the Shaytaan!

2. Shaytaan will tell you that you are busy now and that later in your life you shall take the time out to study Islam. After marriage, after graduation, after you get a job. Life shall pass and the ‘after’ shall live forever.

3. Shaytaan will tell you that the situation of the Ummah is lost and that you studying will not help anything, so don’t waste your time.

4. Shaytaan will tell you that there are enough scholars, they don’t need you. (Combat this with the fact that scholars shall die, and if the knowledge is not passed on to the next generation, it shall die in the community. There are 1.4 billion Muslims and the problem that always comes up is that there are not enough teachers and scholars. Everyone is a shepherd and everyone shall be responsible for his or her flock!)

Behave like a student of knowledge

Malik (may Allah have Mercy on him) said: “It is upon the student of knowledge to manifest calmness, humility, and tranquility, and to follow in the footsteps of those who came before him.”

Ibn Jama’ah (may Allah have Mercy on him) said:

“The student of knowledge is to clean his heart out from every bit of blemish, deceit, envy, and bad character in order to condition himself to soak up and memorize knowledge and discover its detailed meanings and hidden treasures. Knowledge is – as some have said – the secret prayer, the worship of the heart, and the inner means of gaining nearness to Allah. And just as prayer – the worship of the external limbs – is not accepted except with external purification from filth and impurity, likewise, knowledge – the worship of the heart – is not facilitated except if you purify yourself from the filth of low and despicable characteristics and manners.

Ash-Shafi’i (may Allah have Mercy on him) said:

I complained to Waki’ of my bad memory. So, he advised me to abandon sins;

And said: “Know that knowledge is a blessing and the blessing of Allah is not accessible to the sinner.”

Though one cannot possibly perfect his/her character over night, s/he should try to at least get close to it. There are alot more points but they all are connected to the above statements.

How do we seek Islamic knowledge?

Allah has given us many ways nowadays that make it easy to seek knowledge without any hardship and without having to go out of the house; that is by means of cassette tapes, the computer and the internet. Not having enough money to attend Islamic institutes/courses is no reason. Internet is flooded with free authentic Islamic books & literatures in pdf version. You just need the right place to look at.

Women – and also men – must follow the right way of acquiring knowledge, starting with what is easy before embarking on difficult matters. It is also essential to use a balanced approach and not to take on more than you can handle so that you will not give up.

One of the salaf said, “No shy or arrogant person will ever seek knowledge.” So shyness should not stop you from asking questions about Islam. And arrogance is harmful in this world and in the Hereafter; one of its harmful effects in this world is that it keeps a person from asking and learning.

One should learn from the scholars whose knowledge and religious commitment can be trusted. If you find a scholar who meets this description, then cling to him and consult him in order to gain knowledge. If you cannot find a scholar, then look for a seeker of knowledge (taalib ‘ilm), and if you cannot find such a person, then you must study by using tapes and books that deal with the basic issues of Islam according to the correct methodology of sharee’ah.

On ‘Aqeedah: start with the book “The Three Fundamental Bases of Islamic Theology”, then “Kitab al-Tauhid”, then Kashf al-Shubuhaat, all by Shaykh Muahmmad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhaab. Then read “Principles of Islamic Faith” by Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyah.

These are just to get you started. The list does not end here. Also, keep in mind these books are recommended by one scholar of Islam. Other scholar may tell you other names of books to start your conquest of knowledge from.

I think among the best books that the seeker of knowledge must be keen to read are the books of Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyah and his student Ibn al-Qayyim (may Allaah have mercy on them both). It is known that the books of Ibn al-Qayyim are easier, because the style of Ibn Taymiyah is strongly-worded because of his abundant knowledge and alert mind, and Ibn al-Qayyim saw the knowledge of Ibn Taymiyah as a well-built house, and his own role as that of organizing and adorning. However, most of their literature is in Arabic so you will have to search for the translated versions of books if you do not know Arabic. (By the way, there are translator software online where you just paste the Arabic text and they translate it for you in English)


As seeking knowledge is prescribed throughout one’s life, and life ends only at death, it is essential for the seeker of knowledge to combine meeting worldly needs with pursuit of knowledge.

The seeker of knowledge should not ignore current events and the state of his society. These are essential to knowledge. The faqeeh is the one who understands the texts properly and understands the reality to which he applies them

Knowledge is better than wealth. Knowledge protects you while you have to protect your wealth. Knowledge is a judge, while wealth has to be judged on. Wealth decreases when it is expended, while knowledge purifies when it is given.

Beware of the fitnah (temptation) of wealth. The one whom Allah has blessed with wealth should use that wealth to help him obey Allah and spend it in ways that please Allah, such as building mosques, printing books, recording tapes and distributing pamphlets. S/He should be keen to perform Hajj and ‘umrah, and beware of going to extremes with regard to permissible things or spending it on haraam things, for wealth may be a cause of a person being tempted  away from his/her religious commitment. Allah indeed spoke the truth when He said:

“Your wealth and your children are only a trial, whereas Allah! With Him is a great reward (Paradise)” [Al-Taghaabun 64:15—interpretation of the meaning]

Listen to the advice of Imam Ibn Jamaa’ah if you want to know what it takes to correct your intention, “A proper and sincere intention when studying Islam is to intend to win the pleasure of Allah by what you are doing. You should intend to practice what you learn, to resurrect the Shariah, hoping that this knowledge will shine light on your heart, cleanse your soul, and bring you closer to Allah on the day of Judgement…Your intention for studying Islam should not be to win any worldly commodity, like leadership or fame or riches. It should not be learnt so that you can show off to your colleagues or so that people will revere you and sit you in a chief position in their gatherings, and so on…”

Beware lest your Talab (search, seeking) of Al-Ilm Ash-Shari’ (Islamic knowledge) be for employment (or official position), or a worldly matter (such as status or reputation etc);

Beware of self-admiration, and being deceived (by self pride & conceit), for verily, it is how righteous people are destroyed.

Be eager to conversate, exchange, study, consult, learn, discuss, and debate Masa’il (issues pertaining the din) with others – for verily, Rusukh (firm understanding, deep rooted knowledge) of the masa’il does not come, expect with thorough discussing and conversation.

Signs of beneficial knowledge:

Ask yourself about how much you share from the signs of beneficial knowledge, which are as follows:

Ø  Implementing it

Ø  Hatred of being praised, complemented, or displaying haughtiness over others

Ø  Increasing your modesty with the increase of your knowledge

Ø  Fleeing from the love of leadership, fame and worldly pleasures

Ø  Abandoning the claim to have knowledge

Ø  Having bad suspicions about oneself, and good suspicion about other people, so as to steer clear from disparaging them


Abu Abdillah Muhammad Sa’id Raslan, “Adaab Talib Ilm (The manners of the knowledge seeker)”
Ibn Al-Jowzee, “Manaaqib”
Muhammad Al-Shareef, “Why should I study Islam?”
Shaykh Bakr Aboo Zayd, “The etiquette of seeking knowledge” (translated by Abu Abdillah Murad ibn Hilmi Ash-Shuweikh)
Shaykh Sultan Al-Utaybi  (martyred), pen name Abu Abdir Rahman Al Athari, “Risalah Ila Talib Al-Ilm (Advice for the seeker of knowledge)


Published in: on February 21, 2011 at 5:16 am  Leave a Comment  

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