This great religion is the religion of knowledge. If asked about the most prominent aspect of this religion, any objective person would likely point to the lofty status of knowledge in Islam. There isn’t a single issue addressed by the religion except that knowledge contributes in dealing with it in greater detail, as a foundation or inference. The following issues will illustrate the great status knowledge has in this religion.
Knowledge in Islam
It is beyond the researcher`s capability to get fully acquainted with all the aspects showing great attention to knowledge in Islam. Sometimes, there is encouragement to gain knowledge, sometimes the superiority of gaining knowledge is mentioned, sometimes by the mention that the status of those who have knowledge is higher than the status of those who fight in the path of Allah, at times by mentioning that the status of a knowledgeable person is higher with Allah than the status of a worshipper, and so on. Some of these will be discussed below:
Encouragement to Seeking Knowledge
Among the proofs for this is the very first verse revealed by Allah to His Prophet (Muhammad PBUH) in the Holy Qur’an. Allah says: "Read: in the name of your Lord who created; He created man out of a (mere) clot of congealed blood. Read and your Lord is Most Bountiful. He who taught (the use of) the pen, taught man that which he knew not.” (Al`Alaq 96:1-5) Ibn Aashoor says that among the purposes of this surah: "The purpose is to teach Muhammad (PBUH) the Qur’an and how to recite it perfectly, for he was illiterate beforehand, however Allah gives him indication that He (Allah) is able to teach whatever He wills to whomever He chooses, as Allah taught others how to write, He can teach whoever He likes from scratch. It is also an indication that his people will be guided towards reading, writing and knowledge. It also directs him towards contemplating Allah`s creation, particularly Allah’s creation of mankind and how amazingly he was developed from a mere clot of congealed blood. This is definitely a point of reflection”.
Another clear proof is the command of Allah to His Prophet (PBUH) to start first with seeking knowledge before doing any action. Allah says: “Know, therefore, that there is no god worthy of worship except Allah, and ask forgiveness for your mistakes and for the mistakes of believing men and women. For Allah knows how you move about and how you dwell in your homes.” (Muhammad 47:19) Commenting on this verse, Ibn Jarir says: "I.e. you (Muhammad PBUH) have to know first that there is no God worthy of worship or divinity but Allah, the Creator of all creatures and the Lord of the universe, and that all have to submit to as their Lord. And you have to ask Him for forgiveness for your previous and future sins, and for the sins of those men and women who believe in you”.
The Prophet (PBUH) showed us that seeking knowledge is a way to paradise. He (PBUH) said: “Whoever treads a path in search of knowledge, Allah will make easy for him the path to Paradise.” The same hadith was reported by Tirmidhi in a longer version as follows: "Whoever follows a path seeking knowledge, Allah will make easy for him the path to Paradise. The angels lower their wings, being pleased with the one who seeks knowledge. Whoever is in the heavens and on earth, even the fish in the sea, ask for forgiveness for the seeker of knowledge. The superiority of the scholar over the worshipper is like that 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, but they left behind knowledge; and whoever receives it, receives an abundance of good fortune”.
The Prophet (PBUH) also said: “When Allah wishes good for someone, He bestows upon him the understanding of religion.” Explaining the meaning of this hadith, Ibn Hajar states: "This clearly shows the superiority of scholars over other people and the virtue of seeking religious knowledge over other areas of knowledge”.
The following Hadith narrated by Abu Musa is another example given by the Prophet (PBUH) for the virtue of seeking knowledge and of the scholars who acquire it, act upon it, and impart it to others. Abu Musa reported Allah's Prophet (PBUH) as saying: “The similitude of the guidance and knowledge with which Allah, the Exalted and Glorious, has sent me is like that of heavy rain falling upon the earth. There is a good piece of land which receives the rainfall and as a result, herbage and grass grow there abundantly. Then there is a land, hard and barren, which retains water and Allah makes the people derive benefit from it, for they drink it, provide it to others and graze with it. Then there is another land which is barren. Neither is water retained in it, nor is the grass grown in it. And that is the similitude of the one who seeks the understanding of the religion of Allah, and it becomes a source of benefit to him with which Allah sent me. The other is the similitude of one who does not pay attention to (the revealed knowledge) and thus does not accept that guidance of Allah with which I have been sent”.
Excellence of Knowledge and Scholars
The best indication for the status of knowledge and scholars is the association of their witness with that of Allah to His Oneness, which is the greatest and most glorified thing you can ever witness to. Allah says: “There is no god worthy of worship but He: that is the witness of Allah, His angels, and those endued with knowledge, standing firm for justice. There is no god worthy of worship but Him, the Exalted in Power, the Wise. The religion with Allah is Islam (submission to His Will). The People of the Book did not dissent except through envy of each other after knowledge had come to them. But if anyone denies the signs of Allah, then Allah is swift in calling to account.” (Al-I`mran 3:19-18) In his commentary, Ibn Kathir says: “Allah has witnessed - and His witness is sufficient since He is the Most Truthful and Fair Witness – He witnessed that (there is no god worthy of worship but Him) meaning that none but Allah alone is deserving of worship by all creatures who are His servants, and He created them, that they are in need of Him, and He is the Sulf Sufficient and not in need of anything or anyone. as He said, “He witnesses to what He has revealed”. Then Allah coupled His witnessing with that of witnessing by the angels and the scholars, as He says, “There is no god worthy of worship but Him: this is the witness of Allah, His angels and those endued with knowledge.” This association of the witness of Allah with that of those endued with knowledge indicates the special excellence of the scholar”
Among several aspects mentioned by Ibn Al-Qayyim to indicate the excellence of knowledge and those endued with it, is that related to the verse in question. Commenting on this verse, Ibn Al- Qayyim says: “This is an indication of the excellence of knowledge and those endued with it for many reasons as He made them witness the greatest thing that can be witnessed.
First: they are the only chosen people of all mankind to such great witness.
Second: there is the association of their witness with that of Allah.
Third: there is the association of their witness with that of angels.
Fourth: it is an implicit indication to their truthfulness and purity, since Allah only calls to witness those who are just and trustworthy witnesses. The Prophet (PBUH) said: ‘This knowledge will be carried by the trustworthy ones of every generation – they will expel from it the alterations made by those going beyond bounds, the false claims of the liars, and the false interpretations of the ignorant’.
Fifth: the witness is started by Allah, and He is the best to ever witness, then by the best chosen of His creatures, the angels and scholars. So this is sufficient as an honor for them.
Sixth: Allah made them witness the greatness of the witness, la ilaha illa Allah, which itself implies that the witnesses are surely of great status and excellence.
Seventh: Allah made their witness a proof against those who deny His Oneness. So they are like his proof and evidence indicating His Oneness.
Eighth: there is only one verb used for the witness of Allah, the angels, and those endued with knowledge. This shows how strongly associated the witness of scholars is with that of Allah, as if He bore witness to His Oneness on their tongues and they merely acknowledged and confirmed it with firm belief.
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