SEEKING KNOWLEDGE - The Way to Paradise
How many times in our lives have we heard this phrase? How many times have our parents, teachers, elders stated this same thing over and over again? This quote by Sir Francis Bacon emphasizes that when you have knowledge, you have authority. A nation without knowledge and scholars will live in illusions and sink in darkness. Allah سبحانه و تعالى created man and provided him with the tools for acquiring knowledge, namely hearing, sight and wisdom. 
The teachings of religion of Islam came to us well over 1400 years ago through Prophet Muhammad ﷺ. From the beginning of revelation, there was an emphasis on seeking and acquiring knowledge. First words of revelation were “Read!” or “Recite in the name of your Lord who created.” Qur'an.Surah Alaqa 96:1
First thing that Allah سبحانه و تعالى created is Pen. Allah's Messenger ﷺsaid: The first thing which Allah سبحانه و تعالى created was Pen. He commanded it to write. It asked: What should I write? He said: Write the Decree (al-Qadr). So it wrote what had happened and what was going to happen up to eternity. Tirmidhi 94
In Islam, knowledge comes before action; there can be no action without knowledge. Even if a Muslim reads Laa Laa ilaaha illal-lah then he should have knowledge about it. As Allah سبحانه و تعالى says in the Qur’an: “So know (O Muhammad ﷺ) that Laa ilaaha illal-lah (none has the right to be worshipped but Allâh سبحانه و تعالى), and ask forgiveness for your sin, and also for (the sin of) believing men and believing women” Qur’an.Surah Muhammad 47:19
Knowledge is what distinguishes a believer from a hypocrite because he (a hypocrite) is abundantly acquainted of trivial things and various other useless facts, which do not benefit him, but when comes the understanding of Deen, he knows, not a thing. As also mentioned in the Book of Allah سبحانه و تعالى: "But the hypocrites do not understand." Qur’an.Surah Al-Munaafiqoon 63: 7
The sign of a believer is that he is acquainted with his Religion and is constantly increasing his knowledge about subjects that benefit him and he is desirous of all that is good, as well as the gatherings wherein it is detached.
Seeking the knowledge of Deen is a path to Paradise. Reviewing and learning more is like Tasbeeh. As the companion of our Prophet Muhammad ﷺ, Muadh ibn Jabal رضي الله عنهم said: "Seek knowledge, because seeking it for the sake of Allah سبحانه و تعالى is a worship. And knowing it makes you more God-fearing; and searching for it is Striving, teaching it to those who do not know is charity, reviewing and learning it more is like tasbeeh. Through knowledge Allah سبحانه و تعالى will be known and worshipped. With the knowledge Allah سبحانه و تعالى will elevate people and make them leaders and imams, who will in turn guide other people." Fatawa Ibn Taymiyya vol.10, p.39
In the same vein, Imam Shafi’ رحمت الله said: "Whoever seeks the fruits of this life should gain Islamic knowledge, and whoever seeks the hereafter should gain (Islamic) knowledge." An-Nawawi, Majmoo’ vol.1, p.12
Is one who is devoutly obedient during periods of the night, prostrating and standing [in prayer], fearing the Hereafter and hoping for the mercy of his Lord, [like one who does not]? Say, "Are those who know equal to those who do not know?" Only they will remember [who are] people of understanding. Qur’an surah Zumar39:9
"There is no one worthy of worship but He: That is the witness of Allah سبحانه و تعالى, His angels and those endowed with knowledge, Standing firm in Justice (or maintaining His Creation in Justice). There is no god but He, the Exalted in power, the Wise." Qur'an.Surah A’le'Imran 3:18
The scholars occupy a noble status in Islam, and which is higher than the position of others in this world and in the Hereafter. “Allâh سبحانه و تعالىwill exalt in degree those of you who believe, and those who have been granted knowledge” Qur’an.Surah Mujaadilah 58:11
“Whoever follows a path in the pursuit of knowledge, Allah سبحانه و تعالى will make a path to Paradise easy for him.”Sahih Bukhaari, Vol 1, Kitaab al-‘Ilm, 10
Prophet ﷺ said: “He whom death overtakes while he is engaged in acquiring knowledge with a view to reviving Islam with the help of it, there will be one degree between him and the Prophets ﷺ in Paradise.” Tirmidhi Hadith 249
The Prophet ﷺ said: “When Allah سبحانه و تعالى wishes good for a person, He makes him understand the religion.” Sahih Al Bukhari, Vol 1:69
“Whoever calls people to right guidance will have a reward like that of those who follow him, without it detracting from their reward in the slightest, and whoever calls people to misguidance will have a burden of sin like that of those who follow him, without it detracting from their burden in the slightest.” Sahih Muslim 6470 (Vol 5: 4899) and Ibn Majah Vol 1:206
“If anyone travels on a road in search of knowledge, Allah سبحانه و تعالى will cause him to travel on one of the roads of Paradise. The angels will lower their wings in their great pleasure with one who seeks knowledge, the inhabitants of the heavens and the Earth and the fish in the deep waters will ask forgiveness for the learned man.
The superiority of the learned man over the worshipper is like that of the moon, on the night when it is full, over the rest of the stars. The learned are the heirs of the Prophets, and the Prophets leave neither dinar nor dirham, leaving only knowledge, and he who takes it takes a big fortune.” Abu Dawud and Riyad us saliheen 1388
The knowledge referred to above is knowledge in deen because that is the only knowledge that is wajib (compulsory).
This hadith outlines multiple blessings of seeking knowledge, but we will concentrate on two main benefits. The two main benefits of treading on the path of knowledge are the protection of angels and the du’a of Allah’s سبحانه و تعالىcreatures. Angels provide protection in two ways: they lower their wings for a student of knowledge (i.e. they allow the student of knowledge to walk over their wings, much like a red carpet), and out of respect for the student of knowledge, they stop flying until the student has passed them. Allahu Akbar! Despite the purity of the angels, knowledge allows us to gain a higher rank than them in the eyes of Allah سبحانه و تعالى!
The inhabitants of the heavens and the earth make du’a for the student of knowledge. This includes the du’a of the angels and all other creatures on this earth, such as ants and all the fish in the sea. This is a great honor for children of Adam عليه السلام! Striving for knowledge is one of the best deeds we can do to attain mercy of Allah سبحانه و تعالى.
Allah سبحانه و تعالىsays (interpretation of the meaning): “And follow not (O man, i.e., say not, or do not, or witness not) that of which you have no knowledge. Verily, the hearing, and the sight, and the heart of each of those ones will be questioned (by Allâh سبحانه و تعالى)” Qur’an.Surah Israa’ 17:36
“O you who believe! Why do you say that which you do not do? Most hateful it is with Allâh سبحانه و تعالىthat you say that which you do not do”Qur’an.Surah Saff 61:2-3
The main goal of this article is to motivate you to continue to seek Islamic knowledge, and to encourage you to take joy and pride in doing this act of worship, because we can understand from various Qur’anic statements and ahadith (statements of the Prophet ﷺ) that there are definite returns for these efforts in the form of rewards and blessings from Allah سبحانه و تعالى
“Allah سبحانه و تعالى will raise those who have believed among you and those who were given knowledge, by degrees.” Qur'an.Surah Mujadillah 58:11
When Allah سبحانه و تعالى taught Adam (`alayhi salam – peace be upon him) the names of all things, He asked the angels and Iblis (who had reached the level of angels) to prostrate to Adam (alayhi Salam). we remind you that angels are pure creations of Allah سبحانه و تعالى. They are made of light, are in complete obedience to Him and are doing tasbih (glorifying Allah سبحانه و تعالى) at all times. Such a pure creation of Allah سبحانه و تعالى was commanded to show respect to our ancestor Adam (as), who was made of clay and was prone to mistake. This prostration was performed as a form of respect and took place based on one and only one factor: knowledge.
Emphasizing the status of knowledge and the scholars, Allah سبحانه و تعالى calls upon the scholars to bear witness to His Oneness, “Allâh سبحانه و تعالى bears witness that Lâ ilâha illa Huwa (none has the right to be worshipped but He), and the angels, and those having knowledge (also give this witness); (He always) maintains His creation in justice. Laa ilaaha illa Huwa (none has the right to be worshipped but He), the All-Mighty, the All-Wise” Qur’an.Surah A’le Imran 3:18
“And these examples We present to the people, but none will understand them except those of knowledge.” Qur'an.Surah Ankaboot 29:43
Scholars agree that this ayah is actually referring to all people of knowledge (and not just the scholars). People of knowledge who read, learn, and understand the Qur’an are the ones who truly comprehend the parables it contains. The parables mentioned in the Qur’an are important in telling us which actions are harmful to our akhira (Hereafter) and hence should be avoided. They also guide us in which actions are more rewarding than others, so that we can strive to do them.
Allah سبحانه و تعالى praises the scholars, as He says:
“Say: ‘Are those who know equal to those who know not?’ It is only men of understanding who will remember (i.e. get a lesson from Allâh’s سبحانه و تعالىSigns and aayaath)” Qur’an.Surah Zumar 39:9
Those who have knowledge are the quickest of people to understand the truth and believe in it:
“Whosoever Allah سبحانه و تعالى wishes good for, He gives him understanding (fiqh) of the Religion.” Sahih Al Bukhari Vol 1: 71 and Muslim 1037
As children we are always looking for signs of love from our parents. If a parent buys gifts for their child, the child is assured that their parents love them. Love and compassion from parents makes a child feel happy and special. Allah سبحانه و تعالىtells us through the Prophet ﷺ that if He loves us, He gives us understanding of the religion of Islam. The difference is that the love of Allah سبحانه و تعالى is far greater than anybody else’s love. Acquiring the love of Allah سبحانه و تعالىIs the ultimate goal of this life.
However, this love does not come without striving, trying hard and putting in a lot of effort. You have to earn the love of Allah سبحانه و تعالىby striving to gain Islamic knowledge – even if there are not many resources around you, even if the knowledge seems hard to retain, even if there are many distractions around you.
Allah سبحانه و تعالىwarns people if they hide knowledge from sharing in Qur’an: And do not mix the truth with falsehood or conceal the truth while you know [it]. Qur’an.Surah Baqrah 2:42
Allah’s Messenger ﷺsaid: There is no man who memorizes knowledge then conceals it, But he will be brought forth on the Day of Resurrection Bridled with reins of fire. SUNAN IBNMAJAH Vol 1: 261
“If the learned ponders how the hours he spent learning saved him from the humiliation of being dominated by the ignorant and from the distress of having no access to the facts, and how those hours provided him with the joy of discovering that which is hidden from others, he would excel in praising Allah سبحانه و تعالى, the exalted, full of majesty, and would be more pleased with the knowledge he has and would deepen his desire to increase his knowledge.”
“There should be no envy (hasad) except between two people, a man to whom Allah سبحانه و تعالى has given (knowledge of?) the Qur’aan, so he recites it night and day, and a man to whom Allah سبحانه و تعالىhas given wealth, so he spends it (in good deeds) night and day.” Sahih Muslim, 815
This hadith alludes to the etiquettes of seeking knowledge. Prophet Muhammad ﷺ is saying we should not get envious of others for anything other than two things, one of them being knowledge. Observing other people who have knowledge of the Qur’an and the Sunnah should make us feel envious; the idea is to use this feeling as a motivation to gain knowledge. This hadith does not imply that we question Allah’s سبحانه و تعالىdecree as to why He made the other person knowledgeable and why we were not given similar knowledge. Instead, we should ask Allah سبحانه و تعالى to make us learned in our deen. 
Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthaymeen (رحمت الله) said in Liqa’ al-Baab il-Maftooh (1/330):
It is well known that a person should have knowledge of real life, so that he will know how people are living. The Prophet ﷺindicated this in the words he said when he sent Mu’aadh ibn Jabal رضي الله عنهto Yemen: “You are going to some people of the Book,” and he told them about their situation. But it is not permissible under any circumstances to let that outweigh his study of religion. Neither youth nor anyone else should focus only on what is happening here and there and focus only on issues that he cannot do anything about. Moreover, if he is keen to set the affairs of the ummah straight, proper understanding of religion is the basic requirement. Hence the Prophet ﷺsaid: “When Allah سبحانه و تعالىwills good for a person, He grants him proper understanding of religion.” Proper understanding requires applying proper understanding of Islam to people’s lives, but it is not permissible under any circumstances to focus on studying life and reality at the expense of studying religion to such an extent that a person has no concern but reading newspapers and magazines, and so on, and neglects to study the Qur’aan and Sunnah. 
Statement of Ibn Hazm (may Allah be pleased with him)
“If the learned ponders how the hours he spent learning saved him from the humiliation of being dominated by the ignorant and from the distress of having no access to the facts, and how those hours provided him with the joy of discovering that which is hidden from others, he would excel in praising Allah, the exalted, full of majesty, and would be more pleased with the knowledge he has and would deepen his desire to increase his knowledge.”
This is a beautiful statement by Ibn Hazm (may Allah be pleased with him). The direct implications of his statement are obvious. Possession of knowledge will save us from the humiliation of being dominated by the commands of ignorant people. Moreover, possession of knowledge will save us from the distress of having no access to reliable and authentic information. Furthermore, possession of knowledge will give us the joy of knowing that which others do not know. Correct knowledge allows us to worship our Lord in a better manner, a manner which pleases Him.
Biznillah, this article has served as a motivation to continue seeking knowledge because of the numerous benefits and blessings associated with it. Seeking knowledge will help us appreciate our deen, better our connection with Allah سبحانه و تعالى, and allow us to find solutions to our problems from the Qur’an and Sunnah to simplify our lives.
And we remind you of the words of the Prophet ﷺto those who are following the path that leads to Allah سبحانه و تعالى: “Aim to do good and do what you can. Do your duties early in the day or in the afternoon, or at night, and be moderate, and you will succeed.” Sahih Al Bukhari 6463 and Muslim 2818