Recently, I received an email from a fellow Muslim asking me to write an article about pursuing worldly knowledge. He asked 3 groups of questions that I will attempt to answer in this article, referring to the Quran and Sunnah.
Question 1 is: How does one’s profession (Engineer, Doctor, etc.) play a role in one’s deen? What is its significance in terms of the impact one can have?
Question 2 is: How far can one one go and learn worldly knowledge (i.e. even by having good intentions)? What is the upper limit – as time spent on it means less time to learn ISLAMIC KNOWLEDGE?
Question 3 is: Will a great Muslim Engineer (with great contributions to the world and great Islamic practices) be on the same level as an ALIM in AKHIRAH? If no, what does an Engineer need to do to reach the level of an Alim? Basically how can one reach JANNAT-UL-FIRDAUS through one’s profession?
Question 1: How does one’s profession (Engineer, Doctor, etc.) play a role in one’s deen?
What is its significance in terms of the impact one can have?
“The reward of deeds depends upon the intentions and every person will receive the rewards according to what he has intended. So, whoever emigrates for the sake of Allah and his Messenger, his emigration will be (counted as being) for Allah and his Messenger and whoever emigrates for worldly benefits or for a woman to marry, his emigration will be (counted as being) for what he emigrated for.” 1
Seeking beneficial knowledge is an act of worship. One Islamic scholar writes: “Islam calls us to learn all kinds of beneficial knowledge. Branches of knowledge vary in status, the highest of which is knowledge of sharee’ah, then knowledge of medicine, then the other fields of knowledge.” 2
Becoming strong in one’s profession is an act of worship because Islam encourages us to be strong believers. One Islamic scholar writes, “…Islam is the religion of honour and pride, and the religion of high status in this world and in the Hereafter…One of the things that Islam teaches us is to be proud and strong. Our Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “The strong believer is better and more beloved to Allaah than the weak believer, although both are good.” 3
Having a profession enables you to help those in need through your earnings. Consider these hadiths about the high status of people who spend in charity:
One of the seven people whom God will draw under His own shadow on the Day of Resurrection is a person who gives charity and hides it, so that his left hand knows not what his right hand expends. 4
“The one who looks after a widow or a poor person is like a Mujahid (warrior) who fights for Allah’s Cause, or like him who performs prayers all the night and fasts all the day.” 5
“The one who sponsors an orphan, whether it is a relative of his or not, he and I will be like these two in Paradise,” and the Prophet pointed with his forefinger and middle finger. 6
“Whoever takes care of two or three daughters, or two or three sisters, until they die before him or he dies before them, he and I will be like these two,” and he (pbuh) gestured with his forefinger and middle finger.” 7
Question 2: How far one can one go and learn worldly knowledge (i.e. even by having good intentions)? What is the upper limit–as time spent on it means less time to learn ISLAMIC KNOWLEDGE?
Seeking worldly knowledge has benefits, but should not lead to neglecting Islamic knowledge.
Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthaymeen (may Allaah have mercy on him) 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…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.” 10
Every Muslim does not need to become an Islamic scholar, but we should regularly seek Islamic knowledge. The best deeds are those done regularly, even if they are small. The Prophet was asked, “What deeds are loved most by Allah?” He said, “The most regular constant deeds even though they may be few.” 11
As long as one is regularly seeking Islamic knowledge, then seeking worldly knowledge can be a form of striving for Ihsan, or excellence. Islam teaches us to strive for excellence in all things:
“Verily Allah has prescribed ihsan (excellence, proficiency) in all things. Thus if you kill, kill well; and if you slaughter, slaughter well. Let each one of you sharpen his blade and let him spare suffering to the animal he slaughters” 12
“Righteousness is in good character, and wrongdoing is that which wavers in your soul, and which you dislike people finding out about” 13
“I came to the Messenger of Allah and he said, ‘You have come to ask about righteousness.’ I said, ‘Yes.’ He said, ‘Consult your heart. Righteousness is that about which the soul feels at ease and the heart feels tranquil. And wrongdoing is that which wavers in the soul and causes uneasiness in the breast, even though people have repeatedly given their legal opinion [in its favour].'” 14
The Islamic Online University (IOU) offers degrees in worldly knowledge such as Informational Technology, Psychology, Education, Finance, and Business. The fact that IOU offers such degrees shows that excellence in worldly knowledge is encouraged in Islam.
QUESTION 3: Will a great Muslim Engineer (with great contributions to the world and great Islamic practices) be on the same level as an ALIM in AKHIRAH? If no, what does an Engineer need to do to reach the level of an Alim? Basically how can one reach JANNAT-UL-FIRDAUS through one’s profession?
“The excellence of the scholar over the worshipper is like my excellence over the lowermost of you. Indeed, Allah, His Angels, the inhabitants of the heavens and earth, even the ant in its hole and the fish, supplicate for one who teaches good to the people.” 15
However, one does not need to be a scholar to reach the highest level of Jannah, Jannatul-Firdous:
Paradise has one hundred grades, each of which is as big as the distance between heaven and earth. The highest of them is Firdaus and the best of them is Firdaus. The Throne is above Firdaus and from it spring forth the rivers of Paradise. If you ask of Allah, ask Him for Firdaus.” 16
“Most certainly those Believers have attained true success:
They who are during their prayer humbly submissive
And they who turn away from ill speech.
And they who are observant of zakah.
And they who guard their private parts. Except from their wives or those their right hands possess, for indeed, they will not be blamed – But whoever seeks beyond that, then those are the transgressors –
And they who are to their trusts and their promises attentive.
And they who carefully maintain their prayers –
Those are the inheritors. Who will inherit al-Firdaus. They will abide therein eternally.” [Qur’an: Chapter 23: Verses 1-11]
The above hadith and Quranic verses do not require one to be a scholar to reach Jannatul Firdous. The Prophet actually encourages all Muslims to pray for Al-Firdous. And the Quranic verses above tell us that these actions that will lead us to Al-Firdous:
-Praying with humility
-Turning away from ill speech
-Guarding the private parts
-Keeping promises and trusts
-Maintaining the salat
With discipline and sincerity, every believer has the potential to reach Jannatul Firdous.
We can also attain the highest level of faith through our good manners and behaviors:
Messenger of Allah ﷺ said, “The most perfect man in his faith among the believers is the one whose behaviour is most excellent; and the best of you are those who are the best to their wives.” 17.
The Prophet ﷺ said: Shall I not inform you of something more excellent in degree than fasting, prayer and almsgiving (sadaqah)? The people replied: Yes, Prophet of Allah! He said: It is putting things right between people, spoiling them is the shaver (destructive). 18
Furthermore, reciting certain adkhar (remembrances of Allah) can raise us to a high rank in the next world:
He who recites in the morning and in the evening (these words):”Hallowed be Allah and all praise is due to Him” (SubHanAllah wa BiHamdihi) one hundred times , he would not bring on the Day of Resurrection anything more excellent than this except one who utters these words or utters more than these words.” 19
“Whoever says ‘There is no god but Allah, alone, without any partner. The Kingdom and praise belong to Him and He has power over everything’ (La ilaha illa’llah, wahdahu la sharika lah, lahu’l mulku wa lahu’l hamd, wa huwa ala kulli shay’in qadir) one hundred times a day, it is the same for him as freeing ten slaves. One hundred good actions are written for him and one hundred wrong actions are erased from him, and it is a protection from Shaytan for that day until the night. No-one does anything more excellent than what he does except someone who does more than that.” 20
In conclusion, Allah gives us many ways to reach the highest level of Jannah. Seeking worldly knowledge and becoming proficient in a worldly profession can lead to Jannatul Firdous. We must have sincere intentions, continue to seek Islamic knowledge, and work hard to perform charity and other good deeds.
Let us end this article with a dua that the Prophet would recite after the Fajr Prayer: “O Allah, I ask You for beneficial knowledge, goodly provision and acceptable deeds.” 21
Please share your comments about this article. We love to hear what you have to say! 🙂
- Bukhari, Muslim) ↩
- From Usool al-Deen al-Islami by Shaykh Muhammad ibn Ibraaheem al-Tuwayjri, https://islamqa.info/en/10471 ↩
- Narrated by Muslim, 4815,https://islamqa.info/en/13759 ↩
- Bukhari, Muslim ↩
- Bukhari ↩
- Bukhari, Muslim ↩
- Sahih Ahmad ↩
- Tirmidthi ↩
- Agreed upon, narrated by al-Bukhaari, 4639 ↩
- https://islamqa.info/en/76010 ↩
- Bukhari ↩
- Muslim ↩
- Muslim ↩
- A good hadith transmitted from the musnads of the two imams, Ahmed bin Hambal and Al-Darimi, with a good chain of authorities ↩
- Tirmidthi ↩
- hadith in Sunan Ibn Majah ↩
- Tirmidthi, Riyad-us-Saliheen)
I asked the Messenger of Allah ﷺ: “Who is the most excellent among the Muslims?” He said, “One from whose tongue and hands the other Muslims are secure.” [18. Al-Bukhari and Muslim ↩
- Sahih Abu Dawud ↩
- Sahih Muslim ↩
- Muwatta Malik ↩
- Sahih Sunan Ibn Majah ↩