The Role of Seeking Knowledge in Understanding Islam

What role does seeking knowledge play in understanding the religion of Islam?

When we look at the pillars of Islam, we should extract from each one of them the moral message which is in it with regards to our character. What should be our character with regards to salaah, fasting, hajj, zakaah, shahadatayn. There was and there is and there will be, continue to be a moral message that each and every one of us needs to learn and whatever we learn of Islam, whether it is from Islamic history, it is a statement of the Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) in a hadeeth or it is from any of the relationships which Islam establishes, economic, social etc., each and every instruction, each and every bit or piece of information carries with it a moral message, meaning there is something in it for us to apply in our daily lives and that’s what we need to know because knowledge which we don’t apply becomes useless knowledge and Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) used to say,

“O Allah! I seek refuge in you from knowledge which is of no benefit...” [1]

Now, that knowledge, which is of no benefit, could be useless knowledge in the sense that its false knowledge or it could be useful knowledge or beneficial knowledge but we just don’t apply it, it could go either way. So to protect ourselves from falling into that evil category, the evil category for which Allah (سبحانهُ وتعالى) said or taught us in our daily prayers to say “show us the straight path”[2] this is what we ask for 17 times everyday at least, “show us the straight path,” most important thing to ask for in this life. Straight path is what? That moral path, where we do the right thing, we make the right decisions, we ask for that and then Allah goes on to clarify, who is on that path? “The path of those who You have blessed”, they live blessed lives, so that is what we are seeking “and not the path of those on who is your wrath,” who are they? They are those who have knowledge, which they don’t apply. The prime example is that of the Jews who received the knowledge, they know what that knowledge is, that message was, but they didn’t apply it. “And not the path of those who have gone astray, “due to what? Ignorance, not having knowledge at all, following misguidance and the classical example of those today, are the Christians who follow a religion, not the religion which Prophet Jesus brought but a religion which was fabricated after his time. So the very things that he spoke out against, they promoted and the very things that he did, they didn’t do. He called them to the worship of One God and they called people to the worship of him, calling him the one God. He worshipped One God and it is recorded in their distorted Gospels, that he did, falling down on his face as we do in sujood, he worshipped the One God but today the mass of Christians worship Jesus. How further away could one possibly get? So we ask Allah to protect us from that and as Prophet (ﷺ) had said

“ seeking knowledge is compulsory for every Muslim” [3]

and that’s why he (ﷺ) made it a religious obligation on us, that each and every Muslim should know his or her religion. Not enough to say “well, I am Muslim because my parents are Muslims,” that is not enough because Allah will not reward us for our parents' Islam, He will question us for what we did. They get their reward for what they did and we will get for what we do.

References:

[1] [Sahih Muslim 2722]

[2] [Qur’an 1:6]

[3] [Sunan Ibn Majah 220, Classed as saheeh by al-Albaani.]

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