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June 11, 2012

Ramadan 2012 Prep Tip #1: Seek Knowledge… – Part 2

by Umm Muawiyah

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

Assalamu Alaikum.

[Here’s Part 1.]

I mentioned the three types of answers that I got in the survey and why one set was right, the second set was sort of right and the third set was not so right.

So, let’s go through it over again:

[Note: Some answers can be looked at from more than one perspective which would change which group they belonged to.]

1) The ones who got it right were doing it to get closer to Allah.

There’s no argument about this one.

A warning: Yes, this is the correct intention but we need to make sure that it really IS our intention and not what we THINK our intention is.

Sincerity is one of the toughest things to attain – and it’s not attained in one go. One needs to keep working on it and keep fighting oneself.

The ones who are sure that they are sincere are most definitely insincere.

So, one needs to do lots of dua (supplication) to Allah asking for sincerity and also keep taking account of oneself and one’s intentions.

2) The ones who were sort of in the middle were doing it for a reason that led to the main reason.

The answers were as follows:

– Reminding oneself about Islam

I thought about putting this answer in the third group but I didn’t because the implications of this answer differed from the implications of the third group’s answers.

This is an acceptable reason to seek knowledge and it leads to the main reason. The person realises that she needs to be reminded about the religion of Allah and hence needs to be reminded about Allah.

However, some people could also seek knowledge for this reason and miss the boat completely so one needs to be careful.

– Reminding oneself of the hereafter

I thought of putting this answer with the first group but I didn’t due to the way it was phrased.

Yes, this is also a reason for seeking knowledge but we should also remember that we were created to worship Allah alone and seeking knowledge is a way of worshipping Him. The Hereafter is the “reward” for this: Paradise for the good guys (i.e. those who worshipped Him alone) and Hell for the bad guys (those who did not worship Him alone).

– To improve oneself

This is a very common reason and it’s not wrong. However, this is a means and not an end.

Why should we improve ourselves? Well, because we can then become better worshippers of Allah and so attain a higher level of Paradise.

So, this is a goal but not the ultimate goal, rather it leads to it.

To feel the foretaste of Paradise

I overlooked this one in Part 1 (sorry!).

Yes, seeking knowledge does give us the “foretaste” of Paradise for many reasons (the feeling of closeness to Allah, the reminder of the Hereafter, etc). This is a FRUIT of seeking knowledge though, not the main reason for doing so.

So, if the sister meant that she was seeking knowledge to feel close to Allah, then this answer is correct and would belong to the first group. If she meant that she wanted to feel “nice”, then this answer is not so correct and would belong to the third group.

[As I cannot read minds, I decided to take the safe route and put her in the second group….]

3) The not-so-right ones

Why did I say that they were not right? Well, because they missed the point.

Someone pointed out that perhaps they were still doing it for Allah and so would get the rewards.

Well, I cannot comment as to the intentions of people. I can only comment on what they’ve told me.

From what I could understand, and Allah knows Better, it seems that these reasons do NOT lead to the proper reason i.e. doing it for the sake of Allah.

[However, I did try to look at it from another perspective in order to give them the benefit of the doubt.]

Let me go through each reason and explain further:

– Just for the sake of seeking knowledge

Knowledge is not sought for its sake. Even acts like salah (prayer), zakah, fasting, etc are not done for their own sake. All of them are done in order to know and worship the Creator.

Knowledge is a means i.e a means to worship. Knowledge (of Islam and the Shariah) tells us WHY we need to worship Allah, and HOW we need to worship and the REWARD we get for doing that.

Yes, seeking knowledge is itself an act of worship but like all acts of worship, it needs to be accompanied by the proper intention i.e. seeking the Face of Allah.

Variations of the above reason (i.e. seeking knowledge just for its sake) included thirst/yearning/desire for more knowledge.

The reason I put them all together is that they all lead to the same thing: being excited about seeking knowledge for its own sake and missing the point of the whole thing.

And this is something very dangerous.

I always assumed that feeling excited about seeking knowledge meant that one was sincere – until I come across a certain article that is.

In it, the shaikh pointed out that some people get excited about knowledge for its own sake. It makes them feel “the rush”, you see. He pointed out this was not the right reason to seek knowledge.

I was very shocked to read that because it never occurred to me we might get excited by the knowledge itself, rather than the end that it was supposed to lead to.

After a lot of reflection, I realised that he had a point. Many times, seeking knowledge is a “thrilling activity” to such a degree that people even compete in this act – not for the reward, but for information gathering!

So then we get a bunch of people who are in danger of being amongst the following group:

أَلْهَاكُمُ التَّكَاثُرُ‌

حَتَّىٰ زُرْ‌تُمُ الْمَقَابِرَ

“The mutual rivalry for piling up of worldly things diverts you, until you visit the graves (i.e. till you die).” [Surah At-Takathur (102): 1-2]

Think about it.

– To know/feel the beauty of the Quran or Islam; the sadness about not knowing about Islam

Many people find Islam and the Quran beautiful. The disbelievers in the Prophet’s (sallallahu alaihi wasallam) time found the Quran so mesmerising that they would actually go to listen to it being recited!

So wanting to “feel” the beauty of Islam and Quran is not the purpose, rather the purpose is to know Allah and to worship Him.

Yes, Islam and the Quran are beautiful. One of the things that we can derive from that is that the Majesty of Allah, and that should cause us to strengthen our relationship with Him.

Another sister said that she sought knowledge because she felt the sadness about not knowing about Islam. I almost put this one in the second group but then I decided against it.

If she meant that she was sad about not knowing how to worship Allah, then this this answer would belong in the second group.

However, if she meant that she was sad not to learn about Islam due to its beauty, then I would say this is not quite the right answer. As I said above, knowledge of Islam is not sought for its sake but rather due to what it leads to.

Allah has not ordered us to learn each and every aspect of Islam. Rather, we have been ordered to try our best, so we should remember that.

Also, as many of the scholars pointed out, the important thing is to ACT upon your knowledge, even if it (i.e. the knowledge that you possess) is very little. So we should be sad at not practicing the aspects of Islam that we know about, rather than being sad at not knowing every aspect of Islam.

– Greater understanding in order to answer other people’s questions

A lot of people seek knowledge for the above reason. Sadly, it is not the right reason.

Why not? Because it implies that we are learning about our Creator and His religion (okay, so Islam is actually a “deen” i.e. a way of life) in order to answer other people’s questions!

Remember something, brothers and sisters: Islam is the absolute truth. Each and every aspect of it is correct, because it was revealed by the Creator, who is Perfect in every way, therefore His deen is also perfect.

Just because many people do not understand this very simple point, it does not make Islam any less perfect.

Now, there is nothing wrong with trying to correct other people’s misunderstandings. In fact, this is something that we should all strive to do. However, we shouldn’t make this the main reason for learning about Islam. Rather, we should make sure to seek it in order to first strengthen our own knowledge about Allah.

Sadly, we find many people who try to correct other people’s misconceptions about Islam, yet they themselves are not firm in their understanding of Islam!

Now, if the sister meant that she wanted to seek knowledge in order to call people to the worship of Allah, then this would be a secondary reason for seeking knowledge (as per Imam Ahmad’s statement which I mentioned in the first part) . However as I said, the main reason should be to first call ourselves to worship Allah.

– To do ijtihad on day to day issues.

The meaning of ijtihad is to try to arrive at the correct ruling of something. As such, ijtihad is the role of scholars and not the role of laymen.

If the sister meant that she was trying to seek knowledge in order to deduce the correct rulings of everything, well I think that she should first seek knowledge for at least 30 years, because I don’t think anyone can become a mujtahid in less than that time!

However, if she meant that she wishes to know how to worship Allah properly and so wants to learn about the proper way to pray, do wudhu, fast, keep family relations, etc, then this answer would be in the first group.

So, the above were my thoughts on the answers give by many of you.

I’m not saying that I’m right. I’m just asking you to think over what I said.

If what I said is not correct, then as always, you are free to share your input (and you are also free to throw my words into your brains’ Recycle Bin).

In the next part, insha-Allah, I’ll mention more issues related to seeking knowledge.

And Allah knows Better.

To be continued…

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