By Prof. Muhammad Ibn Abdullah Alsoheem
Encouragement to Seeking Knowledge
Among the proofs for the encouragement to seeking knowledge is the very first verse revealed by Allah to His Prophet (Muhammad, peace be upon him) in the Quran. 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 Ashur says that among the purposes of this surah: “The purpose is to teach Prophet Muhammad the Quran 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” (Tafseer Al-Tahrir wal-Tanweer 434/15)
Another clear proof is the command of Allah to His Prophet 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) 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”. (Gami Al-Bayan 53/26)
Prophet Muhammad showed us that seeking knowledge is a way to paradise. He said: “Whoever treads a path in search of knowledge, Allah will make easy for him the path to Paradise.” (Muslim)
The same hadith was reported by At-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.” (Abu Dawud, At-Tirmihdi, Ibn Majah, Ad-Darimi)
Prophet Muhammad also said: “When Allah wishes good for someone, He bestows upon him the understanding of religion.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)
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.” (Fath Al-Bari 165/1)
The following Hadith narrated by Abu Musa is another example given by Prophet Muhammad 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 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.”
Source: Taken from the author’s Cultural Values in the Message of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), published by King Saud University.