Series: In the Light of Sunnah, In the Footsteps of Our Salaf – Part 7 – The Obligation of Knowledge

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In the previous edition mention was made that علم (knowledge) must precede عمل (action) for two reasons:

1)    To acquire the prerequisite of  الله خشىة (Allah’s reverence and fear).

2)    To understand what is عبادة (worship, servitude), how to perform it and how to protect it.

Also, mention was made of the two basic categories of علم :

1)    العقائد و التوحيد علم (knowledge of Allah’s oneness and proper beliefs)

2)    الشريعة علم (knowledge of Islamic law pertaining to all activities)

And الشريعة علم is of two branches:

1)    الظاهرة الاعمال احكام (Injunctions concerning the outward form of actions)

2)    الباطنة الاعمال احكام (injunctions concerning the inward state and actions of the heart)

After some elucidation on the second branch (الباطنة الاعمال احكام) covered in the previous issue, one point remains: The outward actions are connected to the inner state and it is the inner state which either renders the outward actions acceptable or ruins them!

For example 1- اخلاص (purity of intention) against رياء (show of actions); and 2- المنة ذكر (to revert all favor of accomplishment to Allah) against عجب (to be proud of ones achievements, forgetting Allah’s taufiq and favor).

If one does not have this knowledge and understanding of the inner state and the actions of the heart, then his outward actions (اعمال) are also unsafe! In this scenario neither outward nor inward actions remain acceptable, and only toil, hardship and misfortune remain!

Therefore it is said that the sleep of an عالم (learned one both inwardly and outwardly) is superior to the worship of an ignorant abid عابد (either ignorant inwardly or outwardly or both) as an عابد (worshipper) without علم (knowledge) ruins more than what he rectifies. It is in this context that the ahadith (narrations of the Prophet (may Allah’s peace be upon him) mentioning the virtue of the alim over the abid have been mentioned.

Hence, the focus and attention of those with insight and Taufiq from among the Ulama and Zuhhad (those whose attention is focused on the hereafter) has always been on علم as it is the basis from which عبودية (worship/servitude) depends!

What علم is فرض (obligatory)?

A very commonly quoted Hadith states:

(مالك بن انس عن غير و ماجه ابن) مسلم كل على فريضة العلم طلب

“Seeking knowledge is compulsory (فريضة) upon every Muslim”. This Hadith has been narrated by a number of prominent Imams of Hadith including Ahmad ibn Hanbal, al Baihaqi, Ibn Majah. Although there are numerous narrations of this Hadith, the general opinion of the Muhaditheen is that the chains of narration (اسانيد) are not very strong. However, given the number of narrations of the Hadith coupled with the undisputed logic of the meaning of the Hadith, we can safely say that although the chains of narration may be wanting, the validity of the meaning of the Hadith is self-evident. Just as the principle in Fiqh states: “واجب فهو به الا الواجب يتم لا ما   

“An additional element without which a wajib (compulsory) cannot be not completed also becomes wajib”

Example: Wudhu in relation to Salah. Wudhu in itself is not wajib, however Salah cannot be completed without it. Therefore when Salah is compulsory, wudhu also becomes compulsory.

Similarly the performance of طاعة (obedience to Allah) and المعصيعة اجتناب (refraining from disobedience/sin) is no doubt واجب (compulsory) and neither can be completed without علم (knowledge). Therefore such knowledge is undoubtedly compulsory.

If this principle is understood, then what knowledge and how much of it is compulsory will be easily comprehended, InshAllah!

In reply, therefore, to the question; What is the extent of the three branches of knowledge;

1) العقائد و التوحيد علم

2) الباطن اصلاح علم (knowledge of correcting the heart and inward state)

3) الشريعة ظاهر علم (knowledge of the outward injunctions of Shariah)

that is compulsory to live a life of acceptable عبودية, for which we have been created?

As for العقائد و التوحيد علم one must know the basic principles of Deen (الدين اصول) the ignorance of which will expose one to the risk of ruin! That includes;

1)    The knowledge and understanding of Allah as He has described Himself by His  Names and Attributes.  That He is characterized by all attributes of perfection , free of any change and even any  indication of change or the occurrence of something new in His Being or Attributes. Alone in His being ever present without a beginning, while all beside Him start from a point of beginning at the time of their creation. He is the Sole Creator and has not been created and all beside Him are His creation. He is dependent on nothing and no one, while all beside Him are totally dependent on Him. He controls every finest particle of existence, while none have any control upon Him or His existence.

And if one were to focus his view and ponder upon the signs of Allah’s design, His amazing creation and His astonishing creatures as He has encouraged in His Book;

(١٩٠ عمران ال) الالباب لاولى لآيات والنهار الليل واختلاف الارضو السماوات خلق فى ان

“Verily in the creation of the skies and the earth and the alternation of the day and the night, are signs for those with sound minds and understanding.” (Al e Imran, 190), he would come to the conclusion that behind this creation is an اله (diety, God) All-Powerful, All-Knowing, Alive, Decisive, All-Hearing, All-Seeing, who has the attribute of speech eternally, not having acquired the power of speech or any other of His attributes at any point in time! Free of all deficiencies, defects and change. He cannot be described by the description of any of His creation! He does not resemble anything of His creation, nor anything of His creation resembles Him! Nor is He contained by any place or direction, Subhana hu wa ta’ala !


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