The Intention Behind Seeking Knowledge
Source: Ad-Da'wah Ilallaah (Vol 1/Issue 3)
Actions Are Judged By Intention
By Allaah’s permission we should already have some idea of how important it is to seek knowledge of our religion, and feel motivated into doing so because of the many excellent rewards and virtues attached to this deed. But before actually seeking and acquiring this knowledge we must find out the intentions behind it, the reasons why a Muslim must gain knowledge of his religion.
Every deed and saying has behind it an intention, but for the Muslim, every intention must be correct, since the Messenger of Allaah, SallAllaahu `alaihi wa sallam, informed us: "Actions are judged by intentions and every man shall have that which he intended..."(1) The correct intention is as important as the action itself. It is certainly more difficult to achieve as the scholars of the past - our Pious Predecessors - used to say: "Nothing is harder for me to handle than the intention, for it overwhelms me."(2) One of them also said: "Learn the intention, for it is more serious than the action."(3)
The Correct Intentions
The intention behind all our actions should be to earn the pleasure of Allaah, and seeking knowledge is no exception. We know that this noble action has attached to it many rewards as the Messenger of Allaah informed us that for the seeker of knowledge "...angels accord welcome and whatever is in the heavens and the earth and even the fish in the depth of the water seek forgiveness... and that Allaah - the Most High - ...directs him to tread a path from the paths of paradise."(4) This, then, should be at least one reason for gaining knowledge, to acquire for oneself these great blessings, both in this world and the Hereafter.
Another benefit of seeking knowledge of Islaam is that it will, by the permission of Allaah, remove ignorance about the religion from ourselves. A Muslim cannot remain in a state of doubt and confusion about how to worship Allaah, because this will prevent him from worshipping Allaah correctly. However, acquiring knowledge of this will eradicate the ignorance.
Imaam al-Aajurree (d. 360H) - rahimullaah - said: "...worship is not possible without knowledge, so seeking knowledge is compulsory and ignorance is not a good state for the believer to be in, so he seeks knowledge to remove ignorance from himself and to be able to worship Allaah in the way Allaah has commanded..."(5)
And it is only when one has removed ignorance from oneself that one can help lift the veil of ignorance that also prevents others from the true worship of their Lord.
Also acquiring sound knowledge of Islaam enables one to counter the attacks upon it from disbelievers and innovators and all others who want to either destroy or corrupt it. So equipped with certain knowledge one can be in a better position to defend the religion.
There are then, certain reasons behind seeking and acquiring knowledge: wanting the rewards and excellence attached to it, wanting to remove ignorance from oneself and others about Islaam in order to worship Allaah properly and being able to defend the religion.
Warnings From The Prophet, Sallallaahu ‘ Alaihi Wa Sallam
Many actions can be and are done for the purely worldly gains, to seek personal gain or benefit. As we know, this should not be the reason behind the actions and sayings of a Muslim. To seek the pleasure and reward of Allaah should be our sole aim. To make this easier for us the Messenger of Allaah, sallAllaahu `alaihi wa sallam, warned us against doing actions for other than the sake of Allaah and specifically against seeking and acquiring knowledge for the wrong reasons, with incorrect intentions.
He, sallAllaahu `alaihi wa sallam, said: "Whosoever learns knowledge by which is to be sought the Face of Allaah, but he does not do so except to goal of this world, he will not smell the odour of Paradise on the Day of Resurrection."(6)
In another narration the Prophet warned us by saying: "Do not learn the knowledge to amaze/stupefy by it the scholars, nor to delight against the foolish by it, nor to possess the gatherings by it. Whosoever does so, then the Fire, the fire."(7)
These two ahadeeth are extremely clear in their warnings against acquiring knowledge with other than the correct intention. Knowledge of Islaam is sought to teach ourselves and others, but most importantly to act upon (to be covered in the next issue, inshaAllaah) as Allaah, the Most High, revealed: "It is only those who have knowledge among his slaves that fear Allaah." [Soorah Faatir 35:28]; and as some of the scholars of the past used to say: "Knowledge is not narrating much, but knowledge is fear of Allaah."(8)
It should not be sought for reasons of fame or status, which are goals of this world. We should be fearful of not falling into this category, since as the ahadeeth state the consequences are severe - Hellfire.
We must therefore constantly check our intentions to ensure sincerity and purity of action, especially those in the forefront of dawah, calling people to Islaam; since it is easier for intentions to become tainted whilst standing infront of an audience or group of people. Shaitaan is also constantly at work trying to ruin our good deeds in whichever way he can.
So let us be careful and anxious about why we are seeking knowledge of Islaam and ask Allaah to save us from being included with the likes of the first to be judged by Him on the Day of Judgement, about whom the Prophet, SallAllaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, warned us: "...So the first to be summoned will be a man who learned knowledge and taught it and read the Qur’aan. He will come with it and favours to him will be made known to him and he will recognise it. It will be said: What have you done by it? ‘He will say: ‘I studied the knowledge and taught it and recited for You the Qur’aan. It will be said:
‘You have lied. Rather you studied the knowledge so that it would be said of you: ‘a scholar’ and you recited the Qur’aan so it would be said of you: ‘a reciter.’ And that was said. Then he will be commanded and would be dragged on his face until he is thrown into the Fire..."(9)
May Allaah - the One free from all imperfections - protect us from this.
1. Reported by al-Bukhaaree and Muslim from Umar ibn al-Khattaab radiAllaahu ‘anhu.
2. From Sufyaan ath-Thawree as is related in Jaamiul-Uloom wal-Hikam (p.34) of Ibn Rajab.
3. From Yahyaa ibn Abee Katheer as is in Jaamiul-Uloom wal-Hikam (p.34) of Ibn Rajab.
4. SAHEEH: Reported by Ahmad and Ibn Hibbaan. Authenticated by al-Albaanee in Saheehul-Jaami .
5. From Akhlaaqul Ulemaa (pp.42-43) of Imaam al-Aajurree.
6. SAHEEH: Reported by Ahmad (2/338), Aboo Daawood (3664), and others from Aboo Hurairah radiAllaahu ‘anhu. Authenticated by Shaikh al-Albaanee in Saheehul-Jaami (6159).
7. SAHEEH: Reported by Aboo Hurairah in al-Faqeeh wal-Mutafaqqih of Khateeb al-Baghdaadee (2/88).
8. From Fadlul ilmus-salaf of Ibn Rajab (p.46).
9. Narrated by Muslim, an-Nasaaee (6/23-24), Ahmad (2/322) and others, from Aboo Hurairah.