All Praise is due to Allah Almighty and Choicest Salutations upon His August Habib (Peace and Blessings of Allah be Upon Him).
I am sharing this brief note extracted from "Fadl al-Ilm wa al-Ulama", the Blessed book by Aarife-Billah, ash-Shaykh al-Imam Naqi Ali al-Qadiri (Alayhir Rahmah) on the Excellence of Knowledge and the Ulama. Here we will discuss about some obstacles to the path of seeking knowledge. I humbly pray that this note will enlighten the hearts and encourage my Muslim brothers and sisters to acquire the knowledge of Deen.
Firstly, The strong resistance from the cursed Shaytan.
Be aware that the most hated and dangerous thing to the Cursed Shaytan is the seeking of knowledge. Therefore, he uses all his powers and resources to stop a student from learning. The Shaytan puts the most Waswasa (interference) on a student of Din. No other deed or worship besides the seeking of knowledge experiences such intensified opposition. The methods of combating these interferences are very simple. All the student has to do is remember all the Ayahs and Ahadith pertaining to the excellence of Ilm-e-Din and never pay attention to the obstruction of the evil Shaytan . Surely, an intelligent man will not give preference to the cursed Shaytan over the Bounties of the Merciful Lord SubHanuhu wa Ta'ala.
Secondly, Carnal desires (Nafs) are very demanding.
It hates hardship and loves relaxing. But when one realises that this world (Duniya) is temporary and that the Hereafter (Akhirah) is the everlasting and original abode, then indeed, the hardship of seeking knowledge becomes a pleasure. One must realise that the hardship of seeking knowledge lasts for a very short period and its benefits and pleasures are limitless. As time passes and the student gets the taste of knowledge, he will develop such pleasure that he will never be at peace without reading a book. No matter where he goes or what he does, he will never be relaxed if he does not read a book on Din.
Thirdly, Association with the public.
In the inception, set out some time to study in privacy and as one progress in this field, one will develop the love of knowledge so much so that everything else will have no value.
Fourthly, Worldly fame and honour.
It is obvious that the seeker of worldly fame is never successful and fades away in time to come. Worldly fame and honour is of no comparison to the honour of the Hereafter. How unfortunate are those who seek knowledge for this world and discard the wealth and dignity of the Hereafter? Such people destroy themselves by thinking that they are successful.
On the contrary, those who give preference to Ilm-e-Din over worldly fame, the Merciful Lord SubHanuhu wa Ta'ala certainly blesses them with honour and integrity in both the worlds. Shaykh Abu-Aswad Radi Allahu Ta'ala Anho states that there is no merit greater than knowledge. A King rules over the people and the Ulama rules over them. Have you not seen that rulers have no choice but to implement the verdicts of the Ulama when matters are brought to their courts?
Anyone who loves and appreciates knowledge will surely not give preference to the kingdom of the world over it. It is reported that a destitute went to a King for a job. The King said that he was ignorant and not fit to serve him. He left and humbled himself at the feet of Imam Ghazali Radi Allahu Ta'ala Anho to study Ilm-e-Din. There, he learnt about the dangers of this world and harms of associating with Kings and the wealthy people. However, Imam Ghazali’s company and tutorship made him an intellectual celebrity. One day, the King called him and assessed his profound knowledge. He was overwhelmed and said: “Now you are worthy of my service. What post would you like to take up?” The 'Aalim replied, “In the past, I was of no use to you and now you are of no use to me. Previously, you did not like me and now I do not like you.”
Fifthly, The greed of wealth.
It is obvious that the perishable wealth of this mundane world cannot be compared to the wealth of knowledge. When a man dies, his wealth does not accompany him to the grave, but the knowledge accompanies him to the grave and always assists him until he enters Jannah. Worldly wealth decreases when it is spent but knowledge increases when it is imparted. The wealthy have to protect his wealth while knowledge protects the Alim. Furthermore, Allah SubHanuhu wa Ta'ala does not leave one a destitute if one gives preference to the seeking of knowledge over business and trade. Imam Ghazali Radi Allahu Ta'ala Anho records in his Ihya al-Uloom,
One who develops understanding in Din, Almighty Allah SubHanuhu wa Ta'ala protects him from depression and provides sustenance for him from places he cannot imagine of.
Sixthly, The destruction of wealth.
Man gets very worried and depressed when he thinks of his undetermined life span and shortage of time. Hence, he wrongfully deduces that knowledge is an ocean and one’s entire life span is too little to achieve it. This is absolute ignorance. No soul can reach the ultimate peak of perfection in knowledge in one’s lifetime, so much so that Allah SubHanuhu wa Ta'ala Commands His Beloved Rasool Peace and Blessings of Allah be Upon Him
Beloved Rasool, say, “O my Lord! Increase my knowledge”. [Surah Taha : 114]
Taking all this into account, there is still no seeker of knowledge that is deprived of honour and excellence. A sincere student of Ilm-e-Din will not experience embarrassment and failure. All the branches of Ilm-e-Din are certainly profitable no matter how little is acquired. The Hadith Sharif states that if a person dies whilst studying Ilm-e-Din and did not complete his course, he will be raised amongst the Ulama on the Day of Qiyamah. Another narration says that if a student of Din dies while studying, the Angels will complete his studies for him in his grave. Is this a small benefit that Almighty Allah SubHanuhu wa Ta'ala Divinely provides for the people of learning (Ulama)?
Seventh, Not to get a compassionate teacher (Ustaz).
This is of paramount importance to a successful student. Surely, one will not be able to achieve anything if the Ustaaz does not teach correctly. Nowadays, there are very few sincere teachers of Din that are dedicated to their students and this has greatly contributed to the dwindling number of good students.
Eighth, The concern for livelihood.
Eight obstruction is the most difficult one and this refers to obtain just enough to carry on with one’s daily needs. Always remember that extra is always extra. The greed for extra is generally found in every human. This greed for extra has destroyed many people. The last two obstructions are serious problems because if one does not get a compassionate teacher what can one benefit from him and if one does not get enough food to eat then how is one to concentrate on studies? Weakness and hunger are serious problems that cannot be controlled by a student. Therefore, it is very important for the wealthy to cater for the student.
Likewise, financial contributions of generous Muslims to Islamic Institutes will certainly remove these problems. There are enormous virtues for the teachers and students of Din and even more so for those who financially keep these Institutes operational. The same will apply to those who encourage people to support such institution. The Hadith Sharif states:
Indeed, the promoter of virtue is like the virtuous. [Sunnah Tirmidi, Hadith 2739]
Besides the above Hadith Sharif there are numerous other Ahadith Sharif in the Siha-Sitta that speaks of the virtues on this subject. However, be mindful that the Thawab of actions vary according to situations and moments. Therefore, the status of the noble Sahaba Radi Allahu Ta'ala Anho are so lofty because they promoted the Din and sacrificed their lives in the most difficult and volatile moments and situations in the history of Islam. Hence, if one promotes Ilm-e-Din in these distraught moments of poverty, one will certainly achieve more Thawab than the wealthy individuals and rich Kings of the past who promoted knowledge. This is so because firstly, the Kings had great resource available and secondly, they lived in the era when Ilm-e-Din was well and alive, progressing day-by-day. The people too, were very honourable and loved to study the Din.
A Sincere Request
Beloved Muslim brethren! Awaken from your dreams of fantasies and seek the knowledge of Din. This is your guide to success in the Hereafter. Why do you waste so much of time in fruitless activities in this temporary abode and pay no heed to the real success and salvation? Spend some time to acquire Ilm-e-Din so that you may distinguish between good and bad. Ignorance is no excuse in the Divine Court of Almighty Allah SubHanuhu wa Ta'ala. In fact, it is a sin on its own. This knowledge is helpful in all aspects of this world and the Hereafter. It will save you from embarrassment and humiliation. Spend some money and time to earn this great wealth. Do not wait for the last moment before you think of studying. It will be useless!!
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Excellence of Knowledge and the Ulama by Mufti Naqi Ali al-Qadiri
English Translation by: Shaykh 'Abd al-Hadi al-Qadiri