Islam, Seeking Knowledge
Today's Khutbah is about seeking knowledge. As Muslims we are instructed to seek knowledge from the cradle to the grave. Having an in depth understanding of Islam helps us to be better Muslims while simultaneously giving us insights into Allah's creation.
Some people turn to "doctors" and "counselors", many of whom function off of theories, while the Qur'an is the roadmap to the human psyche. The Qur'an gives us an in depth understanding of our purpose in life and of Allah's creatures.
When we understand our purpose in life then we know what will give us peace of mind. While going against the things we are supposed to be doing in life will have the opposite effects on us, leading to depression.
Allah answers our call when we turn to Him. He has instructed us to seek knowledge, and from knowledge we are able to attain wisdom. When Allah intends to do good by a person He gives them understanding of the religion.
Not just knowledge, but understanding. You have to get the knowledge first before you can understand it. When we understand the religion we can safeguard against false practices. Everything has been laid out for us in Islam but that doesn't mean we don't make an effort.
When we make the effort to learn Allah's religion we get blessings for every moment of study and every act of implementation. Everything we teach is rewarded when those who learn practice it. So when we learn for Allah's sake, without ulterior motives the reward is tremendous.
Allah guides people who seek His guidance, and He teaches people who seek to have a proper understanding. You will notice an improved difference when you ask Allah to increase you in knowledge. A good du'a to achieve this is given in the Qur'an, i.e.:
"...and say, 'My Lord! Increase me in knowledge."
The quest for knowledge in Islam has led to advances in knowledge and science throughout history. Things like Algebra were developed by the Muslims to assistant in laws of inheritance laid out through Surah Nisaa'.
In Syria Muslims developed a system called shukuuk, which meant to doubt. The idea was to continue doubting theories, try to prove them wrong. When trying to prove something wrong you can find out what is correct because the truth will stand on its own.
Through this system they developed new geometrical understandings. They were able to determine the distance from the earth to the sun. The circumference of the earth, and the distance from the earth to the moon.
Much of these discoveries were when other people thought the world was flat, but the Muslims had the advantage of the insights provided through the Qur'an as a starting point. Al-Hamdulillah for Allah's guidance and insights.
A further example of the power of du'a when it comes to the attainment of knowledge is found in the following Hadith:
"Ibn 'Abbas (R) narrated: 'Once the Prophet (peace be upon him) entered a lavatory and I placed water for his Wudu.' He asked, 'Who placed it?' He was told, "Ibn 'Abbas." He said, 'O Allah! Make him understand the religion."
(Bukhari and Muslim)
We see this act of kindness on the part of Ibn 'Abbas (R) towards the Prophet (peace be upon him), and his du'a for the brother to receive understanding of the religion. In historical hindsight we now know that Ibn Abbas (R) went on to become one of the greatest scholars in Islamic history.
Although he was younger than a lot of the Companions (R), they would oftentimes come to Ibn 'Abbas (R) for consultation of religious learnings after the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) passed on.
He would also seek knowledge himself, sometimes camping out in front of brother's houses so they could teach him something at their convenience. Ibn 'Abbas (R) loved to learn and Allah blessed him with keen insights into the religion that benefited the Muslims for every generation after him.
We need to know how to do things correctly in order to do things properly. Every human is born on fitra, we are all born on purity of faith and naturally inclined to doing what's right. It's the way we are influenced that gets people off track.
Children, who are near the time of their birth on fitra, can teach us a lot in their early approach to life. A universal norm amongst children that may be annoying to some adults is that they like to ask, "Why?" They continue asking that because the human is naturally inclined towards learning and understanding.
Allah taught Adam (A) the names and purposes of everything in creation. Shaitan then deceived Adam (A) and his wife Eve by making it seem like he had some type of knowledge about the forbidden tree that they didn't have.
Our Lord equips us with the knowledge and the tools for everything that we will face in life in order to safeguard us from wrongdoing. Just like he warned our grandparents Adam (A) and Eve. When we practice these things then Allah increases the amount of guidance in life that we receive from Him. Allah says:
"And Allah increases in guidance those who walk aright. And the righteous good deeds that last are better with your Lord for reward and better for resort."
If we show gratitude towards Allah in anything He gives us more. This applies to anything good that we show gratitude for. We will find solutions coming to us, people unexpectedly helping, all through Allah's Mercy.
In Islam we learn that good compounds on top of itself. Everything feeds one on top of another to benefit us and bring us to a higher level. People of understanding operate on a human level, while people who simply rely on inclination are reflective of animals who do the same.
The more that people learn and develop a proper understanding of Islam the more they will typically be obedient to Allah. Sometimes people don't practice things in accordance with their knowledge, but people who do, will reach a superior spiritual status. Allah says:
"Is one who is obedient to Allah, prostrating himself or standing (in Prayer) during the hours of the night, fearing the Hereafter and hoping for the Mercy of his Lord (like one who disbelieves)?' Say, 'Are those who know equal to those who don't know?' It is only men of understanding who will remember (i.e. get a lesson from Allah's Signs and Verses)."
Allah has perfected Islam for us and sent us the perfect Book in the Qur'an, since it cannot be changed, along with everything else about it. Like anything in life, we have to spend time with somebody or something to gain knowledge and understanding of it or them.
In order to gain a feel for the Qur'an then we need to do the same thing. We have been benefited through the work of the true scholars of early Islam who put in a lot of the hard work so we don't have to reinvent the wheel.
With the exception of clarification concerning modern technologies and the like, everything is laid out for us. People who come along and act like all of the generations in the past had it all wrong are the ones who we should actually be on guard against.
Islamically, we already have the model laid out for us. We have the responsibility to learn the religion ourselves and to pass it on to the next generation of brothers and sisters. This begins with the Qur'an, the benefits of which can not be expressed more clearly than they are in the following Hadith:
"Uthmaan (R) narrates that the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said, 'The best amongst you is he who learns the Qur'an and teaches it."
We have to first learn something ourselves before we can teach it to someone else. The zeal for learning is something to encourage throughout the community. Take from the model of previous communities during the Islamic empires where universities and free education began and advanced those societies.
Education wasn't for the elite or higher social classes, but for anybody who chose to show up and learn. This is a benefit of believing in something beyond this worldly life. Al-Hamdulillah, we see some of the immediate benefits in the following Hadith:
"No people gather in a house from Allah's houses, to recite Allah's Book and study it together, except that As-Sakeena (serenity) descends upon them, mercy envelopes them, the Angels surround them, and Allah mentions them to those who are with Him..."
Not only does the knowledge benefit us in common ways that knowledge does, but reading the Qur'an and studying it with other Muslims works as a stress relief. Gathering for the recital and study of Allah's book gives us peace of mind, lessens anxiety and increases Allah's Mercy upon us.
Another benefit of these gatherings is the collective teaching that it brings. Each of the people in the circle may have various things that they contribute to the lessons which helps to expedite the learning process for everyone who's gathered there to learn.
Learning allows us to know both what to do and what to avoid. We get to know Allah through His Book and develop a deeper sense of love and appreciation towards Him. Fear of Allah is both the fear of His punishment and the fear of disappointing Him out of love and respect for Him. Allah says:
"Among His servants, only those who have knowledge fear Allah."
How can a child fear a hot stove if they don't have a concept of heat? A spanking from a parent or getting burned might teach them, but the point is they need some type of knowledge to be able to associate the heat of the stove with potential danger.
If we don't take the time to learn our religion and the things we are supposed to do, as well as what we are supposed to avoid, then we can't practice Islam properly. When we know the punishments, which knowledge acts as a deterrent to committing sins. Without knowledge of the danger there is no fear.
We should learn how to function in life with the Qur'an and the Sunnah of Muhammad (peace be upon him) as the guiding principles. The religion is our standard to weigh against everything, but we still need to know how to function in the world.
Learning Islam properly allows us to function in the world in a manner that is pleasing to Allah, beneficial to us and all of mankind. At least beneficial to all to mankind that aren't living a wicked lifestyle.
We are encouraged in Islam to reflect on what we learn. Sometimes when we learn things the deeper understanding doesn't come in the moment, but it does come with time. Reflecting on Allah's Book allows for us to see it in light of further experiences we may have had since the initial point in learning. Allah says:
"A Book (the Qur'an) which We have sent down to you, full of blessings that they may ponder over its Verses, and that men of understanding may remember."
You may notice that Allah will give you experiences in life that correlate to something you are currently learning. He did this during the lifetime of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and this allows for the lesson to be retained better. It is a tremendous blessing from Allah as well.
The proper understanding of the religion is a trust from Allah. We saw in previous generations who were under other Prophets (peace be upon them all) that some of them abused this knowledge and didn't take proper care to safeguard it. Allah says:
"But it is clear verses in the hearts of those who are given knowledge. And no one rejects Our verses except the wrongdoers."
Islam makes things so clear and precise that the only people who reject it after gaining a true knowledge of its teaching are wrongdoers. People who really don't seek to serve Allah, but have their own agenda that they are seeking to accomplish in this worldly life.
The danger that some of us miss as Muslims is that we will learn about the mistakes (or all out wrongdoing) of previous communities and forget to learn from them. There are lessons in what not to do when looking at where they messed up.
One of the scariest realities is that we've been warned by the Prophet himself (peace be upon him) that everything the People of the Book (Jews and Christians) did, there will be a Muslim who does the same thing.
To the extent that if one of them broke a shoe strap, there will be a Muslim who breaks a shoe strap. If one of them had sexual relations with his mother there will be a Muslim who does the same. With that context in mind we should be on guard from an example in Allah's verse:
"Truly, the religion with Allah is Islam. Those who were given the Book did not differ except out of mutual jealousy, after knowledge had come to them. And whoever disbelieves in the verses of Allah, then surely Allah is Swift in calling to account."
The example we should be on guard against in this verse is the example set by the People of the Book. They only started to differ with each other after knowledge had come to them. They were mutually jealous of each other.
We can't control someone else's actions, but we can control ourselves. We can ensure that even if other Muslims are jealous of us then we don't allow that to become mutual jealousy. There will be some Muslims who do this at some point, but we should try to avoid it from being us.
It is also interesting that they only did this after having attained knowledge. This is one of the only downsides of knowledge, and that's the misuse of it. People becoming arrogant know-it-alls. Knowledge is to make us better, not divide us, and sometimes there's more than one legitimate way to do something.
This goes back to when Allah intends to do good for a person He gives them understanding of the religion. Simply having knowledge isn't the key, it's how that knowledge is to be applied. Even if someone had the knowledge of having memorized the entire Qur'an but not the understanding of how it applies then that knowledge by itself isn't as beneficial as the understanding of the proper application of it.
Knowledge should be a unifying quality and not something divisive. Allah has spread out human beings across the earth. Muslims are the most diverse and widespread as far as cultures and landmass, yet we have the same religion. This shows that people can have differing cultural qualities as long as they don't contradict Islam, Allah says:
"O mankind! We have created you from a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes that you may know one another. Verily, the most honorable of you with Allah is that (believer) who has fear of Allah."
Again, this fear is not just from Allah's punishment, but fear of displeasing Him out of love and respect for Allah. Race and gender doesn't factor in for who's a better person, it's a person's character that determines that.
Allah informs us in the above verse that the purpose in the adaptation of differing races and cultures is for us to learn from each other, not to despise each other. People in various parts of the world have lost sight of things and are now taking pride in something they had no choice in.
Nobody gets to choose what race or nationality they are born in to and it is foolish and divisive to be against other people who don't look or speak the same as we do. If we learn about other people then we will find commonalities that help bring about unity, and teach us to get outside of our own little boxes.
When we get in the habit of getting outside of the box, we can then utilize the knowledge we learn to help find solutions to problems that benefit ourselves and mankind.
Islamically we are commanded not to conceal knowledge about the religion and should share it to the best of our ability as seen in the following Hadith:
"He who is asked something he knows and conceals it will have a bridle of fire put on him on the Day of Resurrection."
In closing, knowledge is essential for us to be able to practice Islam properly and for us to function in life. Seeking knowledge should be done from legitimate sources, all information isn't necessarily knowledge. May Allah Grant us true and proper knowledge that is beneficial to and for us. May He make it easy for us to retain and may He Give us good in this world, good in the Hereafter and Protect against the torment of the Hellfire and the actions that would get us there. Aameen.