How knowledge is connected to spiritual awakening
by Abu Shama
The connection between knowledge and spirituality
How does knowledge lead to illumination? Why knowledge is a lifelong quest. Why we need knowledge more than food and water
And say (Muhammad): ‘My Lord! Increase me in knowledge.’[Taha: 20:114]
The more we know the more we feel closer to Allah. And for this reason, the Messenger of Allah used to make this supplication as it was mentioned in the Qur’an.
When Allah mentions increase in the Qur’an, He refers to two things; knowledge and piety. The more knowledge you have, the more you can increase in your piety and God consciousness, and therefore this enables you to become closer to Allah.
Imam Ahmed said: ‘People need knowledge more than water and food’ because you can do without food and water for sometime but you need knowledge in every breath of your life. Allah is dictating to the Messenger of Allah (peace be on him): ‘And say O Muhammad, ‘my Lord, Increase me in knowledge.’ An important point to note is that this statement is in the active form. It is a continuous call to Allah, calling Him in a submissive manner, declaring that it is He that sustains and provides for us. So say:
‘O’ Allah provide me the knowledge and the understanding to know You, to obey You, to serve You and to please You, You are our Lord and we have no other Lord to go and ask.’
And when you know Him, you will love Him, when you love Him, you will want to please Him and you will fear to cause Him displeasure. When you know Him, you will trust Him and have hope in Him.
Through your increase in knowledge and your enactment upon what you know will lead you to gain Allah’s pleasure and make you closer to Him. Allah Almighty says in Hadith Qudsi:
‘My servant draws not near to Me with anything more loved by Me than the religious duties I have enjoined upon him, and My servant continues to draw near to Me with optional extra works so that I shall love him.’[Bukhari]
The verse’s underlining message can also be taken to mean ‘My Lord, increase me in closeness to You’. Allah Almighty says in another hadith:
‘When My servant draws close to Me by the span of a palm, I draw close to him by the space of a cubit, and when he draws close to Me by the space of a cubit, I draw close to him by the space covered by two hands, And if he comes to Me walking, I go in hurry towards him.’[Bukhari]
Knowledge is not required for itself for you to be simply knowledgeable, which leads to arrogance. Knowledge is not gained to glorify and worship knowledge, but it is gained in order to humble yourself in front of Allah and to glorify Him, to serve Him, and it should make you be in awe knowing you are in His presence and under His Majesty.
Our aim in life
We should all question ourselves: ‘What is my aim in this life?’
If we find that our aim is to please Allah, then we are on the right path. The path to Allah is only illuminated when a person recognises the central place of Allah in his life and strives to develop his self accordingly. The Messenger of Allah (peace be on him) said:
‘If someone wants to know what position he enjoys in the eyes of Allah, he has only to look at what place he gives to Allah in his heart and life.’[Al Hakim]
Society in general suffers from both mass ignorance and the sweet taste of laziness. To combat these; we have to seek knowledge as a continuous process throughout life. Secondly, we have to apply what we have learnt. We do not learn the knowledge in order to be pleased with what we have achieved; rather, we learn to put our knowledge into practice. Our religion is a practical religion. In order for us to be motivated, Allah rewards us one good deed for an intention of doing a worthy action. If then, we carry out our action; He rewards us at least tenfold.
Sometimes we are all too aware of what our objectives are but we become heedless in our habitual practice, if that is the case, we must strive against ourselves to improve our state of being. We are by the grace of Allah, implementing many of the Sunnah of the Prophet in our daily lives without giving a second thought to it. We wake up and brush our teeth, look after our appearance, use beautiful fragrance, are polite and gentle with people, help our neighbours and share our food which are all recommended acts. We simply lack the consciousness in what we are doing.
Mawlana Jalauddin Rumi in his book Mathnawi tells a tale of two friends discussing the benefits of having the correct intention. A man built a house; his friend visited it and inquired as to why he had set a ventilator where it was. ‘It is to let in the light’, the man said.
‘Didn’t you realise that it will also let in the call of the Adhan?’ said his friend. ‘If you had intended this purpose, your act would have been more pleasing to Allah.’
The Messenger of Allah (peace be on him) said in a simple but a comprehensive hadith:
‘Actions are but by intention.’[Bukhari]
We should remember Allah Almighty before we take any form of action in order to gain the reward from Him, be that studying for Shari’ah based knowledge or discovered knowledge or in our field of work. And for that reason, we have in our traditions a supplication for every worthy action in order to remind ourselves of our intention and awaking our consciousness before acting. All our actions should be for the sake of Allah Almighty and therefore, we need to review our intention on a continuous basis.
A hadith found in the collection of Imam Bukhari records that Prophet Isa (peace be on him) said:
‘Whoever sought the knowledge and whoever learned from this knowledge and acted upon it. He is the one who will be called in the heaven on that day.’[Bukhari]
Knowledge is does not simply come to the one who is idle. Abdullah Ibn Abbas was in the constant search for knowledge; as such he attached himself to the service of the Messenger of Allah (peace be on him). As the young cousin of the Prophet (peace be on him), he would frequently visit his home and stay over.
On one such occasion, the Messenger of Allah (peace be on him) woke up during the night in order to pray. Ibn Abbas was attentive and alert to whatever the Prophet’s routine and needs, and as the Prophet went to answer the call of nature, Ibn Abbas rushed to fetch some water, and left it there for the Prophet (peace be on him) to use. The Prophet (peace be on him) was surprised to find this water at that hour of the night, and then he realised it must have been Ibn Abbas. The Prophet embraced Ibn Abbas and made a Du’a from his heart.
‘O Allah, give him the understanding of the religion and teach the interpretation of the Qur’an.’ [Bukhari]
We can gain a few lessons from this story. This was the birth of Ibn Abbas as we have come to know him, not just another great Companion of the Prophet (peace be on him) but rather the great teacher of this Ummah. Since that Du’a, Ibn Abbas lived almost a different life; Abdullah Ibn Abbas realized that his life was to be devoted to the pursuit of learning and gaining knowledge.
Abdullah gained wisdom beyond his years which came only with devotion and the dogged pursuit of knowledge both during the Prophet’s lifetime and after his death. During the lifetime of the Prophet (peace be on him), Abdullah would not miss any of his assemblies and after the Prophet (peace be on him) passed away, he would take care to go to as many Companions as possible and learn from them what the Prophet (peace be on him) had taught them. His approach towards knowledge made him the figure we have come to love and respect, may Allah be pleased with him.
We also learn that sometimes the smallest thing we might do may change our life. You may help a person in need with something that we perceive to be a minor thing, if he makes a heartfelt Du’a for you, and if Allah Almighty accepts their Du’a, it may be the thing that changes your life.
In the Sahih, Imam Bukhari recorded:
‘A prostitute was forgiven by Allah, because, passing by a panting dog near a well and seeing that the dog was about to die of thirst, she took off her shoe, and tying it with her head-cover she drew out some water for it. So, Allah forgave her because of that.’[Bukhari]
Allah Almighty forgave all her sins because of this act of kindness she showed to a dog. We should never belittle anything as Allah Almighty may facilitate our way to Him by the very act.
When Allah Almighty facilitates for us our spiritual awakening to get nearer to Him, the awakening will revive the heart, which will revive the mind, and in turn revive the spirit and soul. This is the awakening we should seek as this will give us the understanding in how to live in this world. This is what will put us on the right path with the right attitude and focus to earn Allah Almighty’s pleasure.
All this will require the purity in intention and devotion on our part. Sincerity on our part will render our actions to be accepted, and when He accepts our actions, there can be nothing better than this. We do not have to demonstrate that we are good Muslim to others.
This is a series compiled following lectures on ‘The Manners and Etiquette of the Teacher and the Students’. The course was based on a book written by Shaykh al-Islam, Badr al-Din Ibn Jama’ah and conveyed to us by our Shaykh Haytham Tamim.
Qadi al-Qudat, Shaykh al-Islam, Badr al-Din Ibn Jama’ah was born in 639 AH (1241 AD). Originally from Syria and later moved to Egypt. He was educated at Hama, achieved excellence in religious studies and jurisprudence, and became a leading promoter of the Shafi’i Fiqh. Eventually, he attained the high status of Shaykh al-Islam and held the high position of Chief Justice. Imam al-Dhahabi has observed that Qadi Ibn Jama’ah was well versed both in prose and poetry, and had left abundant notes on Fiqh, Hadith, Usul al-Fiqh, and Tarikh(History). He commanded respect and influence, and had a large number of students and followers. He died at Cairo in the year 733 A.H. (1332 A.D.), aged 94, and was buried by the side of the great Imam Shafi’i.
His book on the subject of Adab al-Alim wal-Mutaalim
It was in the year 672 AH (1273 AD) that Ibn Jama’ah completed this book as a guide for both students and teachers to help improve quality of their academic life and work.
Ibn Jama’ah – Etitquettes of Seeking Knowledge
Abd Al Barr – Jami’ Bayan Al Ilm
Al Khateeb Al Baghdadi – Al Jami’ li Akhlaq Al Rawi
February 21, 2023
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