Thirst for Knowledge
by Abu Shama
Thirst and Ambition to Seek Knowledge
Knowledge is a vast ocean, and the seeker will never attain all of it. You should not be frustrated by the little you know, however this should not make you become lazy by being content with the little you do know.
Have the desire to learn, starting with the foundation and building on this, for every mighty structure is built first from the foundation, and every brick has a potential to be part of a skyscraper.
Imam Nawawi said: One of the requirements of the knowledge seeker is that he should have high ambition. Let his concern to seek knowledge be uppermost such that he should not be satisfied with little while more is possible. He should not be content with a little, and he should not delay his tasks of acquiring a benefit, learning anything new, or be distracted or put off by wishful thinking, even if it is small. Delay is a problem, if he feels assured that he could acquire the same benefit in an hour’s time, he should still not delay it as he could acquire it now and gain a further benefit at the later time. A scholar once said:
‘Whenever ambition is high, it cannot be satisfied with little.
If one is high in ambition, he would aspire to attain the highest summits,
While those who are low in ambition, are content with what is the lowest.’
You can achieve high aspirations by having a steady and a maintainable pace without over-burdening the self. Having a high aspiration attracts endless goodness from Allah Almighty in your life. You only have the one life, so make the most of your time, when you are free and when you are busy. Make the most of your youth when your mind is fresh and you have less distractions, before you become distracted by false ambitions and the desire for worldly possessions. The Prophet (peace be on him) of Allah said:
‘A lover of knowledge is not content with the level of achievement he has attained.’ [Bayhaqi]
The quest for more knowledge and acting upon the knowledge is an ethos of Islam from the cradle to the grave. Abul Wafa Ibn Aqil, the student of Khateeb al-Baghdadi was forever yearning for knowledge, he said:
‘I find that my desire to seek knowledge at the age of eighty is greater than it was when I was twenty.’
The Messenger of Allah (peace be on him) said:
‘There are two avid ones who crave and cannot be satisfied: the one who crave knowledge and he will not be satisfied, and one who craves this world and he will not be satisfied.’ [Bayhaqi]
In our life we should never be content by what we have acquired in terms of knowledge. The root of every disobedience, forgetfulness, and desire is contentment with the self, while the root of every obedience, vigilance, and continence is your dissatisfaction with it. Ibn Ata’illah said in his Hikam:
‘That you accompany an ignorant who is not pleased with his self is better for you than to accompany a knowledgeable person who is pleased with his self.
And what ignorance is that of one who is dissatisfied with himself? And what knowledge is that of one who is satisfied with himself?’ [Al-Hikam Ibn Ata’illah]
Scholar’s love for knowledge
Imam Shafi’i had immense love for seeking knowledge he was once asked:
‘How would you describe your love for knowledge? He said: When I hear a word that I had not heard before, the organs of my body wish they could have the pleasure of hearing it like my ears’ it was said: ‘what about your concern for it?’
He said: ‘It is like the concern of the greedy miser in seeking more wealth’. It was then said to him: ‘What about your seeking of it?’ He said: ‘It is like the seeking of a mother seeking her lost and only child’.
Sulaym al-Razi lived in the 3rd century and was one of the greatest Shafi’i of his time. He would take account of all his time, not leaving any time to pass without gaining some benefit, either writing, teaching or reading, and he used to write extensively. When he went to visit people, he would recite the Qur’an, once he said ‘I read one Juz on the way’
Once his pen lost its sharpness, and whiles he was sharpening it, he was reciting in order not to waste any time. He would not let any time pass by without doing some beneficial act of worship.
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 08, 2022
July 07, 2020
June 28, 2020