The academic year for madāris throughout the world starts in the month of Shawwāl. Students of 'ilm resume their studies and once more tread that special path that leads to Jannah. The importance and reward of acquiring Dīnī knowledge cannot be over emphasised. Allāh ta'ālā states:
Can those who know be equal to those who do not know? (39:9)
The Glorious Qur'ān and the ahādīth of Rasūlullāh sallallāhu 'alayhi wasallam emphasise the necessity and virtue of acquiring Dīnī knowledge. Nothing demonstrates this more clearly than the fact that Allāh ta'ālā has ordered Rasūlullāh sallallāhu 'alayhi wasallam to supplicate to Him for increase in knowledge:
Say: "O my Lord! Increase me in knowledge..." (20:114)
Voluminous books can be written on this subject, but in this editorial I wish to focus on certain factors that are very important yet often overlooked by those who have been favoured by Allāh ta'ālā with the opportunity to engage in the acquisition of 'ilm. It is also important for those facilitating Dīnī knowledge to ensure that those enrolled in their institutes do not fail in their objective due to these factors. Likewise, parents should also keep a watchful eye over their children and ensure they are not remaining ignorant and wasting a valuable opportunity in their lives due to these factors.
In order to be bestowed knowledge it is not sufficient to merely enrol in a madrasah and complete an 'Ālimiyyah Course; it is also necessary to save oneself from those factors that become an obstacle in the acquisition of knowledge. The main factors are as follows:
1. Sin and disobedience to Allāh ta'ālā
This is the greatest and most dangerous obstacle to the acquisition of knowledge. Dīnī knowledge is not merely the accumulation of facts and scholarly opinions; Dīnī knowledge is a special nūr from Allāh ta'ālā. Sinning engulfs the heart in darkness, leaving no room for this nūr.
The great imām, Imām Ash-Shafi'ī rahimahullāh once complained to his respected teacher Imām Waqī' rahimahullāh about his difficulty in keeping knowledge to memory. His teacher did not advise him in techniques of learning or ask how much effort he was making in his studies; instead, he advised his student to stay away from sins. Imām Ash-Shafi'ī rahimahullāh says in a couplet:
I complained to Waqī' of my poor ability in memorising,
He advised me to abandon sins,
For knowledge is nūr from Allāh,
And the nūr of Allāh is not given to the disobedient.
It is worth noting that to break madrasah rules is also a sin. By enrolling in a madrasah a student enters a contractual agreement to abide by the rules of the madrasah. To then break any rule becomes a sin, as it entails breaking a command of Allāh ta'ālā:
O Believers! Fulfill your covenants... (5:1)
Therefore, students must distance themselves from the disobedience to Allāh ta'ālā and adopt taqwā. This will bring great barakah in one's knowledge. Allāh ta'ālā states:
Whoever fears Allāh, He brings forth a way out for him, and provides him [with what he needs] from where he does not even imagine... (65:2-3)
2. Lā Ya'nī and Wasting Time
Here, three points should be kept in mind:
a. Be mindful not to waste a single moment.
Time is a gift of Allāh ta'ālā that cannot be preserved. Minutes just tick away, signaling that life is ticking away. Abū Ad-Dardā' radhiyallāhu 'anhu and Al-Hasan Al-Basrī rahimahullāh say:
You are but days: when a day passes, part of you has passed.
The time you have taken out for the acquisition of knowledge should be spent in that very objective. Once this time passes it will not return, and only regret will remain. Our pious predecessors would not let a single moment go to waste. They would sacrifice even the necessities of life in their pursuit of knowledge.
b. Do not become involved in lā ya'nī.
Lā ya'nī is a sickness due to which even talented students find themselves left behind. Lā ya'nī means to spend time doing something that is of no benefit in this world or the hereafter. Common examples of students succumbing to lā ya'nī are following sports in the media and listening to sports commentaries. Playing sports (whilst remaining within the limits) is beneficial, but listening to commentaries is of no benefit. Other examples of lā ya'nī are reading novels, following the news, interacting on social media etc. These can all be classed as robbers of time.
A person may reason that as lā ya'nī is not harām there is no harm in it, but were it really harmless why would Rasūlullāh sallallāhu 'alayhi wasallam discourage it?
It is from the beauty of one's Islām that he leaves lā ya'nī. (Muslim)
... and Allāh dislikes futile talk... (Al-Bukhārī)
There are many harms of lā ya'nī:
• It occupies the mind. To free the mind and focus solely upon knowledge is essential for success. All lā ya'nī activities result in wasting precious time and in mental distraction.
• It sets a bad example. A person seeking knowledge is on the path of becoming an example for others. Should he be engaging in such activities, or setting a better example?
• It leads to sin. Hadrat Thānwī rahimahullāh explains that every futile and lā ya'nī act borders on sin: although initially mubāh (permissible), lā ya'nī ends in sin.
c. Do not mix with people unnecessarily.
Friendships and unnecessary mixing will lead to loss. If a person were to recall occasions in his life when he did not achieve his potential or he incurred a loss, he will conclude that one of the main contributing factors was friendship.
Whilst staying in the madrasah a student should neither make friends nor enemies. Making friends or enemies occupies the mind and diverts the attention away from the objective. Not making friends does not mean a person remains aloof at all times, only that his mind is not constantly occupied with others. A thermometer to gauge whether friendships are harming you or not is whether you miss your friend when you are apart and whether you are always looking out for him. If that is the case, you have exceeded the boundary of friendship.
Laziness and a laid back attitude will not bring the desired result. Wishes and hopes are of no avail without effort. A poet states:
If knowledge could be gained by mere hopes and desires,
no one on the earth would remain ignorant;
Therefore, exert effort and struggle and do not be slack,
For regret is what awaits the one who is lazy.
In order to acquire 'ilm, effort cannot be overemphasised. Another poet states:
'Ilm is very miserly, it will only give you a little when you give it everything.
A student of knowledge should resolve to work as hard as he can to gain this precious bounty of knowledge.
Imām Muhammad AI-Hasan rahimahullāh states that for a student to succeed, he needs three qualities:
• Greed for knowledge
• Intelligence - If he does not have this naturally, he should strive to improve by exerting every effort possible to comprehend the knowledge he is being taught, and not give up.
• Preoccupation and focus, i.e. he is only occupied in this one task and that is what he is interested in at all times.
Any form of disrespect results in being deprived of knowledge, or at the least its barakāt. One should have adab for everything related to knowledge: teachers, books, classrooms, learning equipment, staff and even fellow classmates. Everything that plays a role in a student's facilitation of knowledge is worthy of respect.
Sometimes a talented student may feel that any disrespect or negligence he had shown in honouring and respecting the means of knowledge has had no adverse effect on him; his abilities, power of recall and position at the top of the class have not altered in the least. However, this is a form of self delusion, for true knowledge and barakāt of knowledge is judged by two things:
a. The degree to which 'ilm manifests itself in a student's life in the form of 'amal.
b. The degree of Dīnī khidmāt a student has the tawfīq to render after graduation.
A quick look at those who have done great Dīnī works will reveal that they were generally not students who excelled academically and always came first in class; rather, their successes were due to their humbleness and their utmost respect and reverence towards their teachers and everything associated to 'ilm.
Sometimes a student regards his own teachers as inferior, so is negligent about showing them respect and honour. He does not see the greatness of world renowned luminaries in his teachers and hence does not feel them to be worthy of his respect and honour. No doubt, there are great 'ulamā in this world, but whatever a student has achieved or achieves is through his own teachers. The ability to read and understand the books of the great scholars has only become possible due to the effort and attention of his teachers, hence every teacher who is a 'link in the chain' has a right to enjoy respect and honour.
If a person is mindful of the above points, then inshā'allāh he/she can hope to gain success in his/her endeavour of seeking knowledge. May Allāh ta'ālā grant us the tawfīq. Āmīn.
Courtesy: Riyadul Jannah