Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Superiority of Knowledge

I read an article at Islamicity this morning discussing the value and importance of knowledge. I think the author was implying general knowledge, especially science, math, etc., but I want to quote a portion, with religious knowledge being the focus, and not worldly knowledge. Starting with the following hadith:

A learned person is superior to a worshipper as the full moon is superior to all the stars. The scholars are heirs of the prophets and the prophets do not leave any inheritance in the shape of dirhams and dinars, but they do leave knowledge as their legacy. As such a person who acquires knowledge acquires his full share. [Abu Dawud & At-Tirmidhi]

I don't see how it could be applied to non-religious knowledge, honestly, it seems like the hadith is about knowledge of value in Islam. Because being a person learned in worldly knowledge instead of Islamic knowledge could hardly be superior to a worshipper, wouldn't you say?

The problem according to the author was that Muslims seek wealth over knowledge. I think if they are seeking knowledge that does not help their Islam, it's as useless to them as wealth they don't know how to spend. I'd prefer knowledge to wealth though any day of the week.

He also quotes Ibn Hazm, a Spanish Muslim 'scholar:'

If knowledge had no other merit than to make the ignorant fear and respect you, and scholars love and honor you, this would be good enough reason to seek after it... If ignorance had no other fault than to make the ignorant man jealous of knowledgeable men and jubilant at seeing more people like himself, this by itself would be reason enough to oblige us to feel it... If knowledge and the action of devoting oneself to it had no purpose except to free the man who seeks it from the exhausting anxieties and many worries which afflict the mind, that alone would certainly be enough to drive us to seek knowledge.

I've heard this said another way... that the desirability of knowledge may be evinced by the ignorant who wish to not be thought ignorant, but rather pretend that they are learned.

Ali (RA) was once asked what was better: wealth or knowledge. He said,
Knowledge is superior to wealth for ten reasons:

  1. Knowledge is the legacy of the prophets. Wealth is the inheritance of the Pharaohs. Therefore, knowledge is better than wealth.

  2. You have to guard your wealth but knowledge guards you. So knowledge is better.

  3. A man of wealth has many enemies while a man of knowledge has many
    . Hence knowledge is better.

  4. Knowledge is better because it increases with distribution, while wealth decreases by that act.

  5. Knowledge is better because a learned man is apt to be generous while a wealthy person is apt to be miserly.
  6. Knowledge is better because it cannot be stolen while wealth can be stolen.
  7. Knowledge is better because time cannot harm knowledge, but wealth rusts in course of time and wears away.

  8. Knowledge is better because it is boundless while wealth is limited and you can keep account of it.

  9. Knowledge is better because it illuminates the mind while wealth is apt to blacken it.
  10. Knowledge is better because knowledge induced the humanity in our
    Prophet to say to Allah, "We worship Thee as we are Your servant
    while wealth engendered in Pharaoh and Nimrod the vanity which made them claim Godhead.

I can't say I fully understand point 10, except that knowledge will increase us in humility in submission to God, while wealth would lead us into vanity and arrogance.

But the conclusion is clear, that we are mandated to seek knowledge... but I think not just worldly knowledge, but knowledge that can value us in our Islam. And the scholars of Islam shouldn't hoard the knowledge either, but distribute it as freely and far as possible, and shake Muslims from their collective ignorant comatose.

The article starts off with achievements of Muslims in scientific pursuits, during the 'Golden Age' as it were. His solutions involve Muslims studying more in Western universities and success is measured in books translated annually. I find that to be a little trite, but there is something certainly shameful about the illiteracy prevalent in Muslim countries, among a people whose first command from God was Iqra, Read!
Seeking Knowledge an Imperative by Habib Siddiqui is the article.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

assalamu alaikum sis

it's been a while since i last read anything...my internet was down...

mashaAlah this is a great article...and yes sis anything in this life is without "true" value unless it's to serve Allah

"Say (O Muhammad SAW): "Verily, my Salât (prayer), my sacrifice, my living, and my dying are for Allâh, the Lord of the 'Alamîn (mankind, jinns and all that exists)" 6:162

knowledge won't be of real value unless it helps directly or indirectly to support this great religion,spread it and help ppl to "truely" apply it in their lives...and of course we should start with ourselves

may Allah grant us knowledge which will make Him pleased with us and save us from "knowledge" which is of no "true" value

wassalamu alaikum