Etiquette of the Seeker of Knowledge
The most beloved deed to Allaah after the obligatory acts, is seeking knowledge. Allaah prepared high degrees in Paradise for those who are granted knowledge.
Knowledge has a great status in Islam as the first verse that was revealed called for learning. Allah the Almighty says: “Recite in the name of your Lord who created” [Quran 96:1]
In Surah al-Mujadilah, Allaah says: “Allah will exalt in degree those who have been granted knowledge.” [Quran 58:11]
Allaah’s Messenger (sallaAllaahu alaiyhi wasallam) said: “When Allaah wills to do good to someone, He bestows upon him the understanding of the religion (Understanding of the Qur’an and Sunnah)”
The sunnah of the Prophet confirms the lofty status of knowledge and therefore, it made the way of seeking knowledge one of the ways of entering Paradise. The Prophet said: “Whoever follows a way to seek knowledge, Allah will make easy for him a way to Paradise.” [Al-Bukhari, Abu Dawood and At-Tirmithi]
Moreover, the reward of knowledge reaches the deceased and it never stops. The Prophet said: “When a person dies, his deeds will all come to an end except for three: continuous charity, knowledge from which people derive benefit, and a righteous child who would supplicate to Allah for him.” [Muslim]
This knowledge will not only benefit you, but whomever you impart the knowledge to, and the reward of this knowledge will continue for you after your death.
Abu Rifa‘ah (may Allah be pleased with him), came to the Prophet while he was delivering a Khutbah (sermon) and said, “O Messenger of Allah, I am a stranger who came to ask about matters of his religion because he does not know about his religion.” The Messenger of Allah looked at him, stopped delivering the Khutbah and went to him to teach him the religion until he knew and understood. After that, the Prophet continued his Khutbah.
When the companion would go out to meet Ibn ‘Abbas he would say to him: “O cousin of the Messenger of Allah why did you come? You should have sent someone for me, and I would come to you.” Ibn ‘Abbas, may Allaah be pleased with him, would say: “No. I am the one who should come to you to ask you about the Hadeeth.” [Al-Haakim]
The angels surround the seeker of knowledge with their wings as Safwan Ibn ‘Assal Al-Muradi said: “I came to the Prophet while he was in the mosque reclining on a red cloak of his and I said to him, ‘I came to seek knowledge.’ He said, ‘Welcome seeker of knowledge. Indeed, the angels surround the seeker of knowledge with their wings.” [Ahmad and At-Tabarani]
However, in order to receive all the benefits of seeking knowledge, one has to fulfill the following conditions:
Seeking knowledge is one of the highest of pursuits and heights cannot be attained except by working hard and striving.
- Purity of Intention (Ikhlaas):
Let your aim be seeking Allaah’s pleasure. Beware of showing off .The Messenger of Allaah (sallaAllaahu alaiyhi wasallam) said: “Whoever seeks knowledge in order to compete with the scholars or to prove himself superior to the ignorant or draw attention of people to him, Allaah will cause him to enter Hell.” (narrated by al-Nassai; classed as saheeh by al-Albaani)
The one who seeks knowledge should have a sincere intention and should not do so for the love of fame or dominance. The Prophet said: “Actions are based on intentions and every person will be rewarded according to what he has intended.” [Al-Bukhari and Muslim]
- Acting Upon What you Know:
Know that acting upon what you know is the fruit of knowledge. Whoever knows and does not act upon his knowledge is like the Jews whom Allaah likened to the ugliest things in His Book. (al-Jumu’ah 62:5)
And whoever acts without knowledge is like the Christians who are the “daalleen” (those who have gone astray) as mentioned in surah al-Faatihah.
- Always being Aware of Allah’s Watchfulness:
Proceed to your Lord with fear, hope and love. Rejoice with Allaah’s blessings. Always call upon Allaah (du’aa) in every sujood, asking Him to bless you with beneficial knowledge. If you are sincere to Allaah, He will support you and help you.
- Make the Best Use of your Time:
Make use of the most of your youth and your whole life by learning. Don’t be deceived by procrastination and wishful thinking about the future. Every hour of your life that passes by cannot be replaced. Cut away with distractions and obstacles which prevent you from striving to attain knowledge. Allaah has not given man two hearts in his chest and similarly knowledge will not give you a part until you give it your all.
- Be Cautious:
Beware of being preoccupied in the beginning with the disputes among the scholars as this confuses the mind. Instead, give your all to the book that you are studying.
Strive to verify that which you want to memorize so that you are certain of it. Then memorize it properly and continually repeat it and review it at specific times each day, to prevent forgetting what you have memorized.
- Studying Books:
Let your concern to seek knowledge be uppermost. Do not be content with little knowledge when you are able to do more. Do not delay learning anything that you can. If you learn something now, you can learn something else later.
Make the most of your time, when you are less busy. Make the most of your youth when your mind is fresh, and you have less distractions.
- Choosing Companions:
Choose righteous friends who are preoccupied with seeking knowledge and are of good nature, who can help you achieve your aim, add to the benefits you have already gained, encourage you to seek knowledge, who are sincere and not merely messing about.
Beware of the bad companion, for they may influence you. Birds of a feather, flock together.
- Respecting Teachers:
Initially, knowledge cannot be gained from books. You must have a teacher. You must have good manners towards her, for this is the way to success, learning and strength. You must honor, respect and be polite to the teacher. Observe the utmost standards of etiquettes when you speak or sit with her. Be polite and do not argue with her or compete with her. Do not put yourself before her. Rather wait the answer from her. Do not call her directly by her name or nickname; rather say “O my teacher” or “O our teacher”.
If you think that the teacher has made a mistake, do not let her loose respect in your eyes, because that will deprive you of knowledge. Who is entirely free from error? May Allah make us strong and steadfast.
There are etiquettes for seeking knowledge that one should adhere to and they are:
- Seeking beneficial knowledge:
The Messenger of Allah used to say in his supplications: “Allahumma innee a‘oothu bika min ‘Ilmin la-yanfa‘, wa ‘amalin laa yurfa‘, wa-min du‘aa’in laa yusma‘ (O Allah, I seek refuge with You from knowledge that does not benefit, deeds that are not accepted and a supplication that is not answered.)” [Ahmad, Ibn Hibban and Al-Hakim]
- Seeking knowledge at an early age:
It was narrated that the Prophet said: “Any young child who seeks knowledge and worships Allah until he grows up, Allah Will Grant him on the Day of Resurrection the reward of seventy-two steadfast affirmers of truth.” [At-Tabarani]
- Seeking knowledge gradually:
The one who seeks knowledge should start with the basics and preliminary sciences before diving into it. And this should be according to the directions of his teachers. One should be diligent to know all sciences and not to leave any of them.
Yahya ibn Khalid said to his son: “You should learn some of each branch of knowledge as man is the enemy of anything that he is ignorant of and I would hate for you to be an enemy of any branch of knowledge.”