|Imam Zijad’s Corner: Knowledge: A Life-long Journey
True knowledge does not mean only obtaining a degree or diploma that will let one earn an income and guarantee a good standard of living, after which one turns away from learning and does not explore the treasure of knowledge any further; true learning means that one continues to read and study, increasing one’s learning day by day.
Early generations of Muslims never stopped seeking to increase their knowledge, no matter how high a level of learning they had achieved and they would continue their pursuit until the end of their lives.
They believed that knowledge was a living thing that would thrive if it were actively pursued, but would wither and perish if it were ignored and abandoned. Many sayings are attributed to these intellectual giants that eloquently express their respect for learning and their keenness to acquire knowledge. Some examples of their sayings are given below.
Imam Ibn ‘Abd al-Barr reported that Ibn Abi Ghassan said: “So long as you are seeking knowledge you are knowledgeable, but as soon as you abandon this pursuit you become ignorant.”
Imam Malik (r.a.) said: “No one who has knowledge should stop seeking knowledge.”
Imam Abu ‘Amr ibn al-‘Ala’ was asked: “For how long does it befit a man to seek knowledge?” He said, “For as long as he has life in him.”
Imam Sufyan ibn ‘Uyaynah gave an excellent answer when he was asked “Who is most in need of seeking knowledge?” He said: “Those who have the most knowledge.” He was asked, “Why?” and he replied, “Because if they make a mistake, it is worse.”
Such was Imam Fakhr al-Din al-Razi (d. 606 AH), the great mufassir (Qur’anic exegete) and prominent scholar in philosophy (‘ilm al-kalam) and other disciplines, who authored many works. Allah gave him such fame in knowledge that people would come from all over to see him whenever he visited a city. When he came to the city of Merv (in Turkmenistan), flocks of scholars and students came to have the privilege of listening to and learning from him. Among the seekers of knowledge who attended his circle was a young man, less than twenty years old, who was very well versed in literature and genealogy. When Imam Fakhr al-Din realized that this student was an expert in genealogy, a field in which he knew very little, he asked his student to teach him. He did not find it unacceptable to become the student of his student, and he even made him sit in the teacher’s place while he himself sat at his feet. Such an act was characteristic of Imam Fakhr al-Din al-Razi, and it did not detract from his high status, as he was the scholar of his age.
How great was the love and respect these scholars gave to knowledge! How highly they regarded it, and how great is the need for the later generation to learn from the attitude of their forebears…especially our beloved Canadian Muslim youth!