Knowledge - Reflections

"the books on our shelves is not really an indication of our knowledge, it's how we apply that knowledge that defines whether we truly are learning." - friend/ blogger (FA*)
Edit: *Ottawa/ Vancouver/ Montreal - Rightly called "A perpetual traveller"

I have been thinking about it. We learn something new everyday, but to what extend do we apply it? While I was still contemplating on it, another friend mentioned (H):
"My "philosophy" (which is what the sunnah is) to eat 1/3rd food, leave 1/3rd for water and the last third for air"

Most of us have heard this hadith, but why don't we put in into action?

And the Prophet (Peace be upon) said:"The son of Adam does not fill any vessel worse than his stomach; for the son of Adam a few mouthfuls are sufficient to keep his back straight. If you must fill it, then one-third for food, one-third for drink and one-third for air."[at-Tirmidhi, 2380, 1939, ibn Majah, 3349]

What we learn isn't always reflected in our actions. Why is there such a big gap between the two? (this is a question to myself first). And if I think about what FA said, if we aren't applying what we know, then "knowing" it doesn't hold any value.

I think this is where the term "beneficial knowledge" fits in.

Imam Abu Hamid al-Ghazali (Allah have mercy on him) said,

“Beneficial knowledge is [knowledge] that increases your fear of God Most High, improves your ability to discern the faults of your ego, makes you more cognizant of how to worship your Lord, reduces your desire for this world, increases your longing for the next world, and opens your spiritual insight to the disastrous defects of your actions so you can avoid them. It discloses to you the plots and delusions of the Devil and how he misleads the scholars who have gone astray until he exposes them to the hatred and anger of God Most High, for they have used religion to purchase this world, taken knowledge as a means to gain the wealth of sultans, to consume the wealth of religious endowments, the poor, and the needy, and turned their energies throughout the day to the acquisition of prestige and high standing in the hearts of people, which forces them to show off their good deeds, to argue, and to be quarrelsome and ostentatious when they speak.”

Taken from Words of Guidance and SunniPath Answers

Therefore, the Prophet saws asked us to pray for knowledge that benefits:

O Allah, I seek refuge in Thee from the knowledge which does not benefit, from the heart that does not entertain the fear (of Allah), from the soul that does not feel contented and the supplication that is not responded.” Source: Sahih Muslim, hadith 1260.

Applying what we learn in terms of Sunnah:

Discussion around importance of ahadith/ following the sunnah is a lengthy topic in its own. A lot has been written about it, and my thoughts fall short compared to the other bloggers. But I think it's worth reading Maulana Thanwi's words on following the sunnah:

“The special secret in following the sunnah is this that the person who adopts the sunnah becomes the beloved of Allah. The reason for this is the resemblance to Rasulullah (Sallallahu alaihi wa Sallam). Since Allah has such an immense love for Rasulullah (Sallallahu alaihi wa Sallam), anything or anyone that resembles him will be beloved by Allah. This is the closest way of reaching Allah (Wusool ila Allah).”

-Malfuzaat Kamaalaat-e-Ashrafiyah

Source: The Secret of Being Loved by Following the Sunnah

The one reason why I love Provisions for the Seekers, is because every hadith in that book is so simple, broken down into smaller phrases. The author (Shaykh 'Ashiq Ilahi al-Bulandshehri) wrote the book for beginners of Arabic language, and also he aimed it towards the young minds in the madrasas. If I remember correctly, Mufti Yusuf mentioned in Shariah Progam that the author noticed the students studied the six hadith books close to the last years @ the madrasa. And the curriculum had no hadith books for the beginners. The author thought it was necessary to introduce the hadith in the beginning years. So the book helps not just in understanding the grammar (also the sentence structure, vocabulary....), but also, the teachings are very easy to understand and apply.

For instance, this hadith
"The upper [giving] hand is superior to the lower [taking] hand" - the meaning once again is very simple. It tells us (which is one of many lessons) we should always give, rather than expecting from others.

And "the one who initiates salam is free from pride". Lesson: Whenever possible, be the first to convey salam.

And my personal favorite: "The best among you is he who learns the Qur’ān and teaches it (Bukhārī)." A motivation to learn the Quran, and once you are able - teach it to others.

(I can go on and on...). It says in the introduction to the book:

"The Messenger (upon him be peace) himself said, “I have been sent with the jawami al-kalim” (Bukhari)—that is, pithy language that expresses a multitude of meanings in few words."

This book came as a clear proof to me. The beauty of the words and the depth of meaning are the only two aspects my weak mind could understand. I would personally recommend everyone to get a copy of this book.

Sacred Learning goes a step further and looks deeper into each hadith: Hadith Sessions - Zad al-Talibin (Provisions for the Seekers). And Alhamdulillah to technology, the lectures are available online.


Radiant Light said...


I think it all comes down to the intention and the sincerity of it.
Why do you want to gain Ilm?
If the intention is to act upon it then it benefits, if not it is mere words.

Knowledge is not what is memorised.
Knowledge is what benefits.
- Imam Shafi'
(In other words, that which has results)

As a graduate of the Ilmiyyah course where Zaad ut Taalibeen is taught, you come across many types of students, and from the 2 nd year when the book is taught you can almost see those who will go out and truly work for the deen and act upon it, because you see in them the charecteristics of Zaad ut Talibeen being implemented.

One thing we were always taught:
Do not become an Aalimah (a person of knowledge)
if you don't wish to become an Aamilah (one who acts upon what they know).


Hafsa said...

walaykum salam, Sister Radiant Light (not sure if I can use your name here :) )

Jazak Allah for the thoughts. I love this quote:

Do not become an Aalimah (a person of knowledge)
if you don't wish to become an Aamilah (one who acts upon what they know).

Radiant Light said...

Wa iyyakum

Its a big shame that it isn;t implemneted though :(


Faraz said...


There was an ayah which I just remembered after reading it today that is very relevant to this topic:

The likeness of those who are entrusted with the Law of Moses, yet apply it not, is as the likeness of the donkey, carrying books. (62.5)

I have heard tafseer of this ayah, extending the meaning to say that someone who has knowledge without applying it is like a donkey, which carries books but does not understand them. We might carry lots of books, but without applying it, it does us no benefit. Rather, it can prove to be a burden, as we are questioned on how we applied our knowledge, rather than how much knowledge we acquired.

Hafsa said...

Jazak Allahu Khairan for sharing.

Humairah Irfan said...

Professor Afsa, do you know if the English translation of the book is online? I thought you told me that it is, but I can't find the link in my email :) Or maybe it was some other book. I have to develop exercises for the Shariah Program class, and I've been debating between stories, ayahs and hadith- tough decision!

Hafsa said...

hm, is this it?