A Word Of Advice To Seekers Of Knowledge
We give thanks to Allah, the One free of all defects, for having inspired us. And we ask Him to grant us the ability to act upon what He has given us knowledge of. Indeed, goodness cannot be attained, except by His granting and His assistance. Whomsoever Allah leads astray, there is no one from His creation that can guide him. May Allah send His blessings upon Muhammad, the chief of the first and the last (of people), and upon his brothers from among the prophets and messengers. And upon those who follow the light ( i.e. the Qur’an) that was revealed to him until the Day of Recompense.
To proceed, I advise you O seeker of knowledge to have a sincere and pure intention in your search for knowledge. And that you exert yourself in acting upon what it necessitates (from action). For indeed knowledge is a tree and action is its fruit. And one can never be considered knowledgeable so long as he doesn’t act upon what he has knowledge of.
It has also been stated: “Knowledge is a parent and action is its offspring.” And “Knowledge comes with action, while narrating comes with investigating.”
So do not feel satisfied with actions so long as you are lacking in knowledge. Nor feel satisfied with knowledge so long as you fall short of producing actions. Rather, combine them both, even if your share of the two is small.
And there is nothing worse than a scholar, whose knowledge the people abandon because of the corruption of his ways, nor an ignorant person whose ignorance the people accept because of what they see from his worship.
So a little of this (knowledge) along with a little of that (action) is what is most likely to save you in the end, when Allah bestows His mercy upon His servant and completes his favor upon him. But as for laziness and negligence, love for ease and comfort, preferring the easy life and showing indifference, inclining towards leisure and relaxation, then the results of these characteristics are blameworthy, detestable and disastrous.
Knowledge leads to action, just as action leads to salvation. So if the action falls short of the knowledge, then the knowledge becomes a burden upon the one who possesses that knowledge. And we seek Allah’s refuge from knowledge that turns into a burden, is the cause of humiliation and which becomes a shackle on the neck of the one who possesses it.
Sahl Bin Muzaahim (may he rest in peace) said: “The matter is more tighter upon a scholar than when one clenches his fist tightly, even though the ignorant person is not excused because of his ignorance ( i.e. he will be held accountable). However, the scholar will receive a greater punishment if he abandons what he has knowledge of and doesn’t act upon it.”
So did those of our Salaf (predecessors) from the past reach the high levels that they reached except through sincerity in Creed (Beliefs), righteous actions and overwhelming abstinence of the attractive features of this worldly life? And did the wise people reach the greatest level of success (that they did) except by working hard in their efforts and being pleased with their easy accomplishments, while sacrificing the excess amount from their needs by giving it away to the poor and those who asked?
Is not the one who gathers books of knowledge just like the one who gathers gold and silver? Is not the one who has an intense greed for them just like the one who is eager and desirous of gold and silver? Is not the one who is deeply in love with them just like the one who treasures gold and silver?
So just as wealth does not benefit except by it being spent, then likewise, knowledge does not benefit except for one who acts upon it and carries out its obligations. So let each individual examine himself and take advantage of his time, for indeed the resting place ( i.e. this world) is short, the (time for) departure is near, the road is hazardous and deviating from it is common. The danger is great, the one who takes note has wisdom, Allah, the Most High, is watching over, and to Him is the (final) recourse and return. “And whosoever does an atom’s weight of good, he shall see it.
And whosoever does an atom’s weight of evil, he shall see it.” [99: 7-8]
– From Imaam Abu Bakr Al-Khateeb Al-Baghdaadee’s introduction to his classical work “Iqtidaa-ul-‘Ilm Al-‘Amal”