Current Lunar Phase

Monday, November 9, 2009

Upon The High Road

It’s the ninth century. Western Europe is in its Dark Ages.

It's the ninth century. Baghdad is the center of knowledge and civilization.

It's the ninth century, and Baqee Ibn Mukhlid, a Muslim from Spain, decides to travel to Baghdad to seek the knowledge of Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal.

And it being the ninth century, Baqee obviously did not hop on a plane and arrive at his destination within hours. It took a lot of time, effort, and determination to make journey.

But he embarked, left the comfort of his home, and made it to Baghdad. Yet rather than finding Imam Ibn Hambal at a mosque, happily teaching those who wanted to learn, Baqee was told that Imam Ibn Hanbal was under house arrest due to some controversy. The imam was prohibited from meeting people and banned from teaching.

At this point, Baqee could have become dejected and returned home, hoping Allah would reward him for his intention. Or he could have looked for someone else to learn from. But Baqee was determined.

He devised a plan to get the knowledge that he sought despite the circumstances. Baqee, with the undisclosed approval of Imam Ibn Hanbal, disguised himself as a beggar. Every day, he would knock on the door of Imam Ibn Hanbal's house. The imam would open the door, give him food, and along with that something Baqee considered much more precious: A hadeeth.

This method continued for more than a year, with Imam Ibn Hanbal giving him one to three ahadeeth every day, until Baqee returned to Spain, a learned scholar.

How far do we strive to gain knowledge?

With the tools we have now, it should be much easier to seek it. We don't have to cross oceans and disguise ourselves. The would almost really is at out fingertips. By just doing all the customary things we do, we should be able to amass a considerable trove of knowledge.

It's just that often our attitudes stop us from gaining all that we can. Going to school or attending a class has become dreaded. Reading a book to stimulate your thinking is a bore. Having an intelligent discussion is practically a social taboo.

But if we were to attend our classes with the same eagerness that Baqee showed, or visit a library to pick up a worthy book, or seek out the company of intelligent people so as to learn from them, or use the Internet for some actual research, we would gain so much more than we could imagine.

Allah, Exalted, famously stressed importance of knowledge with the very first verse He revealed in the Quran: "Read!".

And the Prophet (PBUH) said: "He who leaves his home in order to seek knowledge, he is in Allah's path until he returns (to his home)" Tirmithi).

And this is not strictly referring to religious knowledge, if you still call it that. These verses and ahadeeth do not just apply to memorizing the Quran, reading tafseer, and collecting ahadeeth.

Any kind of knowledge that is beneficial brings you closer to Allah. And it will help you in the Hereafter.

The Prophet (PBUH) said: "When the son of Adam dies, all his good deeds come to an end, except for three: Ongoing charity, knowledge from which people continue to benefit, and a righteous son who prays for him" (Bukhari and Muslim).

Also he said: "Let there be no envy, except in two things: A man whom Allah gave wealth and guided him to spend it in a righteous way, or a man to whom Allah gave wisdom who acts wisely and teaches it to others." (Bukhari and Muslim).

These two ahadeeth demonstrate the importance and high status of those who have knowledge, especially those who share it with others. In Islam, teachers are one of the most respected groups of people, and rightly so.

Consider the duaa we make in our salah, asking Allah to forgive us, our parents, and those who have taught us. Teachers are so high up on the list of people whom you should care about that they come right after parents in this duaa. And that is saying something.

And we cannot forget the story of Prophet Musa (PBUH). When he was asked about the most knowledgeable person of the time, Prophet Musa replied that it was him. This was definitely not out of arrogance, but out of a sincere belief that he was the most knowledgeable because he was a Messenger of Allah.

But Allah, Most High, told Musa (PBUH), that there was someone more knowledgeable than him, and he commanded Prophet Musa to go find him and seek his knowledge. And so Prophet Musa (PBUH), began his long journey to find Al-Khidhr and learn from him.

The story is laid out in Surah Al Kahf. From these ayahs, we see that once Prophet Musa found Al-Khidhr, he had to show his determination and sincerity to learn. Al-Khidhr was at first reluctant, telling Prophet Musa that he would not have enough patience, to which Prophet Musa replied that he would have patience, and would not disobey any of Al-Khidhr's commands.

How many students nowadays are humble in their learning? How many are earnest and show this kind of obedience? It is more often we seen an arrogant attitude, in which individuals are unwilling to admit they have less knowledge, and have no respect for scholars and teachers. And here we have a Messenger of Allah, a man with the highest possible status among men, humble enough to learn from another.

There are countless other verses and ahadeeth and stories and instances in the history of Islam that show how essential knowledge is. Look them up. Then ask yourself, are you exerting enough effort? Is it possible that the state of affairs of Muslims now is so poor due to a lack of proper education? Is it possible that we seek degrees just to be able to hang up a pretty sheet of paper declaring our achievements, rather than for the sake of the knowledge itself?

The answers to these questions may be a little scary. But we have to face them, and then we have to change them.

And we must ask Allah, the Transcendent, to help us, and say: "Oh my Lord, Increase me in knowledge". (20:114).

by Nour Habib

(Courtesy: Al Jumuah Magazine)

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