Assalamualaikum SS Dato’ Seri Mufti. I’m a student in University Sains Islam Malaysia (USIM). My question is, how can I study for the sake of knowledge and not solely for exams?
Alhamdulillah, praise and thanks to Allah for the countless blessings He has blessed us all with. Blessings and salutations to the Prophet Muhammad PBUH, his wives, his family, companions and all those that follow his teachings to the day of judgement.
First and foremost, we first need to understand the purpose of studying and this is mentioned in the Quran:
فَلَوْلَا نَفَرَ مِن كُلِّ فِرْقَةٍ مِّنْهُمْ طَائِفَةٌ لِّيَتَفَقَّهُوا فِي الدِّينِ وَلِيُنذِرُوا قَوْمَهُمْ إِذَا رَجَعُوا إِلَيْهِمْ لَعَلَّهُمْ يَحْذَرُونَ
“And it is not for the believers to go forth [to battle] all at once. For there should separate from every division of them a group [remaining] to obtain understanding in the religion and warn their people when they return to them that they might be cautious.”
Surah al-Taubah (122)
The above verse is evidence for the purpose of tafaqquh fi al-din to give reminders and teach the people and ummah. This necessity would surely be impossible if knowledge is limited to just lessons in classes. Hence, there is a need to widen the definition of seeking knowledge other than just achieving high marks in exams.
We suggest students to learn and practise the knowledge they learn as the following:
- Set the intention of seeking knowledge for the sake of Allah SWT. A sincere intention will result in blessings in the pursuit of seeking knowledge. Thus, we will still continue to learn even if it is not for exams.
- Learning not for the sake of challenging the knowledge of scholars, boasting to the ignorant but only due to one’s fear of Allah SWT. So true is the statement of Allah SWT:
إِنَّمَا يَخْشَى اللَّـهَ مِنْ عِبَادِهِ الْعُلَمَاءُ
“Only those fear Allah, from among His servants, who have knowledge.”
Surah Fatir (28)
- There is no rest and willingness to work hard in the effort of seeking knowledge. A tabi’in scholar by the name Abu Nasr Yahya bin Abi Kathir al-Yamani said:
لَا يُسْتَطَاعُ الْعِلْمُ بِرَاحَةِ الْجِسْمِ
A person can never attain knowledge with a rested body.
What’s interesting is Imam Muslim – compiler of Sahih Muslim – included the above wise words together with a hadith from Abi Mas’ud al-Badri, Aisyah, Abdullah bin al-Amr R.Anhum regarding the five mawaqit al-solah (times of prayer).
The question is, why did Imam Muslim include the statement in his Sahih (book)? Al-Qadhi ‘Iyyadh said, a lot of people ask about this narration although it is not a hadith of the Prophet PBUH. He explained that some scholars answered it stating that Imam Muslim was so impressed with the chain of narrations of the times of prayer that he included it in his book. And among the purpose of him including it is to emphasize how in seeking knowledge, masyaqqah and working hard is crucial and this is clear.
Just look at how Imam Muslim himself has to travel alone to Afghanistan, to Naisabur, then to Kuffah, Baghdad, Raqqah, Basrah, Egypt and crossing rural places where disease and plagues are synonymous in the life of a traveller. This is what has led Imam Muslim to include the above wise words in his Sahih. (See Tinta Nasihat untuk Penuntut Ilmu, pg. 98-100)
- Working hard and reading with understanding for there are great advantages and benefits of it. Al-Jahiz once advised to read and study a lot of books, for it is the medicine for sadness. He said: “Books is your friend that will never dismiss you, will not lead you astray and burden you. Books are like people who never tire you, a neighbour who never make you regret knowing him, a friend who never tried to take advantage of you with pleading and deception, delude you with hypocrisy or deceive you with lies.”
- Let’s take the example of previous scholars who went through the journey of seeking knowledge. Here, we include two stories:
First: Ibn al-Rifaaah or his real name Ahmad bin Muhammad bin Ali al-Misri, is a scholar of madhab Syafie. He was born in 645 Hijrah and died in 710 Hijrah. He would study and learn even when he is so sick where he will be in pain when his own clothes touched his body. Even in this state, he would read and learn from books. This is his determination to study.
Second: Syeikh Jamaluddin al-Qasimi died in 1332 Hijrah at a young age of 49 years old. However, in his short time, he has dedicated himself in writing more than 100 books.
Ustaz ‘Asim Baitar said: “Syeikh al-Qasimi passed away leaving more than 100 books to his name. He started teaching at the age of 14 years old and never stopped until he died. He had a lot of students that he had to arrange; whether his class is in mosques or at his house, day or night time. He benefitted from every minute of his life. He once regretted stopping in a crowded coffee shop where he feels that he has wasted his time. He said: “O, what a loss and if time can be sold, I would surely buy all the time that was given to them.”
Syeikh al-Qasimi once said: “Allah SWT love me and bless me so that I can read, study and write books from a young age.” He continued saying: “Allah protect me from useless and unbeneficial things and made me study numerous literature and history.”
He once wrote in the introduction of his book, al-Fadlu al-Mubin (pg.53): “Alhamdulillah, I’m blessed with time and ability to finish reading:
- Sahi Muslim completely in 40 days
- Sunan Ibn Majah in 21 days
- Muwatta’ Imam Malik in 19 days
- Taqrir al-Tahzib and its tashih in 10 days
Hence, we should avoid the feeling of laziness and tired, but use our time wisely in learning and worshipping. (See Masa Peliharalah our book, pg. 68-73)
Lastly, we think that muzakarah (discussions) between students in learning, visits and meets with scholars is crucial to learn and inspire students for the time and effort those scholars have gone through in their study and their ongoing struggles of dakwah and spreading knowledge for the sake of Allah SWT.
An Arabic saying states:
فَتَشَبَّهُوا ﺇنْ لَمْ تَكُوْنُوا مِثْلَهُمْ ﺇنَّ التَّشَبُّهَ باِلْكِرَامِ فَلاَحٌ
Emulate the greats even if you are not one of them, for emulating the great will lead you to greatness.
Insha-Allah, you will feel the joy and contentment in seeking knowledge and reap the rewards of it after working hard in studying.
We will end with the hadith of the Prophet PBUH, teaching us to supplicate in attaining beneficial knowledge:
اللَّهُمَّ إِنِّي أَسْأَلُكَ عِلْمًا نَافِعًا ، وَرِزْقًا طَيِّبًا ، وَعَمَلاً مُتَقَبَّلاً
“O Allah, I ask You for beneficial knowledge, goodly provision and acceptable deeds.”
Sunan Ibn Majah (925)
May Allah SWT bless us with the ability to study and learn as well as teaching it to our community. Amin.