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Today’s Quranic Word of the Day is ‘Ilm = عـِلـْم

‘Ilm means knowledge. 

In Islam, seeking knowledge is compulsory upon the believer. No other religion or ideological thought emphasises seeking knowledge as an obligatory deed as Islam does. The Prophet ﷺ said:

طَلَبُ الْعِلْمِ فَرِيضَةٌ عَلَى كُلِّ مُسْلِمٍ

[Sunan Ibn Majah 224]

“Seeking Knowledge is an obligation on every Muslim.”

Knowledge encompasses both worldly knowledge and religious knowledge. It’s not about shunning the world and only seeking knowledge of the deen. Neither is it about seeking knowledge of the world without the guidance of faith.


Sources of Knowledge

The two primary sources of knowledge are the Quran and the Sunnah. These sources are considered revealed knowledge. They are the only kind of knowledge that can develop our spiritual progress for it comes from Allah SWT who is the Most Knowing.

وَٱللَّهُ أَعۡلَمُ بِمَا يُوعُونَ

[Quran 84:23]

And Allah is most knowing of what they keep within themselves.


SubhanAllah, the knowledge found in the Quran and the Sunnah is complete and covers every area of life, including many aspects of science, history, psychology, philosophy, and worldview. It also gives us knowledge of the hereafter and the unseen. 

قُلۡ إِنَّ ٱلۡأَوَّلِينَ وَٱلۡأٓخِرِينَ

لَمَجۡمُوعُونَ إِلَىٰ مِيقَٰتِ يَوۡمٖ مَّعۡلُومٖ

[Quran 56:49-50]

Say, [O Muḥammad], “Indeed, the former and later peoples,”

Are to be gathered together for the appointment of a known Day.”


Secondary sources of knowledge, on the other hand, are derived from human reasoning in matters of the world. Even this knowledge can only come with the guidance and permission of Allah SWT. For Allah has said:

قَالُواْ سُبۡحَٰنَكَ لَا عِلۡمَ لَنَآ إِلَّا مَا عَلَّمۡتَنَآۖ إِنَّكَ أَنتَ ٱلۡعَلِيمُ ٱلۡحَكِيمُ

[Quran 2:32]

They said, “Exalted are You; we have no knowledge except what You have taught us. Indeed, it is You who is the Knowing, the Wise.”

.ٱقۡرَأۡ وَرَبُّكَ ٱلۡأَكۡرَمُ. ٱلَّذِي عَلَّمَ بِٱلۡقَلَمِ. عَلَّمَ ٱلۡإِنسَٰنَ مَا لَمۡ يَعۡلَمۡ

[Quran 96:3-5]

Recite, and your Lord is the most Generous. Who taught by the pen. Taught man that which he knew not. 



How Can Knowledge Benefit Us?

In Islam, knowledge goes beyond what you know. ‘Ilm covers the theory, action, and education (i.e. passing on the knowledge to others). Only by implementing knowledge in this way can we derive the benefits of it. 

Allah and His last messenger have stated numerous benefits of knowledge such as:

For protection

The Prophet ﷺ said:

حَدَّثَنَا رَوْحُ بْنُ عُبَادَةَ، عَنْ هِشَامِ بْنِ حَسَّانَ، عَنِ الْحَسَنِ، فِي قَوْلِهِ ‏:‏ ‏(‏ ربَّنَا آتِنَا فِي الدُّنْيَا حَسَنَةً وَفِي الآخِرَةِ حَسَنَةً ‏)‏ قَالَ فِي الدُّنْيَا الْعِلْمَ وَالْعِبَادَةَ وَفِي الآخِرَةِ الْجَنَّةَ ‏.‏

[Jami` at-Tirmidhi 3488]

Hisham bin Hassan narrated from Al-Hasan :concerning the saying of Allah: O our Lord, give us good in this world, and good in the Hereafter. He said: “Knowledge and worship in this world, and Paradise in the Hereafter.”

Increases us in taqwa (fear of Allah)

وَمِنَ ٱلنَّاسِ وَٱلدَّوَآبِّ وَٱلۡأَنۡعَٰمِ مُخۡتَلِفٌ أَلۡوَٰنُهُۥ كَذَٰلِكَۗ إِنَّمَا يَخۡشَى ٱللَّهَ مِنۡ عِبَادِهِ ٱلۡعُلَمَٰٓؤُاْۗ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ عَزِيزٌ غَفُورٌ

[Quran 35:28]

And among people and moving creatures and grazing livestock are various colours similarly. Only those fear Allah, from among His servants, who have knowledge. Indeed, Allah is Exalted in Might and Forgiving.

Helps us to recognise His signs

وَمِنۡ ءَايَٰتِهِۦ مَنَامُكُم بِٱلَّيۡلِ وَٱلنَّهَارِ وَٱبۡتِغَآؤُكُم مِّن فَضۡلِهِۦٓۚ إِنَّ فِي ذَٰلِكَ لَأٓيَٰتٖ لِّقَوۡمٖ يَسۡمَعُونَ

[Quran 30:22]

And of His signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth and the diversity of your languages and your colours. Indeed in that are signs for those of knowledge.

The 3 Ingredients of Seeking Beneficial Knowledge

Knowledge can be beneficial or not beneficial. What is the difference between them?

In short, beneficial knowledge is any type of knowledge that, when acted upon or implemented, brings us closer to Allah SWT. Knowledge that isn’t beneficial moves us further away from Allah. An example of knowledge that does not benefit is when being knowledgeable leads to arrogance or makes us feel like we are better than others. 

Seeking beneficial knowledge thus requires three key ingredients: effort, supplication (du’a), and sincerity.


Making effort to seek knowledge

Seeking knowledge is an active act. You cannot see results without first having the desire to attain it and putting in the effort. 

Prophet Muhammad ﷺ had said:

حَدَّثَنَا يَحْيَى بْنُ يَحْيَى التَّمِيمِيُّ، قَالَ أَخْبَرَنَا عَبْدُ اللَّهِ بْنُ يَحْيَى بْنِ أَبِي كَثِيرٍ، قَالَ سَمِعْتُ أَبِي يَقُولُ، لاَ يُسْتَطَاعُ الْعِلْمُ بِرَاحَةِ الْجِسْمِ ‏.‏

[Sahih Muslim]

‘Abdullah narrated it on the authority of his father Yahya: Knowledge cannot be acquired with sloth.

In essence, seeking knowledge is not a passive path wrapped in comfort. It needs effort and hard work.


Making supplication (du’a) to seek knowledge

Our effort is just one part of the equation. We also need to supplicate to Allah for Him to give us knowledge, for He is the source of knowledge. Even Allah’s messengers, may peace be upon them all, would raise their hands and supplicate to Allah to increase them in knowledge and wisdom. 

The Quran states that Prophet Ibrahim (AS) made the supplication:

رَبِّ هَبۡ لِي حُكۡمٗا وَأَلۡحِقۡنِي بِٱلصَّٰلِحِينَ

[Quran 26:83]

[And he said], “My Lord, grant me authority and join me with the righteous.

When making supplication for knowledge, we should supplicate for knowledge that will benefit us. Parents can also continuously make supplications for their children to increase in knowledge that will benefit them in this world and the next. 
It was narrated that Rasulullah ﷺ said:

وَعَنْ أَنَسٍ ‏- رضى الله عنه ‏- قَالَ: { كَانَ رَسُولُ اَللَّهِ ‏- صلى الله عليه وسلم ‏-يَقُولُ:” اَللَّهُمَّ اِنْفَعْنِي بِمَا عَلَّمْتَنِي, وَعَلِّمْنِي مَا يَنْفَعُنِي, وَارْزُقْنِي عِلْمًا يَنْفَعُنِي } رَوَاهُ النَّسَائِيُّ, وَالْحَاكِمُ .‏ 

[Book 16, Hadith 1608]

Anas (RAA) narrated that the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) used to say, “O Allah! Grant me benefit in what you have taught me, and teach me useful knowledge and provide me with knowledge that will benefit me.” Related by An-Nasa’i and Al-Hakim.

Allah also said in the Quran:

فَتَعَٰلَى ٱللَّهُ ٱلۡمَلِكُ ٱلۡحَقُّۗ وَلَا تَعۡجَلۡ بِٱلۡقُرۡءَانِ مِن قَبۡلِ أَن يُقۡضَىٰٓ إِلَيۡكَ وَحۡيُهُۥۖ وَقُل رَّبِّ زِدۡنِي عِلۡمٗا

[Quran 20:114]

So high [above all] is Allah, the Sovereign, the Truth. And, [O Muḥammad], do not hasten with [recitation of] the Qur’ān before its revelation is completed to you, and say, “My Lord, increase me in knowledge.”


Seeking knowledge for the sake of Allah

Sincerity can protect us from knowledge that does not benefit us. The scholar, Ibn Ata’iilah As-Sakandari, had said in his famous book, ‘Al-Hikam’, “The best knowledge is the one accompanied by fear (al-khasya)”.

When we fear Allah and seek knowledge for His sake only, the knowledge will not harm us. Prophet Muhammad ﷺ had warned us:

عَنْ أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ، قَالَ قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم ‏ “‏ مَنْ تَعَلَّمَ عِلْمًا مِمَّا يُبْتَغَى بِهِ وَجْهُ اللَّهِ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ لاَ يَتَعَلَّمُهُ إِلاَّ لِيُصِيبَ بِهِ عَرَضًا مِنَ الدُّنْيَا لَمْ يَجِدْ عَرْفَ الْجَنَّةِ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ ‏”‏ ‏.‏ يَعْنِي رِيحَهَا ‏.

[Sunan Abi Dawud 3664]

Narrated Abu Hurayrah: The Prophet (ﷺ) said: If anyone acquires knowledge that should be sought seeking the Face of Allah, but he acquires it only to get some worldly advantage, he will not experience the arf, i.e. the fragrance, of Paradise.


Knowledge Leads to Wisdom

Seeking knowledge with sincerity and supplications leads to wisdom. Knowledge comes from learning while wisdom comes from experience. Wisdom, however, cannot exist without the foundation of knowledge. This is why the two need to go hand in hand.

The theme of knowledge and wisdom can often be seen in the Quran and hadith. 

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