I have been in hard worship for 30 years, but I didnt find anything more difficult than being practical about ones knowledge.
Hazrat Abu Yazid Bustami
If you attend a study-session, behave only like someone who wishes to increase his knowledge and to win greater recompense from God. Do not behave like someone who is content with what he has, who is looking for some fault to criticise or a curious detail to hawk around. This would be the behaviour of vile men who never succeed in their studies.
If you come to it with good intentions, you will always obtain the best results. Otherwise, to stay at home would be less tiring for your body, more worthy of your moral conduct and more salutary for your religious life.
Extract from Al-Akhlâq wal-Siyar (Morals and Behaviour) By Ibn Hazm al-Andalusi
Ilm is that asset which not only increases one’s knowledge and respect in his community, but it also makes his heart pure and keeps it protected from evils. It also teaches the heart and soul to live according to the commands of Allah Taa’la.
Source: The True Knowledge
Source: Madrassah Al Zahra Publication – Al ‘Ilmun Nafi’
Before one sets out to seek knowledge we must bear in mind there are etiquettes for seeking knowledge. Only when one attains knowledge according to them, will the knowledge gained be beneficial. If we have no respect for the knowledge that we gain, that knowledge will merely remain information. Knowledge can only be beneficial for us if we gain it according to the following guidelines:
- Be patient – To gain ‘ilm is not easy and a lot of hard effort and sacrifice is required. For this reason it is very important that one remains patient.
- Pure intention – Before the commencement of an act one must ensure that an analysis of one’s intention is undertaken. The conclusion of this analysis should be that one is performing this action to gain the pleasure of Allah Almighty and not for show. If the latter is the case, then one needs to rectify one’s intention in order to gain beneficial knowledge.
- Act upon the knowledge one gains – It is important that one acts upon what they know; only then is the knowledge that one has attained beneficial. By not acting upon what one knows, disrespect is being shown to the knowledge that has been obtained.
- Bear in mind Allah سبحانه و تعالى is Watching – It is important that one keeps this in mind at all times as only then will one think twice before commiting a wrong deed. By continuously remebering Allah سبحانه و تعالى, a person will always make Du’aa and obtain closeness to Allah سبحانه و تعالى. Insha’Allah, any difficulties in attaining ‘ilm will then be removed.
- Utilise Time to the Best of One’s Ability – Knowledge does not come with ease. Therefore, it is vital that one uses their time well. When given the oppurtunity to obtain knowledge, one should not reject it as one does not know when they shall taste death. One must understand the struggle our pious Predecessors went through to gain ‘ilm and so one must not take for granted that which is so easily accessible today.
- To be very cautious – When beginning to attain knowledge one should not spend too much time argueing with others on topics and getting ones self confused. Rather one should spend maximum amount of time trying to fully undestand individual topics in order to become fully competent in these topics.
- To be precise and certain – It is good to memorise certain things. Before committing anything to memory one should ensure what is being learnt is correct by clarifying with ones teacher. Then one should memorise and go over what has been taught to ensure nothing is forgotton.
- Studying a variety of books – When one is confident in quite a few fields then one should study a variety of books on one topic to increase ones knowledge in a variety of ways on that particular topic.
- Good company – Pious company and friends should be kept so that one can attain their good qualites. It is also good to keep company with those who have a great zeal for knowledge instead of those who do not. This is so that one can never be put off wanting to learn more. The ‘Ulama state, that in order to gain good habits and to acquire beneficial knowledge, it is vital to stay in the presence of good and pious people. If one is not able to be in the company of the pious, then one should read the books written by these pious people.
- Respect and have good conduct with the teacher – One should ensure that respect is always shown towards the teacher. One cannot gain all knowledge from books without the guidance of a good teacher.
If you are a student, then you should observe the praiseworthy rules of a student’s dealing with a learned man. These rules are:
- to greet the learned man first
- to speak little in his presence
- not to speak much so long as his teacher does not ask him anything
- not to ask him questions before receiving his permission
- not to say, by the way of objection to his words, “So-and-so said contrary to what you have said.”
- not to argue against his opinion in such a way as to show that he knows the truth than his teacher
- not to argue against his companions in his meetings
- not to look around but to sit with downcast eyes, quietly and courteously as if he were engaged in ritual prayer
- not to speak to him much when he is tired
- to stand up in order to show respect for him when he stands
- not to follow him speaking and questioning and asking him questions along the street until reaches home
- not to imagine evil of him in regard to those of his actions which appear abominable. The teacher knows better concerning his secret affairs
- When some actions of the teacher appear abominable, the student should recollect the complaint made by the prophet Moses to Al-Khidr (may peace be on them both):
“Have you made a hole in the boat to drown the people in it? You have indeed, done a strange thing”(Qur�an 18:71)
In fact Prophet Moses was wrong in his complaint, which he made relying upon the outward appearance (of what al- Khidr did).
From The beginning of Guidance (bidayat al-hidaya) p. 77 from Imam Ghazali translated by Mashhad Al-Allaf