[These are rough notes from talks delivered by Shaykh Omar Mukhtar and Shaykh Kamaluddin Ahmed on Ramadan 25 and 28, respectively, in Post Asr Majalis, South Africa i’tikaf, 2015]
We should try to engage our intellect to get ilm (religious knowledge). It is very easy for the ulema to travel the path of tasawwuf. Because the person of ilm knows the destination, once you know the destination you can easily get there. If someone says I do not know where I’m going, it will be difficult for him to get there.
How can a person know their destination? Ilm is the thing that makes you aware of your destination. That is why Hadrat Hasan Basri rah narrates that he and his friend started together on the path of tasawwuf. He was very fast and the friend was very slow. So he went to his shaykh to ask about the reason. Shaykh replied that it is because you have knowledge. If you have ilm, you will fly on this path.
Nabi sws has said al ilmu-nur; knowledge is light. It helps in taribyah (disciplining) and tazkiya (purification). Attaining ilm is fardh upon every Muslim. Fard amount of ilm is that which makes you spend your 24 hours in a manner that you know what is halal and what is haram. Then there is extra knowledge, when you love someone you do not just want fard. The seeker who loves Allah swt a lot would like to know Allah swt more and more. Even if you are busy, at least have this intention that I want to have these uloom as well like Hadrat Musa (as) had knowledge of Shari’ah but still he wanted more ilm (through Hadrat Khizer as).
The path of tasawwuf can be traveled by people in years, depending on the amount of effort they put in. And ulema can even travel it within months. One Shaykh said that if an alim comes to me, and does what he is told, then he can even travel this path within 40 days! This is the power of ilm.
Some people think ilm leads to ujub and takabbur. Ilm is in itself not a hijab. Nabi sws said Scholars are the heirs of prophets in spreading the deen. It means the characteristics of ujub and takabbur are obstacles to tazkiya, not ilm itself. So go and attain ilm.
Hadrat Abu Huraira ra accepted Islam when he was 60 years old and he narrates most of the ahadith! So age is also not an obstacle for ilm.
Our Shaykh Ghulam Habib rah used to say that if I’m lying down and an alim walks over me such that he steps on my chest, I will not mind at all. This was because of the love and respect he had for the alim. We should try to have love for ulema, love for mashaikh and love for ilm.
Another rival to knowledge is the knowledge of philosophers, economists, professors. They use their minds, some are absolutely genius and great intellects, but they understand through their aqal alone. Maybe the best philosopher understands virtue, but he will do it on the basis of his aqal only.
On the other hand, in ilm we have knowledge based on the knowledge of anbiya, Allah swt himself teaches humanity that which they never knew, nor could they ever have known in future.
عَلَّمَ ٱلۡإِنسَـٰنَ مَا لَمۡ يَعۡلَمۡ
He taught man what he did not know. [96:5]
Which is the greater knowledge? Knowledge from Allah swt sent to anbiya, shared through the hearts of sahaba (ra), mapped by ulema and residing in the hearts of awliya. Or the secular knowledge?
People of the world use their knowledge to get more pleasure for nafs. They have developed some terrible things (like weapons of mass destruction). Never think Islam is backwards. Deen of Islam would have never allowed invention of technology whose sole purpose is to take over others through superior military technology. Deen would never come up with these things. If you don’t know the history of colonialism, they never came to India with this idea that we will take their gold and make them slaves. Their ilm was not coming from aqal, their ilm was from Allah swt, it came from wahi and Qur’an al-kareem. We want to be on the path of deen.
We have to nourish our ruh to get marifah (intuitive knowledge) of Allah swt. ‘ilm is a major thing in getting closer to Allah swt. Allah swt said:
Be men of the Lord [3:79]
Rabbani is the friend, lover and beloved of Allah swt. Allah swt told all the believers kunu rabbaniyyeena, that you should have been rabbani already because of all the teaching and learning of Qur’an. Why are you not yet? Second meaning is of hukm; that become rabbani by means of your taleem of Kitab and by means of learning Islamic knowledge. Nabi sws had some functions of nabuwwah. Allah swt metioned:
إِذۡ بَعَثَ فِيہِمۡ رَسُولاً۬ مِّنۡ أَنفُسِهِمۡ يَتۡلُواْ عَلَيۡہِمۡ ءَايَـٰتِهِۦ وَيُزَڪِّيہِمۡ وَيُعَلِّمُهُمُ ٱلۡكِتَـٰبَ وَٱلۡحِڪۡمَةَ
when He raised in their midst a messenger from among themselves who recites to them His verses and makes them pure and teaches them the Book and the Wisdom [3:164]
Allah swt sent special favor on the believer, when Allah swt sent to them a Nabi sws from their own selves to:
- recite the verses of Qur’an
- to do their tazkiya (free them from unlawful desires)
- formally give them ilm of Qur’an
- formally teach them wisdom
Even this is continuing till today, ummah is drinking from this. They are learning how to recite Qur’an. Doing tazkiya. They are getting their hearts purified. But ilm is left, you have to focus on this too. You don’t have to be an alim, but everyone has to learn as much as they can. It is required that everyone should part-time, gradually, be increasing ilm in their life.
Nabi sws said seeking knowledge is mandatory on every male and female Muslim. How far will you go? That Allah knows best. But the thirst for knowledge is fard on you. Knowledge, ilm and tazkiyah are always the need of deen. The launching pad throughout history has always been through ilm and tazkiya. We got to meet this brother, he said our board is ulema and awliyah, I said your work will be launched in the world!
There are 2 types of people: one are those who become alim – may Allah swt keep their shades upon us and bless them. But what about the ones not going to darul uloom? The fadhail of ilm are not only for those who become alim, but for that person also who has any amount of ilm. ilm is not for darul uloom. Alim is for people of darul uloom, but ilm is for everyone. Our deen is not a deen of jahalah (ignorance) it is a deen of knowledge.
You should ask your local ulema if they can teach you some series of Seerah or Qur’an, or hadith so you can start learning. You can ask them that can you teach me meanings of the Surahs that I have memorized? This is basic level of effort which you should do throughout the year. There are masajid in Pakistan that have dars-e-Qur’an everyday after fajr. It has very basic things and has a slow pace, but they know they will be there in the neighborhood for years! It’s not just academic knowledge. There are women in Pakistan who are learning Qur’an, doing courses part-time, they are mothers, doctors, university students. When will the men also start learning?
Now so many authentic works have been translated and written in English; of Qur’an and hadith and fadhail-e-amal and fadhail-e-sadaqat. It’s accessible and any non-alim can also understand it easily. You can make a habit of some bus reading, airplane reading, bed-time reading. Scholars have put great efforts in translating these works. They made this effort because they are saying ilm is not just for darul uloom, it is for everyone. Why else would they translate? Otherwise your knowledge of dunya keeps increasing, you know so much about certain things, while the knowledge of your deen remains the same. That should not be the case.
وَآَخِرُ دَعْوَانَا أَنِ الْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ