Islamic Themes / on Knowledge

The Virtues in Seeking Knowledge


  • Below is an authentic narration from the Holy Prophet (Allah abundantly bless him and grant him peace) regarding the extreme virtues (fada’il) of seeking knowledge.
  • Some of the variations are also given below with small explanations of terms and meanings.

Hadith 1:

“[…] and the one who sets out on a path to seek knowledge; Allah will make the path to paradise easy for him…”[1]

من نفس عن مؤمن كربة من كرب الدنيا، نفس الله عنه كربة من كرب يوم القيامة . ومن يسر على معسر، يسر الله عليه في الدنيا والآخرة . ومن ستر مسلما، ستره الله في الدنيا والآخر. والله في عون العبد ما كان العبد في عون أخيه . ومن سلك طريقايلتمس فيه علما، سهل الله له به طريقا إلى الجنة . وما اجتمع قوم في بيت من بيوت الله ، يتلون كتاب الله ، ويتدارسونه بينهم، إلا نزلت عليهم السكينة ، وغشيتهم الرحمة وحفتهم الملائكة، وذكرهم الله فيمن عنده . ومن بطأ به عمله ، لم يسرع به نسبه . غير أن حديث أبي أسامة ليس فيه ذكر التيسير على المعسر .

Hadith 2:

“Whoever sets out on a path to seek knowledge therein, Allah will make a path easy for him in paradise and the angels will lower their wings for the student of knowledge out good pleasure over them…”[2]

من سلك طريقاً يطلب فيه علماً سهل الله له طريقاً إلى الجنة وأن الملائكة لتضع أجنحتها رضى لطالب العلم

Hadith 3:

“Whoever sets out on a path to seek knowledge therein, Allah will make a path for him in paradise through that knowledge and the angels will lower their wings for the student of knowledge out of [Allah’s] good pleasure over them […]”[3]

منسلك طريقا يطلب فيه علما، سلك الله به طريقا من طرق الجنة، وإن الملائكة لتضع أجنحتها رضا لطالب العلم، وإن العالم ليستغفر له من في السماوات ومن في الأرض ، والحيتان في جوف الماء ، وإن فضل العالم على العابد كفضل القمر ليلة البدر على سائر الكواكب، وإن العلماء ورثة الأنبياء، وإن الأنبياء لم يورثوا دينارا ولا درهما ، ورثوا العلم فمن أخذه أخذ بحظ وافر

Hadith 4:

“Whoever sets out on a path of knowledge, Allah will make easy a path for him to Paradise…”[4]

منسلك طريق العلم سهل الله له طريقا إلى الجنة..

Hadith 5:

“Whoever pursues a path diligently seeking knowledge, Allah will facilitate for him a path to paradise.Whoever pursues a path to diligently seek knowledge, Allah facilitates for him a path to Paradise and the angels will lower their wings for the student of knowledge out of [Allah’s] good pleasure over them…”[5]

من سلك طريقا يلتمس علما سهل الله له طريقا إلى الجنة

من سلك طريقا يلتمس فيه علما سهل الله له طريقا إلى الجنة وأن الملائكة لتضع أجنحتها لطالب العلم وأن العالم ليشفع له من في السموات ومن في الأرض حتى الحوت في الماء.


[1] Key Terms:

  • Man: ‘whoever’ meaning any person man or woman. > the generality here excludes no-one.
  • Salaka: s / l / k – this has a number of meanings in the Arabic language: i) to travel; ii) to walk along a path/road; iii) to enter a place and iv) to pursue a course to achieve something.[6] > the suggestion here is setting out with a goal and intention/deliberate aim to pursue a specific course of action (gaining knowledge).
  • Yaltamisu / yatlubu: The verb yaltamisu means (amongst many other things) ‘to seek after something’ or ‘to search for something repeatedly’.[7] The verb yatlubu also bears the meaning of: i) to demand; ii) to search for something; iii) to seek out something, iv) to pursue, etc.[8] > from both verbs the indication is that knowledge is sought diligently and with care and concern.
  • Tariq: The word means ‘path’, ‘way’, ‘means’, ‘course’, ‘line of conduct’, ‘road’ and ‘avenue’, etc.[9] > thus meritorious knowledge is pursued through a path or a means that contains knowledge itself.
  • `ilm: knowledge here means beneficial knowledge, i.e. knowledge of Allah’s rulings (ahkam) and any of the religious sciences that come out of it. Imam Ibn Hajar al-`Asqalani says:
“What is meant by ‘knowledge’ (al-`ilm) is knowledge of legal rulings which allows anyone legally responsible before the law (al-mukallaf) to know the matters pertaining to his religion, his worship and his transactions which also includes knowledge of Allah, His attributes, what must be carried out of His commands and His transcendence and exaltedness from any imperfections. That all rests on knowing Fiqh, hadith and tafsir…”[10]

والمراد بالعلم: العلم الشرعي الذي يُفيد معرفة مايجب على المكلَّف من أمر دينه في عباداته ومعاملاته، والعلم بالله وصفاته ومايجب من القيام بأمره وتنزيهه عن النقائص. ومدار ذلك على التفسير والحديث والفقه

[2] Indications:

  • Virtues of Knowledge from this hadith involve certain realities:

a)      Knowledge is sought and learned.

b)      Knowledge must be through a path (hence a life-long training, continual, treading along the way etc) and not static or for a period of time.

c)      Knowledge is a means to paradise (by which Allah facilitates easy entry to it) and hence eternal success. > correct knowledge therefore becomes a light along the way that shines on the road clearing it and showing its pitfalls and dangers. This is why Imam Malik is reported to have said:

“…hikma and `ilmare lights by which Allah guides whoever He wants and it is not [knowledge] of many legal cases […]

Knowledge is not merely knowledge of a lot of narrations but rather it is a light Allah places in the hearts…”[11]

الحكمـــة والعــــلم نـور يهدي به الله من يشاء وليس بكثرة المسائل…

إن العلم ليس بكثرة الرواية ولكنه نور جعله الله فى القلوب…

d)      The path of knowledge is protected by Angelic forces hence it is sacred.

e)      Allah’s pleasure is over this endeavour.

[3] Lessons:

  • Knowledge is a means, it is purposive. It is not pursued for its own sake but for the sake of Allah.
  • Knowledge should have at least 3 outcomes:
  1. Awe of Allah.
  1. Closeness to Him.
  1. Knowledge of His rulings to act upon them.
  • Imam al-Shatibi beautifully summarises this last outcome:
“Knowledge is merely a means and according to the perspective of the Law is not sought for itself; it is a means to perform actions. Everything that is found regarding the merits of knowledge is adherence to knowledge in so far as it a means for the mukallaf to act…”[12]

العلـــم وسيلــــة من الوســـائل، ليس مقصوداً لنفسه من حيث النظر الشرعى، وإنما هو وسيلة إلى العمل، وكل ماورد فى فضل العلم فإنما هو ثابت للعلم من جهة ماهو مكلَّف بالعمل به

“Knowledge which is recognised by the Law meaning that which is praised by Allah and His Messenger in general is knowledge that grounds actions and does not leave a person to his own whims to do as he pleases…”[13]

العلم الذى هو العلم المعتبر شرعا ــ أعنى الذى مدح الله ورسوله أهله على الإطلاق ـ هو العلم الباعث على العمل، الذى لايُخَلّى صاحبه جاريا مع هواه كيفما كان، بل هو المقيِّد لصاحبه بمَقتضاه، الحامِلُ له علي قوانينه طوعا أو كرها

  • Finally, Imam al-Khatib al-Baghdadi reports from the great Imam Sufyan Ibn `Uyayna, the following statement:
“Do you know the example about knowledge and ignorance? [He said]: it is like the example of dar al-kufr with dar al-Islam. If the people of Islam abandon jihad, then the people of non-belief will overcome Islam. So, if knowledge is abandoned, people will fall into utter ignorance.”[14]

تدرون مامثل الجهل والعلم ؟ مثل دار الكفر ودار الإسلام، فإن ترك أهل الإسلام الجهاد جاء أهل الكفر فأخذوا الإسلام، وإن ترك الناس العلم صار الناس جهّالا

  • Let us ponder on this.

Peace and blessings be upon our Master Muhammad, his family and Companions.

S. Z. Chowdhury

[1] Muslim, Sahih(#2699).

[2] al-`Ayni, `Umdat al-Qari, 2:59.

[3] Abu Dawud, Sunan (#3641) and al-`Azim Abdi, `Awn al-Ma`bud Sharh Sunan Abi Dawud, 10:43.

[4] Ibn `Abd al-Barr, al-Isti`ab, 3:369.

[5] Ibn al-`Arabi, Aridat al-Ahwadhi Sharh Sunan al-Tirmidhi, 5:320.

[6] E. W. Lane, Arabic-English Lexicon, Bk.1, p.1411.

[7] Ibid, Bk.1, p.2673.

[8] Ibid, Bk.1, p.1864.

[9] Ibid, Bk.1, p.1846-1851.

[10] Ibn Hajar al-`Asqalani, Fath al-Bari Sharh Sahih al-Bukhari, 1:141.

[11] Ibn `Abd al-Barr, Jami` Bayan al-`Ilm, 2:52.

[12] al-Shatibi, al-Muwafaqat, 1:65.

[13] Ibid, 1:69.

[14] al-Khatib al-Baghdadi, al-Faqih wa’l-Mutafaqqih, 1:35.


3 thoughts on “The Virtues in Seeking Knowledge

  1. Pingback: Being a Student of Knowledge: Looking at Some Fallacies | دار نيـقـوسـيــا

  2. Pingback: al-Nawawi: A Lesson in Time and Devotion to Knowledge | دار نيـقـوسـيــا

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