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قَالَ رَسُوْلُ اللّٰہِ صَلَّی اللّٰہُ عَلَیْہِ وَسَلَّمَ
اُطْلُبُوْا الْعِلْمَ وَلَوْ بِالصِّیْنِ
The Messenger of Allah – peace be upon him – has stated:
“Seek knowledge even if you were to travel for it as far as china.”
There are countless occasions in the Quran and Hadeeth where we are encouraged to seek knowledge. It is for this reason that our pious predecessors, the Sahaba and those who followed their footsteps, ruled over the globe and our golden history is its evidence.
The Sahaba and Their Thirst for Knowledge
It’s mentioned in Sunan Abi Dawood and Jame’ Tirmidhi that a man had travelled from Madinah Munawwarah to Syria (Al-Shaam) only so that he could hear from a Sahaabi the blessed words of the Holy Prophet – may Allah send peace and blessings upon him.
Hazrat Abu Ayyoob Ansari – may Allah be pleased with him – who was the first one to host the Prophet – may Allah send peace and blessings upon him – in the whole of Madinah Munawwarah, he travelled from Madinah Munawwarah to Egypt and the most amazing fact of this journey was that he mounted onto his camel as soon as he took the narration from his fellow Sahaabi and returned Madinah Munawwarah. He did not even open his saddle in Egypt.
The Continuation of This Zeal in the Time of Taabe’een and Latter Imams and ‘Ulama
This enthusiasm was passed on to the next best group of people after the Noble Companions of the Holy Prophet – may Allah send peace and blessings upon him, his Blessed Household and all his Companions. Hence, one may find thousands of stories in the biographies of the Ulama that sometimes there used to be 40,000 students at once learning from a single ‘Aalim and this number even exceeded that at times..
Haafiz Dhahbi – may Allah be pleased with him – writes in Tadhkiratul Huffaaz that the state of Muslims’ acquisition of knowledge in the 3rd Century A.H. was so wonderful that in a single gathering tens of thousands of inkpots used to be seen. The Caliph Mu’tasim Billaah had appointed a man during his caliphate to report to the Caliph the number of the Hadeeth Master Hazrat ‘Aasim Ibn Ali of the time. He used to teach Hadeeth at the outskirts of the city of Baghdad Shareef. The number reported by the appointed official was 120,000 students who were quenching their thirst of Hadeeth Sciences.
Caliph Haroon Rasheed and Respect for Knowledge
Haroon Rasheed was a great ruler and a Caliphof the Islamic Kingdom. He sent his two sons, Prince Ameen and Prince Mamoon to study at the feet of Imam Malik – may Allah be pleased with them – in Madinah Munawwarah from Baghdad. Sometimes, the Caliph used to come to Madinah Munawwarah and visit the Imam and his sons. Once he saw his sons straitening the sandals of Imam Malik and putting them in front of him after he finished teaching. Looking at it Haroon Rasheed said, “He is the real king, for even the sons of the king are behaveing like slaves in his court.”
Hazrat Ma’n Ibn ‘Isa – may Allah be pleased with him – and his Love for the Teacher
He was also the son of Caliph Haroon Rasheed and a student of Imam Malik – may Allah be pleased with him. His love for the teacher was so immense that he would not bear distance from the teacher, so he used to always sit at the doorsteps of Imam Malik and used to write down whatever he used hear him say. When Imam Malik became old and needed a walking-stick, he used to go to the Masjid for Salah of Jamaa’ah by the aid of his shoulder. It was for this reason that people began to call him by the title “The stick of Imam Malik”.
A student of Alahazrat Imam Ahmad Raza – may Allah be pleased with him – who was always at his service knew so many Shariah laws that people began to call him “Sharhul Wiqaayah” (A famous Hanafi Fiqh manual).
Sultan Mahmood Ghaznawi – may Allah be pleased with him – and His Love for Knowledge
He laid the foundation of a Juma Musjid which was then built with marble and other expensive stones. The Masjid was so beautiful and well-decorated that people became dumb-founded at the first glace. He then decorated it further with expensive carpets and stylish lamps. People called the Masjid “Heaven’s bride”. He had also built a institute next to the Masjid where he provided a great deal of different kinds of old and new books and also the books that were not easily available to people. He also dedicated and appointed numerous villages for the upkeep of the institute and Masjid. The historian writes, that looking at this great work and service of the king, the rich and the ministers began to compete with each other in funding the masjids and institutes.
Sultan Aurangzeb Aalamgeer – may Allah be pleased with him – and His Contribution in the Field of Knowledge
His dedication and contribution in the field of knowledge can be estimated just by the fact that despite being a king of India he did not abandon this Islamic spirit and it was through his well-organized effort that a great manual of Islamic Jurisprudence “Fatawa Aalamgiri” or “Fatawa Hidiyyah” was written. He appointed a team of 400 great scholars of the country. He was a student of the great scholar Shaikh Ahmad Mulla Jeevan, the author of Noor Al-Anwaar and Tafseeraate Ahmadiyyah.
Caliph Haroon Rasheed and His Reverence for the Men of Knowledge
Whenever Haroon Rasheed invited the Ulama, he himself used to serve them and even wash their hands at the time of serving meals. Once he saw his son pouring water at the feet of Imam Isma’i, who was a great scholar of Arabic literature while making ablution. Haroon Rasheed said, “You did not do justice in teaching my son manners, Isma’i. Why didn’t you tell him to pour the water with one hand and wash your feet with the other?”
Taimoor Land and Respect for Knowledge and Ulama
Although Taimoor Lang was a king but he always used to seat Allamah Sa’duddeen Taftazaani – may Allah be pleased with him – on the throne right beside him.
Note: Imam Sa’duddeen Taftazaani was a very great scholar who wrote Sharhul ‘Aqaaid Al-Nasafiyyah and Mukhtasarul Ma’aani and many other great books which the Ulama love to preserve within their hearts.
Akbar the King
Although Sultan Jalaaluddeen Akbar (a non-Muslim king) himself was illiterate, he had great respect for knowledge and scholars and he had appointed people to read books to him and listened to their rendition. The two sons of Mulla Mubarak Abul Fazl and Faizi had very high status in the time of King Akbar. It’s the same Faizi who wrote a Tafseer of Quran without utilizing a letter with dots. This Tafseer was published by the name “Sawaaate’ Al-Ilhaam” which is preserved in the library of Darul Uloom Hanafiyyah Fareediyah Baseerpur.
Shahjahaan the King (Who built Taj Mahal, Red Fort Delhi, Jama Masjid Delhi, Tomb of Jahangeer and many other historical monuments and worders)
The dominance of Islamic knowledge and Shariah was at its peak in his time, he took the Islamic knowledge to another height, dedicated lands for institutes, appointed salaries for the teachers and scholarships for students from the royal treasury.
What is More Valuable; Wealth or Knowledge?
Once upon a time there was an Aalim who was very poor and he terribly failed when it came to make ends meet. He was thus forced to go to another town to earn livelihood. After a long journey when he approached the boundary of the city, he noticed that the gates of the city were shut. He saw an elderly person at the outskirts of the city and asked him as to why the gates were closed. He replied, “The king’s bird has fled its cage and therefore he summoned to shut the gate until the bird is found.” The Aalim then said, “The bird flies in open space, so how could the walls of the city stop it from flying? But what’s more surprising is that, although I do not doubt in the wisdom of Allah Almighty, that he has made thousands of people undergo the rulership of a stupid king by giving him the kingdom and on the other hand, the men of knowledge are wandering from door-to-door to make ends meet, but still they fail to even earn bread for their meal.” When the elderly person heard him say this, he said, “Would you rather agree if the king’s brain were to be stuffed into your skull and then his kingdom be given to you?” It did not take him even a second to realize and then quickly he responded to the question, “I will never accept it, what is the purpose of kingdom in such a state of foolishness? Why would I like to be ditched into the trench of ignorance abandoning the great light of knowledge?” The elderly man then said, “Be grateful that you are blessed with the wealth that even the large kingdoms and worldly gain cannot be equivalent to it. You wished for the wealth of knowledge, so Allah Almighty has fulfilled as per your effort and acquisition. Knowledge is Allah’s light which is not given to the sinister and ill-fated people. The greatest form of misfortune in the world is ignorance and deprivation from knowledge. A needy man who is adorned with the knowledge is way better than an illiterate king. The respect of a rich man is due to his wealth and it goes along with his wealth, and he loses his own value by the loss of wealth but the men of knowledge are respected in whichever situation they are in, in any part of the world.”
Hazrat Ali’s – may Allah be pleased with him – Analysis of Knowledge and its Importance
Someone asked Hazrat Ali – may Allah be pleased with him – “Is knowledge better or wealth?” He replied, “Knowledge, for the likes of Korah and Pharaoh falls also fall under the wealthy while the knowledge is the inheritance of the Prophets – peace be upon them. One protects his wealth himself and sometimes, the very wealth becomes the cause of one’s end but the knowledge itself protects its possessors. There are many enemies for a wealthy man but the men of knowledge are taken as friends. The wealth decreases by spending but the knowledge increase by spreading. Wealth can be stolen by thieves but not the knowledge. Wealth teaches arrogance and makes one boastful but knowledge teaches humbleness and humility. There is a set limit for wealth and property but knowledge has no end.”
Hazrat Sayyiduna Abdullah Ibn Abbaas – may Allah be pleased with him – On This Concept
He states that Hazrat Sulaiman – peace be upon him – was given a choice between wealth, kingdom and knowledge but he accepted knowledge and by the virtue of knowledge Allah Almighty granted him the wealth and kingdom.
Caliph Haroon Rasheed and His Steadfastness on Truth and His humility before knowledge
Imam Kisaa’i – may Allah be pleased with him – was appointed as a teacher for Haroon Rasheed’s sons; Ameen and Mamoon. When he used to depart from the royal mansion after teaching, both the sons used to run towards the gate to reach his shoes and sometimes they even used to fight over it. One day Haroon Rasheed told them, “I am very pleased at this habit of yours but do not fight over it. You both can straighten each shoes and that way there will be no fight.”
Haroon Rasheed asked his allies, “Who is the most honorable personality in the country at this time?”
Everyone replied, “It’s you.”
Haroon Rasheed then said, “No. The most honorable personality at this time is the Hazrat whose shoes my sons Ameen and Mamoon straighten.”
اَللّٰھُمَّ رَبِّ زِدْنَا عِلْمًا
O Allah our Lord, increase us in our knowledge.