The Virtues of Knowledge

Every human being is driven by notions of perfection, motivation, concern, and action. Therefore, Islamic laws refined and restricted these drives so that they become transcendental and useful drives. Furthermore, Sharia emphasized that Muslims must always associate religious knowledge with action, as Allah said: “So know, [O Muhammad], that there is no deity except Allah and ask forgiveness for your sin and for the believing men and believing women. And Allah knows of your movement and your resting place.” [Muhammad: 19] Thus, in this verse, Allah the Almighty pointed out that Knowledge must precede any action, since you must have a strong conviction in Allah before carrying out any other virtuous action. Therefore, Al-Bukhari has singled out a complete section on this issue, based on this verse: “So know, [O Muhammad], that there is no deity except Allah” and commented on this section: “Knowledge proceeds speech and action.”

Hafiz Ibn Hajar explained Imam Bukhari’s intention in singling out this section, and said: “He wanted to indicate that words and deeds are useless without knowledge, since knowledge is the thing that perfects intentions and deeds, and so that people don’t neglect knowledge, by believing that it is useless without action.” [Fath Al-Bari by Ibn Hajar (1/108)] The Scholar Ibn al-Qayyim also said in his book al-Nafis: “knowledge perfects deeds, and all deeds are useless if they’re carried out without knowledge.”

Moreover, deeds are approved or rejected according to whether they correspond to religious knowledge or violate it, as Allah the Almighty said: “(It is Allah) Who has created life and death that He may try you which of you is best in conduct; and He is the Mighty, the Forgiving.” Also, Fudayl b. Iyyad said: “Pure incorrect deeds and impure correct deeds are all unacceptable. Thus, deeds must be pure and rightful. And pure deeds refer to acts of worship directed only to Allah, and rightful deeds refer to deeds that adhere to the Prophet’s Sunnah, as Allah said: “So whoever hopes for the meeting with his Lord, let him do righteous work and not associate in the worship of his Lord anyone.” Hence, no one can carry out rightful pure deeds without prior knowledge of the Quran and Sunna.

Furthermore, carrying out an unknowledgeable virtuous deed, is just like conducting an unplanned project, for knowledge guides and directs actions with evidence, as Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyya said: “He who carries out a deed without having evidence from Sunnah is misguided.” And Al-Hasan said: “He strayed, he who carried out an virtuous deed without knowledge. You must seek knowledge in worship, for some people revolted against their Muslim brothers, because they forsook knowledge in worship.” [Key to land of happiness: p85-p86].

Also, in some verses, Allah has condemned sects who carried out virtuous deeds that didn’t correlate to religious knowledge, which eventually misguided them as Allah said: “Show us the straight path, (6) The path of those whom Thou hast favored. Not of those who have evoked [Your] anger or of those who are astray.” [Fatiha: 6.7]
Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyya also said: “The righteous path is to adhere to the Messenger’s Sunnah, peace be upon him, and anything that violates his Sunnah contributes to misguidance, as Allah said: ‘By the star when it descends. Your companion [Muhammad] has not strayed, nor has he erred. Nor does he speak from [his own] inclination.’ A Muslim who has knowledge and neglects action resembles those Jews who Allah described as: “Do you order righteousness of the people and forget yourselves while you recite the Scripture? Then will you not reason?” And those who worships without knowledge resemble those Christians who Allah described as: “O People of the Scripture do not exceed limits in your religion beyond the truth and do not follow the inclinations of a people who had gone astray before and misled many and have strayed from the soundness of the way.”

In conclusion, whims and desires lead to misguidance, as Allah said: “Recite unto them the tale of him to whom We gave Our revelations, but he sloughed them off, so Satan overtook him and he became of those who lead astray. And had We willed We could have raised him by their means, but he clung to the earth and followed his own lust. Therefor his likeness is as the likeness of a dog: if thou attack him he pants with his tongue out, and if thou leave him he pants with his tongue out. Such is the likeness of the people who deny our revelations. Narrate unto them the history (of the men of old), that haply they may take thought.”

And Allah said: “I shall turn away from My revelations those who magnify themselves wrongfully in the earth, and if they see each token believe it not, and if they see the way of righteousness choose it nor for (their) way, and if they see the way of error choose if for (their) way. That is because they deny our revelations and are used to disregard them.”

Hence, actions should have evidence and always be based on knowledge, a thing that many Muslims unfortunately neglected. And scholars can always find any implicit or explicit evidence, since the Sharia is perfected; therefore Muslims should always seek knowledge from trusted scholars, so that they can learn more about their religion.