The State of Moderation
Knowledge and Wisdom: This condition is situated between the two extremes of slyness' and simple ignorance'. Undoubtedly, knowledge and wisdom are two of the sublimest qualities that man can possess, just as they are the most important and noblest of Divine Attributes. In fact it is this characteristic that brings man close to God. This is so because the more a man's knowledge and learning is, the greater is his capacity for abstraction (tajarrud); since it has been demonstrated in study of philosophy that knowledge and abstraction are complementaries. Therefore, the greater the degree of abstraction in the mind, the closer is man to the Divine Essence, whose idea in the human mind is the highest of abstractions.
In praise of knowledge and wisdom, the Holy Quran says:
... And whoso is given wisdom, has been given much good ... (2:269)
... And those similitudes-We strike them for the people, but none understands them save those who know. (29:43)
The Prophet (S) has been quoted as saying to Abu Dharr:
Sitting an hour in a learned gathering is better in the eyes of God than a thousand nights in each of which a thousand prayers are performed, and better than engaging in battle for the sake of God on thousand occasions, or better than reciting the whole of the Quran twelve thousand times, or better than a whole year of worship during which one fasts on all days and spends the nights in prayer. If one leaves one's house with the intention of gaining knowledge, for every step that he takes, God shall bestow upon him the reward reserved for a prophet, and the reward accorded to a thousand martyrs of [the Battle of] Badr. And for every word that he hears or writes, a city shall be set aside for him in paradise ...1
In Islam certain rules of etiquette are prescribed for both teachers and students, which have been treated in detail in other books, of which the best perhaps is the Adab al-muta'allimin by Zayn al-Din ibn Ali al-Amili (1495-1559 A.D.). Here we mention some points about the proper conduct for the student and the teacher:
1. The student must abstain from following his selfish and lustful inclinations and from the company of worldly men; because, like a veil, they prevent access to the Divine light.
2. His sole motivation for study must be to achieve God's good pleasure and to attain felicity in the Hereafter; not for the sake of gaining worldly wealth, fame, and honour.
3. The student must put into action whatever he learns and understands, so that God may increase his knowledge. The Prophet (S) has been quoted as saying:
One who acquires knowledge from the learned, and acts according to it shall be saved, and one who acquires knowledge for the sake of the world shall receive just that [and shall receive no reward in the Hereafter].
4. The pupil must honour his teacher, being humble and obedient towards him.
The proper conduct for the teacher consists of the following:
1. Teaching should be for the sake of God, and not for any worldly ends.
2. The teacher must encourage and guide his student, be kind to him, and speak to him on the level of his understanding.
3. The teacher must transfer his knowledge only to those who deserve it; not to those who do not deserve it and who may abuse it.
4. The teacher must speak only of what he knows, and abstain from topics of which he is ignorant.
Here it is necessary to explain what we mean by knowledge and learning and the kind of learning we are talking about. In other words, the question arises whether honour and respect for knowledge and scholarship, which characterize Islam, apply to all the sciences or to only some of them? The answer is that fields of learning can be divided into two groups: firstly, the sciences which have to do with this world such as medicine, geometry, music etc.; secondly, the sciences which are concerned with man's spiritual development. It is this second kind of learning which is highly honoured by the holy teachings of Islam. However, the first group of sciences are also considered important, and their pursuit is wajib kifa'i for all Muslims. That is, all Muslims are obliged to pursue them to the degree necessary for meeting the needs of the Muslim community.
Those sciences whose learning is necessary for spiritual development of man are: knowledge of the Principles of Religion (usul al-Din or Islamic doctrines), ethics (akhlaq)-which was formulated to guide man to those things that bring about his salvation, and keep him from those things that lead to perdition-and the science of jurisprudence (fiqh)-which concerns itself with individual and social duties of human beings from the point of view of Islamic Law.
Adapted from: "Jami' al-Sa'adat" by: "Muhammad Mahdi al-Naraqi"
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