We are all aware of the virtue of seeking knowledge in Islam. However, it can sometimes be difficult – especially in a secular environment- to feel that our studies are also a form of worship. So, how do we approach our studies in a way that brings us closer to Allah ?
The Messenger of Allah said, “Allah makes the way to Jannah easy for him who treads the path in search of knowledge.” [Muslim]
In days gone by, treading the path in search of knowledge involved long, arduous journeys to foreign lands. Today, the challenges we face in the search for knowledge are different. In secular universities, we tend to see an approach to knowledge that is devoid of God and often interacts with those who are skeptical of His existence. The question is how do we remind ourselves that our pursuit of knowledge is an act of worship and use our studies to cement our faith?
Here are a few tips.
1. Know that “secular” knowledge is still connected to the Creator
There tends to exist the perception that knowledge can be divided into two categories: “Islamic” and “secular”. But if Allah is the Creator of the heavens and the Earth, is not the study of His creation, or of systems and ideas that benefit His creation, inherently connected to Him as well?
To study science, for example, is to follow the Qur’anic exhortation to ponder over the signs of Allah in His creation, thereby increasing our appreciation of Allah’s infinite greatness and majesty. To study law or commerce, on the other hand, is to empower yourself to better serve the Ummah and humanity at large – thereby serving Allah’s creation.
Thus, assure yourself that even seeking an education in a field that is considered “secular” can be regarded as an act of worship, provided you stay mindful of Allah with all of your endeavors.
2. Renew your intention
Make the firm intention that your studies are for the pleasure of Allah . View your studies as your prerogative as a Muslim, in light of the many hadiths expounding upon the virtue of knowledge in Islam.
Reaffirm your intention at the beginning of each class and study session. Constantly make dua for your studies to be of benefit to you with the supplication:“Oh Allah! Make beneficial to me what you have taught me and teach me that which will be beneficial to me.”
It was narrated by Jabir that the Messenger of Allah said: “Ask Allah for beneficial knowledge and seek refuge with Allah from knowledge that is of no benefit.”[Sunan Ibn Majah]
Also, it was narrated by Umm Salamah that when the Prophet performed the Subh (morning prayer), while he said the Salam, he would say:
‘Allahumma inni as’aluka ‘ilman nafi’an, wa rizqan tayyiban, wa ‘amalan mutaqabbalan (O Allah, I ask You for beneficial knowledge, goodly provision and acceptable deeds).’” [Sunan Ibn Majah]
3. Take inspiration from the best
The early Muslims were pioneers in the Sciences, Art, and Philosophy, at a time when the rest of the world was plagued with ignorance. Read about scholars like Ibn Sina- the father of modern medicine, Ibn al Haytham- the first theoretical physicist and Al-Khawarizmi-the founder of algebra.
Let their thirst for knowledge-which was inspired by their love of Allah , motivate you. Know that as a Muslim, you walk in their footsteps, and make it your aim to continue their legacy and to bring Islam to the forefront of progress once again. Prophet Muhammad described the knowledge he received with intricacy, gaining knowledge is a blessing, that does not just fall upon anyone; consider it a huge compliment and gift from Allah that He picked you to be the bearer of the knowledge you hold, an opportunity that isn’t given to anyone.
The Messenger of Allah said “The similitude of guidance and knowledge with which Allah has sent me is like a rain which has fallen on some ground. A fertile part of earth has absorbed water and brought forth much grass and herbs. Another part, which is solid, held the water and Allah benefits men thereby, who drank and gave others to drink, and used it for irrigation. But some of it has fallen on a portion of sandy land which neither retains the water nor produces herbage. Such is the likeness of the man who understands the religion of Allah and who get the benefit of what Allah has sent me with; he learns and teaches others. It is also the likeness of the man who neither raises his head on that account (meaning he does not benefit from what the Prophet was sent with) nor accepts Allah’s Guidance with which I am sent.” [Al Bukhari and Muslim]
4. Let your knowledge increase you in humility and gratitude to Allah
Today, the advancement of knowledge is often viewed through the prism of human accomplishment. We tend to forget, amidst the rapid progress made in science and technology, that, “they encompass not a thing of His knowledge except for what He wills…” [Qur’an: Chapter 2: Verse 255]
It is Allah who has granted us the faculties to possess and gain knowledge and everything we learn is only by His permission. Stay humble by being grateful to Allah for what he has made possible for you to learn, and reminding yourself of your limited capacity as a human to retain information and gain knowledge, Allah says in the Qur’an”
“O people, an example is presented, so listen to it. Indeed, those you invoke besides Allah will never create [as much as] a fly, even if they gathered together for that purpose. And if the fly should steal away from them a [tiny] thing, they could not recover it from him. Weak are the pursuer and pursued..” [Qur’an: Chapter 22, Verse 73]
This example perfectly illustrates that the knowledge we possess is a mere droplet in the ocean in comparison to the infinite Knowledge and Hikma (wisdom) of Allah , we can’t even attempt to measure His knowledge of every intricacy in the heavens and the earth, and beyond. Allah has all-encompassing knowledge. Remember this and let everything you learn increase you in awe of Allah , the One who possesses knowledge beyond the limits of our understanding.
5. Use what you learn for good and to benefit others earnestly
Tutor others, write a blog post, answer a question on an online forum – whatever it is, earn the reward of Sadaqah Jariyah (ongoing charity) by sharing your knowledge and expertise. If you are being trained to offer a service, volunteer that service to those in need. We must always remember that we have access to this information with the grace and mercy of Allah , so actively finding the Hikma in the knowledge and helping others to see this too becomes a duty once Allah has blessed you with it.
By serving the creation, you are ultimately serving the Creator and becoming closer to Him .
So, always remember that; and make sure you’re always upon wudu (ablution) as well to remind yourself to purify yourself inside and out throughout your educational process.
May Allah grant us success in our studies and make it a means for us to draw nearer to Him.
May our studies enable us as an Ummah to fulfill our role as vicegerents on earth to the best of our abilities. Ameen.
What other tips do you have that helps you utilize secular knowledge to be more mindful of Allah ? Tell us in the comments.