The Duties of the Teacher and Learner

All praise is due to Allah, the Lord of all worlds, Who says in His Ever Glorious Book, “Allah will raise up, by many degrees, those of you who believe and those who have been given knowledge: He is fully aware of what you do.” I bear witness that there is no god but Allah, and that Muhammad is His Servant and Messenger. May Allah’s Peace and Blessings be upon him, his Household, Companions and upon those who follow their path to the Day of Judgment.

We are about to start a new school year, and we ask the Almighty Allah to make it a year of hard work and success for all of our children. No doubt that Islam has made knowledge a matter of top priority, and paid it a special attention, as knowledge is a life to our hearts and a light for our eyes to see. With knowledge, one can reach high ranks in this life and the Hereafter. Also with knowledge, one knows what is lawful and what is unlawful. The Almighty Allah raises some people over others for their knowledge, making them the leaders and good examples, and thus Allah said, “How can those who know be equal to those who do not know?’ Only those who have understanding will take heed.”

The position of knowledge in Islam appears from the first revelation of the Qur’an as the first verse that Allah sent down to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) says, “Read! In the name of your Lord who created:  He created man from a clinging form. Read! Your Lord is the Most Bountiful One, Who taught by [means of] the pen, who taught man what he did not know.” Thus the first verses to be revealed from the Qur’an were an order to read, because reading is the first means of acquiring knowledge. Then the verses refer to the “pen” which is the means of recording knowledge. This directs our attention to the virtue of knowledge and encourages us to seek knowledge.

Knowledge has a great position, and people of knowledge have a high status. Without knowledge, people may deviate from the true path. Knowledge is the light with which people can see the truth, and people of knowledge are like stars in the sky that guide people. Allah, the Exalted, says, “Can someone who knows that the revelation from your Lord is the Truth be equal to someone who is blind? Only those with understanding will take it to heart.” It is as if that the Almighty Allah has classified people into two categories in this verse: a scholar and a blind man. Thus, Allah made knowledge as the opposite of blindness. Sight here refers to the perception acquired by knowledge. The Almighty Allah said, “It is not people’s eyes that are blind, but their hearts within their breasts.” Moreover, the Qur’an has elevated the position of knowledge describing it as the “authority” saying, “those who dispute Allah’s messages, with no authority given to them, are doing something that is loathed by Allah and by those who believe.”

The Prophet (PBUH) has shown the significance and virtue of knowledge and the reward of seeking knowledge saying, “He who follows a path in quest of knowledge, Allah will make the path of Paradise easy to him. The angels lower their wings over the seeker of knowledge, being pleased with what he does. The inhabitants of the heavens and the earth and even the fish in the depth of the oceans seek forgiveness for him. The superiority of the learned man over the devout worshipper is like that of the full moon to the rest of the stars (i.e., in brightness). The learned are the heirs of the Prophets who bequeath neither dinar nor dirham but only that of knowledge; and he who acquires it, has in fact acquired an abundant portion.” Abu Dharr reported, “The Messenger of Allah said to me: ‘O Abu Dharr! For you to come out in the morning and learn one Verse from the Book of Allah is better for you than praying one hundred Rak’ah, and for you to come out and learn a matter of knowledge, whether it is acted upon or not, is better for you than praying one thousand Rak’ah.’”

 Imam Ali said, “knowledge is better than wealth: knowledge guards you and you guard wealth; knowledge is a judge, while wealth is subject to your judgment; Wealth decreases by spending while knowledge increases by spending.”

  Knowledge must be accompanied by certain manners, by both the learner and the teacher. At the top of these manners are:

Sincerity to Allah: both teacher and learner must act for the sake of Allah, the Exalted, and keep away from showing off. Knowledge begets a secret lust for showing off, popularity and authority. This may affect one’s behavior and leads him to be arrogant. This is why the Prophet (PBUH) warned us saying, “Whoever seeks knowledge in order to argue with the foolish, or to show off before the scholars, or to attract people’s attention, will be in Hell.”

Among these manners also is: humbleness. Imam Malik wrote a message to Caliph Al-Rashid saying, “When you acquire knowledge, let he the traces of this knowledge, its humbleness and modesty be shown in your behavior.” Also, Umar said, “Seek knowledge, and acquire its humbleness and modesty.” Knowledge cannot go with arrogance, and it cannot be combined with sins. Knowledge is to be acquired with hard work and devotion to Allah, as the Almighty Allah said, “Be mindful of Allah, and He will teach you: He has full knowledge of everything.” It is also said, “When someone acts according to the knowledge he acquired, Allah will grant him knowledge of matters he is ignorant about.” In addition, acting according to the acquired knowledge is a condition to get knowledge from Allah, as Allah said about the pious man in Surat Al-Kahf, “And found one of Our servants- a man to whom We had granted Our mercy and whom We had given knowledge of Our own.” Allah also said about Solomon, “And made Solomon understand the case [better], though We gave sound judgement and knowledge to both of them.” He, the Almighty, also said about John, “[We said], ‘John, hold on to the Scripture firmly.’ While he was still a boy, We granted him wisdom, tenderness from Us, and purity. He was devout.” The Qur’an reports the statement of the Angels saying, “They said, ‘May You be glorified! We have knowledge only of what You have taught us. You are the All Knowing and All Wise.’

These duties include also shaping in the cloak of dignified scholars, because knowledge has its own dignity. This is actually achieved by dressing well, being clean, using perfume and keeping away from insignificant speech. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said, “Good way, dignified good bearing and moderation are the twenty-fifth part of Prophecy.”

The relationship between a scholar and a questioner is like that between the doctor and his patient. So, he should be very kind to him, guide him to the way of guidance and show the Right Path to him. Mu’aiyah Ibn Al-Hakam said, ” While I was praying with Messenger of Allah (PBUH), a man in the congregation sneezed and I responded with: ‘Yarhamuk-Allah (may Allah have mercy on you).’ The people stared at me with disapproving looks. So I said: “May my mother lose me! Why are you staring at me?” Thereupon, they began to strike their thighs with their hands. When I saw them urging to me to remain silent, I became angry but restrained myself. When Messenger of Allah (PBUH) concluded his Prayer, I have never before seen an instructor who gave better instruction than he, may my father and mother be sacrificed for him. He neither remonstrated me, nor beat me, nor abused me.”

In the same connection, there is certain things that must be considered by scholars, including:

  • Keenness on learning and being persistence with it; a scholar should not waste his time in trivial matters. It is said, “Knowledge does not give you everything unless you give it your entire life.” When Imam Al-Shafe’i was asked, “How do you long to knowledge?” He replied, “When I hear something I have no knowledge about, I think if all my organs would have ears to hear the same thing.” He was then asked, “How are you keen on it?” He replied, “I am so keen on it just as the greedy who have a burning desire to get money is keen on collecting it.” He was asked, “He do you seek after it?” He replied, “I seek after it in the same way the woman with a lost child seeks after it.”
  • Showing respect to teachers: the student shall not deal rudely with his teacher, either in words or actions. Imam Al-Shafe’i said, “I used to turn the pages of the book very calmly in the presence of Imam Malik, so that he would not hear its sound.” Al-Rabi’ also said, “I swear to Allah I dared not to drink water in the presence of Imam Al-Shafe’i out of respect for him.”
  • We are undoubtedly in a dire need to collect all kinds of knowledge by which we can make our life cheerful. In the same way, we should care about the sharia knowledge by means of which our religion gets sound. We do not have much time to waste, since the scientific research process, creativity and innovation become a duty, so that we may catch the train of progress or, at least, catch some of what we miss. So, all of us should have the spirit of creativity and ambition or, at least, have the desire to get back to the era of our great ancestors who spent all their lives in pursuing knowledge and exerted their utmost until reached the highest ranks and became the most prominent scholars in all fields of knowledge.

So, scholars and students shall both have good morals, and their practice shall comply with their sayings, so that they could exert impact on the society. When the Ummah linked knowledge with work and morals, it achieved progress and was respected by other nations. It is true that advancement and progress are the companions of morals and knowledge.

With that said, I ask Allah to forgive me and you

All praise is due to Allah, Lord of the Worlds; I bear witness that there is no god but Allah; I bear witness that Muhammad is His slave and Messenger; may Allah’s Peace and Blessings be upon him, his family, his companions and whoever follows his guidance to the Day of Judgment.

Muslim brothers,

Islam has placed scholars in the highest ranks, irrespective of their different specializations. Beneficial knowledge includes all branches of science that benefit people in their religious and worldly affairs. That is why the Saying of Allah, Most High, “Only those fear Allah, from among His servants, who have knowledge” has to do with the natural sciences, as He, Most High, says, ” Do you not see that Allah sends down rain from the sky, and We produce thereby fruits of varying colors? And in the mountains are tracts, white and red of varying shades and [some] extremely black. And among people and moving creatures and grazing livestock are various colors similarly. Only those fear Allah, from among His servants, who have knowledge. Indeed, Allah is Exalted in Might and Forgiving” and “Indeed, in the creation of the heavens and the earth and the alternation of the night and the day are signs for those of understanding. Who remember Allah while standing or sitting or [lying] on their sides and give thought to the creation of the heavens and the earth, [saying], “Our Lord, You did not create this aimlessly; exalted are You [above such a thing]; then protect us from the punishment of the Fire.”

At that point, we highlight that beneficial knowledge includes all what is useful to people in this life and the life to come, be it relevant to shari, or Arabic language, or medicine, or pharmaceutical, or physics, or chemistry, or astronomy, or engineering, or energy, or any other kinds of knowledge. Knowledge is truly the basis of the national, innovative character, a fact proven by the Saying of Allah, Most High, “So ask the people of the message if you do not know.” The Arabic word Al-Dhikr in this verse has a broader meaning, thus it cannot be confined to a particular field of knowledge. That is to say that it includes any useful knowledge. We are undoubtedly in need to all these sciences whereby we can make our worldly life and also the life to come prosperous.

Today’s reality makes it incumbent upon scholars to correct the misconceptions about Islam and Muslims and to disseminate the true Islamic thought.

We ask Allah, the Almighty, to make us among those who are righteous, to enable us to learn what we are ignorant of, to make us recall what we forget and to guide us to the Right Path.