الحَمْدُ للهِ، الحَمْدُ للهِ الذي خَلَقَ الإِنْسانَ، وعلّمه القرءانَ والبيان، وأخرجه من ظلام الجهل والكفر إلى نور العلم والإيمان، نَحْمَدُهُ تعالى ونستعينه، ونشكره تعالى ونستغفره ونستغيثه، نعوذ بالله من شرور أنفسنا ومن سيئات أعمالنا، مَنْ يَهْدِ اللهُ فلا مضل له، ومَنْ يُضلِلْ فَلاَ هَادِيَ لَهُ، ونَشْهَدُ أَنْ لاَ إِلَهَ إِلاَّ اللهُ  وَحْدَهُ لاَ شَرِيكَ لَهُ، له الملك وله الحمد، يحيي ويميت، بيده الخير، وهو على كل شيء قدير، ونشْهَدُ أَنَّ سَيِّدَنَا ومولانا مُحَمَّداً عَبْدُه وَرَسُولُهُ، وحبيبه وصفيه، بلغ الرسالة وأدّى الأمانة ونصح الأمّة، النبي الأمي الذي أرسله الله بالهدى والدين الحقّ، بشيرا ونذيرا بين يدي الساعة، صلى الله عليه وسلم وعَلَى آلِهِ وأَصْحابِهِ ومَنْ تَبِعَهم بإِحْسانٍ إِلَى يَوْمِ الدِّيْنِ.  أَمَّا بَعْدُ، فَيَا عِبَادَ اللهِ اتقوا الله حق تقاته ولا تموتن إلا وأنتم مسلمون، يا أيها الذين آمنوا اتَّقُوا اللَّهَ وَقُولُوا قَوْلًا سَدِيدًا، يُصْلِحْ لَكُم أَعْمَالَكُمْ وَيَغْفِرْ لَكُمْ ذُنُوبَكُمْ وَمَنْ يُطِعِ اللَّهَ وَرَسُولَهُ فَقَدْ فَازَ فَوْزًا عَظِيمًا، يا أيها المسلمون اتقوا الله فيما أوصى وأمر، وانتهوا عما نها عنه وزجر. قال الله سبحانه وتعالى في كتابه الكريم: هَلْ يَسْتَوِي الَّذِينَ يَعْلَمُونَ وَالَّذِينَ لَا يَعْلَمُونَ

 

Allah says in His Noble Quran, the translation of which is, “Are they the same – those who know and those who do not know?” Anyone can see that they are not. Those with knowledge are honoured in this world and the Next. They are honoured in the eyes of Allah and they are honoured in the eyes of people. They are raised up. Allah says,

 

يَرْفَعُ اللهُ الذِينَ ءَامَنُوا والذِينَ أُوتُوا الْعِلْمَ دَرَجَاتٍ

 

the translation of which is, “Allah will raise in rank those who believe and those who have knowledge.” It sweeps aside family and social status, wealth and outward appearance. It drags the lowest of the low out of the gutter and places in a position where the Sultans and Emirs come flocking to their door. Indeed, Salim abi-l-Ja’d, who started his life as a slave, found himself so elevated by knowledge that he said,

 

فلم يمضِ بي كثيرَ مدة حتى أتاني الخليفة زائرا فلم آذنْ له

 

“It was not long until even the Khalifa came to visit me and I refused him the permission to enter.” This is no disrespect to the khalifa, but simply an acknowledgement of where the true wealth of mankind lies, and wherein lies his safety and well-being. For it is through the people of knowledge that the teachings and guidance of the Prophets and Messengers is preserved and kept alive. The Prophet said,

إن العلماءَ ورثةُ الأنبياء

“The ulama are the inheritors of the Prophets.” And he said,

 

مَن زار عالما فكأنما زارني…ومن جالس عالما فكأنما جالسني، ومن جالسني في الدنيا أجلسه الله معي يومَ القيامة في الجنة

 

“If you visit an ‘alim, it is as if you have visited me, and if you sit with an ‘alim, it is as if you have sat with me; And Allah will sit whoever sits with me in this world with me in the Garden on the Day of Rising.”

From these ayats and these hadith, no man can fail to see the greatness and importance of knowledge to the Muslim. Knowledge truly lies at the heart of the affair. And that is why I feel the need to speak of it today. Its importance is understood, but what knowledge truly is is often misunderstood and somewhat misrepresented in the present age. The first thing you must realise about knowledge is that it is of two sorts, knowledge of what lies outside of time and place, and knowledge of what lies within time and place. The first type of knowledge is knowledge of Allah and the affairs of the Unseen, the second is the Commands and Prohibitions of our Lord that relate to our taklif, our being held accountable for our actions. Both are necessary. The first is the basis for everything, and something that every Muslim must know, regardless of the time and place he lives, for it transcends such considerations. It is the primary obligation on every mukallaf, and it is the highest and truest form of knowledge. The Messenger of Allah was once asked, ‘What is the best type of action?’ He replied, ‘Knowledge of Allah.’ And he repeated that, so they said, ‘When we asked about action, you replied with knowledge.’ So he said,

 

إن قليل العمل ينفع مع العلم بالله وإن كثير العمل لا ينفع مع الجهل بالله

 

“A little action brings you benefit when accompanied by knowledge of Allah, whereas a lot of action  brings you no benefit when accompanied by ignorance of Allah.” Knowledge of Allah does not mean being well-read in the science of tawhid and aqida or understanding all the theological proofs, it is simply acceptance and certainty in the heart. Al-Ghazali said,

“It is not obligatory to weigh up and examine all the proofs yourself, rather it is enough to affirm Him and believe in Him with a certainty that leaves no space for doubt or unease.”

The second form of knowledge is that which relates to the zone of action. And the thing about actions is that they all take place in creation, in time and space – they are are all time, means and place dependent. Take the prayer – it is only important to know of it and how it is done only if its time has come. Outside of that envelope you have no obligation to know of it and little benefit. Or Ramadan, whose rulings only really mean anything if you find yourself in that month, or hajj or zakat etc etc. So the person of wisdom focuses his time and his energy on learning what will be of use to him in the times and places in which he lives. What is practical and of benefit to his live as a slave of Allah, what enables him to move forward along the road to Allah. For you may well have noticed that almost every term that describes this time describes as something you move along: a sirat, a tariq, a shari‘a, a muwatta, a sabil. All different words for a road.

The alim is the one who knows which road to take, and knows what will transport him fastest and most smoothly along it to His Lord. The alim is the one who packs his bags and moves forward and onward whenever he can, he is not the one who gets caught up in analysing the shapes and contours of the tarmac, or stops to work on repairing the imagined pot-holes and blemishes. For we all know the result of road-works – they are an impediment to travel and introduce unwanted and often unneeded delays and blockages to those on the path. They make the deen hard for people when our Lord has only ever wanted it to be easy. Those little issues dominate thinking and discourse and the actually purpose of the deen, moving forward towards Allah, becomes lost and set aside. We live in an age where whole theses are written about the e-numbers in food, or the numerous conditions that must be fulfilled for a person to be a valid leader, and yet basics like zakat are left by the wayside.

So then, what exactly is this knowledge that is considered so praiseworthy in the deen? For despite the huge number of people studying in madrasas and Islamic universities, despite the huge number of huffadh and the mountain of books written every day on Islamic sciences – Arabic, Quran, hadith, aqida, fiqh, usul and so forth, there is clearly a shortage of it in the present day. In order to acquire it, we must be able to accurately define it, and clearly there is something lacking in this narrow definition that we have all been conditioned to accept. For answers, we must look to the best umma ever established on the earth. And when we look upon them we see that book-learning was not the main criterion for knowledge. Knowledge was not determined by the amount of books read by a person, or by how much he had memorised, rather it was determined by understanding and by the capacity to apply and practice what was learnt in the time and place that was most appropriate. Our own Messenger, the fount of all our knowledge of this great deen, was unable to read or write, Sayyidina Abu Bakr was a merchant by trade, and Sayyidina Ali never received what is termed a classical education. The Companions came from all walks of life, and they remained active in their different trades and professions – they did not drop it all to go and study the minutiae of the deen. And yet they are considered the most knowledgeable generation, and each one of them is considered a star by which others can seek guidance. I would like to take Sayyidina Umar as a case in point. He is famed for having found it difficult to memorise. According to his own son, it took him twelve years to learn Surat al-Baqara by heart. But even so, when he died, Abdallah ibn Mas‘ud said of him,

 

إني لأحسب عمر قد رفع معه يوم مات تسعة أعشار العلم، وإني لأحسب علم عمر لو وضع في كفة الميزان وعلم من بعده لرجح عليه علم عمر

 

“On the day Umar died, I think he took with him nine tenths [of the remaining knowledge of this umma]. Were the knowledge of Umar to be placed on one side of the scales and the knowledge of all those after him on the other, I believe the knowledge of Umar would be the heavier.” Sayyidina Umar was a man of action, a man who understood the moment and did what needed to be done in that moment. It is said that he pre-empted ayats of Quran, such was his discrimination. He acted swiftly and decisively and set out on the courses of action that brought most benefit to the Muslims in any particular time and place. He was a true exemplar of the fact that an alim is the one who acts, not the one who talks and debates and ultimately does nothing.

 

أقول قولي هذا وأستغفر الله لي ولكم ولسائر المسلمين من كل ذنب فاستغفروه إنه هو الغفور الرَّحيم.

 

الحمد لله الحمد لله رب العالمين، وأشهد أن لا إله إلا الله وحده لا شريك له وأشهد أن محمداً عبده ورسوله، صلى الله وسلم وبارك عليه وعلى آله وصحبه، والتابعين وتابعي التابعين ومن تبعهم بإحسان إلى يوم الدين.

أما بعد! فيأيها الذين ءامنوا اتقوا الله ما استطعتم واسمعوا وأطيعوا وأنفقوا خيرا لأنفسكم. يا عباد الله أوصيكم وإياي بتقوى الله وطاعته وأحذركم وإياي عن معصيته ومخالفته. قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم أو أحد أصحابه على حسب الروايابةت اطلبوا العلم ولو في الصين

 

ُThe Messenger of Allah, or one of his Companions said, according to which narration you take, “Seek knowledge even if that be in China.”  The second misunderstanding of modern scholarship is thinking that knowledge lies only in what are called the Islamic Sciences. This was not the understanding of the early Muslims, nor the teachings of our Prophet. He told his Companions to take knowledge wherever they found it, and indeed the early Muslims made great efforts to resurrect the and advance the sciences of the Greeks. And when Zayd ibn Thabit came to the Messenger of Allah and the Messenger of Allah recognised his exceptional capacity for learning, he did not command him to learn rulings nor Arabic, but something completely outside the traditional zone of the deen. He told him,

 

يَا زَيْدُ ، تَعَلَّمْ لِي كِتَابَ يَهُودَ فَإِنِّي وَاللَّهِ مَا آمَنُ يَهُودَ عَلَى كِتَابِي

 

“Zayd, learn the writings of the Jews, for, by Allah, I do not trust the Jews with respect to any of my writings. ” Learn their language and understand what is in their books, for the Prophet knew they could be tricky and misrepresent themselves and their teachings, and do the same to the teachings of the Prophet.  So, the Prophet directed Zayd to learn something outside the traditional bounds of Islamic learning because of the benefit that lay therein for the Muslims. It is a huge mistake of much of Islamic scholarship today that it limits learning to the traditional Islamic sciences and frowns on those who take advantage of what is to be found elsewhere, especially if it is not written in the Arabic language. For they view Arabic as a prerequisite for knowledge, and someone who has Arabic as automatically having more knowledge than someone who does not. First Arabic is not in itself knowledge per se, it is a vehicle and tool for the acquisition of knowledge, like other languages as the case of Zayd proves, for he was also instructed to learn other foreign languages. And second, the majority of knowledge is not in the form of words, it is in the form of actions, and those actions are learnt through demonstration and direct transmission as we saw with Sayyidina Umar.

This is not to say that book-learning does not have its merits – it does. You need guardians, you need people to preserve the deen in all its minutiae so that that knowledge is there when the time comes, but they are not the ulama to be followed in the present age, an age where for the first time since the Companions, the deen is not established properly anywhere in the land. In such an age you need people with strong knowledge and great discrimination, people who understand the thinkings and books of the enemies of Islam and others as well if not better than they understand their own,  people who can be decisive and see to the crux of the matter, cutting through all distraction and triviality. You need men who understand the age and our position in it and see what it will take to restore and re-establish our great heritage.

We ask Allah to give us a knowledge that helps us move forward along the path to Him in the present age, and ulama who has the necessary qualities to restore what is missing, rather than simply focussing on preserving what isn’t there. We ask Him to place us at the forefront of that work and give the wisdom and discrimination to recognise the truth when it is presented to us. We ask Him to reward all of those who have dedicated their lives to doing that work, especially our Shaykh, and bring success to all their endeavours. And we ask that He restore to us a vibrant and living deen like that practised by our forebears and the right-acting generations and make that our legacy to the coming generations.

 

إِنَّ اللهَ وَمَلَائِكَتَهُ يُصَلُّونَ عَلَى النَّبِيِّ، يَا أَيُهَا الذِينَ آمَنُواْ صَلُّواْ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلِّمُواْ تَسْلِيماً.

اللَّهُمَّ صَلِّ وَسَلِّمْ وَبَارِكْ عَلَيْهِ وَعَلَى آلِهِ وَصَحْبِهِ  أَجْمَعِينَ. وَارْضَ اللَّهُمَّ عَنِ الْخُلَفَاءِ الرَّاشِدِينَ أَبِي بَكْرٍ وَعُمَرَ وَعُثْمَانَ وَعَلِيٍّ، وعن أم المومنين عائشة التي أمرنا الله في سورة النور أن ندافع عنها، وَعَنْ سَائِرِ الصَّحَابَةِ أَجْمَعِينَ، خُصُوصاً اِلأَنْصَارَ مِنْهُمْ وَالمُهَاجِرِينَ، وَعَنِ التَّابِعِينَ وَتَابِعِي التَّابِعِينَ وَمَنْ تَبِعَهُمْ بِإِحْسَانٍ إِلَى يَوْمِ الدِّينِ.

اللَّهُمَّ اهْدِ وُلَاةَ أُمُورِ المُسْلِمِينَ لِمَا يُرْضِيكَ وَلِاتِّبَاعِ سُنَّةِ نَبِيِّكَ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ، وَثَبِّتْ أَقْدَامَهُمْ عَلَى الصِّرَاطِ المُسْتَقِيمِ، وَأَصْلِحْهُمْ يَا رَبَّ الْعَالَمِينَ.

اللَّهُمَّ بَارِكْ عَلَى شَيْخِنَا، وَعَلَى أَمِيرِنَا، وَعَلَى جَمِيعِ أُمَرَاءِ وَزُعَمَاءِ المُسْلِمِينَ.

اللَّهُمَّ بَارِكْ عَلَى المُسْلِمِينَ فِي هَذِهِ المَدِينَةِ، وَوَفِّقْهُمْ لِمَا تُحِبُّهُ وَتَرْضَاهُ يَا أَكْرَمَ الأَكْرَمِينَ.

اللَّهُمَّ أَعِزَّ الإِسْلَامَ وَالمُسِْلمِينَ، وَاخْذُلِ الْكُفْرَ وَالْكَافِرِينَ، وَانْصُرِ المُجَاهِدِينَ فِي سَبِيلِ اللهِ. وَاجْعَلْ كَلِمََتَكَ هِيَ العُلْيَا وَكَلِمَةَ الْكُفْرِ هِيَ السُّفْلَى.

رَبَّنَا ءَاتِنَا فِي الدُّنْيَا حَسَنَةً وَفِي الآخِرَةِ حَسَنَةً وَقَِنَا عَذَابَ النَّارِ.

إِنَّ اللهَ يَامُرُ بِالْعَدْلِ وَالإِحْسَانِ وَإِيتَاءِ ذِي الْقُرْبَى، وَيَنْهَى عَنِ الْفَحْشَاءِ وَالمُنكَرِ وَالْبَغْيِ، يَعِظُكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَذَّكَّرُونَ، وَلَذِكْرُ اللهِ أَكْبَرُ وَاللهُ يَعْلَمُ مَا تَصْنَعُونَ. وَقُومُواْ إِلَى صَلاتِكُمْ يَرْحَمُكُمُ اللهُ