Pitfalls in the Quest for Knowledge
Dealings with Other People
Dealings with Parents
Sometimes you find a student of religious knowledge spending considerable time in the company of scholars,listening to them respectfully and attentively.However,if you were to see how he conducts himself at home with his parents,you would get a shock.He is harsh and uncouth.When his parents ask him to do something for them,he bangs his fist into the wall and shouts at them about how busy he is.Busy with what?Busy reading Islamic books,seeking knowledge,sitting with scholars,and engaging in good works! This is all well and good,but should he not also be busy looking after his parents?Has not Allah commanded us to be good to our parents –even pagan parents?He has commanded us to be good to our parents even if they call us to abandon our religion and engage in idolatry.Allah says:“If they strive to make you worship others along with Me of whom you have no knowledge,then do not obey them.Yet offer them your good company in this life”.[Sûrah Luqmân:15]
So how much more deserving are they of your respect if they happen to be Muslims,even very sinful Muslims?How can a child claim to be seeking Islamic knowledge and be counted among the pious if he disobeys his parents,treats them harshly,or abandons them with tears in their eyes and goes on his merry way?
It is startling to see a student who gets happy every time he hears a scholarly verdict that diminishes the rights of the parents.If he hears,for instance,that due to dire circumstances,going for jihad in a certain country has become an obligation on everyone and it is no longer necessary to solicit the permission of one’s parents,he gets happy.He might even go to participate in that jihad,leaving his parents behind crying.Why?
Because some scholar ruled that his parents’permission is not necessary.If he hears from another scholar that obeying his parents is obligatory and their permission is mandatory, he ignores that ruling and heaps a bunch of accusations against the integrity of that scholar.Why?Because he finds it difficult to obey his parents.On the other hand,he likes the idea of traveling and going to and fro.
When he is away from home and away from his parents he is gentle and good-natured. He is cheerful and serves his Muslim brothers and fellow students.His personality changes abruptly when he returns home.He becomes harsh and domineering and expects everyone else in the house to listen to him and accept his opinions.
When we look for the positive role that this young man plays at home,we do not find it. He can neither disseminate knowledge to the members of his household nor warn them against the corruptive influences that pervade the home.He cannot even venture to provide them with books,cassettes,and magazines that might benefit them.He cannot be of benefit to them because of the bad treatment that he metes out.They will not listen to him,because he has destroyed the relationship that he had with them.
Sometimes,a student of this type tries to justify his behavior by citing the example of some Companions who were forced to go against their parents for the sake of their religion.He will mention that `Ubaydah b,al-Jarrâh killed his father.Of course,he fails to mention the fact that those people had parents who were not only unbelievers,but were violently attacking the Muslims at that time.
This same student probably has Muslim parents.Maybe they are sinful Muslims.They might even be good Muslims,but because of the young man’s personality,bad upbringing,or youthful zeal,he does not treat them well.They,therefore,take a negative stance with him which only makes him think worse of them.This is a grave pitfall indeed.
Dealings with Classmates and Colleagues
Sometimes a student of knowledge fails in his duty to benefit his classmates and neighbors.He has no effect on them whatsoever,neither at school if he is a student nor at work if he is an employee.He is equally ineffective in the neighborhood in which he lives.However,when he is among his fellow students of religious knowledge and other religious young people,he becomes very active.He fails to make calling others to Islam his primary purpose.He also fails to realize that this should be his purpose at all times, whether he is at home,at work,or in the marketplace.By behaving this way,he is not conducting himself in the manner that a scholar or student of religious knowledge is supposed to conduct himself.He should be calling people to Allah,enjoining what is right,and forbidding what is wrong.
`Umar b.Abî Salamah said:“I was a young boy in the home of Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him).My hand used to go all around the plate when I ate,so Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him)said to me:‘O young boy!Mention the name of Allah,eat with your right hand,and eat from what is in front of you.’”Sahîh al-Bukhârî (4957).Sahîh Muslim (3767).
We can see from this incident how the Prophet (peace be upon him)was concerned with guidance and upbringing,even at the dinner table.
His Companions were the same,as were the scholars who came after them and followed their example.They took advantage of every opportunity to teach people something good and invite them to the way of Allah.They would capture the people’s hearts with their good conduct and their respectful dealings.Then they would provide guidance for the people.
A poet once said:
Be good to the people and you will enslave their hearts. How often does goodness a person enslave!
We do not want to enslave the people’s hearts.Their hearts should be enslaved to Allah alone.What we want,however,is for Islamic workers and students of knowledge to know how to touch the people’s hearts with kindness and impeccable manners,so they can spread righteousness among the people and impart the knowledge that they possess. Religious knowledge has a duty levied upon it that the possessor of knowledge must pay. If he fails to pay it,then his knowledge will be bereft of blessings.
Dealings with One’s Spouse
The closest person to you after your parents is your husband or wife.In spite of this,we find that all too frequently the wife of a student of knowledge complains that her husband does not benefit her with his knowledge.He never teaches her.Sometimes she is ignorant about her religion.She may even be engaged in deviant behavior like dressing indecently, unveiling,and listening to music.
Some students have no other way of dealing with their wives other then asserting their authority over them.They order them around,telling them what they can and cannot do, rebuke them and spurn them.They might even abuse their wives and think that this is the way to put them right!
Does this student of religious knowledge ever read with his wife or inform her of what Allah and His Messenger (peace be upon him)say.Does he try to soften her heart by reminding her of Allah and by beautiful preachings?Does he teach her what is lawful and prohibited in Islam?Does he treat her well?We have to sadly admit that many students fail to do these things.
The Prophet (peace be upon him)said:“Many women have come to my household complaining of their husbands.Those men are not the best among you.”Sunan Abî Dâwûd (2146).Sunan al-Dârimî (2122). How could they be the best of men when the Prophet (peace be upon him)said:“The best of you is the one who is the best to his family,and I am the best of you to his family.”Sunan al -Tirmidhî (3790).Sunan Ibn Mâjah (1967).How,then,can a student of religious knowledge be so good when he is among his friends and peers but so harsh and bitter when he is with his parents,siblings,and his wife?This is a form of inconsistency that is neither tenable nor tolerable.