as well as the Signs Which Differentiate the Worldly Divines from the Other-Worldly
Part Seven: Concerning Reason: Its Excellence, Divisions, and What Is Mentioned about It in the Traditions
THE EXO'_,LLJ CE OF rNO'rWLEDGE AND TEACH1~: G IlH EVIDENTIAL EXAI:,FLES FROM TRADITION AND REASON,
A. The Excellence of Knowledge
1. Its evidential examples from the qur'an are His
saying, "Allah, the angels, and men endued with knowledge testified that there is no god but He, performing rightousness---" (3:16). Notice how He began with Himself and
mentioned secondly the angels and thirdly the people of knowledge. This ought to satisfy you with respect to its honor, excellence, and majesty as well as to Its being endowed with superior qualities.
Allah said, "Allah will raise to lofty degrees
of you who believed and those to whom knowledge is given", (58:12).
"The learned", said Ibn 'Abb&s, "are as much as seven
hundred degrees above the believers. Setween each two de
grees is a distance of a five hundred year journey". "Say, 'Are those who know and those who do not know equal?"', said Allah, (39:12).
He said, "Those of Allah's creatures who fear Him are the learned ('Ulama')". (35:25)
Allah said, "Say, 'Allah suffices as witness between me and you and the one who has knowledge of the nook.'"
Allah said, "The one who has some knowledge from the
book said, 'I will raring it to you'", (27:40) as a notification that he was able to do it by the power of his knowledge.
He said, "Those who were given knowledge said, 'Woe to you. Allah's reward to one who believes and does good is better."' (28:80) He made it plain that the great value of the next abode is known by knowledge.
"And these examples we set forth to man, and no one understands them except those who know", said Allah. (29:42)
Allah said, "Were they to refer it to the Messenger
and to those of them who have authority, then those of them who investigate would know it." (4:85) (Then observe how) He actually referred His judgment concerning events to their investigation and (how He) joined their rank to
the rank of the prophets in unveiling the judgment of Allah.
In (one of) His sayings we read, "0, children of Adam, we have sent down to you a garment to cover your nakedness", that is, knowledge, "and ornament or excellent clothing",
that is, certainty, "and the garment of piety", that is modesty. (7:25)
Allah said, "And we surely brought them a book which we have made distinct according to knowledge". (7:50)
"Let us explain to them with knowledge," said Allah. (7:6)
He said, "But they are signs which are very clear in the breasts of those to whom knowledge was given." (29:48)
And Allah said, "He created man; He taught him discrimination." (55t2,3) And He mentioned that only to show the bestowal of benefit.
2. The traditions (a1-akhbar)
The Messenger of Allah said, "Allah causes one whom
He wishes to honor to be a faqih in religion (one who has keen discernment), and He inspires him (yulhiamuhu) with respect to right conduct."
He said, "The learned are the heirs of the prophets", and it is known that there is no rank above prophecy and no honor above the inheritance of that rank.
Muhammad said, " All that is in the heavens and on earth ask forgiveness for the learned man". What position exceeds that of one for whom the angels of heaven and earth occupy themselves in asking forgiveness, for he is engaged
in his own affairs while they are engaged in asking forgiveness for him?
"Wisdom adds nobility to the noble and raises the servant till he reaches the attainment of kings", said he. By this he has called attention to its fruits in the present world, and it is well known that the next abode is better and more enduring.
Muhammad.said, " In a hypocrite two qualities do not exist: 1) good conduct, and 2) discernment in religion." Do not doubt (this) tradition on account of the hypocrisy of some of the learned (fugaha') of this time, for by it he did not mean the "figh" which you think.
The meaning of "al--filth" will follow. The least degree of a "faglh" is that he should know that the next abode is better than the present world; and he is freed from hypocrisy and sham by this cognition, if it is believed and if it masters him.
He said, "The most excellent of men is the learned believer, who, when needed, is useful; and when there is no need of him, he makes himself free from want."
"Belief is naked and its garb is piety", said Muham10 mad. "Its adornment is modesty; and its fruit, knowledge".
"Those nearest to the degree (darajah) of prophetship", said he, "are the people of knowledge and religious
20. warfare". As for the people of knowledge (ahl al-'ilm),
they directed people to that which the messengers brought; and as for the religious warriors (ahl al-jihad), they waged a religious war with their swords in accordance with what the messengers brought.
He said, "Truly the death of a tribe is more 11 lent than the death of a learned man."
"Men are like mines of gold and silver",
"The elect among them in the Days of Ignorance are the elect in al-Islam, if they have discernment."
Muhammad said, "On the Day of Resurrection the ink of 12 the learned will balance the blood of the martyrs."
"On the Day of Resurrection I shall be a mediator and a witness for anyone who memorizes forty traditions of my law in order to give them to my people", said he.
(Again) he said, "Whoever of my people will carry forty traditions will meet Allah on the Day of Resurrection as a man possessing knowledge (fagih) and learned.
"Allah will put and end to the anxieties of one who becomes well versed in His religion", said Muhammad, "and He will provide the necessities of life from where he least expects."
He said, "Allah revealed by inspiration (auha) to Ibrahim, '0, Ibrahim, surely I am learned. I love every
"A learned man", he said, His the person on earth in whom Allah confides."
"There are two categories of my people", said Muhammad. "If they are in sound condition, mankind is In sound condition; and if they are bad, mankind is bad. They are the princes and the those who have discernment (al-fugaha')".
He said, "If there should come a day in which I do not increase in respect to knowledge which draws me nearer to Allah, then in the rising of the sun of that day there is no blessing for me."
Concerning the superiority of knowledge over religious service and testimony he said, "The superiority of a learned man over a worshipper is like my superiority over the lowest of my disciples." So see how he made knowledge to be joined to the rank of prophecy and how he put down the rank of action without knowledge, even if the worshipper is not void of some knowledge of the religious service in which he perseveres and without which there would be no religious service.
He said, "The superiority of a learned man over a worshipper is like the superiority of a full moon over the rest of the planets."
"On the day of resurrection three (groups) will inter
cede", said he. "(They are) the prophets, then the learned, then the martyrs." How great is a rank which follows prophecy and is above martyrdom!
Muhammad said, "Allah is not worshipped by anything more excellent than discernment in religion, and (I am
sure that) one person of discernment (fagT) has more power over the adversary (shaitKn) than a thousand worshippers. Everything has a support; and the support of this religion is discernment (figh)."
He said, "The best of your religion is the most convenient of it, and the most excellent of worship is discernment (filth)."
"The superiority of the believer who is learned over the believer who is (simply) a worshipper is seventy degrees", said Muhammad.
He said, "Verily you are in a time (that has) many people of discernment, few devotees of reading the Qur'an and reciters of public prayers; its (the time's) askers are few, its givers are many. In it to do is better than to know, and there will come a time to mankind (when) the people of discernment will be few; the reciters of public prayers, many; the givers, few; the askers, many; in which it will be better to know than to do."
"Between a learned man and a worshipper", he said,
"there are a hundred degrees. Between each two degrees is the distance which a well-trained horse can run in seventy years."
When he was asked, "0, Messenger of Allah, what action is most excellent?" he replied, "Knowing Allah".
(Pushing their inquiry further) they said, 'actions'.'"
"Knowing Allah", he replied.
Then they said to him, "We ask about action, and you reply about knowledge."
So he said, "Truly a little action with knowledge benefits, whereas much action with ignorance does not benefit."
Muhammad said, "On the Day of Resurrection Allah will raise the worshippers; then He will raise the learned. Then He will say, '0, company of learned, I put my knowledge in you only because I knew you, and I did not put my knowledge in you in order to punish you. Go, for I have surely forgiven you'."
3. The traditions from the companions of Muhammad (al
'Ali bin abi Talib said to Kumail (one of his disci
ples), "0, Kumall, knowledge is better than wealth: knowledge guards you, while you guard wealth; and knowledge is
a ruler, while wealth is something ruled; and (as for)
'Ali also said, "The learned is more excellent than one who fasts, who performs his religious duties, and who wages a religious war; (and) when a learned man dies,
he makes a great breach in IsJ.arn which only one who sue16
ceeds him closes."
In verse he said,
"Glory is only for people of knowledge, for they,
To those who seek guidance, are guides to the right way.
Each man's value lies in that in which he is wellversed,
Whereas the ignorant are enemies of the learned. Devote yourself to knowledge, and by it you will live
Mankind is dead, but the people of knowledge are
Abu al-Aswad said, "There is nothing more highly es
teemed than knowledge. Kings are rulers over people,
while the learned are rulers over kings."
Ibn 'Abbess said, "Sulaiman bin Da'ud was allowed to
choose among knowledge, wealth, and dominion; and he chose
knowledge. Then he was given wealth and dominion with it." 19
Ibn al-Mub&rak was asked, "Who are the (perfect) peo
ple?" and he answered, "The learned."
Then they asked, "Who are the best kings?" "The ascetics", he answered.
"Who are the most base?" they demanded.
He said, "Those who use their religion for this present world."
The only ones he placed in the category of men were
the learned, because the peculiar property by which man is differentiated from the rest of the animals is divine learning. For man is a man through that ( quality)by reason of which he is noble (i.e. knowledge). And he is not so (i.e. noble) by the strength of his body, for the camel is stronger than he; and not by his size, for the elephant is larger than he; and not by his bravery, for the lion is braver than he; and not for his eating, for in respect to his belly the ox is more capacious than he; and not because he copulates, for the sparrow is stronger in covering than he; but he was created only for the sake of divine knowledge.
One of the learned said, "Would that I knew what one who has missed knowledge comprehends and what thing escapes him who comprehends knowledge."
Muhammad said, "One to whom the Qur'an is given and
who thinks that anyone Is given something better than it
(the Qur'an) has certainly minimized what Allah magnified." 20
Fath al--Maw ill said, "Does a sick person not die when
food, drink, and medicine are withheld?" "Certainly", they replied.
He said, "Likewise the heart. If wisdom and knowledge are withheld from it three days, it dies."
He certainly spoke the truth, for the nourishment of the heart is knowledge and wisdom, and by these two is its life just as the nourishment of the-body is food. Then the heart of one who loses knowledge is sick and his death is inevitable, but he does not feel it, for his love of this world and his preoccupation in it obliterate his feelings just as the predominance of fear sometimes absolutely nullifies the pain of a wound, while it is actually taking place. For when death puts the burdens of this world away from him, he senses that he is perishing and he has very greatsregret. Then it does not benefit him. That is like the feelings of one who is saved from his fear and one awakened from drunkenness, in regard to the injuries which he incurred in his state of drunkenness or fear. So we take refuge with Allah from the day of removing the cover (i.e. taking away ignorance). Truly people are sleeping; and when they die, they will begin to pay attention.
Al-Hasan said, "(On the Day of Resourection) the ink
of the learned will be weighed against the blood of the martyrs, and the ink of the learned will over-weigh the blood
of the martyrs."
Ibn Mas'ud said, "Seek to have knowledge (i.e. of
traditions) before it is taken away, and it is taken away by the death of those who narrate it. By the One who has my soul in His hand, men killed as martyrs in the way of Allah want Him to raise them as learned because they have
seen how much respect they have. For no one is born as a learned person; truly knowledge ('ilm) comes by learning."
Ibn 'Abb&s said, "Meditating (alone or with others) about knowledge part of a night is more liked by me than
passing (the whole of)it awake (in worship)." In like man
ner (this is related) on the authority of Abu Hurairah and
Allah's saying, '0, our Lord, give us some good in this world and in the next abode', (2:197) "Verily in this world it is knowledge and worship; in the next abode, the Garden."
Some one said to one of the philosophers (hukkama'), "What things do you acquire?"
He replied, "Those things which will float with you,
when your boat sinks: that is knowledge." Some one said, "By 'the sinking of the ship' he meant the destruction of
#Reading with S. M. Z.-yaum al-giy,amah ~
his body by death."
Somebody said, "People will take as an imam one who
takes wisdom as a bit, and eyes will regard with respect
one who is known by his wisdom."
Al-ShAfi'I said, "It is a part of the nobility of
knowledge that everyone to whom it is ascribed, even in
a trifling matter, is happy; while he from whom it is with
held is sad."
'Umar said, "0, people, seek to get knowledge, for
Allah has a robe which He likes, and with 'Which He will clothe one who seeks a portion of knowledge; and if anyone sins in any way, He will grant him His good will three
times lest He should despoil him of that robe, even if that
sin continues with him till he dies."
Al-Ahnaf said, "The learned are almost masters; and
all majesty which is not strengthened by knowledge results
Salim Ibn Ab3 al-Ja'd said, "My master bought me for
three hundred dirhams and set me free. So I asked (myself),
"What kind of work shall I take?' Then I took knowledge
as my occupation; and before a year had passed, the ruler of the city came to pay me a visit; and I did not permit
him (to enter)."
Zubair bin Abu Bakr said, "My father wrote to me in
Iraq, 'Seek to get knowledge; for if you become poor, it will be wealth for you; and if you become rich, it will
be beauty for you'," And that was related in Lugman's
advice to his son. He said, "0, my son, sit in the company of learned men and crowd as closely as possible to them, for Allah revives hearts with the light of wisdom just as he revives the earth with the heavy rains of the heavens."
One of the philosophers (hukama') said, "When a learned man dies, the fish in the sea and the bird in the air weep for him; his face may be missed, but what he said is not
Al-Zuhrl said, "The word 'knowledge' is masculine (in gender), and only strong men like it."
B. The Excellence of Learning
1. As for the evidential verses of the Qur'An, there is His saying, "And if a party of every band of them march not out (to war), it is that they may instruct themselves in their religion." (9:123)
Allah said, "Then ask the learned, if you do not know." 32
2. As for the traditions from Muhammad (akhbar),
there is his saying, "If one follows a road on which he seeks knowledge, Allah will cause him to. walk on a road to the Garden by means of it (i.e. knowledge)."
"Truly the angels, pleased with what the seeker of knowledge does, lower their wings in humility to him", he said.
Muhammad said, "Your going early to learn some kind of knowledge is preferable to your performing one hundred cyles (rak'ah) of the worship."
"Any branch of knowledge which a man learns", he said, is better for him than the present world and what is in it."
He said, "Seek knowledge, even though it be in China."
"Knowledge is a treasure chest the keys of which are the asking of questionsl%' said Muhammad. "Therefore ask, for truly four persons are rewarded by it, namely; the one who asks, the one who is learned, the one who hears, and the one who loves them."
He said, "It is not necessary for the ignorant person to remain silent on account of his ignorance, nor for the
learned man to keep silent on account of his knowledge." 33
(This is found) in a tradition of Abu Dharr, "Attend
ing the public audience of a learned man is more excellent than performing a religious service of one thousand ay.1es
visiting a thousand sick people,and being present at a thousand funeral services."
So somebody asked, "0, Messenger of Allah, and (is
it better) than reading the Qur'an?"
He countered, "Does the Qur'an benefit without knowl
"There is only a difference of one degree in the Gar
den"; he said, "between the prophets and one who dies while
seeking knowledge by which to revive Islam."
3. As for the records of the followers (athar), Ibn
`Abbess said, "I was humble while I was a seeker (of knowl
edge); therefore I became respected and sought."
In like manner Ibn AbI Mulaikah said, "I certainly
have not seen any one like Ibn'Abbas: when I see him, I think he is the most handsome man in appearance; and when
he speaks, the clearest man in speech; and when he gives an opinion, the most learned."
Ibn Mubarak said, "I marvel how the soul of one who does not seek knowledge can impel him to noble and generous action."
One of the philosophers (hukama') said, "I pity no
one the way I pity one of two men; 1) a man who seeks
knowledge and does not understand it, and 2) the man who
understands knowledge and does not seek it."
Abu'l-Bard.' said, "To learn a problem (of religion)
is more preferable to me than to spend a night (in worship)." And he also said, "Both the learned and the student are partners in (doing) good; the rest of the people are ignoramuses in whom there is no good." And he also said, "Be learned or a learner or a listener, but do not be a fourth,
for you will perish."
'Ata' said, "A session of knowledge atones for seven
ty (i.e. innumerable) sessions of entertainment (lahw)."
'Umar (bin al KhattAb) said, "The death of a thousand worshippers who spend the night in worship and the day in fasting is easier (to endure) than the death of a learned person who is keen to know the things permitted and forbidden of Allah."
Al-SMfi'i said, "Seeking knowledge is superior to
performing the supererogatory worship."
Ibn 'Abd al-Ijakam said, "I was studying under M.lik,
and noontime came. So I gathered up my books in order to perform the worship::(i.e.the nafilah). He said to me, "Say there, what you have got up to do is not superior to what you were doing, if your aim is true." (i.e. if you are learning in the desire to act upon your learning).
Abtt '1-Darda' said,-"If anyone thinks that rising early in the morning to seek knowledge is not religious warfare, he is lacking in thought and reasoning power."
C. The Excellence of Teaching
1. As for the evidential verses of the Qur'an, there
is His saying, "Let them warn their people, when they return to them, that they may take heed to themselves",(9:123), which means to teach and guide.
There is Allah's saying, "And when Allah entered into covenant with those to whom the Book had been given, it was:. that it might surely be made known to men and that they might not hide it", (3:184) which is a positive direction to teach.
And His saying, "And truly there is a party of them that surely hide the truth, though they know (it)" (2:141), prohibits concealing (it) just as the Exalted One said concerning testimony, "And whoever conceals it, surely causes his heart to sin." (2:283),
The Prophet said, "Allah did not give a learned man (knowledge) without also taking a pledge on account of it similar to the pledge which He took from the prophets to explain it to mankind and not to hide it (i.e. His message)."
Allah said, "And who speaks better than one who in
vites (people) to Allah and does good?" (41-:33) Again He said, "Then summon (people) to the way of your Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching." (16:126)
Allah said, "Teach them the Book and divine wisdom." (2:123)
2. As for the traditions (akhbar), there is Mu4ammad's
saying, when he sent Mu'Adh to al-Yaman, "Surely that Allah
should guide one man by you is better for you than that you should have the present world and what is in it."
The Prophet said, "Whoever learns a section of knowl
edge ('iim) in order to teach mankind is given the recom
pense of seventy great believers."
'ls& said, "One who is learned and does good works and
teaches is called great in the kingdom of heaven."
The Messenger of Allah said, "When the Day of Resurrection comes, Allah will say to His worshippers and His people who take part in religious warfare (al--muiahidin), 'Enter the Garden'; and the learned will say, 'By the ex
cellency of our teaching they worshipped and carried on the
warfare'. Then Allah will say, 'To me you are as some of my angels. Intercede, and your intercession will be accepted'. Then they will intercede and enter the Garden,
and this will only be by knowledge translated into teaching, not by passive knowledge which is not carried over (into action)."
Muhammad said, "Allah does not directly take away knowledge from mankind after He has given it to them; but it goes with the passing away of the learned; and whenever a learned person passes away, whatever knowledge he had passes away with him so that there remain only ignorant chiefs; they, when asked, give an opinion without knowledge; and they erreand cause others to err."
The Prophet said, "On the Resurrection Day Allah will bridle with fire anyone who understands some knowledge and hides it."
"The most excellent gift and the most excellent present is a word of wisdom which you hear and which you fold (to your breast), then°you carry it to a brother Muslim to whom you teach it; (this word) is equivalent to a year's worship", said Muhammad.
He said, "The present world is under a curse; what is in it is cursed except remembering Allah and what He likes: either as a teacher or as a pupil."
The Prophet said, "Truly Allah, His angels, and the people of His heavens and His earth, even to the ant in its hill and the whale in the sea pray for the teacher who
teaches people what is good."
"A Muslim does not actually do his brother Muslim a better service than to pass along to him a good tradition
which he has received", said Muhammad.
He also said, "A word of good which a believer hears,
teaches, and practices is better for him than a year's
On a certain day the Messenger of Allah went out.
He saw two sessions. (In) one of them (they) were petitioning and supplicating Allah, while (in) the second (they) were teaching people. He said, "These are asking Allah; and if He wills, He will grant their request; and if He wills, He will refuse them; but as for these, they
are teaching the people. And truly I was sent as a teacher."
Then he turned towards them and sat with them. (i.e. the 41
Muhammad said, "Allah sent me with guidance and knowl
edge just as the plenteous rain which comes to some land in which there is one plot of ground which receives the water and causes many herbs and much grass to spring up; and in which there is a (second) plot of ground which holds the water by which Allah benefits the people: they drink from it, irrigate, and plant; and in which there is
tioned as an example of one who receives benefit by his
knowledge; the second, he mentioned as an example of one who confers benefit; and the third, of one who is refused these two. (i.e. one who has no share in them).
Muhammad said, "When a man dies, his work is cut off unless there are three (things); (first) knowledge by which
one is benefitted; (secondly, continuing alms; and thirdly,
a virtuous child who prays for him). #
"The guide to the good is like one who does it", said
He said, "Envy is allowable only in two instances: a-man to whom Allah gave wisdom, who judges according to it,and teaches it to mankind; and a man to whom Allah gave wealth and to whom He gave authority to spend it for good." Muhammad said, "The mercy of Allah is on my successors." (So) somebody asked, "Who are your successors?" He replied, "Those who revive my law and teach it to the worshippers of Allah." 3. As for the records of the followers (Athdr), 'Umar said, "One who relates a tradition which somebody acts upon
# reading with SMZ . n SMZ says "those who love my law"
has-a reward like that of one who performs that act."
Ibn 'AbbAs said, "Everything even to the fish in the sea asks forgiveness for the teacher who teaches people good."
And one of the learned (,'ulama') said, "A learned man mediates between Allah and His creation. So let him_ be careful how he mediates."
It is related that Sufyan al-Thawri arrived at 'As
gdlan, (where) he stayed (a while). Nobody asked him (about anything). So he said, "Hire (a conveyance) for me that I might go out of this city. This is a country
in which knowledge is dying." In truth he said that because of his zeal for teaching and in trying to make knowledge remain in it (the country).
'Ate' said, "I visited Sa'id Bin al-Musaiyib, while he was weeping, and I asked, "Why are you weeping?' He replied,,'There is no one who asks me anything'."
Somebody said, "The learned are the lamps of their time; everyone is a light of his time from whom the people of his epoch seek light."
"Had it not been for the learned, mankind would have become like animals; that is, by their teaching, they cause mankind to rise from the level of beasts to the level of humanity", said al-Hasan.
'lkrimah said, "Surely this knowledge has a price."
Whereupon someone asked, "What is it?"
He replied, "That you put it in the one who is fit to
carry it and who will not lose it."
Yahya bin Mu'adh said, "The learned are more compas
sionate on the people of Muhammad than their fathers and
"How is that?" demanded some one.
He answered, "Because their fathers and mothers keep
them from the fire of the present world, while they (the learned) keep them from the fire of the last abode."
It is said, "The beginning of knowledge is silence,
then hearing, then memorizing, then performance, then spreading it."
It Is said (again), "Teach the ignorant person your knowledge, and learn from one who knows what you do not know; and surely, if you do that, you will learn what you were ignorant of, and you will keep what you knew."
Mu'adh bin Jabal, on (the excellence of) teaching and learning, said, "I saw it also transmitted (by tradition as from Muhammad), 'Learn knowledge, for in the sight of Allah learning it is reverential fear. Seeking it is a religious service. Studying it with another is an act of praising. Discussing it is religious warfare. Teaching it to one who
does not know it is almsgiving. Giving it to those who deserve it is an offering (oblation: a means of reaching Allah) (qurbah). It is a joy in privacy, a friend in solitude, a guide in religion, and that which makes you persevere in both good and bad times. It is a vizier (or distinguishing attributes of a man) among friends, a neighbor among strangers, and a lighthouse on the way to the Garden. By it He elevates peoples. He makes them leaders, masters, and guides in good whom the guides to the good imitate, whose tracks they follow, and whose actions they attentively scan. The angels desire their friendship and stroke them with their wings. Everything green and dry asks forgiveness for them even to the great fishes and reptiles of the sea, the beasts and cattle of the land, and the heavens and their stars. For knowledge is the life of hearts instead of blindness, and the light of eyes instead of darkness, and the strength of bodies instead of weakness. By it the worshipper reaches the stages of the righteous (manAzil al -abrar) and the high degrees (daralAt al-'ula). Meditation about it is equivalent
to fasting; studying it with some one, to spending the night in worship. By it Allah is obeyed, by it He is worshipped, by it His unity is declared, by it He is magnified, by it
one refrains from sin, by it blood relationship is maintained, and by it the things that are permitted and those that are
forbidden are known, It is the leader (imam), and the re
ligious works are its followers. The blessed receive it by 47 illumination (yulhamuhu); the wretched are denied it. Let
us ask Allah for His success-bringing aid.
D. The Rational Evidential Examples
You should know that the thing sought after in this chapter is recognition of the great value and excellence of knowledge; and unless excellence is understood in itself, and unless what it means is realized, it is not possible for
of any other things. Surely he who desires to know if Zaid is wise or not, while he himself does not understand the meaning and specific nature of wisdom, has erred from the road (of guidance).
The word "excellence" (fadf lah) is derived from "fadl" which is "that which is extra". If two things share in a matter and one of them is distinguished by superiority, one says, "It exceeds it and has superiority over it, whatever may be its excess In that which is a perfection of that thing`", as one says, "A horse is preferable to a donkey", in the sense that it (the horse) shares with it in strength of carrying and exceeds it in strength of attack (wheeling
you to know its existence as an attribute of knowledge or
about and returning to the attack) and retreat, in speed
of running, and in beauty of looks. Let it be supposed that a donkey is distinguished by having a greater market value,
one would not say that it is preferred to a horse, because that is a superiority in something which is material and a deficiency in what is ideal, and is not part of the perfection of a thing. An animal is sought for the idea connected with it and its qualities, not on account of that which is
If you understand this, it will not be hidden from you that knowledge is an excellence, when you consider it in relation to other attributes just as the horse has an excellence, when you consider it in relation to other animals. Though swiftness of pace is an excellence in the horse, it is not an absolute excellence (or an excellence without restriction), while knowledge is an excellence in itself and (also) independent of relationship to anything else; for it
is an attribute of Allah's perfection and one in which lies the nobility of the angels and the prophets. Intelligence in a horse is better than stupidity, for it is an excellence irrespective of any other relationship.
You should know that a precious object which is desired may be classified into 1) what is sought for some reason other than itself, and 2) what is sought for itself, and
other reason. Whatever is sought for its own sake is nobler than and superior to what is sought for some other reason. Among things sought on account of some ulterior reason are silver and gold coins, for both are metals without benefit. If Allah had not made it easy to satisfy our needs with
them, they and pebbles would have been one in value.
That which is sought for its own sake is happiness in
the next world and the delight of contemplating the face of Allah. That which is sought sometimes for itself and sometimes for another reason is like soundness of the body. For soundness of the leg, for example, is desirable because it means freedom from pain for the body, and it is a thing required for walking and reaching our desires and necessities. In this respect, if you consider knowledge, you would find it delightful in itself. For it would be a thing sought for its own sake and you would find it a means of access to the last abode and its happiness, and a means of approach
to Allah. There is no reaching Him except by it (knowledge); and the greatestthing a man may have is his eternal happiness, while the most excellent thing is whatever is a means of access to it. It will never be reached except by knowledge and religious works, and one will never arrive at religious works except by knowing how to act. Thus the source of hap.-
piness in the present world and in the next abode is knowledge, which is therefore the most preferable act.
How should this not be so, when the excellence of anything is known by the nobility of its fruits? You certainly know that the fruit of knowledge is to approach the Lord
of the Worlds and to rise to the regions of the angels and 50
companionship of the archangels. This is in the next abode,
while in this present world there is power, dignity, and influence on kings in their judgment, and the instinct to show respect which is revealed in the natural dispositions. Even unintelligent Turks and uncivilized Arabs find their natural dispositions compelled to respect their elders on account of their great and special qualities of knowledge acquired from experience. Indeed, a beast, by nature, respects man because it perceives how man differs from it in a perfection which exceeds its own rank.
This is the excellence of knowledge irrespective of all else. Then the various branches of knowledge differ according to the following exposition: and without doubt, their excel
lencies differ as the various sciences differ.
As for the excellence of teaching and learning, that
is obvious from what we have mentioned. If knowledge is the most excellent of things, to learn it is to search for that which is most excellent, and to teach it is beneficial for
the most excellent. The explanation of this is that the aims of mankind are brought together in religion and the present world.
The only orderly system for religion is through the order of the present world, for surely the present world Is a seed bed (mazra'ah) for the next abode.. It is the instrument which causes that one to reach Allah who takes it as an instrument and a temporary abode, not for one who takes it for a permanent dwelling place and his native land. No worldly matter is rightly arranged except by human actions.
Man's actions, professions, and crafts, are encompassed in three divisions: (the first) of which is fundamental activities without which there would be no permanence for the world, and these are four: l) agriculture which is for food, 21, weaving which is for clothing, 3) building which is for shelter (or dwelling), and 4) political science which has for its object the forming of alliances, the organization of society, and mutual cooperation to secure and maintain the means of existence.
The second (grand division) is that which is a prepara
tion for each of these arts and which serves them, as blacksmithing, which serves agriculture and many of the arts by preparing its tools, and as carding and spinning cotton which serves weaving in :riving a sphere for it.
The third (grand division) is that which completes and improves the fundamental activities, as milling and baking
do to agriculture, and as bleaching and tailoring do to weaves ing. That is by being related to the maintenance of the order of the present world, as the parts of a person are related to its whole.
That consists of three kinds also: 1) either fundamental parts like the heart, the liver, and the brain; or 2) that which serves them as the stomach, veins, arteries, nerves, and veins (which acquaint us with the heart); or 3) that which completes and adorns them as the fingernails, fingers, and eyebrows.
The noblest of these arts are the fundamental ones, and the noblest of these fundamental ones is political science which forms alliances and seeks to make improvement. Therefore this art is sought in the perfect equipment of one who has it as his responsibility in a measure that the rest of the arts do not demand; and therefore, without question, the possessor of this art asks the rest of the artisans to serve.
The political science which seeks to improve mankind and guide them to the straight road which saves in the present world and the next abode is of four ranks:
The first, which is the highest, is the rule of the prophets and their jurisdiction over both the leaders and the
masses in their outer deeds and inner thoughts.
The second is the rule of caliphs, kings, and sultans
and their jurisdiction over both the leaders and the masses; but on their outer deeds, not on their inner thoughts. The third is (the rule of) those who know Allah and His religion--- these are those who are the heirs of the prophets-and their jurisdiction is over the inner things of the leaders only. The understanding of the masses does not rise high enough to receive benefit from them, (i.e. from the 'ulam&') and their power does not extend to the point where-they aan direct the outward acts of the masses by compulsion and prohibition and making laws.
The fourth is (the rule of those skilled in fish) and the exhortere.whose jurisdiction is over the inner thoughts of the masses only.
After prophecy, the noblest of these four professions is to provide knowledge and to train people's souls away from destructive and blameworthy character and to guide them to praiseworthy character which brings happiness; and this is what is meant by teaching.
We-said this is better than the rest of the occupations and arts only because the nobility of a profession is known by three things: 1G by giving consideration to the natural talent by which one reaches knowledge of it, as the excel-
lency of the intellectual sciences over the lingual. For divine wisdom is apprehended by the reason, and language by the sense of hearing; and the reason is nobler than hearing; or 2) by giving consideration to the universality of the benefit, as the excellence of agriculture over goldsmithing;
or 3) by giving consideration to the sphere in which (the
work) is carried on, as the excellence of goldemithing over tanning; for the sphere of one of the two is gold, whereas the field of the other is the skin of a dead animal.
It is not hidden that the religious sciences which are the discernment of the road to the next abode are appre
hended only by the perfection of the reason and clarity of intellect. The mind is the noblest of man's qualities, as
will appear in its exposition (in Part Seven), for by it he 51 (i.e. mankind) received the trust or obligation (amanah) of
Allah and by it he reaches to proximity of Allah. As for
the universality of benefit, there is no doubt of it; for
its benefit and its fruit is the happiness of the next abode. As for the nobility of its sphere, how can it be denied, when a teacher deals with the hearts and souls of man?
The noblest being on the face of the globe is man, while the noblest part of man's substance is his heart; and a teacher is engaged in perfecting, polishing, purifying,
and guiding it to proximity of Allah. From one aspect
teaching knowledge is a kind of worship of Allah; and from another aspect, a kind of vice-gerency of Allah; for to the heart of a learned man, Allah has granted knowledge, which is the most particular of his attributes.
He is like a keeper of the most precious of His treasures. Then he is permitted to spend some of it for anyone who needs it. What rank is more sublime than that of being a servant who is an intermediary between his Lord and His creatures in bringing them nearer to Allah and in leading them to the Garden as their final resting place? May Allah make us one of them by His grace, and may Allah bless all His chosen servants.