As to [the evidence of the value of knowledge in] tradition (al-akhbar) the Apostle of Allah said, “Whom Allah doth love, He giveth knowledge of religion and guideth him into the straight path;”
and again, “The learned men are the heirs of the prophets.” It is also well-known that there is no rank above that of prophethood, no honour higher than its inheritance.
The Prophet also said, “What is in the heavens and in the earth intercedes for the learned men.” And what rank is higher than that of him for whom the angels of the heavens and earth labour interceding with Allah on his behalf, while he is preoccupied with himself. Muhammad Salallahu ‘alaihi wassalam [s.a.w] (peace be upon him) also said, “Wisdom adds honour to the noble and exalts the slave until he attains the level of kings.”
The Prophet pointed this out relating to the benefits of wisdom in this world, since it is well-known that the hereafter is superior and more lasting. Muhammad said again, “Two qualities the hypocrite lacks - good intentions and religious insight.” Do not doubt tradition, then, because of the hypocrisy of some contemporary jurisprudents; theirs is not the jurisprudence which the Prophet had in mind. (The definition of jurisprudence will come later). For a jurisprudent to know that the hereafter is better than this world is, after all, the lowest type of knowledge he can possess. Should it prove to be true and prevail, it would clear him of hypocrisy and deceit.
The Prophet said, “The best of men is the learned believer who, if he is needed, he will be useful; and if dispensed with, he will be self-sufficient. “
And again he said, “Belief is like unto a nude who should be clothed with piety, ornamented with modesty and should have knowledge for progeny.”
And again, “The nearest people to prophethood are the people of knowledge and the warriors of jihad”: the former have led men to what the prophets have proclaimed, and the latter have wielded their swords on its behalf.
He also said, “The passing away of a whole tribe is more tolerable than the death of one learned man.”
And again, “Men are like ores of gold and silver, the choicest among them during the Jahiliyah days are also the best during the days of Islam, provided they see the light.”
He also said, “On the day of resurrection the ink of the learned men will be likened to the blood of the martyrs.”
And again, “Whoever preserves of the law forty Traditions in order to transmit them unto my people, I shall, on the day of resurrection, be an intercessor and a witness on his behalf.”
Muhammad s.a.w. also said, “Any one of my people who will preserve forty hadiths will on the day of resurrection face Allah as a learned jurisprudent.”
And again, “Whoever will become versed in the religion of Allah, Allah will relieve him of his worries and will reward him whence he does not reckon”
The Prophet also said, “Allah said unto Abraham, `O Abraham! Verily I am knowing and I love every knowing person’.”
And again, “The learned man is the trustee of Allah on earth.”
The Prophet said, “There are two groups among my people who when they become righteous the populace becomes righteous, and when they become corrupt the populace becomes corrupt: these are the rulers and the jurisprudents.”
Again he said, “Should the day come wherein I increase not in knowledge wherewith to draw nearer to Allah, let the dawn of that day be accursed.”
Concerning the superiority of knowledge to worship and martyrdom, the Prophet said, “The superior rank the learned man holds in relation to the worshipper is like the superior rank I hold in relation to the best of men.” See how he placed knowledge on an equal footing with prophethood and belittled the value of practice without knowledge, despite the fact that the worshipper may not be ignorant of the worship which he observes.
Moreover, without this knowledge there would have been no worship. The Prophet also said, “The superior rank the learned man holds over the worshipper is similar to the superiority of the moon when it is full over the other stars.”
And again, “They will, on the day of resurrection, intercede [before Allah]: the prophets, then the learned, then the martyrs.” Great then is the state of knowledge which ranks next to prophethood and stands over martyrdom, the merits of the latter notwithstanding.
The Prophet also said, “Allah was not worshipped with anyone better than the learned in religion. Verily a single jurisprudent is more formidable to Satan than a thousand worshippers.” For everything has [its] foundation. and the foundations of this religion is jurisprudence.
And again, “The best part of your faith is [also] the easiest, and the best form of worship is jurisprudence.” The Prophet also said, “The learned believer holds a rank seventy degrees higher than that of the ordinary believer.”
And again. “Verily you have come upon a time whose jurisprudents are many and Qur’an readers as well as preachers are few, whose beggars are rare and givers numerous, wherein deeds are better than knowledge. But there will come a time when jurisprudents are few and preachers many, whose givers are few and beggars numerous, wherein knowledge is better than works.”
The Prophet also said, “Between the learned and the worshipper are a hundred degrees, each two of which are separated by the extent of a racing horse’s run in seventy years.”
The Prophet was also asked, “O Apostle of Allah! What works are best?” To which he replied. “Your knowledge of Allah.” He was then asked. “Which knowledge do you mean?” He answered, “Your Knowledge of Allah.” Again he was asked, “We enquire about works and you reply concerning knowledge.” Muhammad then said, “With your knowledge of Allah, a few works will suffice, but without such knowledge, no works, however numerous, avail.”
The Prophet also said, “On the day of resurrection Allah will [first] raise the worshippers and then the learned to whom He will say, ‘O ye company of the learned, I did not imbue you with My knowledge but for My knowledge of you. Moreover, I did not imbue you with My Knowledge in order to torment you. Go ye, therefore, for verily I have forgiven you’”
From: Al Ghazali’s – Ihya Ulumuddin (The Revival of Religious Sciences) – translated by Nabih Amin Faris