As to [the evidence of the value of knowledge in] the sayings of the Companions (al-athar), `Ali ibn-abi-Talibsaid to Kumayl, “O thou perfect of knowledge ! Knowledge is better than riches; for knowledge guardeth thee whereas thou guardest riches. Knowledge governs while riches are governed. Riches diminish with spending but knowledge increases therewith.”
And again, “The learned is superior to the fasting, praying and self-mortifying man. Should the learned die, a gap would be created in Islam [by his death] and no one would fill this gap save one of his successors.”
“Learning is the glory of mankind,
The wise are beacons on the road to truth;
Man is worth his knowledge, nothing more –
The fool will be his inveterate foe,
Knowledge is man’s hope of life immortal,
Man may die but wisdom liveth ever.”
Abu-al-Aswad said, “Nothing is more precious than knowledge; while kings rule over men, they are ruled by the learned.”
Ibn-`Abbas said, “Solomon the son of David was asked to choose between knowledge, wealth or power, but he chose knowledge and was thereby blessed with wealth and power as well.”
Ibn-al—Mubarak was asked, “Who constitute humanity?” To which he replied, “The learned”. It was then said, “And who are the kings?” He answered, “The ascetics”. And who,” he was asked, “constitute the lowest class among men?” “Those,” said he, “who, in the name of religion, grow fat in the world.” Thus only the learned did [ibn-al--Mubarak] regard as belonging to mankind, because it is knowledge which distinguishes man from the other animals.
Furthermore, man is a human being, not because of his physical prowess for physically the camel is his superior; not because of his size for the elephant is larger; not because of his courage for the lion is more courageous; not because of his appetite for the ox has the greater; not because of coitus for the least of the birds is more virile than he, but rather by virtue of his noble aims and ideals. [As a matter of fact] he was only created to know.
One of the wise men said, “Would that I might know what thing was attained by him whom knowledge has escaped, and what thing has escaped him who has attained knowledge.”
The Prophet said, “Whoever has been given the Qur’an and thinks that anyone has been given something better, he has degraded what Allah has exalted.”
Fath al-Mawsili said inquiring, “Would not the sick die, if he is given no food or drink or medicine?” They said, “Yes”. To which he said, “Similarly the heart will perish if it is cut off from wisdom and knowledge for three days.” He did indeed speak the truth, for the nourishment of the heart, on which its life depends, is knowledge and wisdom, just as the nourishment of the body is food.
Whoever lacks knowledge has an ailing heart and his death is certain; yet he is not aware of his doom because the love of this world and his concern therewith have dulled his sense, just as a shock from fright may momentarily do away with the pain of a wound although the wound be real. Thus when death frees him from the burdens of this world he will realize his doom and’ will, though to no avail, greatly regret it. This is like the feeling of a person who has attained safety after having been through danger, and like that of a man who has just recovered from his drunkenness.
We seek refuge in Allah from the day when all things will be brought to light. Men are asleep but at death they Will awake. Al-Hasan said, “The ink of the learned Will be likened to the blood of the martyrs, and the former will prove superior.”
Ibn-Mas`ud said, “Seek ye knowledge while it be found; it will be veiled when its narrators pass away. Verily, by Him in whose hand is my life, several men who died martyrs in the cause of Allah would rather that, at resurrection, Allah would raise them up as learned men for what they see of the veneration accorded the learned.” No one is born learned, but knowledge is only the result of learning.
Ibn-’Abbas said, “I would rather spend a part of the night in learned discussion than in continual prayer.” The same was related of abu-Hurayrah and Ahmad ibn-Hanbal.
AI-Hasan said that in the words of Allah, “Give us good (hasanah) in this world and good in the next,” (2:197) the good in this world meant knowledge and worship while that of the next signified paradise.
A wise man was once asked, “What things shall we possess?” He replied, “Those things which you will not lose in the event of shipwreck,” meaning thereby knowledge, while by shipwreck, it is said, he meant the decomposition of the body through death.
A certain wise man said, “Whoever takes wisdom for his bridle will be acclaimed by men as their leader, and whoever is known for his wisdom will be looked upon with respect.”
Al-Shaf’I Said “One of the noble things about knowledge is that he who is given a portion of it, no matter how small, rejoices while he who is deprived of it grieves.”‘
Umar said, “O men! Seek ye knowledge. For verily Allah has a mantle of love which He casts upon him who seeks knowledge even of a single section. Should he then commit an offence, Allah will remonstrate with him thrice in order not to rob him of his mantle, even though that offence may persist with him until he dies.”
Al-Ahnaf said, “The learned men came very near being Allahs; and all power which is not supported by knowledge is doomed.
Salim ibn-abi-al-Ja’d said, “ My master bought me for three hundred dirhams and later set me free. Thereupon I said, ‘What shall I take up for livelihood? Finally I took up learning and no sooner had a year passed than the prince of Ma kkah called upon me but I would not receive him.”
al-Zubayr ibn-abi-Bakr said, “My father had written me while in al-’Iraq saying. ‘Go after knowledge; should you become poor it will be your wealth, and should you become rich it will be your embellishment’.” (This has been related among the exhortations of Luqman to his son). He also said, “Sit in the company of the learned and keep close to them; for verily Allah quickens the hearts with the light of wisdom as he refreshes the earth with the rain of heaven.”
A certain wise man said, “When the learned dies the fish of the sea as well as the fowl of the air will mourn him; while his face shall disappear his memory will not be forgotten.”
AI-Zuhrisaid, “Knowledge is glorious and is not treasured except by the glorious.”
From: Al Ghazali’s – Ihya Ulumuddin (The Revival of Religious Sciences) – translated by Nabih Amin Faris