Abu Barzah al-Aslami radi Allahu anhu reported that Allāh's Messenger sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam said, “The two feet of the servant will not cease (from standing before Allāh) on the Day of Judgment until he is asked about four things: on his life and how he spent it; on his knowledge and what he did with it; on his wealth and where he earned it and how he spent it; and on his body and in what way he utilized it.” [Saheeh, reported by At-Tirmidhi]
We are constantly bombarded nowadays to seek knowledge and learn, yet many times this knowledge does not benefit the student. What is beneficial knowledge? The scholars and salaf of the past state that beneficial knowledge is knowledge that leads to actions. Ilm is not the goal, rather it is the means to the goal which is the pleasure of Allāh and success in the hereafter. If knowledge does not make you a better Muslim, through your character and worship, then it is not benefiting to you.
The Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam narrated this duaa in a hadeeth in Sunan ibn Maajah (authenticated by Shaykh Albaani rahimahullah):
اللَّهُمَّ انْفَعْنِي بِمَا عَلَّمْتَنِي وَ عَلِّمْنِي مَا يَنْفَعُنِي وَ زِدْنِي عِلْمًا
Allahumma-infa'nī bimā 'alamtanī wa 'allimnī mā yanfa'unī wa zidnī 'ilmā
O Allāh, benefit me from that which You taught me, and teach me that which will benefit me, and increase me in knowledge.
Word for Word Translation
Allahumma: O Allāh. A refresher on 'Allahumma' can be found here.
Infa'nī: (You) benefit me. Nafa'a according to the dictionary means to profit, do good, be useful, and beneficial.
bimā: By/with what ever
'alamtanī: (You) taught me
'allimnī: (You) teach me
mā: what ever
yanfa'unī: it will benefit me
zidnī: (You) increase me
'ilmā: (in) knowledge
Memorize this duaa:
Points of Benefit
- Knowledge is a gift that only comes from Allāh azza wa jal. In this duaa, we ask Allāh to benefit us from the knowledge that He taught us. In the Qur'an we find that Allāh ta'ala describes Khidr: Then they found one of Our slaves, on whom We had bestowed mercy from Us, and whom We had taught knowledge from Us. [18:65]
- Knowledge that does not benefit is useless. We ask twice in this duaa for beneficial knowledge; the knowledge that we have already learned and the knowledge that we are yet to gain.
- Beneficial knowledge is greater than having a lot of knowledge. In this duaa, we ask Allāh for beneficial knowledge twice before asking for an increase in it.
- The best knowledge is knowledge of the deen. The Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam said, “Verily, Allāh the Exalted does not like one who is knowledgeable of the worldly life, but ignorant of the Hereafter.” [Saheeh al Jaami']
- Knowledge is action. In the hadeeth in the beginning of this post, the Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam said each of us will be asked: an 'ilmihi madhaa 'amila feehi, about his knowledge and what he did with it.
- If knowledge does not benefit you, it will harm you. Bishr ibn Al-Haarith said, “knowledge is good – for the one who acts upon it. But as for the one who doesn't act on it – there is nothing more harmful (to him) than it.”
- Those who do not act upon their knowledge will be punished in the hereafter. In one hadeeth, the Prophet alayhi salaatu wa salaam said, “A man will be brought on the Day of Judgment and thrown into the Hell-fire where his intestines will spill out. So it will be said (to him): 'Weren't you the one who used to command good and forbid evil?' So he will say: “I used to command you to do good yet not do it myself. And I used to forbid you from evil yet commit it myself.”' [Bukhāri and Muslim] In another hadeeth, Rasul Allāh sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam said, “On the night that I was ascended up to the heavens, I came upon a people whose lips were being cut off by pliers made from Fire. Every time their lips were severed, they would be brought back and formed again. So I said: 'O Jibreel, who are these people?' He said: 'They are speakers from your nation, who say words but do not do deeds, and who read the Book of Allāh yet do not act (on it).”' [Al Bayhaqi, Hasan]
- As your knowledge increases, your ibaadah should increase. Abu Qulaabah said to a man, “If Allāh presents you with knowledge, then present Allāh with worship. And do not let your only concern be to narrate to the people.” imām Ahmad compared knowledge to wealth; he said, “The path of knowledge is like the path of wealth; if the wealth increases, then the zakah upon it increases.” Meaning, the more knowledge you gain, the more “zakah” is due on that knowledge – worship.
- Seeking knowledge of the deen for wordly purposes (i.e., a wrong intention) will prevent one from smelling the fragrance of Jannah. The Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam said, “Whoever acquires knowledge not learning it except to achieve some worldly gain will not perceive the fragrance of Paradise on the Day of Judgment.” [Ahmad, Saheeh]
The Salaf concerning Knowledge
Below is a compilation of a few beneficial pieces of advice from the Salaf, may Allāh have mercy on them, from the book “Knowledge Mandates Action” :
Abu Abdillah Ar-Rudhabaari,
Whoever goes out towards knowledge, intending (just to obtain) the knowledge, knowledge does not benefit him. And whoever goes out towards knowledge, intending to act upon the knowledge, knowledge benefits him – even if it's a little.
Habeeb ibn Ubayd ar-Rahbi,
Acquire knowledge, comprehend it and use it. And do not acquire it in order to adorn yourselves with it, for indeed, it is imminent – should your life-spans be prolonged for you – that knowledge will be used as a means for adorning oneself, just as a man adorns himself with his garment.
Abdullah ibn Al-Mu'taz,
The knowledge of a hypocrite is in his speech, while the knowledge of a believer is in his actions.
Al Fudayl ibn Iyyadh,
It is upon the people to acquire knowledge. So when they attain knowledge, it is upon them to act (on it).
Yahya ibn Ma'een would recite the verse of poetry,
If you are lacking provisions, you will not find any provision quite like that of righteous actions.
Lastly, an incident with imām Awzaa'ee rahimahullah perfectly states the condition of most of our students today.
One day a group of students of hadeeth set out early to see imām Al Awzaa'ee, who then turned to them and recited,
كم من حريص جامع جاشع ٭ ليس بمنتفع و لا نافع
“How many dedicated (students of knowledge) there are,
seeking to gather it and desirous of obtaining it,
yet they do not gain benefit from it nor do they give benefit out to others.”
May Allāh ta'ala grant us beneficial knowledge and protect us from knowledge that does not benefit. Āmīn.