Committing to Life-Long Learning: A Never Ending Evolution

One should have an attitude of being a student even if they are a teacher; they must be humble enough to learn from anyone regardless of their status.  

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One should have an attitude of being a student even if they are a teacher; they must be humble enough to learn from anyone regardless of their status.  

The capacity to learn is a gift, the ability to learn is a skill, and the willingness to learn is a choice. This choice is what the religion of Islam imposes upon us all. It teaches us to be lifelong learners.

So to seek knowledge for as long as one resides on earth is not only a religious and moral obligation, but it is a continuous obligation. Allah says in Quran: “Say: My Lord, increase me in knowledge”(Surah TaHa 20:114). 

The Prophet (Pbuh) responded to this verse by seeking knowledge for the rest of his life and by making this task an obligation for all Muslims.

Anas ibn Malik reported: The Messenger of  Allah (Pbuh) said: “Seeking knowledge is an obligation upon every Muslim”. Ibn Utaybah,  (RA) said: “The Prophet continued to increase in knowledge until Allah-The Exalted took his soul”. 

If the Prophet (Pbuh) himself sought knowledge until his death, then how much more are we in need of learning? Moreover, why do we need to keep learning?

This habit of learning presents us with an opportunity to go deeper and discover not only ourselves but the world around us. It helps us understand what is taking place in reality. It helps us identify falsehood and manipulation; it opens up the windows of reality upon us.

It helps us find words to express our deeper desires and thus fulfills our specific contributions in a meaningful way. It’s all because the Creator has created us with a brain that has a capacity for limitless learning and this is what makes every human a potential genius. It’s all up to us to use it for our benefit or to disregard this in our ignorance.

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One way of seeking knowledge is by studying and following the Divine guidance of the Holy  Book – The Quran which is more like an eternal curriculum. It has helped develop and progress those who asked for its guidance. It is one unique scripture that is suited for lifelong study and the knowledge of the truths that this Book offers remains the most valuable knowledge that one will ever possess.  

The light of faith plays an important role in the quest for knowledge. It produces an insatiable quench for knowledge and understanding of the divine revelation as well as the mysteries of nature. Faith gives the seeker the courage to overcome the fear of leaving the outer limits of their educational comfort zone and let them enter into the unknown and the unfamiliar.

Through faith, we can identify Allah’s brilliant design across all disciplines and this identification helps reveal the very nature of Him, man, creation, purpose, redemption, salvation, and order. 

One needs to pursue not only spiritual knowledge in order to practice the religion correctly, but we also need scientific knowledge that can benefit the community and humanity at large.

Scholars like Al-Ghazali, designated the natural sciences, particularly medicine, to be a  collective obligation upon the Muslim community. In contrast, the darkness of unbelief produces an insatiable quench for goods, money, and temporary pleasures at the expense of the soul itself. 

Abdullah ibn Mas’ud reported: The Messenger of Allah (Pbuh) said: “The seekers of two concerns are never satisfied: the seeker of knowledge and the seeker of the world”.

Usually, a seeker of knowledge has an insatiable, unselfish inner desire to acquire a wide spectrum of knowledge for the mere joy of attaining and sharing the increased knowledge without any recognition or rewards. Oftentimes this motivation and desire for learning is stimulated by a perceived need to help others. 

Abu Huraira reported: The Messenger of Allah, (Pbuh) said: “Moses asked his Lord: Who are the most knowledgeable of your servants? Allah said: A scholar who is unsatisfied with his knowledge and adds the knowledge of people to his own”. 

For this reason, many Muslim scholars from righteous predecessors were committed to seeking knowledge for as long as they could.

5 Verses from the Holy Quran on Knowledge

Malik ibn Anas, (RA) said: “It is not befitting for anyone with knowledge to give up learning”. As learning is not attained by chance, it must be sought for with ardour and attended with diligence.

Nu’aim ibn Hammad reported: It was said to Ibn Al-Mubarak, “For how long will you seek knowledge?” Ibn Al-Mubarak, (RA)  said: “Until death, if Allah wills. Perhaps the words that will benefit me have not yet been written”. 

In fact, someone who considers himself without the need of learning has become ignorant regardless of how much he already knows. Every scholar must remain a student or else he is no longer a scholar.

Ibn Al-Mubarak (RA) said: “A man will continue to have knowledge as long as he is seeking knowledge. If he assumes that he has knowledge, then he has become ignorant”. 

Ibn Abi Ghassan (RA) said: “You will have knowledge as long as you are a student. If you consider yourself sufficient, then you will become ignorant”. One needs to have an inordinate degree of patience in this quest for learning. They must understand that it takes a great deal of energy and a great deal of time to find pure knowledge. And it’s a very different kind of feeling to finally get something after a long search, pondering, and praying. 

Ibn Manadhir reported: I asked Abu Amr ibn Al-Ala, “For how long is it appropriate for a  man to learn?” Abu Amr (RA) said: “It is appropriate for him to learn his entire life”. It’s a fact that nothing could be more helpful to an individual and to society than those who place an eternal lens on the acquisition of knowledge.

Recognizing one’s constant need for more knowledge is an act of humility. In reality, the proportion of someone’s wisdom is directly related to their proportion of humility.

Ibn Abbas reported: The Messenger of Allah (Pbuh) said: “There is no human being except that the wisdom of his mind is in the hands of an angel. When he shows humility, the angel is ordered to increase his wisdom. When he shows arrogance, the angel is ordered to decrease his wisdom”.

Because these humble learners recognize that intelligence is a gift of  Allah, they do not dwell on it or become prideful about their personal intelligence quotient or accomplishments. They remember that knowledge and wisdom are given to them by the Lord and that they are to use that knowledge and wisdom in lifting and strengthening others. 

Arrogance lulls one into the false sense that there is nothing that anyone else can teach them. It tempts them to reject the truth.

Ibn Rajab reported: Some of the righteous predecessors said: Humility is that you accept the truth from anyone who brings it, even if they are young. Whoever accepts the truth from whoever brings it, whether they are young or old, whether he loves them or not, then he is humble. Whoever refuses to accept the truth because he regards himself as too reputable for it, then he is arrogantly proud”.

One should have an attitude of being a student even if they are a teacher; they must be humble enough to learn from anyone regardless of their status.  

Learning is a continuous journey and those who remain happily drenched in this ocean of learning, travel a path of never-ending personal evolution that ultimately leads to a blissful eternity.