Question: How do we confront slackness in seeking knowledge?
Answer: “Seeking knowledge is a worship through which a person draws near to Allah. Whoever treads a path to seek knowledge, Allah will make his path to paradise easy. Shaytan sits in the pathway of the son of Adam, in the path of good in order to discourage him and make him slack.
It is upon the student of knowledge to adorn himself with the etiquette which will help him seek knowledge and continue upon the path of seeking it. From that:
1. Sincerity to Allah, the Exalted. He should intend by seeking knowledge the Face of Allah and the hereafter. He should not seek knowledge to obtain the worldly life nor to attain status. Whoever is sincere to Allah in that, then he will be motivated to exert effort in seeking knowledge and bearing the difficulty and troubles. It will aid him in treading his path and continuing upon it
2. Seriousness in seeking knowledge and patience upon obtaining it and bearing the difficulty in regards to it. For knowledge is not obtained by the comfort of the body, just as it is not obtained by wishful thinking nor by saying: “Would have I only did…” or “I will” or “If only I…”. However, it is obtained through seriousness and patience upon its difficulties
3. Gradual obtainment of that by concerning oneself with the foundations of knowledge before its secondary issues and the smaller types knowledge before the bigger types of knowledge. Whoever tries to attain knowledge in one go, it will go in one go. Whoever learns it gradually and establishes the building, brick by brick, then he will reach its completion by the permission of Allah
4. Eagerness in overcoming the obstacles in front of him whether it is academic obstacles or other than it. Overcoming the academic obstacles is by asking questions, researching, and reviewing knowledge with classmates and the Mashaaikh, and debating issues without argumentation
5. Specializing in one science from the academic sciences along with obtaining something of the other sciences which are connected to the science. Ibn Qutaybah said: “Whoever wants to obtain knowledge, then let him seek one science [at a time]”
6. Beware of coming forth [for teaching] before being qualified [to do so] for that is a sign of failure and cause of boredom. It is upon the student of knowledge to be aware of the means that lead to slackness and boredom. From them:
1. Weakness in ambition and loss of resolve
2. Following the desires of the soul and the lure of Shaytan towards comfort and lack of fatigue in regards to seeking of knowledge. As well as demoralization [by thinking] that no matter how serious one is, he will not gain the status of the Scholars and students of Knowledge
3. Complacency and [finding] repose in distractions/amusements which turn one away from seeking knowledge, waste time, and do not benefit
4. Accompanying idle people who do not have a concern for knowledge nor know the value of time. Their ambition is only “he said/she said” and wasting time. The Prophet (ﷺ) prohibited bad friends and encouraged us to accompany those who are good. As is in the Hadith of Abu Musa (may Allah be pleased with him) that the Prophet(ﷺ) said:
إنما مثل الجليس الصالح والجليس السوء كحامل المسك ونافخ الكير، فحامل المسك إما أن يحذيك وإما أن تبتاع منه، وإما أن تجد منه ريحًا طيبة، ونافخ الكير إما أن يحرق ثيابك، وإما أن تجد منه ريحًا خبيثة
The example of a good pious companion and an evil one is that of a person carrying musk and another blowing a pair of bellows. The one who is carrying musk will either give you some perfume as a present, or you will buy some from him, or you will get a good smell from him, but the one who is blowing a pair of bellows will either burn your clothes or you will get a bad smell from him [Agreed upon]
Countering slackness in seeking knowledge is by having the etiquette of seeking knowledge and avoiding the means of slackness and acting upon what will benefit you in bypassing it and avoiding it.
We mentioned some etiquette of means of slackness in what has preceded. A student of knowledge should be aware of the high status of knowledge and the great reward with Allah, the Exalted. He should know that preoccupying oneself with it is best thing which effort can be exerted towards and it is the Prophetic inheritance. Whoever takes it has taken an abundant portion. The Prophet (ﷺ):
وإن العلماء ورثة الأنبياء وإن الأنبياء لم يورثوا دينارًا ولا درهمًا، وإنما ورثوا العلم فمن أخذه أخذ بحظ وافر
Scholars are the heirs of the Prophets, and the Prophets leave neither dinar nor dirham, leaving only knowledge, and he who takes it takes an abundant portion [Saheeh Sunan Dawood no. 3641]
وَمَا كَانَ الْمُؤْمِنُونَ لِيَنْفِرُوا كَافَّةً فَلَوْلا نَفَرَ مِنْ كُلِّ فِرْقَةٍ مِنْهُمْ طَائِفَةٌ لِيَتَفَقَّهُوا فِي الدِّينِ وَلِيُنْذِرُوا قَوْمَهُمْ إِذَا رَجَعُوا إِلَيْهِمْ لَعَلَّهُمْ يَحْذَرُونَ
And it is not (proper) for the believers to go out to fight (Jihad) all together. Of every troop of them, a party only should go forth, that they (who are left behind) may get instructions in (Islamic) religion, and that they may warn their people when they return to them, so that they may beware (of evil) [9:122]
May Allah grant us success. May peace and blessings be upon our Prophet Muhammad, his family, and Companions.
Faisal Ibn Abdul Qaadir Ibn Hassan