Life-Long Learning

Life-long Learning

by Abu Amina Elias

Islam teaches us to be life-long learners and to seek knowledge for as long as we reside on earth. Not only is seeking knowledge a religious and moral obligation, it is a continuous obligation.

“Say: My Lord, increase me in knowledge.” (20:114)

The light of faith produces an insatiable quench for knowledge and understanding of the divine revelation as well as the mysteries of nature. We ought to pursue spiritual knowledge, especially what every Muslim needs to know in order to practice the religion correctly, but we also need scientific knowledge that can benefit our community and humanity at large.

In contrast, the darkness of unbelief produces an insatiable quench for goods, money, and temporary pleasures at the expense of the soul itself.

Malik ibn Anas, may Allah have mercy on him, said:

لا يَنْبَغِي لأَحَدٍ يَكُونُ عِنْدَهُ الْعِلْمُ أَنْ يَتْرُكَ التَّعَلُّمَ

It is not befitting for anyone with knowledge to give up learning.

Source: Jāmi’ Bayān al-‘Ilm 423

Nu’aim ibn Hammad reported: It was said to Ibn Al-Mubarak, “For how long will you seek knowledge?” Ibn Al-Mubarak, may Allah have mercy on him, said:

حَتَّى الْمَمَاتِ إِنْ شَاءَ اللَّهُ لَعَلَّ الْكَلِمَةَ الَّتِي تَنْفَعُنِي لَمْ أَكْتُبْهَا بَعْدُو

Until death, if Allah wills. Perhaps the words that will benefit me have not yet been written.

Source: Jāmi’ Bayān al-‘Ilm 428

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

Recognizing our 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.

Arrogance lulls us into the false sense that there is nothing that anyone else can teach us. It tempts us to reject the truth when it damages our pride and our ego.

Every Muslim has an obligation to seek spiritual knowledge in religion and the community as a whole must seek scientific knowledge in beneficial disciplines. We should have the attitude of a life-long learner, that we are always students even when we are teachers, and that we must be humble enough to learn from anyone regardless of their status.


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