اللَّهُمَّ إنِّي أَسْأَلُكَ عِلْماً نَافِعاً، وَرِزقاً طَيِّباً، وَعَمَلاً مُتَقَبَّلاً
“Oh Allah, indeed I ask you for beneficial knowledge, and a good Halal provision, and actions which are accepted.”
How is having to memorise endless lists of law cases, 1000 quotes from academics, or convoluted math formulas, truly going to help me in life? What is the purpose of having to be so pedantic about reference lists? Most importantly, how do all of these things possibly bring me closer to my Creator, and improve my Imaan in any way?
These are questions I impetuously quiz myself on quite often.
If you ever feel demotivated by the topics of your studies, exhausted by endless hours of studying, or unnerved by memorising information that seems frivolous, you are definitely not alone. You may feel that some of the subjects you undertake lack importance, or in particular, relevance to Islam.
Well, as a third-year student at University of Sydney and having endured high-school, the HSC and now three years of university, I am no stranger to finding my studies fruitless sometimes.
Yet, through deeper reflection and research, I have discovered hidden benefits to our studies which you may not have realised. I hope that these will allow you to gain a newfound appreciation for the prosperous journey of education Allah has bestowed upon us.
First and foremost, it is crucial to remember that we are so fortunate to study in a first world country where education is available to us. “Allah grants wisdom to whom He pleases, and to whom wisdom is granted, indeed he receives an overflowing benefit.” (Quran 2:269)
Allah has willed us to obtain knowledge and raised us in intelligence. Alhamdulillah, this is a blessing from Allah that is frequently overlooked when we find ourselves stressed with our studies.
The following are the six hidden benefits of pursuing an education:
1. Acquiring education is considered a superior act of worship in Islam
The first university in the world, the University of Al Qarawiyyin, was founded by Fatimaal-Fihri, a Muslim woman.
University, education and knowledge constitute a deep part of our heritage as Muslims. Allah has made it a duty upon all Muslims to gain knowledge, both religious and all other forms of it.
All disciplines, from the natural sciences to the humanities, allow us to garner useful information about how to navigate the world in which we live, the world that Allah swt has so magnificently created.
Allah tells us in the Quran: “God will exalt those of you who believe and those who have knowledge to high degrees.” (Quran 58:11)
Through acquiring tertiary education, we are able to become intelligent members of society who are practicing Muslims. What this means is that we see Muslims breaking the mould in all fields and empowering fellow Muslims, especially the youth, to become respectable and well-versed individuals in our chosen disciplines.
This is also a form of Da’wah, as when we enter the workforce and represent Islam alongside our expertise, we are spreading a positive message of Islam. We are enlightened by the Hadith that “One who treads a path in search of knowledge has his way paved to paradise by God as a reward for this noble deed.” (Bukhari, Muslim).
So, take pride in the path of acquiring knowledge as a noble act of worship.
2. Every subject we learn increases God-consciousness
Whether it’s learning about the human body’s anatomy, algebra, politics or World War II, everything we learn offers us an insight on how our world operates. With everything you learn, try to delve deeper to find its significance in Islam: when learning about anatomy, reflect on how the Creator designed mankind so incredibly.
When solving algebraic equations, remember the importance of mathematical skill in observing the laws of nature through which Allah has shown us a plethora of signs. When learning about politics, realise the importance of understanding pragmatic leadership that was demonstrated to us by Prophet Muhammad (s) and the Caliphs who succeeded him.
With World War II, reflect on the message war propounds about peaceful coexistence, and useful lessons that can be learnt from the wars of the Prophet’s (s) time. Everything has a link. Through learning, we develop rationality and wisdom to understand worldly injustices and crises.
3. Our education teaches us discipline
Education teaches us that rewards come only through hard work. Like in Islam, whereby we must pray and fast to gain rewards from the Most High, with education, we need to put in the work to see genuine results.
Good grades, success, job offers and opportunities don’t come without applying effort. When we discipline ourselves to overcome procrastination, study smart, read widely and complete assignments, we are doing ourselves a favour, as this trains us to become more productive and efficient individuals.
It helps us to develop discipline in other areas, such as ensuring to pray our prayers on time, and avoid what is prohibited for us during fasting. Practically, the more we are able to implement mind over matter with our tasks, the easier we will find it to, for example, get out of bed for Fajr on time, if this is something you struggle with.
Disciplining ourselves in our education also helps us to set goals and achieve them. If you have an objective of completing an assignment by a certain time, ticking off tasks like these on your to-do list can also manifest through Islamic practices. For example, setting goals to learn more Quran, improve your Tajweed or fast more Sunnah days.
The discipline we practice through our studies can help us in many ways, and as Shaykh Hamza Yusuf notes, our education guides us to become efficient decision-makers, critical thinkers and problem-solvers.
4. The benefits of memorisation
We’ve probably all felt disheartened by needing to memorise loads of content for exams. But have you ever considered how training your brain to commit information to memory can actually help prevent memory loss, and also strengthen your brain’s ability to memorise Quranic verses? SubhanAllah, our Lord has truly placed benefit in all the good we do.
Undertaking your studies increases your concentration and mindfulness. Naturally, the more you practice an action, the better you can master it.
Mufti Menk provides scholarly advice that focusing on one task centres our concentration and betters our ability to avoid becoming side-tracked.
Consequently, this can come into effect while maintaining our khushu’ (concentration) during Salah. When we pray, we are ordered by Allah to maintain khushu by comprehending the meaning of each verse. Hence, we can practice this by maintaining mindfulness while grasping the words we read on the page during study.
5. Our presence as Muslims in all areas of society is absolutely crucial
It is our job, the upcoming generation of Muslim scholars, doctors, psychologists, politicians, media practitioners and social workers, to instigate a society of intelligent, trustworthy and pious Muslim leaders.
The onus is on us, through all our hard work, study and dedication, to give back to the community through our professions and follow in the footsteps of the great Muslim leaders who came before us.
Muslims look to other God-fearing Muslims to gain trusted medical advice, assistance in education, psychological help, and halal financial advice. Therefore, we need to pave the way for our fellow brothers and sisters, and this starts from our education.
Prophet Muhammed (s) commanded all Muslims to seek knowledge as far as they can reach, and to seek it at all times. The Hadith of our Prophet pbuh enlightens us that “the ink of a scholar is equal to the blood of a martyr.” From this, we recognise the profound value of knowledge, and our responsibility as Muslims to seek it.
During the early days of Islam, mosques formed the central learning hubs of all political, social, religious, scientific and educational activities. We can admire early intellectuals in Islamic history, including Ibn Rushd Averroes the polymath and jurist, Ibn Miskawayh the historian-philosopher, and Al-Fadl Ibn Naubakht and Humayun Ibn Ishaq the renowned translators, who were entrusted with the responsibility for the organisation and maintenance of libraries.
Additionally, it is mentioned in Hadith that: “Acquire knowledge, for he who acquires it in the way of Allah performs an act of piety; he who speaks of it, praises the Lord; he who seeks it, adores Allah; he who dispenses instruction in it, bestows alms; and he who imparts it to others, performs an act of devotion to Allah.”
So while there are rewards for the acquisition of knowledge, Allah also rewards us for educating others.
6. Gaining knowledge teaches us Sabr (patience)
Verily, Allah loves the patient, and the significance of Sabr is emphasised in the Quran and Hadith. Have faith in Allah that the reward for the long hours you spend toiling, working and studying is twofold: good deeds for gaining knowledge, and good deeds for having patience in achieving your goals.
Cliche I know, but the best things don’t happen overnight, so be patient, persistent and trust in Allah. Our Lord reminds us in the Quran: “O you who have believed, persevere and endure and remain stationed and fear Allah that you may be successful.” (Quran 3:200)
Our brains are powerful tools, and by the favour of Allah, we are able to learn every single day. May these reflections further encourage your acquisition of knowledge, increase you in wisdom, and elevate you in piety through spiritual guidance, Ameen.