Knowledge in Dawah

Author: Saeed bin Wahf al-Qahtani

Source: Al-Hikmah Fid-Da”wah Ilallaah (translator: Faheem Umri)


PILLARS OF HIKMAH Knowledge in DawahHikmah has its pillars and foundation on which it stands. There are three pillars of Hikmah. They are: Knowledge, Forbearance, and Patience.  The opposites for these are ignorance, fury, and hastening.  There is no Hikmah for ignorant, furious, and hasty person.


Knowledge is the most important pillar of Hikmah.  This is the reason why Allah has made knowledge obligatory before words and actions.  Chapter 47, Verse 19 states So, know (O Muhammad) none has the right to be worshipped but Allah and ask forgiveness for your sin and also for (the sin) of believing men and believing women.

Imam Bukhari in one of his chapters in Sahih Bukhari gave a title: Knowledge before word and action.

This is because Allah has ordered our prophet two things, first knowledge and then actions in the above-mentioned verse. (See 47:19).  This shows the importance of knowledge and the knowledge taking precedence over actions.  Knowledge is prerequisite for the correctness of speech as well as action.  Speech and actions do not carry weight without knowledge.  Knowledge corrects the intentions, and the intention corrects the actions.

Knowledge or ilm signifies something which has proofs and evidences.  The best knowledge is what the Prophet (peace be on him) came with.  Knowledge can be from other than the prophets but it would be regarding worldly matters like medicine, engineering, business, etc.

Imam ibn Taymiah has classified the beneficial knowledge, which is one of the pillars of hikmah into three types.  He states ‘ilm-ul-mamdooh’ i.e. the praiseworthy knowledge referred by the Quran and Sunnah is the knowledge which the messengers and prophets passed on, as the Prophet (peace be on him) said verily, the prophets did not bequeath dinars and dirhams, but they bequeathed knowledge, so whoever takes it, has indeed acquired a huge fortune. (Book of Knowledge in Abu Dawood).

The three types of this particular knowledge are:

  • Type-1:  Knowledge of Allah, His names, His attributes and things related to this. Example of this is Surah Ikhlaas, Ayat ul Kursi, and similar verses.
  • Type-2:  Knowledge of what Allah has revealed about the things that happened in the past, the things which are going to happen in the future, and those that are happening at present.  Examples are the stories, the warnings, the promises, description of heaven and hell, and things of that nature.
  • Type-3:  Knowledge of Allah’s commandments that are related to the heart (beliefs/aqeedah) and limbs (deeds/actions).  This includes principles and rules of deen and Shariah (Islamic law) and entails the knowledge of speech and actions and those that are found in book of Fiqh (Jurisprudence).

People make a lot of mistake in these things.  They just know the outward names of the things and what they stand for in “The Book (Quran) and Sunnah” and are unaware of the realities found in the Book and Sunnah.  There are people who just memorize the words of knowledge without understanding, as the prophet (peace be on him) said The example of a believer who recites the Quran and acts on it, like a citron which tastes nice and smells nice, and the example of a believer who does not recite the Qur”an but acts on it, is like a date which tastes good but has no smell, and the example of a hypocrite who recites the Quran is like a Raihana (sweet basil) which smells good but tastes bitter, and the example of a hypocrite who does not recite the Quran is like a colocynth which tastes bitter and has a bad smell. (Bukhari and Muslim)

Sometimes a man memorizes chapters of the Quran but will not be a believer, but rather will be a hypocrite.  A believer who has not memorized any verse or chapter of the Quran is better than him.  The one who is endowed with the ilm (knowledge) and imaan (faith) is the believer who is wise and knowledgeable.

Testimony and confirmation of the heart is crucial for the ilm as ilm demands this from the person.  Furthermore, the perfection is achieved through acting on it.

The beneficial knowledge which is the core pillar of hikmah goes hand in hand with action.  Knowledge without action will become a proof against him on the Day of Judgment as Allah has warned the believers, out of His mercy and favor for them, against saying things and not practicing it.  He said in Chapter 61, Verse 2 and 3 O you who believe! Why do you say that which you do not do? Most hateful it is with Allah that you say that which you do not do.

He also has warned the believers against concealing the knowledge and has ordered them to spread the knowledge according to their efforts, capacity, and knowledge which Allah has given them for Allah burderns not a person beyond his scope.  Allah said in Chapter 2, Verse 159 Verily, those who conceal the clear proofs, evidences, and guidance which We have sent down, after We have made it clear for the people in the Book, they are the ones cursed by Allah and cursed by the cursers.  Though this verse is concerning the people of Book who concealed the attributes of the prophet, but the implication of this verse is general to all those who conceal the clear evidences and guidance revealed for the people.  The prophet said if a man is questioned about knowledge he knows, and if he hides it, he shall be bridled with the bridle of fire on the Day of Judgment. (Thirmidhi).

Therefore, it becomes clear that the beneficial knowledge, which is one of the core elements of hikmah, is not complete without putting it into practice.

That is why Sufyan-bin-Uyainah (one of the great imams of the ummah) stated, the most ignorant is the one who does not put into practice what he knows, the most knowledgeable is the one who puts into practice what he knows, and the noblest person is the one who is the most God-fearing among people. He also said that ilm denotes memorizing, practicing, listening attentively, keeping silence, and spreading.  Also the noble Sahaabi Abdullah ibn Masood used to say learn! learn! and once you have learnt, start practicing it (mentioned in the book Masdar-us-Saabiq 1/81).

Narated by Ibn Masud: I heard the Prophet saying: There is no envy except in two: A person whom Allah has given wealth and he spends it in the right way, and a person whom Allah has given hikmah and he gives his decisions accordingly and teaches it to the others (Bukhari and Muslim).

The Prophet (peace be on him) supplicated for Abdullah bin Abbas (may Allah be pleased with him), O Allah teach him the hikmah (Bukhari and Muslim), so this sahaabi (companion) became the prominent personality of this ummah in the knowledge of the Book and Sunnah and doing deeds according to it.


There are certain ways and means of acquiring knowledge.  The important among those are as follows:

  1. Supplication to the Lord to bestow on him the beneficial knowledge.  Allah has ordered the Prophet (peace be on him) to ask for knowledge.  Allah states in Chapter 20,  Verse 114 My Lord, increase me in knowledge, and the Prophet (peace be on him) used to say, O Allah, benefit me from what you have taught me and teach me what benefits me and increase me in knowledge (Thirmidi).
  2. Striving hard to seek knowledge.  One should have a strong desire and enthusiasm for it with the intention to win the pleasure of Allah, and he should utilize all the means and resources to gain the knowledge of the Book and Sunnah.
    A man came to the companion of the Prophet, Abu Hurairah (may Allah be pleased with him) and told him that he wants to gain knowledge but he was apprehensive about losing it.  Abu Hurairah (may Allah be pleased with him) replied, not acting on it is sufficient for you to lose it. That is why some of the wise men when asked about the means of gaining knowledge replied, It is gained by passion for which that is pursued, by love for it to which it is listened attentively, and by leisure in which it is gathered.  Impart your knowledge to those who are ignorant, seek knowledge from those who know.  By doing so, you will come to know what you did not know and will remember what you already know.
  3. Abstaining from all sins with the fear of Allah:  This is one of the major means of acquiring knowledge, as Allah states in Chapter 2, Verse 282 So, be afraid of Allah; and Allah teaches you and in Chapter 8, Verse 29 O you who believe, if you fear Allah, He will grant you Furqan (a criterion to judge between right and wrong).
    So, it is clear that whoever fears Allah, Allah will give him a knowledge which enables him to distinguish between right and wrong.  Abdullah bin Masood said that I think the reason why a person forgets the knowledge after gaining it is because of his sins that he commits.
    Imam Shaafi said I complained of my poor memory to Waki, (Waki bin Jarrah, a great imam and muhaddith of Iraq) to which he pointed me to keep away from sins and told me that the knowledge of Allah is the light, and this light of Allah will not guide the sinners. Once Imam Malik told to Imam Shafi (may Allah shower His mercy on them), I see that Allah has placed a light in your heart, so do not put it out by committing sins.
  4. Avoidance of pride and shyness about seeking knowledge.  For this reason, Ayesha (may Allah be pleased with her) said, How good the women of Ansaar are!  Shyness did not stop them from seeking understanding of the Deen. Umm Sulaim said, O messenger of Allah, Allah does not shy away from truth…is the ghusl (bath) obligatory for women from a wet dream, the Prophet (peace be on him) said, if she sees wetness. (Bukhari)
    Imam Mujahid (may Allah have mercy on him) said, An arrogant person and/or a shy person will not seek knowledge.
  5. Sincerity in seeking the knowledge.  This is the essence and the most important means of seeking knowledge.  Messenger of Allah (peace be on him) said, Whoever gains Islamic knowledge that should be learned for the sake of Allah with the intention of getting worldly benefits will not even smell the fragrance of paradise on the day of Judgment. (Abu Dawood).
  6. Acting on the Knowledge.  As mentioned earlier, knowledge will not become a pillar of Hikmah unless accompanied by practice according to it with sincerity.

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