On every Wednesday, I will share a part of the translation of the book Kitab Al-Kasb (the book of Earning a Livelihood) written by Muhammad Ibn Al-Hasan Al-Shaybani.
Part 21: The Obligatoriness of the Quest for Knowledge
The explanation of the obligatoriness of the quest for knowledge in the statement of the Prophet, “The quest for knowledge is obligatory on every Muslim” [Narrated by Ibn Majah], is that the meaning refers to the knowledge of actual circumstance, in accord with the saying, “The best knowledge is knowledge of actual circumstance, and the best vocation is preservation of wealth.”
The explanation of this is that whatever a person requires at the actual circumstance in order to discharge what is required of him is personally compulsory on him to know, such as purification in order to perform the prayer. If he desires to trade, then he is obliged to learn that by which he will safeguard himself from usury and invalid contracts. If he owns property then he is obliged to learn the (zakat) due on the type of his property so that he can pay it. If the pilgrimage is entailed of him then he is obliged to learn that by which the pilgrimage is performed. This is the meaning of knowledge of actual circumstance.
And this is knowledge, for Allah has ordained the endurance of the Law (Shari’ah) until the day of resurrection, and the endurance of the Law among people is by learning and teaching, and so both learning and teaching are made obligatory. We have established this meaning in explaining the obligatoriness of earning.
The proof of this meaning is what has been narrated that the Prophet, “condemned those who do not teach and those who do not learn” [Narrated by al-Hafiz al-Mundhiri and al-Tabarani], for knowledge will pass away because of them. He said, “Indeed, Allah does not take away knowledge suddenly by wresting it from the hearts, but by taking away the scholars. When the scholars have been taken away, the people will appoint as leaders the ignorant, and so they will give decisions without knowledge, deluding themselves and deluding others” [Narrated by al-Bukhari and Muslim].
And that which support this (interpretation) totally is the statement of Allah, “And if one of the polytheists asks you for protection, then protect him, so that he can hear the word of Allah” [Al-Quran, surah al-Tawbah, verse 6]. In this verse, there is an indication that teaching and unbeliever are obligatory if he requests it, hence teaching a believer is of greater imperative.
The elucidation of our statement, “It is the most imperative of the obligations,” is that if a person was to apply his whole life to learning and teaching, he would be totally obligated in doing both, but if he was to apply all his life to prayer and fasting he would be (only) supererogating in some of his praying and fasting, and there is no doubt that discharging the obligatory is higher in rank than discharging what is only supererogatory.