Obstacles in the Path of Seeking Knowledge
|AUTHOR:||Shaikh Muhammad 'Umar Bazmool|
|SOURCE:||His treatise At-Ta'seel fee Talab-il-'Ilm|
The Sixth Foundation: Obstacles in the Path of Seeking Knowledge
Since knowledge is a path that leads towards Paradise, and Paradise is surrounded by many dangers, this means that the path of knowledge is also surrounded by many dangers. So there are many things in it that the evilly-inclined soul dislikes.
And since knowledge facilitates the path to Paradise, and the Devil has made a covenant that he will cut off the path to Paradise, then indeed, the path of knowledge is a path in which the Devil places what deceptions he can in order to divert the person on the path away from his objective.
The origins for sins lie in three things: greed, jealousy and pride.
It was greed that cast our father Aadam out from Paradise. This is what the Devil whispered to him when he saw his eagerness for Paradise: “Then the Devil whispered suggestions to them both in order to uncover that which was hidden from them (before) of their private parts. He said (to them): ‘Your Lord did not forbid you from this tree save you should become angels or become of the immortals.’ And he (the Devil) swore by Allaah to them both (saying): ‘Verily, I am one of the sincere well-wishers for you both.’” [Surah Al-A’raaf: 20]
“Then the Devil whispered to him saying: ‘O Aadam! Shall I lead you to the Tree of Eternity and to a kingdom that will never waste away?’” [Surah TaHa: 120]
It was jealousy that caused the enmity to occur between the two sons of Aadam, when they both brought sacrificial offerings and it was accepted from one of them but not from the other, who then raised his hand to kill the other one out of jealousy.
It was pride that brought Iblees into disbelief: “And (remember) when We said to the angels: ‘Prostrate to Aadam.’ So they all prostrated except for Iblees – he refused and was proud and was one of the disbelievers.” [Surah Al-Baqarah: 35]
Since these three things are the foundations for all sin, and all offenses can be traced back to them, then indeed the distractions and obstacles of seeking knowledge can also be traced back to them!
Examples of this are as follows:
1. A student’s greed for knowledge – if he doesn’t pay attention to his other rights – may cause him to eventually abandon and squander knowledge. There are several scenarios for this, such as:
- When a student crams his daily schedule with acquiring knowledge, thus preoccupying himself with it every day, attending numerous classes and study circles. So his body does not rest, whereas your soul indeed has a right over you and your body also has a right over you. So you must give everything that has a right (over you) its due right.
- Greed may also bring a student to change from one form of knowledge to another before having completed the first one. By doing this, he deprives himself of having the correct understanding and command of both forms of knowledge. An example of this is when a student starts studying a book, then hears about another class in a different place, so he leaves off from finishing the first book with the instructor and goes to the other class.
All of this is as a result of greed. On the outset, this is good but it can lead to the opposite of what was intended. This reminds me of a statement made by one of the Salaf: “Verily, the Devil opens ninety-nine doors from the doors of good, just so that he can place you into one door from the doors of evil.”
Ibn Shihaab Az-Zuhree, may Allaah have mercy on him, once said to Yoonus bin Yazeed: “O Yoonus! Do not strive to surpass knowledge, for knowledge is like river basins – whichever of them you set out after, it will cut you off before you can reach it. Rather, you must take it with (the passage of) days and nights. And you must not take knowledge all at once for indeed whoever seeks to attain it all at once, it will leave him all at once. Rather, knowledge must be taken step by step, with (the passage of) days and nights.” 
2. Jealousy can prevent a student of knowledge from acquiring knowledge. Examples of this are:
- When a student envies his colleagues over seeking knowledge and lacks understanding over an issue. So he stubbornly refrains from asking them because he is jealous of them. So he doesn’t research or study with them, whereas the thing that gives knowledge life is consulting and reminding one another about it. Therefore, this deprives him from seeking knowledge.
- When a student envies his professor or teacher for what he has and as a result rebels against him in his class and doesn’t want him to teach and benefit the other students. So he feels that there is no difference between him and his teacher. This also prevents him from acquiring knowledge.
- When a person feels jealous of his colleagues because of their level of understanding and desire to learn, so he causes disturbances in the class to the point that he deprives them of the ability to benefit, out of jealousy. But he in fact is only depriving himself by doing this.
3. Pride can also prevent the student of knowledge from learning and education. Examples of this are:
- Perhaps Allaah has granted someone the ability to attain knowledge. But the envious arrogant person considers him to be lower than himself, so as a result of this, he doesn’t learn from him.
- Pride can prevent a person from seeking to learn something he doesn’t understand or from asking his teacher about it in order to understand it. In fact, seeking knowledge primarily due to pride can prevent him from sitting in the gatherings of the students of knowledge in front of shuyookh(teachers).
- A person may be jealous of his colleagues and thus refrain haughtily from asking them and trying to learn from them those issues he has difficulty with or those subjects he was not present for.
Al-Bayhaqee reported in Shu’ab-ul-Eemaan from Abu Haazim that he said: “You cannot be a scholar until you have three characteristics in you: (!) Do not transgress over those above you, (2) Do not look down with contempt at those below you, and (3) Do not take the worldly life in exchange for your knowledge.”
- Pride may lead a person to boast, make pretentious claims, and to argue with others, and these are things that are prohibited in the Religion. Jaabir bin ‘Abdillaah (radyAllaahu ‘anhu) reported that the Messenger of Allaah (sallAllaahu 'alayhi wa sallam) said: “Do not acquire knowledge for the sake of competing with the scholars or to argue with the foolish or to take control over a gathering, for whoever does that, then (for him will be) the Hellfire, the Hellfire.” 
 Jaami’ Bayaan-il-‘Ilm wa Fadlihi (1/138)
 Shu’ab-ul-Eemaan (2/288)