Seeking Knowledge – What you Should Know Before you Go

Important advice for those who may undertake the role of the student of knowledge – those who want to leave behind their homeland, perhaps family, jobs, homes, college studies, or important positions in their communities. [1]

In the Name of Allaah, the Most-Merciful, may His Salaah and Salaam be upon His final Messenger Muhammad, to proceed:

Verily from the most rewarding ventures a person can undertake is to pursue knowledge of Allaah’s Deen. The ones who are favored with understanding of the Religion, not only does Allaah want good for them, as the Prophet of Allaah (sallallaahu ‘alayhe wa sallam) said:

“If Allaah wants good for someone, He gives him understanding
in the Religion.”

But he inherits directly from the noble prophets of Allaah, as the Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alayhe wa sallam) said:

“Verily the prophets do not leave behind deenaars or dirhams (money), rather they leave behind knowledge, so whoever gets hold of it, attains a great amount of good.”[3]

And he becomes like the full moon compared to the rest of the stars, as the Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alayhe wa sallam) said:

“The example of the scholar compared to the worshipper is like the difference between the full moon and the rest of the heavenly bodies.” [4]

And he lives his life with the true fear of Allaah that He deserves, as Allaah says [5]:

( Verily the ones who (truly) fear Allaah from among His Servants are the scholars )

Upon hearing this verse, the Muslim who wants to fear his Lord and earn His Pleasure says to himself, “I want to be a scholar!”

The Intention of the Student of Knowledge

On the authority of ‘Umar, may Allaah be pleased with him, he heard the Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alayhe wa sallam) saying:

“Verily actions are only by their intentions, and every person shall have only what he intended.” [6]

The student of knowledge must intend to seek knowledge for Allaah’s Face, fearing His Punishment and seeking His Reward only. For if he seeks knowledge to become famous or to take a position leading the people, or to have the people speak well of him, then his intention is corrupted, his foundation is faulty, and his seemingly righteous actions will only be a source of agony in the Hereafter, even if it was partially for Allaah’s sake. Allaah says, in a hadeeth qudsee:

“I am free of needing an associate! Whoever does a deed (intending it) for Me along with someone else, I have abandoned him and his shirk.” [7]

And indeed the Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alayhe wa sallam) was very worried about members of his nation showing off, as he said:

“Verily what I fear most for you is minor shirk.”

The companions replied, “O Messenger of Allaah, what is minor shirk?”

He (sallallaahu ‘alayhe wa sallam) answered:

Ar-Riyaa’ (showing off), for verily Allaah, Blessed and Exalted, will say on the Day He rewards His Servants for their actions, ‘Go to those in the Dunyaa you used to show off for! See if you find any reward with them!’[8]

This danger is present in all our deeds, so we can never put our guard down against a corrupt intention. We must take the time to inspect our heart, and re-inspect it time after time, especially when it comes to an affair as tremendous as seeking knowledge. For verily the Messenger of Allaah (sallallaahu ‘alayhe wa sallam) knew about the dangers that the student of knowledge would encounter and warned us accordingly:

“Do not seek knowledge to compete with the scholars, nor to argue with the foolish people, nor to gain control of gatherings; for whoever does that – the Fire, the Fire!” [9]

So know, with certainty, the one who does not purify his intention, even if he seeks knowledge for 50 years and dies without getting the fame he intended, his place is the Fire! And all the hard work he did in his life will be a source of agony for him in the Hellfire! So take heed of this warning now and correct your intention in seeking this knowledge.

The student of knowledge should intend to:

  1. Worship Allaah by seeking knowledge of His Deen, seeking His Pleasure alone.
  2. Rid himself and others of ignorance, implementing what he learns without delay at every stage.
  3. Command all those around him (his family, neighbors, fellow students, etc.) to perform the obligations in Islaam that he learns about, as he does them himself.
  4. Recommend all those around him to practice the recommended deeds in Islaam that he learns about, as he does them himself.
  5. Discourage those around him from doing the disliked deeds in Islaam that he learns about, as he avoids them himself.
  6. Forbid those around him from doing the prohibited deeds in Islaam that he learns about, as he avoids them himself.
  7. Be patient with the harms that reach him because of this work.

If these things are found in the heart of the seeker of knowledge, then every step along his path will be a source of happiness for him on the Day of Judgment. If he becomes famous and the people gather around him, asking him to lead and teach them, then his intention will be what separates him on the Day of Judgement from the one who sought these things with a corrupt intention.

The Reality of Being a Student of Knowledge

Many people hear about the virtues of the student of knowledge and want to drop what they are doing to become one. However, it must be known, that not everyone is fit to be a student of knowledge. Whoever intends to take this path, before leaving his home, work, and family, let him think about the lifestyle that awaits him.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself:

Do you know that you will be studying every day for at least six hours? Even the lightest study schedules, like those found in the Islamic universities, demand at least six hours a day of reading. More serious and active students would consider six hours a day to be quite a weak and empty schedule. But let us think about the easiest schedule – six hours a day. Are you studying at home at least six hours a day consistently? If not, why do you want to leave your country to do it somewhere else?

Start with the Qur’aan and whatever books you have about Islaam, and study them for at least six hours a day, for an entire month straight.  Is this a schedule you want to live by? Can you keep this up for years?

What about your lifestyle? Are you doing things that you know you should have stopped a long time ago? Are there luxuries that you indulge in that you could not do without? Many students left their homelands and journeyed far only to find their addictions to television, movie theatres, music, and other things calling them back. Surely, you must wean yourself from the things that you know are wrong now, migrating from what Allaah prohibited within your own city, so that your migration to seek knowledge in another land will be successful.

Do you have patience? Do you strive through deeds that are unappealing or do you abandon them once the difficulties come? Surely, seeking knowledge at times does not have the same appeal that it had before you began. I mean, for example, the student who is excited about studying the Sciences of Hadeeth will one day find himself memorizing the biographies of narrators – when and where they lived, who they met and studied from, who met and studied under them, when and where they died, what did the Imaams of Hadeeth say about them, etc. The student studying Fiqh will find himself memorizing information like the amount of zakaah due on 91 camels, 50 sheep, or $3000 worth of merchandise. Or he may memorize who gets one-sixth of a deceased’s wealth, or who gets one-third, etc. Seeking knowledge is hard work that requires long hours of reading and memorization! It is often not as fun as it seemed in the beginning, nor will you always have the same zeal! Do you have the patience to stick with it over the years?

People who go to conferences often get tired of going to lectures on the second or third day! That is at a conference, with powerful speeches that speakers prepared well in advance! The student of knowledge’s life is like that every day, except the lectures he attends do not have that conference feel, that high-energy vibe, rather they are everyday presentations that require consistent attentiveness, active note-taking, and review time later. The enthusiasm that carries one through a conference is not going to last here. The student of knowledge must have exemplary patience to last over many years. Students can not expect to learn the details of the Deen in a just a year or two.

Can you get by in rough living circumstances? The Islamic universities like those in Saudi Arabia tend to have Western-style living conditions, but other places may not have anywhere near the things you are used to. A person may say that this does not matter, but the reality is that many students could not continue their studies in places like Yemen because of the extremely difficult living conditions. A two-week or one-month visit to the place you want to study at will help you decide if you can live there long term or not.

Do you have any skills or qualifications that would help you earn money during your studies? How will you get by financially? Have you saved any money? Becoming certified to teach ESL (English as a Second Language) does not take long, nor is it too expensive, and it is very useful in ‘Arab countries. A qualified ESL teacher can earn over $25 an hour in many places in Saudi Arabia, working part-time. Degrees in general are helpful, so if you are currently studying in a university, then finishing your studies is highly advisable, as that degree may be what helps you to stay abroad for the length of your Islamic studies.

If you are considering studying Islam abroad, then please consider this advice carefully. I hope that you find it beneficial, and Allaah knows best.

May Allaah Most High make the author from the firmest of the people upon this advice. 


[1] Written by Moosaa Richardson, originally published: 11-07-1421

[2] An authentic hadeeth collected by Al-Bukhaaree (71) and Muslim (1037) on the authority of Mu’aawiyah (may Allaah be pleased with him)

[3] An authentic hadeeth collected by Aboo Daawood (3641) and and At-Tirmithee (2683) on the authority of Aboo Ad-Dardaa’ (may Allaah be pleased with him), Al-Albaanee authenticated it in Saheeh Sunan Abee Daawood (2/407)

[4] From the same hadeeth mentioned in Footnote #2

[5] The meaning of Soorah Faatir (35):28

[6] An authentic hadeeth collected by Al-Bukhaaree (1) and Muslim (4904) on the authority of ‘Umar ibn Al-Khattaab (may Allaah be pleased with him)

[7] An authentic hadeeth collected by Muslim (7400) on the authority of Aboo Hurayrah (may Allaah be pleased with him)

[8] An authentic hadeeth collected by Ahmad #23630 (39/39) on the authority of Mahmood ibn Labeed (may Allaah be pleased with him), Al-Albaanee authenticated it in Silsilatul-Ahaadeethis-Saheehah (#951).

[9] An authentic hadeeth collected by Ibn Maajah, Ibn Hibbaan, and Al-Bayhaqee, on the authority of Jaabir (may Allaah be pleased with him), Al-Albaanee authenticated it in Saheeh At-Targheeb wat-Tarheeb (#107).

15 thoughts on “Seeking Knowledge – What you Should Know Before you Go

  1. I would have wished the females also to be given a chance in the ISLAMIC UNIVERSITY OF MADEENAH TO SEEK KNOWLEDGE which i believe would be beneficial because educating a woman is like educating the UMMAH.
    Where can we ladies get such an education from the source?

  2. Assalamalaikum,
    Dear Moosa,
    Is this apply to the student of knowledge, seeking knowledge from their homes??.

    • wa ‘alaykas-salaamu wa rahmatullaah. Much of it must be applied no matter how you are seeking knowledge. Everything up until: “The Reality of Being a Student of Knowledge” applies to someone who studies in any circumstance. Then, the rest of the advice is specific to those who plan to travel and become full-time students.

  3. Say if you studied a degree at a Haram university or at a Kufr uni, is it okay to use this degree? Or is it classified as contrary to the idea of regret in repentance?

  4. Salam walaykum Musa,

    You mentioned about having a university degree and how it prolongs the possibilty of studying abroad, right now i am in 2 minds about university because of the free mixing and interest on the fees, yet it seems like degree is getting ever more important in having a financial secure future.

    Wants your naseeha.
    Allahuyubaraak feek

  5. Assalam-o-allaikum i am a madrasa student also did 12 years school education.
    and belong to Pakistan. please guide me how and when to apply to this great university . I will be extremely happy if some body help and guide me in in getting islamic education.
    jazakallah …………………….

  6. How can a student who has not studied anything before in the islamic sciences, is in the islamic university, in the beginning of his studies in the arabic institute, prepare himself for the advanced books he will study in the kuliyyah?

  7. Dear Sir, My name is Shaikh Talha, I live in Karachi, Pakistan, and I have completed Bachlors Degree but I want to take admission in Masina University so what do I have to do?

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