The Sunnah of Supporting Knowledge and Education

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Supporting Knowledge in Islam

Individuals and societies attain excellence through knowledge, experiencing progress both materially and spiritually. This is only achievable through education and learning. However, not everyone may have sufficient financial means to pursue education and training. In such cases, those with the means should support students of knowledge by establishing educational institutions and providing assistance, scholarships, and additional contributions to help them.

Otherwise, many individuals with the potential for intellectual and research pursuits may go to waste due to a lack of adequate opportunities. Even though one could offer significant benefits to the society they live in, they might be deprived of these opportunities and, falling prey to ignorance, could become harmful individuals.

That’s why Islam, while encouraging the pursuit of knowledge1, also advises supporting people of knowledge, researchers, intellectuals striving to enlighten their society through written or spoken knowledge, and scholars who both produce knowledge and educate students.

With these encouragements and supports, it prevents the loss of talents and strives to ensure equal opportunities in education for everyone. By promoting knowledge in this way, it facilitates the fight against ignorance, division stemming from it, and the problems of material and spiritual poverty through science, wisdom, and knowledge.

Thus, it opens the door to the most beneficial use of capital. Otherwise, as stated by the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessing be upon him), in societies where knowledge is not supported and spread, social, political, and economic downfall is inevitable. 2 Therefore, those who do not want to be spectators to the collapse of humanity and their own doomsday must undoubtedly support students of knowledge and scientific activities.

Providing Financial Support to Students

In the Wise Qur’an, in many verses, those “who are in the way of God…” are praised, and their virtues are highlighted. They are even included among the classes to whom prescribed charity (zakat) can be given.3 Among the groups mentioned in the zakat verse as “in the way of God,” one of them is “students of knowledge and scholars on the path of acquiring knowledge.” In this context, individuals engaged in the pursuit of knowledge and research are also supported with zakat.

The Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessing be upon him) also stated, “A person who embarks on a journey to acquire knowledge is considered in the way of God until he returns home,”4 emphasizing that those pursuing knowledge are indeed “in the way of God.” In fact, his statements should be understood in a way that includes those who provide material and spiritual support to those on the path of knowledge. Supporting those on the path to Paradise implies that the supporters have entered that path or will inevitably enter it.

Once again, our Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) emphasizes the significance of combining the remembrance of God with the pursuit of knowledge in the context of educational activities: “The world and everything in it are worthless. Except for the remembrance of God, what brings one closer to Him, the scholars who impart knowledge, and the students who seek knowledge—aside from these, everything else is insignificant.”5 In making this statement, he also highlights the importance of supporting scholars and students.

Therefore, providing assistance to knowledge and scholarly activities is considered a mandatory and socially beneficial tradition, and according to the words of our Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), those who offer such support will find blessings in their gains.

In the time of the Prophet’s (peace and blessings be upon him) Companions, there were two brothers. One would come to Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) to acquire knowledge, while the other would work all day to provide for their livelihood.

One day, the working brother came to the presence of God’s Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) and complained, ‘My brother doesn’t work or earn a living!’ In response, the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) said, ‘Perhaps it is through him that you find employment and earn your sustenance.’” 6

He who supports goodness/knowledge is not the same as the one who does not

Knowledge is the beginning of all goodness. Without knowledge, it is not possible to read and understand both the Qur’an and the book of the universe together, nor is it possible to progress from imitative faith to genuine faith. Understanding, living, and preserving religion fully is also impossible. From this perspective, individual and societal progress, both materially and spiritually, depends on supporting and encouraging knowledge, scholars, and students of knowledge. This includes supporting them in their research and studies in their respective field.

The Qur’an imparts the fundamental principle to believers: ‘Always be in solidarity in goodness and piety.’ It states, ‘Whoever supports a good cause will have a share in it.’ 7 This emphasizes that supporting any form of good or virtue makes one a participant in the rewards that follow. In the continuation of the verse, it warns, ‘Whoever supports an evil deed will bear its consequence.’ 8This underscores the applicability of this principle even when supporting wrongdoing. It is crucial to recognize that those who do not support knowledge indirectly contribute to and support evil.

Therefore, in understanding this verse correctly, it should be remembered that withholding support for knowledge is, in a way, contributing to or supporting negativity.

Again, the Qur’an poses the question, “… Can those who know be equal to those who do not know?” 9 It emphasizes that the knowledgeable and the ignorant are not equivalent, and likewise, those who support knowledge cannot be equated with those who do not. The Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) also states, “Whoever leads the way in doing a good deed will have the reward of the one who performs it.”10 This underscores that even providing the smallest support to knowledge, be it merely guidance, will not go unrewarded.

The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) gives glad tidings that anyone contributing to a good deed, even in the form of guidance, will share in the rewards of those who continue to perform that good deed until the Day of Judgment, encouraging people to engage in easy and righteous actions.

The Messenger of God (peace and blessings be upon him) is addressing the housing issue of his Companions

After emigrating to Medina, the housing and sustenance issues were resolved through the significant sacrifices and efforts of the Ansar. However, each day, new Muslims from different regions and tribes continued to come to Medina. While some managed to find accommodation, others couldn’t. Recognizing this issue, the Messenger of God (peace and blessings be upon him) envisioned a solution for the poor and homeless, suggesting that a space or shelter could be arranged within the newly constructed mosque for those who had nowhere to stay. Before the change of the Qibla, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) had a shelter constructed at the southern entrance of the mosque, where these individuals could stay day and night—a place with three sides open and one side covered. When the mosque was completed and opened, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) accommodated poor and single Companions who came from outside, naming them the ‘Ashab as-Suffa.’ 11 Apart from them, there were also Ansar and Muhajirun, such as Abdullah ibn Umar, who had their own places to stay but occasionally chose to stay there, showing solidarity with the residents of the Suffa. 12

As observed, the Prophet of God (peace and blessings be upon him) personally addresses the settlement and housing issues of the migrants and based on the need, devises a new solution by allocating a special place for them inside the mosque.

Through his implementation, the Prophet effectively transforms the Mosque of the Prophet into a sort of hostel or dormitory. These disciples, numbering sometimes up to four hundred, benefit both materially and spiritually from the Mosque of the Prophet, making full use of this blessed space.

He also provides a solution to the livelihood problem of the People of the Suffa!

The People of the Suffa lacked the skills, equipment, and opportunities for professions that could provide for their livelihoods. The majority who came from rural areas had little experience in agriculture and farming. While some knew how to trade, they lacked the capital to enter the market. In Medina, they had no close relatives, acquaintances, or friends to support them.

The Messenger of God (peace and blessings be upon him) not only addressed their housing problem but also attended to their needs for sustenance and clothing. He allocated a daily portion of dates for eryone and made sure to provide it. In fact, at one point, some expressed discomfort with eating dates every day. However, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) advised them to be patient, explaining that, for the time being, he could not arrange for a different source of food.13

At times, the Messenger of God (peace and blessings be upon him) would gather them for the evening meal, distribute among the noble Companions, and take a group of students himself.14 This practice continued until the material means of the Islamic community improved to some extent.15 Therefore, the students in the Suffa could only find well-prepared meals when invited to the homes of more affluent Companions.16From this perspective, inviting students of knowledge into one’s home and hosting them graciously is an important Sunnah.

Despite the close attention and organization of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), there were times when they went without food to the extent that they couldn’t stand during prayers and occasionally experienced fainting due to hunger.

However, even at this level of deprivation, their hunger did not deter them from pursuing knowledge, nor did it create discord or harm their brotherhood. If one of them took two dates from the placed food and ate them, he would immediately insist to his fellow brother, ‘I have eaten two, would you also eat two!’ 18 Their unity remained intact even in the face of such hunger.

The Messenger of God (peace and blessings be upon him) used all the received charities as a budget for the needs of the People of the Suffa and also utilized the gifts presented to him for their benefit.19 He (peace and blessings be upon him) always approached these dedicated students of the Mosque of the Prophet with the virtue of ‘ithar,’ prioritizing them before his family members.

For instance, when the respected Fatima asked for a servant to help her with household chores, the Prophet (peace and blessing be upon him) responded, ‘My daughter, how can I provide for you when the belts of the Ashab as-Suffa are tightened due to hunger!’ He (peace and blessings be upon him) declined her request.20 Again, when the respected Fatima wanted to sacrifice an animal for her sons, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) advised her to shave the children’s hair and distribute the equivalent weight in silver to the poor students in the Suffa. 21

the important of supporting education in islam

The student of knowledge deserves the best in everything!

In addressing the food problem of the students of knowledge, one method followed by the Companions was the offering of dates and grapes during the harvest season. When the harvest season arrived, everyone would bring date palms and grape clusters to the mosque, based on their agricultural produce and capabilities.

They would then hang these offerings on a line between the columns of the Mosque of the Prophet. The People of the Suffa would take from these offerings to satisfy their hunger.22 One day, upon noticing a less quality cluster among the hanging dates, the Messenger of God (peace and blessings be upon him) pointed it out with his staff and cautioned his Companions, saying, ‘I wish the donor of this charity had brought something better. The one who contributed this will regret it on the Day of Judgment, for they will eat inferior dates.23

With these considerations, the Messenger of God (peace and blessings be upon him) teaches the believers that those engaged in seeking knowledge deserve the best in everything. Indeed, the verse revealed in response to this incident establishes a comprehensive principle: ‘O believers! Spend from the good things you have earned and from what We have produced for you from the earth. And do not opt for the inferior things, which you would only accept with your eyes closed. Know well that God is Self-Sufficient, Praiseworthy.’’24

The Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) and all his Companions, whether they had little or abundant means, made every sacrifice and competed to meet the needs of the People of the Suffa. This competition was not just about contributing to the upbringing of a new generation but also about supporting and taking care of the students of knowledge, assisting them on their journey towards Paradise, and sharing in the rewards.

Additionally, some of the people from the Suffa, who were physically capable, tried to provide for their livelihoods to avoid burdening the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and his Companions further. Some of them earned their livelihood by carrying water to the Mosque of the Prophet during the day or by selling the firewood they collected from the forest. Others engaged in grinding date pits or worked in agriculture or as shepherds.25 Since they worked during the days for their sustenance, they were more dedicated to seeking knowledge and worship during the nights.26

The Messenger of God (peace and blessings be upon him) also attends to the clothing needs of his disciples

“The People of the Suffa not only faced difficulties in terms of food but also in clothing. They lacked clothing that could protect them from cold or heat, and some of them wore izar (lower garment) that only reached their knees, leaving their knees exposed.27 As a result, they often hesitated to appear in public in such attire. 28 For instance, Vasila ibn al-Aska, one of these students, summarized the hardships they faced in this regard: ‘One day, I counted thirty people standing in prayer behind the Messenger of God (peace blessings be upon him). They only had izar tied around their waists, with no upper garment or any other clothing. I was one of them.’”29

Indeed, the Messenger of God (peace and blessings be upon him) closely attended to their clothing needs and resolved their problems.

One example of this care is found in the recollection of Utba ibn Abd as-Sulami from the People of the Suffa: ‘One day, I asked the Prophet of God (peace and blessings be upon him) to clothe me. He (peace and blessings be upon him) dressed me in two pieces of clothing made of linen.’ Utba, who shared this memory with us, says, ‘He (peace and blessings be upon him) also clothed other people after me.’ This account illustrates that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), to the best of his ability, personally addressed the clothing issues of the People of the Suffa.”30

The Messenger of God (peace and blessings be upon him) also fulfills the need for teachers among them

The Messenger of God (peace and blessings be upon him) not only addresses the material needs of the students studying in the Suffa but also fulfills their need for teachers. Besides personally teaching them, he appoints qualified individuals like Abdullah ibn Mas’ud, Ubay ibn Ka’b, and Muadh ibn Jabal as instructors. He (peace and blessing be upon him) covers the financial expenses of these teachers and encourages wealthy Companions to contribute to the budget for education and teaching.

What is required of the student is to be content (to have satisfied eyes)

Despite their poverty and necessities, the People of the Suffa were rich at heart, avoiding asking and depending on others, and were content individuals.

The Quran acknowledges their dedication and self-sufficiency, thereby providing a lesson in contentment to the students. It also encourages everyone with some means to support and take care of students of knowledge, as well as the poor and needy, according to their capacity: ‘‘These aids are for those who have dedicated themselves to the path of God and are in need. Because of this commitment, they are unable to roam the earth seeking sustenance. Due to their reluctance to ask people, those who do not know their true condition might perceive them as wealthy. They do not resort to hypocrisy by refusing to ask anything from people…’’31

The Messenger of God (peace and blessings be upon him) also says, ‘Whoever shows contentment, God makes them rich,’ 32 and he (peace and blessing be upon him) particularly advises people to avoid begging and seeking from others.

Conclusion

Religion and civilization are based on knowledge and scientific endeavors. Religion lives and thrives through students of knowledge. Without knowledge, it is not possible to live Islam and represent it in the best way, reaching out to all of humanity. In this regard, the duty of “exalting the Word of God” can truly be fulfilled only through scientific research and the parallel development of a strong civilization, both materially and spiritually.

Therefore, in the present day, there is no alternative for Islamic societies but to invest in knowledge, both to comprehend the age they live in and to produce material and spiritual values for humanity, in order to revive this prophetic tradition.

Therefore, whether in the scientific field or in various forms of charity and social endeavors, the ability to carry out more universal organizations in all areas is among the individual and collective responsibilities of believers. Those who do not act with this sense of responsibility should not forget that they are indirectly supporting ignorance. Because individuals who do not support knowledge are, in a way, endorsing ignorance.

Author: Dr. Selim Koç

Footnote:

1.See:

2.See: Bukhari, Knowledge 21; Muslim, Knowledge 5/8-14 (2671-2673)

3.See: Surah at-Tawbah, 9/60

4.See: Tirmidhi, Knowledge 2

5.See: Tirmidhi, Asceticism 1; Ibn Majah, Asceticism 3

6.See: Tirmidhi, Asceticism 33

7.See: Surah Al-Ma’idah, 5/2

8.See: Surah An-Nisa, 4/85

9.See: Surah Az-Zariyat, 39/9

10.See: Muslim, Buildings 133; Abu Dawud, Manners 115; Tirmidhi, Knowledge 14

11.Bayhaqi, Sunan al-Kubra, II/445 (525); See: Akram Ziya al-Umari, as-Siratu’n-Nabaviyya as-Sahih, p. 294

12.See: Bukhari, Salat 58; Nasa’i, Mosques 29

13.See: Musnad, III/487

14.For examples, see: Ibn Sa’d, Tabaqat, I/188

15.Ibn Sa’d, Tabaqat, I/187; Bukhari, Times of Prayer 41

16.See: Abu Nuaym, Hilya al-Awliya, I/341

17.See: Ibn Sa’d, Tabaqat, I/188

18.Abu Nuaym, Hilya al-Awliya, I/340

19.See: Bukhari, Riqaq 17; Musnad, II/515

20.See: Bukhari, Farzu’l-Humus 6; Musnad, (838), I/79, 106

21.See: Musnad, VI/390-391; Abu Nuaym, Hilya al-Awliya, I/339

22.See: Musnad, III/487; Tirmidhi, Tafsir 3

23.See: Abu Dawud, Zakat 17; Nasa’i, Zakat 27; Ibn Majah, Zakat 19

24.See: Tirmidhi, Tafsir 3; Bakara, 2/267

25.See: Qattani, at-Taratibu’l-Idariyya, I/476-477; Abu Nuaym, II/9

26.See: Muslim, Buildings 41/147 (677); Musnad, III/270

27.See: Musnad, IV/128

28.See: Abu Nuaym, Hilya al-Awliya, I/342

29.See: Ibn Sa’d, Tabakat, I/187-188

30.See: Abu Nuaym, Hilya al-Awliya, II/15

31.See: Surah al-Baqarah, 2/273

32.See: Bukhari, Zakat 50; Muslim, 43/124 (1053)

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