“Whoever follows a path in order to seek knowledge thereby, Allah will make easy for him, due to it, a path to Paradise.”
The majority of commentators on this hadith, state that what is meant by ‘knowledge’ here is knowledge of the religion, although some do assert that is incorporates other types of knowledge as well. Certainly knowledge of the religion is one of the most important types of knowledge that we can attain, and it would seem that it is this type of knowledge is the most likely to facilitate us on the path to Paradise.
The meaning of the phrase ‘follows a path’ used by the Prophet, SallAllahu Alayhi Wa Sallam, is understood by Ibn Rajab to incorporate both the actual physical following of a path, as well as the non-physical means by which one attains knowledge. This statement would therefore include all acts such as travelling, walking or driving to attend lectures or meet scholars to learn from them, as well as reading, studying, memorizing, contemplating and so forth. All of these are ‘paths’ by which one seeks knowledge.
The words, ‘Allah will make easy for him, due to it, a path to Paradise’, could mean that Allah will make the seeking and attaining of knowledge easy, and that it is this knowledge that will lead us to Paradise, or that Allah will facilitate the seeker of knowledge in acting on what they have learnt, and is this way it will be a cause of their guidance which will lead them to Paradise. Allah knows best. If a person acts on the basis of knowledge, Allah will bestow upon them new knowledge that they did not possess. We can see this concept articulated in the statement of Allah:
“And Allah increases in guidance those who walk right”
Another interpretation is that this hadith refers to the physical path to Paradise in the Hereafter, and that Allah, all praises and glory be to Him, may make this particular journey easier for the seeker of knowledge.
In fact, the path of knowledge, when truly applied, is the only path that leads directly to Allah and His Paradise. It guides us out of ignorance and confusion towards the light. As Allah says:
“Indeed there has come to you from Allah a light and a plain Book wherewith Allah guides all those who seek His Good Pleasure to ways of peace, and He brings then out of darkness by His Will unto light and guides them to the straight way.”
It also deepens us in our knowledge of and love for Allah, all praises and glory be to Him, and increases our love for Him, as well as our fear and hope in Him. Allah has said:
“It is only those who have knowledge among His slaves who fear Allah”
We know from other hadith that seeking knowledge is an obligation upon every Muslim, but it does not come without effort. We must sacrifice and struggle to gain knowledge and when we do this, Allah will make easy for us to attain that knowledge and follow it to Paradise.
We can see many beautiful examples amongst the most knowledgeable of Muslims, the Companions of the Prophet, may Allah have mercy on them all. The Prophet, SallAllahu Alayhi Wa Sallam, made a special dua for ibn Abbaas (RadhiAllahu Anhuma), that Allah should grant him knowledge and understanding of the Qur’an. But how did he attain this knowledge? Did it just come to him? No, he made sacrifices. He would sit outside the doors of the older companions, in the heat and the wind, waiting patiently to ask them about hadith. When they would come to him, they would say ‘Why didn’t you send someone for us?’ and he would say ‘No, it is more proper that I come to you’. Or the example of Abu Huraira, RadhiAllahu Anhu, who would divide the night into three portions, one for sleep, one for prayer and one for studying hadith. Later scholars would travel for one month to hear a single hadith.
Unfortunately, these days, many of us want knowledge to fall into our laps, or to gain it when it is easy and convenient for us. We are no longer willing to sacrifice in order to gain knowledge. We would rather shop than attend lectures, we complain of having no time, and we want Islamic literature to come for free. Is it any wonder then that there are very few people with deep knowledge of the Islamic sciences left today? This knowledge is something very precious and we must preserve it. Allah willing, it will lead us no where other than Paradise. Surely that is worth sacrificing for?