In The Name of Allaah, The Most Merciful, The Bestower of Mercy
Shaikh Rabee Bin Haadi [may Allaah preserve him] said, “O youth! Strive [and hasten earnestly], for indeed your Ummah – in this era – is greatly in need of those who are distinguished with [knowledge] of this robust Sharee’ah and those who possess sound understanding in this mighty religion. Strive [earnestly] and in front of you there are Islamic universities with great Manaahij [syllabuses, educational curriculums, programmes of study] that nurtures one towards [attaining the level of] scholarship by the will of Allaah. [NB: One is not declared a scholar by the ignorant people or by himself, rather it is the upright scholars of Ahlus Sunnah who are qualified to give such a verdict]
The Messenger [sallal laahu alayhi wasallam] said, “Whoever follows a path in pursuit of knowledge, Allaah will make easy for him a path to Paradise.” [Ref 1] This is a great promise for the one who seeks knowledge for the sake of Allaah.
O brothers! I warn you against harbouring intentions of seeking after the Dunyah, its status and authority in the affair of learning and seeking knowledge; for indeed [knowledge of the religion] is worship – amongst the best types of worship; rather the religion, acts of worship, Jihaad [Ref 2] and a [successful] life cannot be established except by way of this knowledge. However, it is obligated on us to purify our intentions in this worship. [The Messenger (sallal laahu alayhi wasallam) said]: ‘Whoever seeks knowledge by which the pleasure of Allah is sought, but he only acquires it for worldly gain, he will not smell the fragrance of Paradise.’’ [Ref 3]
This is a very important point and a great affair which the students of knowledge must be notified, for indeed many of them are heedless of it. And it may be that a person seeks knowledge for the sake of worldly gain or other goals that are not beloved to Allaah -neither legislated nor permitted by Allaah, and thus they fall into destruction. This affair enters into the rebuke directed at the Yahood. [Allaah (The Most High) said]:
مَثَلُ ٱلَّذِينَ حُمِّلُواْ ٱلتَّوۡرَٮٰةَ ثُمَّ لَمۡ يَحۡمِلُوهَا كَمَثَلِ ٱلۡحِمَارِ يَحۡمِلُ أَسۡفَارَۢاۚ بِئۡسَ مَثَلُ ٱلۡقَوۡمِ ٱلَّذِينَ كَذَّبُواْ بِـَٔايَـٰتِ ٱللَّهِۚ وَٱللَّهُ لَا يَہۡدِى ٱلۡقَوۡمَ ٱلظَّـٰلِمِينَ
The likeness of those who were entrusted with the (obligation of the) Taurat (Torah) (i.e. to obey its commandments and to practise its legal laws), but who subsequently failed in those (obligations), is as the likeness of a donkey who carries huge burdens of books (but understands nothing from them). How bad is the example (or the likeness) of people who deny the Ayat (proofs, evidences, verses, signs, revelations, etc.) of Allah. And Allah guides not the people who are Zalimun (polytheists, wrong-doers, disbelievers, etc.).
I seek the protection [of Allaah] for myself and [ask Allaah to protect] you from these blameworthy traits – a person possesses knowledge and does not act upon it, so he is either included [amongst those mentioned in this] Aayah or some of it applies to him. May Allaah protect us and you, for indeed the Messenger [sallal-laahu-alayhi-wasallam] has informed us about the destination of those who perform acts of worship only to be seen, whether it is a student of knowledge, a scholar, a Mujaahid or one who spends his wealth [in charity etc].
O my brothers! Sincerity is a great affair. [Therefore], it is incumbent upon a Muslim to guard it and take himself to account at every moment of his life. One of the Salaf said: I used to hold that the hadeeth requires a Niyyah [i.e. sincere intention for seeking knowledge of hadeeth], but then I realised [or understood] that every hadeeth requires a [sincere] intention.
Therefore, when you narrate or speak, do you desire praise from the people or do you desire the Face of Allaah [The Blessed and Exalted]? Do you desire that it is said, “He is a scholar; he is intelligent; he is a learned person of sound, precise and robust understanding;” or do you desire the Face of Allaah and to fulfil the responsibility you carry [i.e. knowledge of the religion].
Source: Marhaban Yaa Taalibal Ilm’ pages 53-55. abridged & slightly paraphrased
[Ref 1:Muslim’ Hadeeth Number 2699]
[Ref 3: Abu Daawud’ Hadeerh Number 3664]