In The Name of Allaah, The Most Merciful The Bestower of Allaah.
Imaam Ibnul Qayyim [may Allaah have mercy upon him] said:
The loftiest ambition in seeking knowledge is to [acquire] knowledge of the Qur’aan and the Sunnah- to be [bestowed] understanding by Allaah [i.e. granted Tawfeeq to acquire sound knowledge] and through the Messenger [i.e. through the authentic Sunnah], and to know the boundaries of the revelation [i.e. neither goes into excess nor being lackadaisical]. And the most baseless ambition of the students of knowledge is to confine their ambitions in following the bizarre affairs and that which has neither been revealed nor occurred; or his ambition is to acquaint [himself] with the differences of opinion and pursues the statements of the people [i.e. the scholars], whilst he has no ambition to acquaint himself with the correct [statements] among those statements. Little is there to benefit from the knowledge of these people. [Ref 1]
Shaikh Siddeeq Hasan Khan [rahimahullaah] said:
The aim behind the religious sciences is not to earn [wealth]; rather it is for [the purpose of] acquainting oneself with the realities of the [Islamic legislation] and to rectify one’s behaviour. The one who learns knowledge [of the religion] for the purpose of trade cannot be a scholar; rather he only resembles the scholars. The scholars unveiled what the drive behind this was and they spoke about it when the building of schools reached them at Baghdaad, so they held gatherings of knowledge and said: “The possessors of lofty ambitions and the pure souls used to pre-occupy themselves with it [i.e. knowledge] –those whose intention behind [seeking] knowledge was due to its nobility and the perfection [reached by way of it], so they came to the scholars to benefit from them and their knowledge. However, when [monetary gain] is placed on it, the vilest people and the lazy ones will approach it and thus leading to its disappearance; so, the [Islamic] sciences of wisdom [found in the Qur’aan, the Sunnah and the understanding of the Salaf] will be abandoned even though they are self-evident in their nobility. [Ref 2]
Ibnu Jamaa’ah [rahimahullaah] stated about sincerity in seeking knowledge: It is to have a good intention in seeking knowledge-seeking the face of Allaah by way of it; acting upon it; reviving the sharee’ah; enlightenment of the heart and (rectification) of its hidden affairs; seeking to get close to Allaah on the Day of Judgement, and putting one’s mind to that which Allaah has prepared for its people of His Pleasure and Great Favours. [Ref 3]
Imaam Muhammad Ibn Saaleh Al-Uthaymeen (rahimahullaah) said: If one says: Through what can sincerity in seeking knowledge be [present or attained]? We say: Sincerity in seeking knowledge can be [present or attained] by making an intention for the following:
[a] [The intention] to fulfil Allaah’s command because Allaah [The Most High] commanded it (i.e. to seek knowledge). Allaah said: [فَاعْلَمْ أَنَّهُ لَا إِلَٰهَ إِلَّا اللَّهُ وَاسْتَغْفِرْ لِذَنبِكَ- So know (O Muhammad) that La ilaha ill-Allah (none has the right to be worshipped but Allah), and ask forgiveness for your sin’’ (Surah Muhammad Ayah19)].
So Allaah [Glorified and Exalted Be He] strongly urged [a person] towards acquiring knowledge. And strongly urging [someone] towards something necessitates having love for it; being pleased with it and commanding [one] to do it.
[b] [The Intention] to preserve Allaah’s Sharee’ah. That is because preserving Allaah’s Sharee’ah can be done by way of learning, memorization and writing.
[c] [The Intention] to protect and defend the Sharee’ah. That is because had it not been for the scholars no one would have protected or defended the Sharee’ah. And due to this we find the likes of Shaikhul Islaam Ibn Taymiyyah and other than him amongst the people of knowledge repelling ahlul bidah and clarifying the falsity of their innovations. We see that they reached a lot of good.
[d] [The Intention] to follow Muhammad’s [sallal-laahu-alayhi-wasallam] Sharee’ah. That is because it is not possible for you to follow his Sharee’ah until you learn about it. [Ref 4]
[Ref 1: An Excerpt from Al-Fawaa’id. page: 99. Slightly paraphrased]
NB: It is well known that the students of knowledge possess different levels of understanding and ability, so one has to take into consideration that a student – regardless his sharpness and effort in research into the statements of the scholars- is restricted in understanding and ability. So take into consideration regarding the fact that sometimes one will have to adhere to permissible Taqleed:http://www.salaficentre.com/2012/06/the-permissible-and-prohibited-forms-of-taqleed-salafipublications-com-article-id-mnj060005/
[Ref 2: An Excerpt from (أبجد العلوم – Vol 1. pages 77-78. slightly paraphrased)]
Ref 3: Source: Tadh-kirah As-Saami Wal-Mutakallim of Al-Kinaaniy: 67-70. Slightly paraphrased]
Ref 4: Source: Sharh Hilyah Taalib Al’Ilm’ pages16- 17. Slightly paraphrased]