In The Name of Allaah, The Most Merciful, The Bedtower of Mercy.
Imaam Muhammad Ibn Saaleh Al-Uthaymeen (rahimahullaah) said that some of the people say that sincere intention in this present era of ours is difficult (to achieve) or it may be impossible (to achieve) because those who seek knowledge do so with the aim of receiving a certificate.
The Shaikh replied to this statement saying that one’s intention is regarded to be corrupt if knowledge is sought in order to receive a certificate or a desire for an elevated worldly status by way of it. But a person’s intention is regarded to be good and not in opposition to sincerity if he wants an elevated status in order to benefit the people, for he knows that at present it is impossible for a person to achieve a high and beneficial position for the Ummah unless he has a certificate. And because of this, even if you were to find a scholar who is good in various affairs of knowledge but he has no certificate, it will not be possible for him to teach even in high school and this is the reality. And you will find that the one lesser in knowledge than this scholar will be accepted (as a teacher) at a university as long as he has a certificate. So in accordance with a person’s (sincere) intention and choices the certificate is not considered harmful and its obtainment enters into the statement of the Messenger (sallal-laahu-alayhi-wasallam):
وما جاءك من هذا المال وأنت غير مشرف ولا سائل فخذه، وما لا فلا تتبعه نفسك
And what comes to you from this wealth without asking for it or having greed for it, take it; and if not given, do not run for it.” [Saheeh Al-Bukhaari. Number 1473. Vol 2. Book of Zakat] [Sharh Hilya Taalib Al-Ilm..page:22. paraphrased]
The Shaikh [rahimahullaah] also said: knowledge of the Sharee-ah is [acquired] for the Sake of Allaah, protect Allaah’s Sharee’ah, remove ignorance from yourself and from your Muslim brothers; direct [oneself and others] towards guidance and obtain the inheritance of the Prophet [i.e. some of the knowledge left behind by the Prophet – sallal-laahu-alayhi-wasallam], because the Scholars are the inheritors of the Prophets. [Sharh Riyadh al-Saliheen 3/436).
The Shaikh [rahimahullaah] also said: It is possible for a person to come, holding the certification of a doctorate (PhD), and take up the position of teaching in the faculties and universities, yet he is the most ignorant of people. And if a secondary grade student came, he would be better than him (in understanding and knowledge). And this is witnessed, observed (nowadays), there is to be found now one who holds the certification of a doctorate yet he knows absolutely nothing of knowledge. Knowledge, understanding (ilm, fiqh) is something granted and bestowed by Allaah as a favour and bounty and is not necessarily attained through certifications and passing through institutions. [Source: Sharh Riyadh al-Saliheen 3/436). Translated by Ustaadh Abu Khadeejah]