In The Name of Allaah, The Most Merciful, The Bestower of Mercy.
Imaam As-Sadi [may Allaah have mercy upon him] said: Many people – based on two extreme views – have mistakenly decided what the sound knowledge that should be sought and pursued is. The first view is more dangerous than the other, and it is the view of those who limit knowledge to some of the sciences of the religion, such as knowledge related to rectification of beliefs, morals and acts of worship; but their understanding is not based on what the Qur’an and Sunnah indicates regarding the fact that knowledge includes both the sciences of Sharee’ah and the worldly sciences. This view (i.e. limiting knowledge to some sciences of the Sharee’ah) is held by a group of people who did not properly understand the Sharee’ah, and now they are starting to disavow this generality of knowledge after witnessing the great benefits in the worldly sciences, and after many of them became aware of the Sharee’ah evidences regarding them.
The second view is that of a people who limit knowledge to the modern worldly sciences. This view stems from their deviation from the religion, its sciences and morals. This is a great mistake as they make the means the goals, denied the correct religious sciences and the useful facts, which modern sciences do not attribute to in any way, and thus they became deceived by the industries and inventions that resulted from these modern worldly sciences. These are the people referred to in Allaah’s statement:
[فلما جاءتهم رسلهم بالبينات فرحوا بما عندهم من العلم وحاق بهم ما كانوا به يستهزئون – Then when their Messengers came to them with clear proofs, they were glad (and proud) with that which they had of the knowledge (of worldly things): And that at which they used to mock, surrounded them (i.e. the punishment)]. [Surah Ghaafir. Aayah 83]
They rejoiced in their worldly knowledge and were arrogant due to it, and they belittled the knowledge of the Messengers until the truth they used to mock at overwhelmed them, and the punishment they were promised came to them because they belied the Messengers. They were punished in this world by way of a seal placed on their hearts, ears, and eyes, and blinded from the truth (i.e. hearts, ears and eyes prevented from the truth); [ولعذاب الآخرة أشد وأبقى – And the torment of the Hereafter is far more severe and more lasting (Surah Taa Haa. Aayah 127)]; [وما كان لهم من الله من واق – And they had none to protect them from Allah. (Surah Ghaafir. Aayah 21)]
Commentary: The problem related to knowledge – meaning the problem of the people in this subject matter regarding the reality of beneficial knowledge and what is required of a person in this affair. The author mentioned that there are people who limit beneficial knowledge to some of the Sharee’ah sciences and they isolate other beneficial and general affairs of knowledge that are connected to the welfare and needs of the people. And there are others who limit knowledge to the worldly sciences and isolate knowledge of the religion from the reality of knowledge, so they are deprived of sound religion, manners and etiquettes, and the fulfilment of those deeds that are related to servitude to Allaah – the very purpose behind which Allaah created humankind and jinn.
Then the author clarified that beneficial knowledge comprises of both these two affairs – the sciences of the Sharee’ah by way of which happiness and success is attained, and it is first and foremost affair that Allaah praised or praised those who possess it. Allaah’s praise for the people of knowledge – first and foremost – is for the people who possess knowledge of the Sharee’ah. Allaah said: [قُلۡ هَلۡ يَسۡتَوِى ٱلَّذِينَ يَعۡلَمُونَ وَٱلَّذِينَ لَا يَعۡلَمُونَۗ – Are those who know equal to those who know not?] [Surah Az-Zumar. Aayah 9]
Allaah said: [أَفَمَن يَعۡلَمُ أَنَّمَآ أُنزِلَ إِلَيۡكَ مِن رَّبِّكَ ٱلۡحَقُّ كَمَنۡ هُوَ أَعۡمَىٰٓۚ – Shall he then who knows that what has been revealed unto you (O Muhammad ) from your Lord is the truth be like him who is blind?] [Surah Ar-Rad. Aayah 19]
Allaah said: [يَرۡفَعِ ٱللَّهُ ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُواْ مِنكُمۡ وَٱلَّذِينَ أُوتُواْ ٱلۡعِلۡمَ دَرَجَـٰتٍ۬ۚ – Allah will exalt in degree those of you who believe, and those who have been granted knowledge]. [Surah Al-Mujaadilah. Aayah 11]
The intent behind these verses that convey this meaning is about knowledge of the Sharee’ah through which a person attains Allaah’s Pleasure and Paradise. Likewise, is the text of the Sunnah, such as the statement of the Prophet [peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him], “Whoever follows a path in search of knowledge, Allah will make easy for him a path to Paradise”. [Saheeh Muslim. Number 2699]
And the Prophet said, “Whoever Allaah wishes good for, He gives such a person (sound) understanding in the religion”. [Saheeh Muslim. Number 1037]
Those who seek sound understanding in the religion, distinguish between what is lawful and unlawful, and they are acquainted with the rulings of the religion, the distinction between guidance and falsehood, truth and misguidance, there is no doubt that this is the initial affair with regards to beneficial knowledge by way which happiness in this life and the next is attained. As for the other beneficial aspects knowledge that are related to the worldly sciences and connected to the needs and welfare of the people- neither in opposition to the religion nor devoid of its etiquettes, they are praiseworthy and not blameworthy. Neither are they prohibited nor is one prohibited from studying them; but rather the general Sharee’ah texts indicate to the (permissibility, usefulness) of this aspect of knowledge, such as the knowledge of medicine and other aspects of knowledge that benefit the people in their lives and worldly affairs. But these worldly sciences should not transgress against the basis of beneficial knowledge (i.e. Sharee’ah knowledge), such as when knowledge possessed by a person is limited to it and thus the statement of Allaah applies to him: [يَعۡلَمُونَ ظَـٰهِرً۬ا مِّنَ ٱلۡحَيَوٰةِ ٱلدُّنۡيَا وَهُمۡ عَنِ ٱلۡأَخِرَةِ هُمۡ غَـٰفِلُونَ – They know only the outside appearance of the life of the world (i.e. the matters of their livelihood, like irrigating or sowing or reaping, etc.), and they are heedless of the Hereafter]. [Surah Ar-Rum. Aayah 7] – Meaning, heedless of the knowledge that leads to Allaah’s Pleasure and the home of the afterlife (i.e. paradise), and turns away from learning it. This is why you find – amongst the people – one who have insight in some of the worldly sciences, but he is ignorant of that sound knowledge of the religion that is known by everyone (both scholars and the common people, such as the obligation of the five daily prayers, the fasting in Ramadhaan, Hajj etc) and he does he possess sound understanding of it. This is a calamity when a person’s knowledge is limited to the affairs of this worldly life, but as for that which is related to the afterlife and leads to attaining Allaah’s love and reward, he has no share of that. The Prophet [peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him] used to say in a supplication:
[اللهم لا تجعل الدنيا أكبر همنا ولا مبلغ علمنا – Allaahumma Laa Taj’al Ad-Dunyaa Akbara Hamminaa Walaa Mab’lagha ilminaa – O Allaah! Neither make the worldly life our greatest concern nor the limit of our knowledge]. (see footnote a)
Therefore, the truth regarding the reality of beneficial knowledge is between the statement of those who prohibit the beneficial worldly sciences and those who turn away from knowledge of the religion. (See footnote b) (1)
Footnote a: [اللهم لا تجعل الدنيا أكبر همنا – Allaahumma Laa Taj’al Ad-Dunyaa Akbara Hamminaa – O Allaah! Neither make the worldly life our greatest concern]: Al-Mubaarakfooree [may Allaah have mercy upon him] said, “This means, neither make the pursuit of wealth and status our greatest concern nor the reason behind our sadness, but rather make our greatest concern or the reason behind our sadness to be directed towards the affairs of the afterlife (i.e. that we strive to attain Allaah’s Pleasure and become sad when we fall short). [ولا مبلغ علمنا – Walaa Mab’lagha ilminaa – Nor the limit of our knowledge], meaning, neither knowing nor pondering except on the affairs of the worldly life, but rather make us ponder on the affairs of the Afterlife – in pursuit of a closer look at the affairs of knowledge that are related to the (Oneness of Allaah’s Lordship, The Oneness of Allaah’s Perfect Names and Attributes, and that Allah alone has the right to be worshipped; knowledge about His Commands, Prohibitions etc) and the home of the Afterlife. [An Excerpt from Tuhfatul Ahwadhee. 9/475-477. slightly paraphrased. Hadeeth declared authentic in Saheeh Sunan Tirmidhee 3502]
Footnote b: Read: The Religion of Islam Embodies Beneficial Contemporary Sciences and Professions: https://salaficentre.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/Quranic_Proofs_Pdf_final.pdf
[Ref 1: From 34 secs to 11mins 47secs. https://www.al-badr.net/detail/3KwCnaB5tN paraphrased]