In The Name of Allaah, The Most Merciful, The Bestower of Mercy.
Al-Allaamah Rabee Bin Haadi Al-Mad’khali [may Allaah preserve him] said: 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, because indeed (knowledge of the religion) is worship – amongst the best types of worship; rather the religion, acts of worship, Jihaad (1) 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. “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”. (2)
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.
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 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 [peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him] 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. 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 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). [An Excerpt from Marhaban Yaa Taalibal Ilm’ pages 53-55. slightly paraphrased]
Al-Allaamah Saalih Al-Fawzaan [may Allaah preserve him] stated: Allaah [The Most High] stated:
قُلۡ هَـٰذِهِۦ سَبِيلِىٓ أَدۡعُوٓاْ إِلَى ٱللَّهِۚ عَلَىٰ بَصِيرَةٍ أَنَا۟ وَمَنِ ٱتَّبَعَنِىۖ وَسُبۡحَـٰنَ ٱللَّهِ وَمَآ أَنَا۟ مِنَ ٱلۡمُشۡرِكِينَ
Say (O Muhammad): “This is my way; I invite unto Allah (i.e. to the Oneness of Allah – Islamic Monotheism) with sure knowledge, I and whosoever follows me (also must invite others to Allah i.e. to the Oneness of Allah – Islamic Monotheism) with sure knowledge. And Glorified and Exalted be Allah (above all that they associate as partners with Him). And I am not of the Mushrikun (polytheists, pagans, idolaters and disbelievers in the Oneness of Allah; those who worship others along with Allah or set up rivals or partners to Allah).”
[أَدۡعُوٓاْ إِلَى ٱللَّهِۚ – I invite unto Allah (i.e. to the Oneness of Allah – Islamic Monotheism)]. This part of the Ayah contains a notification regarding sincerity, because indeed some people call to themselves. It may be that a person propagates, delivers lectures and sermons, but his aim is to become apparent to the people – to receive some status, praised by the people and that people gather around him and become numerous around him. If this is his aim, then he is not one who calls to Allaah; rather he is a caller to himself. The person who abandons Dawah has indeed abandoned a great obligation and the person who is not sincere in Dawah has indeed fallen into a great danger, because Dawah has to be carried out sincerely for the Sake of Allaah and the aim should be to establish the Sharee’ah of Allaah- to guide and benefit the people, whether you are praised or rebuked. As for some people, when they are not praised and promoted, they abandon Dawah. This is a proof that such a caller is not a caller to Allaah, rather he only calls to himself. Therefore, the Muslim should be warned and that his aim in dawah should be sincerity, to benefit the people, free them from Shirk and bidah, free them from those affairs that are in opposition to the Sharee’ah and fulfil what is obligated on him.
A great number of people around a person is a not proof that such a person is virtuous, because some of the Prophets were only followed by few people. “A Prophet will come on the day of judgement with a few followers and a Prophet will come with no followers”. [Bukhaari 5705]. So, does this mean that such a Prophet is not virtuous? No, definitely not! A person does not look at the large number of people who are present, because the Prophet [peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him] said to Ali, “If Allaah gives guidance to a single man through you, it is better for you than possessing red camels”. [Bukhaari 3009] (3)
Shaikh Abdul Ilaah [may Allaah preserve him] stated: “Truthfulness begins in the heart. Deep down ask yourself why am I doing what I’m doing…for Allah or show? More joy would come to the heart of a believing servant when they realise they are here in this dunya to please Allah and hence one strives to increase in acts of obedience upon ikhlaas. Nothing takes the servant away from that.. they are focused and they know life is short. This life is not a competition to see who has the most numbers but competing is for good deeds upon ikhlaas and sunnah. [Twitter]
[Ref 1: http://www.abukhadeejah.com/salafi-shaikh-fawzaan-on-jihaad-in-our-times-and-the-guidelines-of-jihaad-according-to-islam/
[Ref 2: Abu Daawud. Number 3664]
[Ref 3: An Excerpt from ‘I’aanah Al-Mustafeed Bi-Sharhi Kitaab At-Tawheed’ pages 97-98’ Publisher: Ar-Risaalah Publishers 1st edition 1428AH (Year 2007). Slightly paraphrased]