Perhaps ‘love of knowledge’ is the most comprehensive description that characterises all truly successful people who seek it. This attribute —if planted within the heart of a student and allowed to take rest and settle —would cause the many obstacles he faces such as: disinterest, lack of time, different distractions and interruptions, etc — to crumble. For all of these issues stem from the same root, and it is the lack of true love of knowledge.
The reason I specify a love of knowledge that is true is, those who claim to love knowledge are many, but what most feel is nothing more than a base and superficial regard for her. They do not yet possess that level of passion and intense solicitude (characterized by her true lovers).
The statements of the scholars of past contain no shortage of motivational encouragements towards the seeking of knowledge, we find in the Adab al Kabīr of al Muqaffa’,
“Make knowledge (a thing) beloved to you, until you become attached to it, until you make it apart of yourself. (Until) it becomes your distraction, your delight, your solace, and your greatest objective.”
Since true love of knowledge falls nothing short of this (description), I would like to mention some practical and technical ways in which a person can gain such a love and become (truly) infatuated with her. Regardless of whether you are a beginner (student of knowledge) or were once counted amongst her lovers but have (since) been trialed with a diminution (in spirits), but long to return.
I have gathered them in the following 10 points:
1. Companionship Based Upon Knowledge
Accompany those students who are well known for their seeking of knowledge, those hard working students who are constantly preoccupied with it. Build connections with them, link up with them in social networking groups (made for studies, readings, etc), join in their academic discussions, get involved in their projects! Whether online (due to distance) or physically in person. This is one of the most effective causes for loving knowledge, especially if these students have combined between having upright moral character as well as ‘ilm. Included in this is a sincere and devout teacher one accompanies, is able to read (to), and benefits from their commentary and explanations. You will undoubtedly contract his infection, if he is a true lover of knowledge (that is).
2. Motivational Books
Biographies of the scholars of past, books mentioning the biographies of the narrators of hadith, and compilations written by scholars —specifically on the topic of virtues of knowledge, its etiquettes, the ways to attain it, etc. In these works (you will find) extremely beneficial as well as highly enjoyable material. From stories and exemplars to advices and admonitions, all of which increase motivations and inspire passion towards knowledge. They relate to you the reality of true lovers of ‘ilm, how intensely they sought after it, and how incessantly they were attached to it. Collect these books and read them! (I guarantee) you won’t be able to get enough.
3. Tasting the Fruits (of Labour)
No matter what specific task a person is endeavoring in, seeing the fruits of that labour either in themselves or in others is one of the greatest sources of motivation. The ability to answer the questions put forth by your teacher in a lesson, or (partaking in) academic discussions between classmates, or knowing the answer to an issue without having to refer back to any source! And then, recognizing the affect this knowledge has had on your soul, increasing your imān, rectifying your character, granting you an understanding of the things taking place (around you), and so much more of the harvest (of dedication and hard work) the student of knowledge benefits from throughout their life.
4. Systematic & Cumulative Learning
Many students lose motivation due to what they feel of: lack of progression, stagnation in one area of study, and monotonous repetition of the same material. But this problem cannot be overcome except if the student takes on a systematic and clearly organized methodology in their studies. If they succeed (in taking on this methodical approach) they’ll feel their horizons broaden as their knowledge increases, along with their understanding and awareness.
5. Tying Knowledge back to One’s Own Reality
One of the reasons for a person’s lack of attachment to knowledge is the disconnect they feel between the knowledge that they’re learning and their own reality as well as the reality of their community. So in the midst of their learning they end up feeling (almost as though) they were singing out of tune. This could either be due to a false perception one holds of what ‘ilm actually is, or as a result of their (faulty) methodology in seeking it. If the student is able to tie the ‘ilm he learns back to his own reality and life, and thus recognizes its effects and importance —his love of knowledge becomes greater and his sense of necessity towards it increases.
6. Acting Upon Knowledge
This is the objective (of seeking knowledge) and the true benefit of it, and the lack thereof gives way for the many inhibitors one can face to affect them. Such as the whispers of Shaytan, criticism of others and a decrease in imān. But as for the one who actually implements what he knows, then he is the one who discovers the true sweetness of knowledge and its proper effect. And he is provided with and granted from success and divine favor that which aids him in (having) consistency and progressing.
7. Take Care of Any Worries or Concerns
Distraction of the heart, excess wishes of the soul, and an eye that sets upon the pleasures of the dunya and that which is in the hands of others —a mind distracted and lost within the valley of worries and concerns… Of course such a condition would weaken the love of knowledge in one’s heart, and love is a feeling that is very much finite. If it is spread thin and dispersed in every direction, its strength will diminish and its effectiveness will temper. And the nature of ‘ilm requires one to sort out their affairs (things and causes for stress in their life) and decrease their distractions, for these things have an effect on the growth of a student as well as how much they benefit.
Teaching is what unites the student with ‘ilm, and it is what causes his perspectives and sight to completely open up and expand. It is also directly connected with Step 3, as it allows him to see (tangibly) the results of his studies and his hard work.
9. Independent Research
This…this is a feeling to be experienced, and is not one that can be described in words.
10. Staying Connected to Networks of Knowledge
Such as lessons, forums, conferences, and seminars. As well as both local and international book fairs, networking with scholars and specialists, familiarizing oneself with bookstores and public libraries through frequent visitation, (getting to know) the (different) universities, colleges and institutions through your trips and vacations. All of this will increase you in reverence, expand your horizons and intensify that burning passion of yours.
Finally, I’ll end off with the awe inspiring statement of a true lover of knowledge, Ibn al Qayyim al Jawziyyah – may Allah have mercy on him – in which he said,
“Whoever does not have their pleasure and desire for knowledge overcome the pleasures and desires of their body and soul, will never reach a true station within ‘ilm. But, if his desire towards knowledge (does overcome his entire self), it is hoped that he will be (counted) amongst its people.”
– Written in Arabic by @obaid39 (via Instagram), translated into English by @ttwqhh (via Instagram)