Knowledge and Morals

Umar ibn al-Khattab once said that there are three stages in seeking knowledge. First, be arrogant. Second, tawadhu‘. Third, feel like you don’t know anything. 

When you feel that you are smarter than other people, feel that you are in a higher class than your younger siblings, then the first thing that grows or appears is arrogance. This is the first stage that Umar ibn al-Khattab warned us to be careful of.

In the Book of Hilyah Thalibi al-‘Ilm, it is explained that seeking knowledge is not just listening to the teacher’s explanation. There is no point when a student studies seriously in class, but is not polite to the teacher. As stated in Hilyah Talibi al-‘Ilm:

“Knowledge is the most precious pearl in the crown of the holy Shari’a, and it will not reach him unless he adorns himself with his manners and cleanses himself of his impurities.”

Umar ibn al-Khattab reminded that the first challenge in seeking knowledge is arrogance.  Feeling superior to his teacher. So he is arrogant. He tested his teacher. He laughed at his teacher. In the etiquette of seeking knowledge, if it is true that the student is smarter than the teacher, then it is obligatory for a student to make up for the teacher’s shortcomings.

Second, the stage of tawadhu. This is like the nature of rice. The more it contains, the more it bends. Like rice before harvest, it is getting droopier. Feeling that he knows a lot of things, he is ashamed of his knowledge, because he knows that he has many shortcomings. So actually someone who is smart, must be a humble person. In fact, people who think they are smart grow arrogant.

Third stage. When he studied, he felt that he was lacking and kept learning more, so in his journey of studying he realized that his knowledge was not comparable to the knowledge that exists in this world. Such breadth of knowledge.

Mr. Habibie once said, “The knowledge I have is just a drop in the ocean.” The breadth of knowledge on this earth is so vast. Therefore, the morals or manners of a scholar or person with knowledge must form the frame of his or her identity. Beauty and handsome facial features, if only with worldly makeup, will not last forever. It only lasts for a moment, when the makeup is removed it will return to its basics.

But if you are decorated with moral beauty, people will see you from a distance even in a crowd. It will be seen that this is a child with morals and knowledge. High knowledge still makes him humble. Because he has the morals of al-karimah.

Knowledge is hidden prayer (sirr) and worship of the heart. Mentioned in Hilyah Thalibi al-Ilm:

“The basic principle of etiquette in seeking knowledge, even in all things that are commanded, is your understanding that knowledge is worship. “Because of that, some scholars say, ‘knowledge is prayer in secret and worship of the heart’.”

Someone asked the Prophet Muhammad. Who are the people who go to heaven the most? He answered, the people who go to heaven are those who fear Allah and have good morals.

Morals are divided into three. Morals towards Allah, morals towards oneself and morals towards fellow creatures, including fellow humans. Morals towards Allah are grateful for all the blessings that Allah has bestowed upon us. Be sincere with what Allah has given us. Be patient with every test that Allah gives us. Don’t complain and always have a good opinion of Him. Accept all the provisions of His destiny after we try as hard as possible.

Morals towards Allah are linear with morals towards oneself and fellow creatures. We are a gift from God that we must protect. God said that we are the most perfect creatures. Perfection is useless if we do not maintain it by adorning ourselves with knowledge and good morals. There are two morals towards oneself, physical and spiritual. To the physical, namely taking care of the body, maintaining health. The spiritual is filled with contemplation, gratitude and not being arrogant, let alone disbelieving of Allah’s blessings.

Morals towards fellow human beings. The first is at-taawun, helping each other to people in need in kindness. The second is tasamuh, the spirit of mutual respect, mutual respect, tolerance. So it is really wrong if Muslims are considered intolerant, because Islam teaches to be tolerant towards fellow humans with various kinds of differences. Respect each other’s differences. Different opinions, but respect each other. The third is attawazun, being fair and balanced is the closest path to piety. Fourth, tawadhu, being humble and not arrogant.