Kathir bin Qays (he is a taabi'ee - a taabi'ee is one who saw a Sahabi in a state of Islam and also died as a Muslim) relates: "I was sitting in the musjid of Damascus with Hadrat Abu Darda radiallahu anhu. A person came to Hadrat Abu Darda radiallahu anhu and said: "O Abu Darda, I have left Madinah and come to you so that I may learn a particular Hadith from you.
I have been given to understand that you have heard this Hadith from Rasulullah sallallahu alayhi wa sallam. I have not come to you for any other purpose." Hadrat Abu Darda replied: "Without doubt, I have heard Rasulullah sallallahu alayhi wa sallam saying: "Whoever takes a path seeking knowledge therein, Allah Ta'ala will make easy for him, a path to jannah. The angels, out of happiness, will place down their wings for the seeker of knowledge (laying down the wings is out of humility for the seeker of knowledge.
Or it means that they have kindness and mercy for the seeker of knowledge, the result of which is making dua for his success. This is a sign that the person is accepted in the eyes of Allah because angels are sinless and are the special servants of Allah.
To be accepted by the angels is like being accepted by Allah Ta'ala because your friend's friend is also your friend) and whatever is in the heavens and the earth seek forgiveness for the seeker of knowledge (that is they seek forgiveness for his sins) and even the fish in the sea seek forgiveness for him.
It is apparent that the disbelievers and the shayateen are not included among those who seek forgiveness, because they do not deserve this bounty. If they disobey the Creator, how can they have good relations with the friends of the Creator? This is something that is obvious, therefore it was not mentioned in the Hadith. The Ulama say that it refers to all animals and not only fish.
Fish have been specifically mentioned because water comes into existence through the barakah of the ulama and it is also the source of life, and we also know that fish are dependent on water. The superiority of an aalim over an aabid (worshipper) is like the superiority of the fourteenth moon over all the stars. In other words, it is as if the aalim is the fourteenth moon and the worshipper is like the stars.
The aalim is likened to the moon of the fourteenth night which illuminates the entire universe. Because the benefit of knowledge extends to others as well, and the entire universe is illuminated with this knowledge, he has therefore been likened to the moon of the fourteenth night. As for the worshipper, his benefit is restricted to himself. Others cannot benefit from him. He has therefore been compared to the stars.
One can argue that by looking at the aabid one also yearns to do Ibaadat and that through the blessings of his Ibaadat, the mercy of Allah descends on the people. And in the same way, the land is also illuminated by the stars.
Then the answer to all this is that all these benefits are nothing compared to the benefits of the aalim and the moon. In fact, they are not even worthy of consideration. Aalim in this context refers to that person who knows more than the basic tenets (such as salaat, fasting, etc.) of Islam while an aabid refers to that worshipper who has a basic knowledge of Deen and occupies himself in Ibaadat and is not inclined towards intellectual pursuits. It does not refer to an ignorant worshipper because what Ibaadat can he make, and how can his Ibaadat be correct? It is therefore necessary for the aabid to have a basic knowledge of the Deen.
There is no doubt that the Ulama are the inheritors of the Prophets. We know that they did not leave behind any dinars or dirhams (i.e. they did not make anyone inheritors of worldly possessions). They did not leave behind any inheritance besides knowledge. So the one who acquires this knowledge has in fact acquired a lot of good.
(This Hadith has been quoted from Mishkaat and narrated by Imam Ahmad, Tirmidhi, Ibn Majah, Abu Daud and Daarimi).
Hope this gives you a deeper appreciate for seeking knowledge.
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