الْعِلْمُ عِلْمَانِ: مَطْبُوعٌ وَمَسْمُوعٌ وَلاَ يَنْفَعُ الْمَسْمُوعُ إِذَا لَمْ يَكُنِ الْمَطْبُوعُ۔
Knowledge is of two kinds - that which is absorbed and that which is just heard. The one that is heard does not give benefit unless it is absorbed.
— Imam Ali a.s.
(Nahj al-Balagha — Peak of Eloquence: Hadith #338)
In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful. Praise be to Allah, the Lord of all the worlds. May peace and blessings be upon our beloved Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ), his pure progeny, and his noble companions.
In this profound hadith, Imam Ali (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) beautifully explains the two types of knowledge: the knowledge that is absorbed and the knowledge that is merely heard. He states that the knowledge which is absorbed, or internalized, is the one that brings true benefit to an individual.
Let us delve deeper into the words used in this hadith. The Arabic word (matbūʿ) "مَطْبُوعٌ" refers to knowledge that is imprinted or engraved in the heart and mind. This type of knowledge is not merely memorized or recited, but it becomes an integral part of one's being. It is the knowledge that is deeply understood, contemplated upon, and applied in one's life.
On the other hand, the word (masmūʿ) "مَسْمُوعٌ" refers to knowledge that is merely heard or listened to. This type of knowledge is superficial and does not penetrate the depths of one's understanding. It is like a passing sound that does not leave a lasting impact.
To further understand the significance of absorbed knowledge, let us turn to the Quran. Allah (سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَىٰ) says in Surah Al-Mujadila (58:11),
O you who have believed, when it is said to you, 'Make room [in assemblies],' then make room; Allah will make room for you. And when it is said, 'Arise,' then arise; Allah will raise those who have believed among you and those who were given knowledge, by degrees. And Allah is Acquainted with what you do.
This verse emphasizes the importance of knowledge that is absorbed and acted upon. Those who possess this type of knowledge are elevated in the sight of Allah. It is not enough to simply hear or recite knowledge; it must be internalized and put into practice.
Another verse that supports the concept of absorbed knowledge is found in Surah Al-Hujurat (49:6), where Allah says,
O you who have believed, if there comes to you a disobedient one with information, investigate, lest you harm a people out of ignorance and become, over what you have done, regretful.
This verse highlights the importance of verifying information before accepting it as knowledge. Merely hearing something without verifying its authenticity can lead to harm and regret. It is only through absorbed knowledge that one can discern between truth and falsehood.
Imam Ali's (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) beautiful Hadith serves as a reminder for Muslims to seek knowledge that goes beyond the surface level. It urges us to strive for a deeper understanding and application of knowledge in our lives. Merely hearing or reciting knowledge without internalizing it will not bring about true benefit or transformation.
When we absorb knowledge, it becomes a part of our character and guides our actions. It enables us to make informed decisions, seek truth, and navigate through the complexities of life. Absorbed knowledge empowers us to distinguish between right and wrong, and to uphold justice and righteousness.
In conclusion, Imam Ali's (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) hadith emphasizes the importance of absorbed knowledge over mere hearing. It encourages Muslims to seek knowledge that is deeply understood, internalized, and applied in their lives. By doing so, we can attain true benefit and elevate ourselves in the sight of Allah. May Allah grant us the ability to seek and absorb beneficial knowledge, and may He bless us with wisdom and understanding.
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