The importance of knowledge | Cashmere amount
When ordinary knowledge becomes personal and enters the depths of sound perception, it reaches the level of gnosis or wisdom (irfan). A Gnostic (arif) is a person aware of the secrets and wisdoms of divine manifestations embedded as knowledge in his heart. In simpler terms, an arif refers to one who owns the irfan. A person knowledgeable in the conventional scholarly disciplines, but not in the spiritual, is rightly called a scholar, but not a gnostic.
The knowledge possessed by such people is fixed like the knowledge written in books. This situation is like a seed in a warehouse; it cannot prosper as long as it is kept detached from the ground. As it is kept at a distance from the heart, it is a kind of knowledge which cannot culminate in true contemplation. Knowledge of this kind has therefore been rightly called “book knowledge” or “pedantic knowledge”.
However, all kinds of knowledge are undoubtedly beneficial if used appropriately and directed to their opposite end. Yet when it comes to the real happiness and ultimate salvation of mankind in this world and the next, acquiring only the outward aspects of science does not “provide a sufficient solution. To fill this gap, Islam emphasizes the spiritual aspects of science and demands that it be used in a way that is good and beneficial to all mankind, without being exploited for evil purposes.
In this context, Islam has coined a term of “beneficial knowledge” (al-ilmu’n-nafi) which reorganizes all the externalities of the human sciences in a transcendental perspective. Great scientists draw attention to the insufficiency of scientific knowledge devoid of a deep spiritual dimension. The only remedy, therefore, to overcome this weakness is to undertake spiritual training. It is not possible to harmoniously assemble trivial aspects of ordinary knowledge. The true type of knowledge and truth is only accessible under the guidance of spiritually qualified teachers.
The interior maturity reached at the end of the spiritual path raises human perception to a horizon higher than that of the exoteric sciences, and the term marifah refers to this very horizon: by the exclusive means of certain spiritual practices can we reach this horizon. No matter how great a scholar may be, by achieving such a high level of perception, he recognizes his own weakness, due to which he is effectively cured of the disease of pride. It becomes filled with feelings of fear and weakness in the presence of a horizon that opens up to an exhibition of infinite and complex realities. Thinking further with good reason, he further realizes that knowing is not just looking at the outward aspects of a given thing. Rather, it is about solving the underlying mystery of the grand design and coming to an insightful awareness of the divine wisdom imprinted on creation.
Through a symbolic parable, Rumi offers a splendid explanation of the importance of acquiring the knowledge of the Divine for the eternal happiness of humanity, and of the tragic outcome that awaits those who do not enter the path of its production. A grammarian boards a boat. He begins to speak with the boatman in a sufficient and conceited manner, which he maintains throughout the journey. From time to time he asks the boatman various questions about the finer points of grammar. Each time the boatman admits that he does not know the answer to the question asked, this swells the pride of the grammarian all the more, who pities him each time, saying: “What a pity! You have wasted half your life in ignorance! Even though he is heartbroken, being the mature and kind man that he is, the boatman does not respond to the grammarian’s insulting remarks and remains silent.
As their conversation flowed along these lines, suddenly a great storm erupted, pulling the ship into a terrifying whirlwind. While the other travelers start to panic, the boatman turns this time to the grammarian and asks him: “Can you swim, big man?” The grammarian’s face paled and said in a weak voice, “No, I don’t. To this, the boatman replies: “I may have wasted half of my life by not learning grammar… but you, my friend, have just wasted your whole life by not learning to swim. If only you knew, grammarian, that what counts in the sea is not the knowledge of grammar but the knowledge of swimming!
The knowledge of grammar in this parable symbolizes worldly and exoteric sciences. Truly beneficial knowledge, however, is knowledge that meets human needs; and the greatest of all human needs, physically and spiritually, is to achieve eternal happiness. And it depends on achieving the pleasure and contentment of the Lord, which in turn depends on perfect faith and deeds.
This story tells us that as our minds are about to leave our body while we are lying on our deathbed, the only type of knowledge that will benefit us will not be dry, mindless knowledge that does not. serves only to worsen our ego, but the knowledge that turns our ordinary learning into Irfan and thus meets our eternal needs and our desire for happiness.
Before death reaches us, therefore, we must transform all kinds of information lying dormant in our mental storehouse into beneficial knowledge that would please the Almighty. Because when our flesh is about to return to its origin, the earth, where it came from, scattered pieces of knowledge that have only ensured a comfortable life for our flesh will no longer help us. At this time, we need a healthy and purified heart. Before death reaches the heart, the heart needs to get rid of the obstacle of the ego and acquire sound quality. The inability to reach this level is to drown in the vast sea of the beyond. But those who flee from negative characteristics to the point of virtually killing their egos are graciously greeted by this new realm of existence, free from all the damage that otherwise derives from it.
The Sufi maxim “Die before death” is quite enlightening in this regard. Death, in this sense, is about minimizing the desires of the ego. Accomplishing this requires constant self-examination. “Hold yourselves to account before you are called to account” is another spiritual principle of Sufism that prompts someone to review and meditate on the nature of the ego’s endless desires and practice for it. rectify his soul, before that inevitably happens in the impending world to come.
An academic reports that he once “… saw Abu Hamid Ghazzali among a group of obviously enlightened people, wearing clothes full of patches and holding an ewer in his hand. I asked him, “Wasn’t the post of head teacher in the Nizamiya Madrasah in Baghdad better than this?” He looked me deep in the eye for a moment and said, ‘I am here because when the full moon of happiness rose over the sky of willpower, the sun of reason showed the way to meet.’ “(Muhammad ibn Abdullah al-Hani, Adab, page 9)”
For this reason, the most influential type of knowledge that will lead mankind to happiness and salvation, in this world and in the next, is the knowledge of the heart that makes the Lord known. It is this kind of knowledge that gives birth to a sense of mental and spiritual responsibility with which man performs good deeds in the best possible way. Without this deep sense of sensitivity, science will only serve to destroy humanity, even if it emerged to serve humanity in the first place. Beneficial knowledge is therefore a question of broader horizons and mindsets.
Without beneficial knowledge, the many potentially useful aspects of the humanities cannot be actualized. On the contrary, they become instruments serving malicious ends. The only way to avoid this danger is to attain this inner maturity and the noble characteristics imparted by what we call beneficial knowledge.
(Extract from: Osman NuriTopbas “Sufism”)