Our beloved Prophet (pbuh) has been reported by Jâbir RA to have said:
RE.491/6 (Lâ yanbaghî lil-ŕlimi en yeskuta a'lâ ilmihî, wa lâ yanbaghî lil-jahili en yeskuta alâ jahlihî, qŕl-Allahu ta'ala: Fas'alű ahl-adh-dhikri in kuntum lâ ta'lamun.)
This Hadith is pointing out an important duty for all of us. It is expressing what we must do in our lives. It is very important for everybody and for all times. The Prophet (pbuh) says: (Lâ yanbaghî lil-ŕlimi en yeskuta a'lâ ilmihî) "It is not proper for a scholar to be silent while he has the knowledge." If a person has the knowledge, he should not be silent. He must teach what he knows. He must not hide his knowledge. When he sees something wrong, he must not keep silent; on the contrary, he must speak out to tell the truth and correct what is wrong.
This is the responsibility and the duty of every knowledgeable person. Such a person has to tell his knowledge truthfully and honestly just for the sake of Allah. He has to speak without altering, bending or modifying the truth and without any fear of any kind. Just keep in mind that the highest of Jihad is telling the truth without any hesitation or fear before an oppressive ruler.
In the second part of the Hadith, our beloved prophet continues: (Wa lâ yanbaghî lil-jahili en yeskuta alâ jahlihî) "An ignorant, uneducated person should not keep silent while in the state of ignorance." That means that an uneducated person should seek knowledge by asking questions and searching for information. He has to eliminate his ignorance by asking, "Excuse me, sir. Would you please tell me what is the essence of this matter? Could you enlighten me on this subject?"
This is the duty of people: those who are knowledgeable shall state what they know; those who lack knowledge shall seek knowledge and get themselves educated.
Imagine a person who has no interest in learning, studying, or working. He spends all his time watching television. Every now and then he gets the newspaper and works on the crossword puzzles or reads funnies. All day he plays games or does some physical exercises. His valuable time, which cannot be brought back, passes in vain. He spends his years like this, and then his life comes to its end. He has not done anything useful, nor has he learned a word. He would be content with the least amount of work; he would settle for the minimum wage, and he would not mind working under the poorest conditions. Yet he had the opportunities to get up, clean his room, organize everything, put some flower pots here and there. -- In Islam, the duties are carried out not plainly but perfectly and beautifully. Everybody is instructed to aim at perfection. -- Unfortunately, this person is not paying attention on beautifying his home, its cleanliness or its order. He is not trying to improve his business or becoming an expert.
When my students or young brothers from our community ask for an advice, I tell them: "Continue with your education. Go to graduate school. Increase your knowledge. Became the leaders in your fields." I even joke with them "Always try inventing some device. Be experts in your field so that you invent new things in your fields." Once you keep trying, you may come up with something that would be well accepted and used. Remember the person who invented the safety pin. He took a long wire, made a loop in the middle, folded the rest. He sharpened one end and added a mechanism to the other end to keep two ends together. That invention has brought him millions of dollars.
That is why I advise my brothers: "Invent some device!" I encourage them, "If I had some free time, I would invent few things." I must confess that studying Hadith and Qur'an, and spending time seeking spiritual knowledge is much more rewarding than the material inventions and the money they may bring.
It is good that a person finds something be it an invention or new information. An uneducated person shall not remain with ignorance; he shall inquire knowledge by asking someone who knows. Following this advice, the Prophet (pbuh) reminded his companions about a verse of Qur'an. (Qŕl-Allahu ta'ala) Almighty Allah says, (Fas'alű ahl-adh-dhikri in kuntum lâ ta'lamun) "Question the people of remembrance if you do not know."[Al-Anbiya:7]
(Ahl-adh-dhikr), people of remembrance, means scholars, those who have knowledge. It is very important to ask somebody who knows the matter in detail. When you run into a problem, you need to find somebody who is an expert in the field.
In our yard there is a tree which had been infested with insects. I asked some friends what to do. They advised me: "Get an infested leaf from the tree, and take it to a drugstore which sells insecticides for the farms. Show them the leaf, and ask them for the proper medicine. They are the experts who can help you."
Sometimes I ask, "What do I do with this appliance which does not function properly?" My friends reply, "Down the street there is a service shop for that kind of appliances. You must take it there." When we ask questions about matters that we lack knowledge, the outcome is always pleasing.
For the reasons given above, we must add a value to our time by seeking knowledge, learning or teaching. The most rewarding work in Islam is seeking knowledge and teaching. The highest rank is the rank of knowledge, i.e., that of a scholar. It is said "(Rutbat-ul-ilmi a'lâr-rutab) the rank of the scholar is the highest of all ranks." That is why we must value our scholars and their knowledge as well as seeking knowledge. Those who lack knowledge shall not remain in ignorance forever! They should not live their entire life in ignorance.
On the other hand, the scholars should not stay idle, either! Be it his room or a corner in his house, he must prepare a place for teaching. I have heard of Husrev Hodja -- May Allah bless his soul and elevate his rank in the hereafter -- who was an imam at Fatih Mosque in Istanbul. During the years of oppression in 1940s and 1950's, he would teach classes day and night. Once some people came to him and asked if it was possible to have classes with them at the suhur time (pre-dawn) during the Ramadhan. He opened his house for them at an early hour to have classes. He did not think of sleep or comfort. He knew the importance of teaching and seeking knowledge, and so he grabbed every opportunity to teach. All of us should be like him.