Story No. 407 – Defination of Knowledge according to Imam Jafar ibn Muhammad al-Sadiq (as)

With the knowledge he had gained about Imam Jafar ibn Muhammad al-Sadiq’s (as) intelligence in all matters, at age 94 Unwaan Basri wished to acquire knowledge only from Imam Jafar al-Sadiq (as) who had entered Medina. But the surveillance the government had on Imam Jafar al-Sadiq (as), and Imam’s own overscheduled hours did not make it easy for Unwaan Basri to schedule with Imam Jafar al-Sadiq (as). Yet, his love and respect toward Imam Jafar al-Sadiq (as) had increased so much that he would not let the thought go easily. And thus he prayed and requested that Allah (SWT) provide him the opportunity to study under the Imam.

Eventually, he found the opportunity to go to the Imam’s house. He asked permission to enter. And when finally allowed he sat with Imam Jafar al-Sadiq (as) and awaited to taste a drop from the Imam’s sea of knowledge.

Imam Jafar al-Sadiq (as) said, ‘O Aba Abdellah (Nick name of Unwaan Basri)! Knowledge is not (just) about studying; rather it is a light, placed within the heart of someone whom Allah (SWT) wills to guide. Thus if you seek knowledge, you must first be a true servant and receive it by practicing what you learn. And ask Allah (SWT) for understanding so that you can comprehend.

Unwaan Basri asked, ‘O Aba Abdellah (Nick name of Imam)! What are the characteristics of a true servant of Allah (SWT)?

Imam Jafar al-Sadiq (as) answered, “Three things. The first is not to see that which Allah (SWT) gave him as solely his own, for servants are not the true owners; rather they see their wealth (as a blessing) from Allah (SWT). They use it only where Allah (SWT) has asked them to.”

The second characteristic is that a true servant does not do anything other than his duties and does not think about the results of his duties.

And the third is that a true servant spends all his time obeying the commands of Allah (SWT) and not doing that which Allah (SWT) has banned.

A true servant is one who does not view the wealth Allah (SWT) has given him as solely his. With this view in mind, it is thus easier for him to give what Allah (SWT) has given him in charity. When a true servant accomplishes his duties, tragedies he faces in life become much more bearable for him. A servant who has occupied himself with obeying Allah (SWT) will not have time to argue and show off his wealth to the people.

So whenever a servant acquires these three characteristics, the materialistic world, Satan and people become very small for him. He does not seek worldly things or pride for others. He does not have eagerness for worldly positions or luxurious life styles and thus, he does not waste his time with seeking these matters. This is the first level of piety and Allah (SWT) says, “As for that future Abode, We assign it to those who have no desire to exalt themselves in the earth nor to make mischief and the good end is for the righteous.” (Noble Qur’an, 28:83)

Taking a look at our lives, have we prepared our hearts to openly receive the holy light of wisdom and knowledge? Are we about to acquire more knowledge by practicing what we know? Do we ask Allah (SWT) to give us more understanding and wisdom?

O Allah (SWT)! We seek your refuge from a life spent learning, but failing to practice it in obedience to You; and therefore failing to receive any of that light in our hearts.