The Priority of Knowledge before Action


By Dr. Yusuf al-Qaradawi | Translated  by Jamal Diwan.

Fiqh of Priorities” by Dr. Yusuf al-Qaradawi.

One of the most important priorities in the consideration of the Shari’a is the priority of knowledge before action. Knowledge comes before action and is its guide. It is reported that Mu’ath ibn Jabal said: “Knowledge is a leader and action is its follower.”

For this reason Imam al-Bukhari placed a section in his sahih collection entitled: “Knowledge before Speech and Action.” Commentators stated that what the Imam meant by this was that knowledge is a condition for correctness of speech and action, so they are not acceptable without knowledge. Knowledge precedes speech and action so that the intention can be correct, thereby correcting the action. They said, “al-Bukhari emphasized this so that what some people say regarding the lack of benefit from knowledge without action does not come to one’s mind, thereby detracting from the importance of knowledge and creating laxity in seeking it.”

Imam al-Bukhari supported this opinion by a set of verses from the Quran and hadiths from the Prophet (peace be upon him).

From the verses is: “So know that there is no god except Allah, and seek forgiveness for your sins and the sins of the believing men and women” (Muhammad: 19). In the verse He ordered the Prophet (PBUH) first to know and then to seek forgiveness, which is an action. Even though the address is towards the Prophet (PBUH), it is applicable to all the Muslims.

Another verse is: “Indeed those who fear Allah from His servants are those who have knowledge” (Faatir: 28). Therefore, the fear and awareness of Allah that leads to action is the result of knowledge.

From the hadiths is: “Whosoever Allah wills for him good, He gives him understanding in the deen.1 This is because if one has understanding of the deen, one will act upon it and have perfection in that action.

Another evidence that supports the importance of knowledge before action is that the first revelation from the Quran was the beginning of Surah al-‘Alaq, commanding the listener to read. Then after that other verses were revealed from Surah al-Mudatthir encouraging action.

Knowledge was placed before action because it is by it that we distinguish between truth and falsehood in belief, the correct from the incorrect in speech and the allowed from the prohibited in all aspects of life.

For these reasons we find that many of the scholars of old started their books with a chapter on the importance of knowledge.

Knowledge is the foundation of our study here on the Fiqh of Priorities because by it we know what should take precedent and what should be preceded; without it we cannot make such distinctions.


 

  1. Narrated by al-Bukhari.
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1 Comment

  1. Muslema says:

    This is such an important tarbawy (personal development) lesson: To be sure of something legally before acting on it. As Imam Ghazali said it, “Action without Knowledge is Insanity, and Knowledge without Action is Vanity.”

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