Is knowledge better or action? 

Answered according to Hanafi Fiqh by

Answered by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Is knowledge better or action?

In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful

Assalamu alaikum,

This is a false dichotomy. Imam Shatibi (Allah have mercy on him) explained in his Muwafaqat, a much-abused masterpiece, that

“Knowledge is a means among means. It is not sought in itself in the eyes of the Shariah. Rather, it is a means to actions, and everything that has been related about the virtues of sacred knowledge is only established in terms of that which one has been made morally responsible to act upon.” [Shatibi, Muwafaqat, 1.65, Dar al-Ma`rifa ed.]

He also said:

“The knowledge that counts according to the Shariah, whose possessors Allah and His Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) have praised absolutely, is knowledge that leads to action, which does not leave its possessor moving with their whims wherever they lead but rather directs its possessor according to what it entails, and carries them according to its rulings willingly or otherwise.” [ ibid. 1.69]

Faraz Rabbani


 وقال الشاطبي رحمه الله (العلـــم وسيلــــة من الوســـائل، ليس مقصوداً لنفسه من حيث النظر الشرعى، وإنما هو وسيلة إلى العمل، وكل ماورد فى فضل العلم فإنما هو ثابت للعلم من جهة ماهو مكلَّف بالعمل به) (الموافقات) جـ 1 صـ 65، ط دار المعرفة.وقال الشاطبي أيضا (العلم الذى هو العلم المعتبر شرعا ــ أعنى الذى مدح الله ورسوله أهله على الإطلاق ـ هو العلم الباعث على العمل، الذى لايُخَلّى صاحبه جاريا مع هواه كيفما كان، بل هو المقيِّد لصاحبه بمَقتضاه، الحامِلُ له علي قوانينه طوعا أو كرها.) المصدر السابق صـ 69.


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