What is Beneficial Knowledge? Notes from Dr Umar’s Qurba Lecture at the Seekers Hub

Dr Umar’s lecture about beneficial knowledge began by Dr Umar noting that the SeekersHub is the fruit of Habib Umar’s visit to Toronto in March, because Habib Umar came with great hopes and a vision of things that should happen in Toronto. The Seekers Hub is our attempt Dr Umar said, “to realize this vision of Habib Umar, and it is a seed that will insha’Allah become a beautiful tree that bears fruit for a long time to come.”

And with that beautiful beginning, Dr Umar began the lecture. Though all mistakes in notetaking are my own, here are some of the gems Dr Umar mentioned that night.

  1.  The first obligation in Islam is to know. To know God.
  2. Our focus is knowledge, not information. And at the heart of Prophetic knowledge is the power and imperative to transform ourselves, our families and communities. We want to build a community that is the vanguard of knowledge.
  3. A little knowledge goes a long way when it is transformative knowledge that is put into practice.
  4. There is no practice without knowledge, but also no knowledge without practice.
  5. It’s true, we have to continually study. Teaching is the sadaqa, the zakat of knowledge. Teaching is what helps you really get things. And seeking knowledge does require time to study and to teach what you learn. But in reality, something much more basic required when you study sacred knowledge. You have to apply it in every way you imagine, you have to apply all of its corollaries, and then you will have given knowledge all of yourself.
  6. Knowledge is an amana (trust). If you don’t practise it, knowledge can boomerang and be a curse rather than a blessing.
  7. Beneficial knowledge removes the veil from the heart so you can see things the way that they truly are. Purpose of knowledge is to make you a proper human being with a heart filled with humility and mercy. Things are judged by their purpose, and when knowledge meets that end, then it is beneficial.
  8. But you have to keep track of your intention. The purpose of knowledge is that it transforms you and brings your heart to life. The generic definition of knowledge is not enough. If you take knowledge for itself, to become a shaykha for example, then something is wrong, knowledge has been betrayed. When you gain knowledge, it should make you humble and fill you with light and mercy. If it makes you haughty and cold and arrogant then something wrong. Beneficial knowledge is that which makes you more like the person who gave it to us, may Allah bless him and grant him peace.  He was the most approachable of human beings, and yet he is the Sultan. He is the king, yet he loved the oppressed and the poor, sallahu alayhi wasalaam.
  9. We should be people who love other people, who can be criticized and not affected, who can say I don’t know. Imam Malik said I don’t know every day, can we say those words? Is it difficult for us to say these words? Transformation into arrogance is not the transformation that is meant to happen.
  10. Everyone has the right to knowledge. Knowledge is not the exclusive proposition of people who already have knowledge. Shaykh Qadir al Jilani, anyone could come to his circles. This is also an indication that knowledge is beneficial not because a genre of knowledge is generically beneficial, but when the benefit has been realised. We are all Adamic human beings, all brothers and sisters of each other, so how can we look down on each other and reject our brothers and sisters?
  11. We are in much greater need of adab than knowledge
  12. We are in much greater need of God’s mercy and clemency when we obey God then when we disobey God, because sometimes when we have the uniform on, we’re wearing the right clothes, saying the right things, we think we are definitely in the Garden and that maybe others will be there too. And although disobedience is bad, when people do wrong they feel humiliated and realize hey cannot they feel superior. When we are worshipping and obeying Islam though, we are in danger of feeling that superiority.
  13. When we do good deeds they are taken up and we don’t remember them anymore because they are not with us. But when we are still remembering what we do, it’s like those actions are still with you, and we wonder, were those actions ever accepted? When we turn obedience into food for the ego, we turn it into an act of disobedience. Knowledge not put to the right purpose is sheer disobedience.
  14. Shaykh Qadir al Jilani said I looked and studied all kinds of good actions and I found nothing like feeding the poor. And that is what Sufism is about, doing the deen, feeding the poor, taking care of people. And don’t just take care of people, take care of animals. Animals have rights upon us in their old age. If you have a chicken that has been laying eggs for you her whole life and is now too old, you can’t just kill that chicken, what kind of a human being would do that? You have a responsibility to take care of that animal. After all, every animal, every bird does dhikr. For you to do dhikr is a karamah, it is an honorary miracle. because not everyone can do dhikr. Dhikr comes from having light in your heart and the more light in your heart, the easier it is to do dhikr. On Eid for instance, some people will find it very hard to do dhikr, even though they’ve been fasting for a month. When you can’t do dhikr, it means you have darknesses in your heart and dhikr can’t fit.
  15. Good that comes from doing sadaqa is unimaginable. It removes sicknesses, tribulations and it is a light in the heart. Remember, we’re not supposed to sleep when our neighbour is hungry, and we have so many neighbours here.
  16. The Qur’an is a beautiful majestic book, and if you read and do not practise, will lead you astray.

One thought on “What is Beneficial Knowledge? Notes from Dr Umar’s Qurba Lecture at the Seekers Hub

  1. Pingback: Audio & Notes: What is Beneficial Knowledge – Dr. Umar Abd-Allah’s lecture – Qurba at SeekersHub | SeekersHub

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