The blessing and pleasure of knowledge
A blessing is a description of every pleasurable thing. Pleasurable things, whether man partakes of them exclusively, or shares with others includes among them the intellectual (‘aqliyya) pleasure. It is the heart that takes pleasure from knowledge and wisdom because of its exclusive possession of the faculty known as the intellect (‘aql). This intellectual pleasure is rare and the most noble.
It is rare because knowledge is only pleasing to a scholar, and wisdom is only pleasing to a sage. How few indeed are the people of knowledge and wisdom and how many are called by their name and designated by their appearances!
The nobility of intellectual pleasure derives from it being permanent; it does not perish, not in this world and not in the Hereafter, and you can never weary of it. One can have enough of food and grow tired of it, and when the sexual act is over one can be wearied by it. But it cannot be imagined that knowledge and wisdom can satiate or be wearisome.
The least that can be said about knowledge and intelligence is that, unlike wealth, they need no help or protection, since knowledge protects you while you protect wealth. Knowledge increases with expenditure, while wealth decreases with expenditure. The calamity of the modern age is that we clamber for that which is transitory and contemptible in lieu for nobility and eternity.
The hands of a thief cannot reach and snatch away knowledge, nor can it be exiled at the hands of the rulers. The possessor of knowledge is always in spirit of tranquillity, while the owner of wealth is always gripped by apprehension.
Thus knowledge is always beneficial, pleasurable and beautiful in every state. Wealth sometimes leads to perdition, and sometimes leads to salvation. This is why God (Exalted is He!) criticised wealth in some verses of the Qur’an and called it a good thing in others.
Why is it, then, that most people are unable to grasp pleasure of knowledge?
This may be due to a lack of experience (dhawq), for if you have no experience, you cannot have knowledge and so you cannot yearn; as yearning follows experience. Or, it may be due to a corruption of natures and sickness of hearts, from indulging the desires – as when the sick person, who cannot sense the sweetness of honey, finds it bitter. How can we taste pleasure of knowledge when our hearts are overcome with desires? Or, it may be that the person is a child and has not yet attained to the quality by which he takes pleasure in knowledge.
We must therefore begin by experiencing the pleasure of knowledge and thus create that insatiable appetite for learning. This must not stop there, for we must share this experience with others in our community so they can taste the pleasure of knowledge and wisdom.