A slave that is blessed with knowledge is indeed experiencing a great blessing. Allaah said:
“It is only those who have knowledge among His slaves that fear Allah.” [Surat Al-Faatir: 28]
“…Allah will exalt in degree those of you who believe, and those who have been granted knowledge. And Allah is Well-Acquainted with what you do.” [Surat Al-Mujadilah: 11]
This is the slave who has been given beneficial knowledge, which is knowledge that manifests in to good actions.
On the authority of Zaid ibn al Arqam that the Messenger (صلى الله عليه وسلم) used to say:
“O Allaah, I seek refuge from knowledge that is not beneficial, a heart that does not fear, a self that is not satisfied and supplications that are not answered” [Sahih Muslim, At-tirmidhi and An-Nasaa’i]
Knowledge (religious), however, can be a calamity, a disease and a reason for punishment if the slave commits either of the following:
1- Concealing the knowledge he has. Allaah said:
“Verily, those who conceal the clear proofs, evidences and the guidance, which We have sent down, after We have made it clear for the people in the Book, they are the ones cursed by Allah and cursed by the cursers.” [Surat Al-Baqarah: 159]
2- Not acting upon the knowledge. Allaah said:
“Enjoin you Al-Birr (piety and righteousness and each and every act of obedience to Allah) on the people and you forget (to practise it) yourselves, while you recite the Scripture [the Taurat (Torah)]! Have you then no sense?” [Surat Al-Baqarah: 44]
The Messenger (صلى الله عليه وسلم) said:
“The two feet of the slave will not move, until he is asked about his life and how he spent it, his knowledge and what he did with it, his wealth; how he earned it and spent it, and his body and how he used it.” [Narrated by Abi Burza Al-Aslami in At-Tirmidhi- Saheeh]
We learn from this hadith that we will be asked about what we did with our knowledge. It becomes imperative, therefore that those who have knowledge teach it, and act upon it, so they are not punished for this knowledge that they possess.
The Messenger (صلى الله عليه وسلم) said:
“The similitude of the one who teaches the people good, while forgetting himself in like that of a lamp (i.e. a candle); it gives light to the people and burns itself” [Narrated by Jundub ibn Abdillah in At-Tabarani- Saheeh]
Ibn Al-Qayyim described the one who has knowledge, and conveys it to the people but does not do it. He said (رحمه الله):
“Corrupt scholars sit in front of the door to Paradise calling people to it through some words, while they are doing deeds that lead to the hellfire. Whenever their words call people to Paradise, their deeds do not conform to their words. If such words were true they would have been followed by them. They seem to be leaders while they are really highwaymen.” [Al-Fawaa’id]
There is a severe punishment for the one that commands the people to good while he does not do it and forbids the evil while he indulges in it as the Messenger (صلى الله عليه وسلم) said:
“A man will be brought and put in Hell, and he will go around and around in Hell like a donkey of a (flour) grinding mill. All the people of Hell will gather around him and say: ‘O So-and-So! Didn’t you use to order other to good and forbid them from evil?’ That man will say: ‘I used to order others to do good but I myself never used to do it, and I used to forbid others from evil while I myself used to do it.’” [Agreed upon]
This person’s punishment is severe showing how great it is to not act on what you preach. Another example of the consequences of not acting on one’s knowledge is seen in the hadith of Anas (رضي الله عنه) where the Messenger (صلى الله عليه وسلم) said:
“I saw on the night of Israa, people with their lips being pinched with tools of fire. I said: ‘O Jibreel, who are they?’ He (Jibreel) said: ‘These are the khutabaa’ (preachers) of this Nation; those that say what they don’t do” [Narrated in Ibn Hibban, authenticated by Sheikh Al-Albani]
As we can see therefore, the responsibility that comes with knowledge is of two types:
1- To work according to knowledge earned and this is for one’s own self
2- Not to conceal one’s knowledge, because the people of this time are very much in need of it, and spreading knowledge benefits one’s own self as well as others.
It should be known that this knowledge is very valuable and whoever possesses it has been given, by Allaah, something that can either raise his rank to a superior level or it can be a calamity for him and destroy him such that he is thrown in to the pits of the Hellfire.
May Allaah help us to act on our knowledge and to teach it and may He protect us from the punishment of not doing so. May the Salaah and the Salaam of Allaah be upon the Messenger, his family, and his companions.