Every path taken in search of knowledge is a way to Jannah
Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “Whoever follows a path to seek knowledge, Allah will make the path to Jannah (Paradise) easy for them.” [Sahih Muslim 2699; Sunan Tirmidhi 2945].
This shows us the great excellence of the seekers of knowledge. For whoever sets right his intention in seeking knowledge and desires only Allah’s pleasure, is on a road to salvation and happiness. Knowledge should be sought for the right objectives and for its implementation not for the sake of Riya’ (showing-off ), gaining reputation, or for the sake of anything else; rather, a person learns it to be acquainted with his Din, to have insight into what Allah has made incumbent upon them, to strive to bring the people out of darkness and into the light, so they seek knowledge, act upon it and teach others the good objectives that Muslims are ordered to take care of.
Every path -whether literally or not- that he takes in search of knowledge is a way to Jannah. The journey from a country to another; and going from a Halaqah (learning circle) to another; and from a Masjid (mosque) to another for the sole intention of seeking knowledge. These are from the ways of acquiring knowledge, likewise reading and studying Islamic books are also ways of seeking knowledge.
A seeker of knowledge is concerned with all these paths that lead to knowledge. He seeks it, desiring the pleasure of His Lord (Glorified and Exalted be He). He wants to seek Allah’s pleasure and the Hereafter; he wants to understand and reflect upon His Din; he wants to know what Allah has made incumbent upon him and what He has prohibited him from; he wants to know his Lord with deep insight, then act accordingly; he wants to rescue people; he wants to be amongst the callers striving for the Truth; and he wants to guide people to Allah through knowledge.
So wherever he turns he is in great excellence while having these good intentions – even his sleep is a path to Jannah – if he sleeps in order to strengthen himself to seek knowledge, or to study or memorize, then his sleep is regarded as worship, contrary to a person who has an evil intention, for he is in great danger. It was authentically reported that the Messenger (peace be upon him) said: “Whoever acquires (religious) knowledge, which is (normally) acquired to gain the Pleasure of Allah, (for the sole reason) to secure worldly comforts will not even smell the fragrance of Jannah on the Day of Resurrection (i.e., will not enter Paradise).” [Related by Abu Dawud, 3179, with a good Sanad (chain of narrators)].
This is a great threat for a person who has an evil intention. It is reported that the Messenger (peace be upon him) said: “Whoever acquires knowledge in order to compete with the scholars or dispute with the ignorant or attract the attention of people to him will enter Hellfire.” [Related by Ibn Majah, no. 250, Introduction, Chapter on utilization of knowledge]
Knowledge is acquired by studying, then implementing it for Allah’s sake because He has ordered it and made it a means by which the Truth is manifested. It is reported in a Sahih Hadith: Three types of people will be admitted to the Hellfire first. Amongst them: The one who seeks knowledge or recites Qur’an not for the sake of Allah, but in order for it to be said: He is a scholar or he is a good reciter of the Qur’an. There is neither might nor power except with Allah! [Sahih Muslim 3527]
O Servant of Allah! Dear seeker of knowledge! You must be sincere in your worship, intending it solely for Allah. You must be keen in seeking knowledge with perseverance, then act upon that which knowledge necessitates, since what is required is to act upon, not that you become a scholar or achieve a high class degree. Indeed the main purpose of seeking knowledge is that you act accordingly, guide people to do good, consequently becoming the successors to the Messengers (peace be upon them) in calling people to the Truth. It is authentically reported that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: If Allah wants to do good to a person, He makes them comprehend Din (religion). [Sahih Bukhari no. 71 and Sahih Muslim 1037].
This shows the merits of knowledge. Among the signs of goodness, happiness, and success, are that if Allah wants to do good to His Servant He makes him understand the Din so that he can distinguish Truth from falsehood, and guidance from deviation, in order to recognize his Lord by His Names, Attributes and His great rights, so that he knows the recompense of the Awliya’ (pious people) and the enemies of Allah.
The reward of the Awliya’ is Jannah, near to their Lord, looking at His Face in the Abode of Honor (Jannah).
On the other hand, the destination of the enemies of Allah is in a place of torture, punishment, humiliation screened from seeing Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He).
Thus, we come to know the excellence of knowledge and that it is the best and most noble thing for anyone who seeks knowledge with a good intention.
[Source: Extracted from A lecture delivered by His Eminence Shaykh Ibn Baz (rahimahullaah) in the Islamic University in Al-Madinah Al-Munawwarah, on 23/3/1404 A.H and collected in (Fatwas of Ibn Baz , Part No. 23; Page No. 302-305)]