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There is a hadeeth that states that individuals should go as far as China in order to seek knowledge.

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There is a hadeeth that states that individuals should go as far as China in order to seek knowledge. My question is that, what type of knowledge is referred to in this hadith, is it only religious knowledge, or all sorts of knowledge?


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Seek knowledge china

In the name of Allah, We praise Him, seek His help and ask for His forgiveness. Whoever Allah guides none can misguide, and whoever He allows to fall astray, none can guide them aright. We bear witness that there is none worthy of worship but Allah Alone, and we bear witness that Muhammad (saws) is His slave-servant and the seal of His Messengers.


The Truth is sister that this supposed narration attributed to the Messenger of Allah (saws) of guiding the believers to seek knowledge even if they have to go as far as China is neither found in the two ‘Sahihs’ of Bukhari or Muslim, nor in the ‘Saha-Sitta’, nor have any of the good scholars of ahaadeeth accepted it as authentic. The statement does find mention in some records, but its chain of narrators and even its subject matter is considered very very weak (daeef), if not outright ‘marfu’ (fabricated) according to the science of determining authentic hadeeths.


Your Question: My question is that, what type of knowledge is referred to in this hadith, is it only religious knowledge, or all sorts of knowledge?

Al-Tirmidhi Hadith 218 Narrated by Anas ibn Malik

Allah's Messenger (saws) said: ‘The seeking of knowledge is obligatory for every Muslim.’


Al-Tirmidhi Hadith 249 Narrated by Al-Hasan al-Basri

Allah's Messenger (saws) said: ‘He whom death overtakes while he is engaged in acquiring knowledge with a view to reviving Islam with the help of it, there will be one degree between him and the Prophets in Paradise.’


Sahih Muslim HadithHadith 6518 Narrated byAbuHurayrah

Allah's Messenger (saws) as saying: ‘He who alleviates the suffering of a brother from the affections of the world, Allah will alleviate his affections from the sufferings of the Day of Resurrection. He who finds relief for one who is hard pressed, Allah will make things easy for him in the Hereafter, and he who conceals (the faults) of a Muslim, Allah would conceal his faults in the world and in the Hereafter. Allah is at the back of a servant so long as the servant is at the back of his brother. He who treads the path in search of knowledge, Allah will make that path easy, leading to Paradise for him and those persons who assemble in one of the houses of Allah (mosques), recite the Book of Allah and learn and teach the Qur'an (among themselves). There will descend upon them tranquillity, mercy will cover them, the Angels will surround them and Allah will mention them in the presence of those near Him. He who is slow-paced in doing good deeds, his (long) descent does not make him go ahead.’


Al-Tirmidhi Hadith 256 Narrated by Abdullah ibn Abbas

The Messenger of Allah (saws) said: ‘Acquiring knowledge in company for an hour in the night is better than spending the whole night in prayer.’


Al-Tirmidhi Hadith 220 Narrated by Anas ibn Malik

Allah's Messenger (saws) said: ‘One who goes out to search for knowledge is (devoted) to the Cause of Allah till he returns.’


Al-Tirmidhi Hadith 257 Narrated by Abdullah ibn Amr

Allah's Messenger (saws) happened to pass by two groups (of muslims) in the mosque and he (saws) said: ‘Both of them are good, but one is superior to the other. One group is supplicating Allah and praying to Him. If He so wills, He will confer upon them and if He so wills He will withhold. So far as those who are acquiring the understanding of religion and its knowledge and are busy in teaching the ignorant, they are superior. Verily I have been sent as a teacher.’ He (saws) then sat down amongst them.


In light of the above quoted authentic and established ahaadeeths, from the tone of the contents, it is very very clear that the ‘ilm’ (knowledge) referred to in these narrations is meant to be religious knowledge.


The absolute majority of the scholars in Islam are of the opinion that the seeking of basic Islamic knowledge is what is known as ‘fard-ayn’ or absolutely obligatory upon each and every sane, adult, muslim. Examples of other ‘fard-ayn’ or absoltutely obligatory acts in Shariah are the ‘salaah’, obedience to parents, etc…….no one can do an act of ‘fard-ayn’ for another; it is absolutely obligatory upon each individual to do it himself.


As regards the ‘worldly’ knowledge, the scholars hold it to be what is known in Islamic Fiqh or Jurisprudence as ‘fard-kifaayah’ or ‘partially obligatory’…..meaning that if some amongst the believers strive to seek the ‘worldly’ knowledge (in addition to the ‘fard-ayn’ or absolutely obligatory Islamic knowledge), then that would suffice for the Ummah. But if none amongst the believers strive to seek ‘worldly’ knowledge, then it would indeed be a sin in the Sight of Allah, and the whole Ummah of believers will have a share in this sin.


Examples of other acts of ‘fard-kifaayah’ in Shariah are the Eid prayers, funeral prayers, etc. If some amongst the believers offer these prayers, it would suffice for the Ummah; but if none amongst the believers offer these prayers, the whole Ummah will share in the sin.


Whatever written of Truth and benefit is only due to Allah’s Assistance and Guidance, and whatever of error is of me alone. Allah Alone Knows Best and He is the Only Source of Strength.


Your brother and well wisher in Islam,




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