- The prophet (saw) said,
'Seeking knowledge is compulsory upon every Muslim.'
This obligation is not and cannot be to learn every single matter as we have already explained that that is impossible except for Allah and Allah says,
'Allah does not burden a soul beyond its scope of capability.'
Rather this Hadith is concerning an obligation to learn specific knowledge about particular topics. It is not an obligation to study about mathematics, science, medicine, agriculture or any other worldly affair. Although these subjects are very beneficial and even essential to the Muslim community and studying them is not only permissible but encouraged, it is not a sin however to neglect these types of study or even for a person to go his entire life without to study them, even the study of every detailed aspect of Islam is not obliged.
Imam al-Shafi'i (rh) explained about this Hadith that the knowledge every Muslim is obliged to seek. is the necessary knowledge. He also said,
'Someone asked me: `What is Ilm (knowledge) and how much must men know of it?' al-Shafi'i replied 'Ilm is two kinds: one is general and no sane, mature person can be ignorant of it.' He asked, 'What is an example of this?' al-Shafi'i replied, 'for example, that the five daily prayers are [compulsory], that people must fast the month of ramadaan, to make pilgrimage to the sacred house if they are able to and to pay the Zakat, and that Allah has prohibited usury, adultery, murder, theft, alcohol (i.e. all intoxicants) and everything of that sort which He (swt) has obliged men to comprehend, to perform, to pay from their wealth and to abstain from. This kind of knowledge is found textually in the Book of Allah and is transmitted generally among the people of Islam from previous generations to later generations attributing it to the prophet (saw) while nobody ever questioned its attribution [to the Messenger of Allah] or the obligation upon them to abide by it. It is the kind of knowledge that there is no possibility of error in its narration or interpretation. It is not permissible to question it'
This includes the basic foundations of our belief, creed, worship and the day-to-day rules of transactions with people, personal grooming and hygiene, social and sexual relationships, trade and rules of speech and even the minimum knowledge of the Arabic language that is required to fulfil the obligatory ritual acts.
They are matters that are based on clear-cut, authentic, explicit and agreed upon evidences and transcend all schools of thoughts, races and all other legitimate or illegitimate divisions in the Muslim Ummah. They are not subject to change, renovation or open to Ijtihaad (Jurisistic exertion) and have never been contradicted by any Muslim scholars in the salaf (first three generation of Muslims) or even in later times.