The purpose behind knowledge is what we can act upon and that’s exactly what Abdullah ibn Mas’ud used to say:
Knowledge is taqwa.
Taqwa is something that is usually apparent or it has clear manifestations, it reflects on our actions and our attitudes. The point Abdullah ibn Mas’ud was making here, is that beneficial knowledge, is that which reflects on who you are!
That’s why learning, according to the early scholars of Islam, is not boring information as the majority of the students do today. Because knowledge without being digested, processed, and personalized, could bring about a negative effect.
And that’s the secret behind the companions learning five verses at each time, and acting on it. And then after they have completed this, they move on to another five verses.
That’s the way they used to study Islam, and that’s why they learned, and that’s why they excelled.
So, Abdullah ibn Mas’ud was pointing to this fact that:
Real knowledge is what reflects on your actions.
And this is why, in the field of education today, they say:
Learning is being.
That means if the knowledge that you learn or acquire, if you don’t process it, if you don’t break it down, and personalize it, and it becomes part of who you are, if it doesn’t mix with your blood and you flesh, you haven’t learned anything!
You’ve just stored information. You are just like any other book on the shelf or any computer that stores so many books and data.
But that’s not what knowledge is all about. It is about acting.
And that’s the definition that the scholars give to guidance when Allah says that:
He sent His Prophets with al Huda (guidance) and deen al Haqq.
Huda (guidance), the scholars say that’s beneficial knowledge that has the potential to change your behavior, to change who you are, to change your ways in acting…
Deen al Haqq is the actual acting on knowledge. So, if you learn something and you don’t act upon it, it doesn’t change you, it doesn’t make you a different person in a sense, then in brief you’ve wasted your time! Because you will be questioned about that time, and you will be questioned about what did you do with it.
That’s why the Prophet used to seek refuge in Allah every day. Every morning he would say:
Oh Allah! I seek your protection and I seek refuge in you from ilm that is not beneficial.
That means knowledge that will not reflect on me, that will not make me better.