Ten years ago, while in pharmacy school, I gave a quick presentation about the use of Over the Counter (OTC) smoking cessation products. It was an exercise in counseling patients on what is available in the market without a prescription to help them quit smoking. It was a very well put together presentation that garnered my classmates’ applause. But the best part about it, according to my classmates, was the fact that everyone could see the outline of the pack of cigarettes in my front pocket. I was a smoker you see, yet I stood up in front of everyone and preached about the best way to help one quit this harmful habit and lead a healthy life.
Allah says in Surat Al-Jum`ah:
The example of those who were entrusted with the Torah and then did not take it on is like that of a donkey who carries volumes [of books]. (Qur’an, 62:5)
In this verse, Allah (swt) talks about the Jews who did not utilize the knowledge given to them in the Torah nor did they apply it to their lives. He likens them to a donkey that carries on its back volumes of books; however, regardless of the knowledge these books contain, the donkey cannot make use of nor implement that knowledge in its life. Although this specific verse refers to the example of the Jews denying what was contained in their books about the coming of Prophet Mohammed ﷺ (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and his message, we need to look at the greater message. The moral of this ayah is that mere possession of knowledge is not enough. We must implement knowledge in all aspects of our life or else it is, and we are, rendered useless. Simply put, when I gave that presentation, I was like a donkey. I had all the knowledge of the harms of smoking, how to best quit smoking and what help there is for me, yet I did not benefit from that knowledge. As one poet puts it:
كالعيس في البيداء يقتلها الظمأ و المـــــاء فوق ظهورها محمـول
Like camels in the desert dying of thirst/while it carries the water right on its back
The same can be said about knowing that prayer is the essential foundation of Islam but not praying, or having verses of the Qur’an memorized but not understanding what they mean. Please don’t get me wrong. The idea is not for every one of us to become a scholar of Islamic theology or jurisprudence or to become experts in every field of information; the idea is to understand and implement the knowledge that we do have in our lives. So let us ask ourselves, how many of us truly practice our knowledge? How many of us truly understand what it means to profess, five times a day, the Lordship of Allah? How many of us truly understand and implement the meanings of two verses that most of us have memorized?
“So whoever does an atom’s weight of good will see it, And whoever does an atom’s weight of evil will see it.”