HomeHeirs Of The Prophets › Knowledge Of Tongue And Heart

Chapter 3. Knowledge of the Tongue and the Heart

Sacred knowledge, says Hasan al-Basri, is of two types: "Know­ledge of the tongue, which is the proof of Allah against the son of Adam, and knowledge of the heart, which is beneficial know­ledge." Hasan attributes this narration to the Prophet, as Ibn Masud relates in Sahih Muslim, "People will recite the Quran, and it may fail even to go past their clavicles. Whereas, if it reaches their hearts and becomes rooted therein, it will be of tremendous bene­fit" In this manner does beneficial knowledge touch the heart and impress upon it experiential knowledge of Allah, awareness of His sublimity, and humility towards Him. It bestows upon the heart exaltation, glorification, and love for Allah. When these char­acteristics settle into the heart, it is humbled; and the limbs, similarly affected, then follow in humility.

As related in Sahih Muslim, the Prophet used to say, "I seek refuge in Allah from knowledge which is of no benefit and from a heart which is not humble." This indicates that knowledge which fosters no humility is of no benefit. It is related that the Prophet used to ask Allah for beneficial knowledge. In another hadith, he said, "Ask Allah for beneficial knowledge, and seek refuge in Him against knowledge Which is of no benefit.

As for knowledge on the tongue, it is a proof of Allah against people. The Prophet, said, "The Quran is the proof of Allah for you or against you."

When inner knowledge departs, outer knowledge remains on people's tongues as a proof against them. This knowledge then leaves the possession of the scholars. Nothing then remains of religion except its name, and nothing of the Quran except its script. As for the Quran, it will remain in the books containing it, then at the end of time it will be raised from the books, and nothing will remain in the books nor in the hearts.

Inner and Outer Knowledge

Scholars who categorize knowledge divide it into inner and outer knowledge. Inner knowledge is that which touches the hearts and instils in them fear, humility, awareness of Allah's sublimity, exaltation, love, intimacy, and yearning. Outer knowledge is that which remains on the tongue as a means for establishing the proof of Allah against people.

Wahb ibn Munabbih wrote to Makhul, "Surely, you are a man who has attained the outer knowledge of Islam and thereby gained honour. So seek the inner knowledge of Islam and gain the love of Allah and nearness to Him." Another version relates that he wrote, "Because of your outer knowledge, you have gained sta­tus and honour with the people. So seek inner knowledge to seek status with Allah and nearness to Him. You should know that each of these are separate stations." Wahb indicates that outer knowledge is the knowledge of religious verdicts and legal rulings, the lawful and the unlawful, stories and admonitions, that which the tongue manifests. This knowledge gives its possessor love and veneration. In his letter, Wahb warns against stopping at what peo­ple give out and thus becoming spiritually stagnant and trapped into seeking people's love and glorification. One who stops at this has been cut off from Allah and deluded by people from pursuing Allah's pleasure. By inner knowledge, he means that knowledge which touches the hearts and instils fear, exaltation, and glorifica­tion. Wahb urged him to use that knowledge to seek the love of Allah and His nearness.