Mu’ath bin Jabal narrated that the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, said the following.
Acquire knowledge, for surely it leads to fear of Allah. Seeking it is an act of worship (‘ibadah); studying it is praising Allah; seeking it is jihad; teaching it to whomever doesn’t known it is an act of charity (sadaqah); and giving it to its people draws one closer to them.
Knowledge points to the permissible (Halaal) and the forbidden (haraam); and it is a shining light pointing the way to paradise It comforts the lonely, befriends the estranged, and talks to you in seclusion. It is a guide through prosperity and adversity; it is a weapon against enemies; and it is the best of friends.
With knowledge, Allah raises people to high stations, making them leaders in goodness, whose steps are traced. Their example is emulated, their opinion followed. The angels like to sit with the people of knowledge, surrounding their wings; and everything dry or wet, -fish of the sea and animals on land, – will ask Allah to forgive them. Knowledge gives life to the heart in the midst of ignorance, and illumines vision in the darkness. With knowledge, God’s servants become the elite and reach the highest degrees in this life and in the hereafter.
Contemplation with knowledge is equivalent to fasting (sawm); spending time to study it is equivalent to standing at night in prayer (qiyam); duties to relatives are fulfilled by it; and through it the halaal and haraam are known. Knowledge precedes action (‘amal) and action always follows it. The fortunate ones attain it and the miserable ones are deprived of it.
[From Selected Speeches [khutab Mukhtaarah] Riyadh, Saudi Arabia: General Administration for Research, Ifta’, Da’wa, and guidance, 1987, p 27, 31] Reproduced here from “Speaking for Change” by Wael Alkhairo. Amana Publications, Beltsville, Maryland, 1998.