The Sweetest and Most Beneficial Thing
“…Know that the nobility of something is either inherent or indirect. Knowledge encompasses both types of nobility, since it is a delight in and of itself and is therefore sought after for itself, and it is also indirectly delightful and is therefore sought after due to what it brings about.
It is not a secret to its possessors that there is no delight greater than its delight because it is a pure and spiritual delight. As for physical delight, it consists of nothing but warding off pain, such as the delight of food warding off the pain of hunger, and the delight of sex warding off the pain of desire.
These are different from spiritual delights, as they are sweeter and more satisfying than the physical delights. This is why Muhammad bin Hasan ash-Shaybani, when he had solved a number of knowledge-related issues that were preoccupying him, said: “Where are the sons of the kings from this delight I am in at this moment?” – let alone if this knowledge was in regards to the realities of Universe and the divine secrets.
Amongst the delights that come along with its honor is that it cannot be hidden away and kept exclusive to certain people. It cannot be overcrowded by anyone, because the more people delve into facts, the more they expand and broaden. With this, you do not see a single ignorant ruler who does not long for the same honor of the people of knowledge, except that his base desires get in the way of him acquiring this.
As for the delights that are attained from it indirectly, this is in regards to both this world and the Hereafter. As for the Hereafter, this is due to knowledge being the means to the greatest of pleasures and eternal happiness. It is impossible to acquire these things except through knowledge and implementation of that knowledge, and it is likewise impossible to implement without having knowledge of how to implement. So, the original source of happiness in both worlds is knowledge. Therefore, it is the best of all actions.
As for this life, then this is manifested in the honor, the tranquility, the authority it gives you over the kings, and the respect that is naturally brought about from others due to it. You see the most foolish of the Turks, the most simpleminded of the Arabs, and the lowest of the non-Arabs all having the same natural respect and veneration for their scholars due to their abundance in knowledge gained from their experience in life. Even the animal naturally display signs of respect to the human being because of its realization that the human being is greater than it in every sense, and this is to the point that it runs away when a person scolds it even if it were physically more powerful than that person…”
[‘Abjad al-‘Ulum’; 1/65-66]