Foundation of religion, Islam is on knowledge (Ilm) and Noble Character (Akhlaq). When we study the life and times of our beloved Ahlul Bayt (as), we notice that the main weapon they used in carrying out their mission of spreading the message of Allah (SWT), was knowledge on one hand and Noble Character on the other.
Our 6th Imam, Imam Jafar Sadiq (as) narrates that, "Anyone who is devoid of knowledge (Ilm) and Noble Character (Akhlaq) is like an orphan who has lost both his parents."
Our Fuqaha (scholars) are apt examples of the height of character one can attain. It has been narrated about the spiritual station of our great Marja, Ayatullah Muhammad Husein Burujerdi (d.1961), that he had made a vow (Nadhr) that if he ever uttered inappropriate words when angry, he would fast for a whole year (to train his soul). Indeed, he had a very lofty station because of his excellent character. He himself has said, "Before I came to Qom, I used to hear the voices of angels." He was a Marja whose credentials as a supreme authority had been endorsed by Amir al-Mu'mineen, Imam Ali (pbuh) himself.
Holy Prophet Muhammad (SAW) said: I seek refuge in Allah (SWT) from knowledge that brings no wisdom, from a heart that lacks kindness, from desires that bring discontent, and from supplications that go unanswered.
Holy Prophet Muhammad (SAW) said: "Teachers and students both share in rewards but other people are deprived of them."
Holy Prophet Muhammad (SAW) said: "He who searches for knowledge is similar to a person who fasts during the day and keeps vigil at night and is busy worshipping. If a person acquires a branch of knowledge, it is better for him than possessing as much gold as the height of Abu Qubais Mount which he would distribute in the way of Allah (SWT)."
Holy Prophet Muhammad (SAW) said: "The virtue of knowledge is more beloved with Allah (SWT) than the virtue of worship."
Holy Prophet Muhammad (SAW) said: "The Noble Qur'an is Allah's (SWT) university; so, learn as much as you can in this university."
Holy Prophet Muhammad (SAW) said: "Fie upon that Muslim who does not allocate (at least) one day a week to the study of the details of his religion and to explore (the affairs) of his religion."
Imam Hassan (as) said: "Teach your knowledge to others and (try to) learn yourself the knowledge of others."
Imam Baqir (as) said: "Try to learn knowledge because learning it is a good action and study is itself a worship."
Imam Jafar Sadiq (as) said: "Be careful of your knowledge and see from whom you get it."
Imam Jafar Sadiq (as) said: "Try to obtain knowledge and ornament it with patience and dignity; and be humble for the one who learns knowledge from you."
Knowledge (Ilm) and Wealth in the eyes of Imam Ali (pbuh):
It is related that once ten learned men approached Imam Ali (pbuh), and wanted to know how knowledge was better than wealth. They requested that each one of them be given a separate answer. Imam Ali (pbuh) answered them as follows:
01. Knowledge is the legacy of the Prophets; wealth is the inheritance of the Pharaohs. As the Prophets are superior to the Pharaohs, so knowledge is better than wealth.
02. You have to guard your wealth, but knowledge guards you. Therefore, knowledge is better than wealth.
03. When knowledge is distributed it increases. When wealth is distributed it decreases. As such knowledge is better than wealth.
04. A man of wealth has many enemies, while a man of knowledge has many friends. Therefore knowledge is better than wealth.
05. A learned man because of his wider outlook is apt to be generous while a rich man because of his love for money is apt to be miserly. As such knowledge is better than wealth.
06. Knowledge cannot be stolen, while wealth is constantly exposed to the danger of being stolen. Accordingly knowledge is better than wealth.
07. With the lapse of time, knowledge gains in depth and dimensions. Hoarded coins get rusty, or cease to be legal tender. Therefore knowledge is better than wealth.
08. You can keep account of wealth because it is limited, but you cannot keep account of knowledge because it is boundless. That is why knowledge is better than wealth.
09. Knowledge illuminates the mind, while wealth is apt to blacken it. Therefore knowledge is better than wealth.
10. Knowledge is better than wealth, because knowledge induced the humanity in the Holy Prophet to say to God "We worship Thee as we are Thine servants", while wealth engendered in Pharaoh and Nimrod the vanity which made them claim Godhead.
Imam Ali (pbuh) was the only one who declared 'Saluni, Saluni Kabla an Tafkiduni' - 'ask me, ask me, before you do not find me amongst you.'
Imam Ali (pbuh) says regarding knowledge and acting on it:
O you who carry knowledge around with you; are you only carrying it around with you? For surely knowledge belongs to who ever know and then acts accordingly, so that his action corresponds to his knowledge. There will be a people who will carry knowledge around with them, but it will not pass beyond their shoulders. Their inner most thoughts will contradict what they display in public and their actions will contradict what they know.
Imam Ali (pbuh) says regarding the purity and nobility of knowledge:
When a dead person is placed in his grave, four kinds of fire will cover him, but then the prayer will come and put one of them out, and the fast will come and put another one of them out, and then charity will come and put another one out, and knowledge will come and put the forth one out, and it will say: 'If I had come sooner, I would a have put all of them out, and given you delight for I am with you now, and you'll not see anything else distressing.'