Muslims have a lot of misunderstandings regarding “ilm”. You would’ve seen promos saying “Ilm is incumbent on all muslims, so send your children to school” and the such.

I wish to clarify something regarding ilm here. This is a quote from – a site run by a prominent scholar of South Africa. It sums the whole issue up.

Rasoolullah (Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam) explains,
“True ilm (knowledge) is only 3.

  1. The clear verses (of the Qur’aan),
  2. The Sunnah (Ahaadith),
  3. The obligation (of Deen).

All (other knowledge) besides these are but an extra.”
(Hayaatus Sahaaba vol.3 pg.252; Maktabatul Ilm).
[(Hayaatus Sahaaba vol.3 pg.182).]

Ibn Umar (Radhiallaahu Anhu), the eminent companion of Rasul (Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam) says. It (Ilm) is the book of Allah and Sunnah of His Prophet (Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam). Whosoever includes anything to this, of his own I know not, whether this will be recorded among his good or bad deeds.’
(Ibid with reference to Ibn Abdul Barr)

In view of the above Ahaadith and many more similar, the Ulama have stated:
Ilm is only that which is attained from the Ambiyaa (Prophets) by way of
learning and teaching Ilm-e-Shari’ah.
(Allaamah Badruddin Aini; Ahsanul Fataawa vol.1 pg.462 vol.1 pg.462; HM Saeed).

and Allah Ta’ala Knows Best

Mufti Ebrahim Desai
Fatwa dept.

This does not mean that worldly education is wrong or forbidden. Instead, it may be necessary to get this education because it is a means of earning which is compulsory for a Muslim. The above discussion simply means that it should be taken as a skill and not ‘ilm’. It is also necessary to remember that the basic ‘‘ilm’ i.e. religious knowledge that is necessary to spend one’s life according to God’s will is necessary so it should be given preference over the worldly education.