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Did the Prophet (saw) say this about knowledge?

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Acquire knowledge. It enables its possessor to distinguish right from wrong; it lights the way to Heaven; it is our friend in the desert, our society in solitude, our companion when friendless; it guides us to happiness; it sustains us in misery.

I searched Sunnah.com with the string "Acquire knowledge" but didn't found any helpful results.

  • A quick search does not give any reference. Heard it first time, Allahu a'alam. – Zia Ul Rehman Mughal Jan 12 '17 at 13:11
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    This can be traced back to "The Spirit of Islam: A History of the Evolution and Ideals of Islam" by Syed Ameer Ali, where no source is cited. – G. Bach Jan 12 '17 at 13:48
  • In "Modernist Islam" a source is given: "bihar al anwar" by Mulla Baqir ibn Muhammad Taqi al-Majlisi, volume 1, chapter on "knowledge"; other sources are cited, maybe those lead somewhere. Since I can't find that work, this is more a lead than an answer. I can't find sunni sources, and it doesn't sound sunni to my ears. – G. Bach Jan 12 '17 at 13:50
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    Volume 1 of Bihar al Anwar is online in Arabic here. – G. Bach Jan 12 '17 at 13:55
  • Oh, i see, i am sorry, i was looking only in sunni sources, good effort @G.Bach Still, no source mentioned so i think no reference or authenticity found for it to be hadith – Zia Ul Rehman Mughal Jan 12 '17 at 16:43
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The quote you provided seems to be adopted in part from a weak hadith that can be found in Hilyat al-Awliyā' (Arabic: حلية الأولياء وطبقات الأصفياء), vol. 1, pp. 238-239, as documented by Abu Nuaym al-Isbahani through a narration by Muadh ibn Jabal:

حدثنا أبي، ثنا محمد بن إبراهيم بن يحيى، ثنا يعقوب الدورقي، ثنا محمد بن موسى المروزي أبو عبد الله، قال: قرأت هذا الحديث على هاشم بن مخلد - وكان ثقة - فقال: سمعته من أبي عصمة، عن رجل سماه، عن رجاء بن حيوة، عن معاذ بن جبل رضي الله عنه، قال: تعلموا العلم فإن تعلمه لله تعالى خشية، وطلبه عبادة، ومذاكرته تسبيح، والبحث عنه جهاد، وتعليمه لمن لا يعلم صدقة، وبذله لأهله قربة، لأنه معالم الحلال والحرام ومنار أهل الجنة، والأنس في الوحشة والصاحب في الغربة والمحدث في الخلوة، والدليل على السراء والضراء، والسلاح على الأعداء، والدين عند الأجلاء، يرفع الله تعالى به أقواما ويجعلهم في الخير قادة وأئمة، تقتبس آثارهم، ويقتدى بفعالهم، وينتهى إلى رأيهم. ترغب الملائكة في خلتهم، وبأجنحتها تمسحهم. يستغفر لهم كل رطب ويابس، حتى الحيتان في البحر وهوامه وسباع الطير وأنعامه؛ لأن العلم حياة القلوب من الجهل، ومصباح الأبصار من الظلم، يبلغ بالعلم منازل الأخيار والدرجة العليا في الدنيا والآخرة، والتفكر فيه يعدل بالصيام ومدارسته بالقيام، به توصل الأرحام ويعرف الحلال من الحرام، إمام العمال والعمل تابعه. يلهمه السعداء ويحرمه الأشقياء

— NOTE: Translation from The Spirit of Islam: A History of the Evolution and Ideals of Islam, chapter 9:

Acquire knowledge, because he who acquires it in the way of the Lord performs an act of piety; who speaks of it, praises the Lord; who seeks it, adores God; who dispenses instruction in it, bestows alms; and who imparts it to its fitting objects, per- forms an act of devotion to God. Knowledge enables its possessor to distinguish what is forbidden from what is not; it lights the way to Heaven; it is our friend in the desert, our society in solitude, our companion when bereft of friends; it guides us to happiness; it sustains us in misery; it is our ornament in the company of friends; it serves as an armour against our enemies. With knowledge, the servant of God rises to the heights of goodness and to a noble position, associates with sovereigns in this world, and attains to the perfection of happiness in the next.

It is also mentioned in Maw'idhat al-Mu'meneen min Ihyā' 'Ulūm al-Deen (Arabic: موعظة المؤمنين من إحياء علوم الدين) by Jamal al-Deen al-Qasimi, and in Amali Ibn Bishran (Arabic: أمالي ابن بشران), among other books.

The chain of narration is:

  1. Prophet ﷺ
  2. Muadh ibn Jabal
  3. Rajā' ibn Haywa
  4. A named man
  5. 'Abdullah ibn Harūn ibn Abu 'Isma
  6. Hāshim ibn Makhlad
  7. Mohammad ibn Mussa al-Marwazi
  8. Ya'qūb al-Darwaqi

'Abdullah ibn Harūn ibn Abu 'Isma (Arabic: عبد الله بن هارون بن أبي عصمة) is at best of an unknown status. Ibn Hibban said that Abu 'Isma narrated anything but authentic hadiths. Al-Razi said he was very weak. Al-Bukhari said he fabricated hadiths. Muslim and Al-Daraqutni said his hadiths should be ignored. Al-Darimi said he was malicious and sly. Yahya ibn Ma'īn said he was a malicious liar, and Al-Dhahabi said that Abu 'Isma admitted to fabricating a hadith in its entirety on the virtues of verses of the Qur'an.

The conclusion is the hadith is very weak, without even having to dig into the "named man" to see who he was (which it is thought to be 'Abdul-Rahman ibn Zaid, who is also weak). For your information, there is another hadith that can be found in multiple books of hadith with the same opening statemen (see Sunan Ibn Majah, Book 1, Hadith 229), but it is also a weak hadith.

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