It is reported that Hasan b. Rabī’ asked ‘Abdullāh b. Al-Mubārak – Allāh have mercy on him – about the meaning of the hadith, “Seeking knowledge is obligatory upon every Muslim”. He replied:
It is not [the expert knowledge of hadith and fiqh] you are seeking. Seeking knowledge is an obligation when a man comes to something concerning his religion (dīn): he is to ask about it until he knows it.
Al-Khatīb Al-Baghdādī, Al-Faqīh wa Al-Mutafaqqih article 162.
It is reported that ‘Alī b. Al-Hasan b. Shaqīq asked ‘Abdullāh b. Al-Mubārak – Allāh have mercy on him, “What knowledge is considered obligatory upon people to learn?” He replied:
A man must not proceed to do anything except upon knowledge, He is to ask and learn. This is what is obligatory upon people as regards learning knowledge.
He explained further:
If there is a man who has no wealth, it is not obligatory upon him to learn Zakāh. When he has 200 dirham, it becomes obligatory upon him to learn how much (Zakāh) he has to pay, when he has to pay, and who he has to pay. This is also the way with everything else.
Al-Baghdādī, op. cit. article 163.
It is reported that Ibn Wahb once mentioned knowledge, to which Imām Mālik – Allāh have mercy on him – commented:
Knowledge is surely good, but look to what is binding upon you from the beginning of your day to its end, and from the end of your day to the following morning, adhere to that and do not give preference to [learning] anything else.
Al-Baghdādī, op. cit. article 165.
It is reported from ‘Abdullāh b. Ahmad b. Hanbal that he asked his father (Imām Ahmad) – Allāh have mercy on him – whether it is obligatory upon a man to seek knowledge. He replied:
As for [the knowledge] through which he can uphold his prayers, and other matters of his religion like fasting, Zakāh – and he mentioned the other main aspects of the religion – then a man should know about that.
Al-Baghdādī, op. cit. article 166.