Imam Ahmad said:

The people are in more need for knowledge than they are [in need] for food and drink, because a man requires food and drink once or twice a day, however, his need for knowledge is as much as the number of breaths he takes.

He [also] said: And we have narrated from Ash-Shafi’ee, may Allah be pleased with him, that he said: Seeking knowledge is better than voluntary prayers (Nafilah) [1].

Reference:

[1] Madaarij As-Salikeen (2/470)

قال الإمام أحمد رضي الله عنه : الناس إلى العلم أحوج منهم إلى الطعام والشراب لأن الرجل يحتاج إلى الطعام والشراب في اليوم مرة أو مرتين وحاجته إلى العلم بعدد أنفاسه. قال: وروينا عن الشافعي رضي الله تعالى عنه أنه قال : طلب العلم أفضل من صلاة النافلة

 

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