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Specific Means for Seeking Knowledge

The specific causes for obtaining knowledge are many. We will mention from them:

Firstly: at-Taqwaa[1]

It is the instruction and advice of Allaah to the first and last of His servants. Allaah (Ta’alaa) said:

"And We have instructed those who were given the Scripture before you and yourselves to have Taqwaa of Allaah. But if you disbelieve – then to Allaah belongs whatever is in the heavens and whatever is on the earth. And Allaah is free of any needs, Praiseworthy." - Soorah An-Nisaa (3):131

It is also the advice and instruction of the Messenger (صَلى الله عَلَيهِ وَ سَلَّم) to his Ummah. Aboo Amaamah Sadaa ibn Ajlaan Al-Baahilee (رَضيَ اللهُ عَنْهُ) said: “I heard Allaah’s Messenger giving the khutbah on the Farewell Hajj and he said:

“Have Taqwaa of Allaah, your Lord; and pray your five; and fast your month; and give the Zakaah of your wealth; and obey the one in authority over you; you will then enter the Paradise of your Lord.”[2]

And when he sent a leader over an army, he (صَلى الله عَلَيهِ وَ سَلَّم) used to advise and instruct him with Taqwaa within himself and with goodness with whoever is with him from the Muslims. And the Salaf as-Saalih have not ceased to instruct and advise with it in their khutbahs, letters, and in their wills at the time of death.

Umar ibn Al-Khattaab (رَضيَ اللهُ عَنْهُ) wrote to his son, ‘Abdullaah:

“As to what follows:

Indeed, I advise you with Taqwaa of Allaah, For whoever has Taqwaa of Him, He will protect him; and whoever gives Him a loan, He will compensate him; and whoever thanks Him, He will give him more.”

And ‘Alee (رَضيَ اللهُ عَنْهُ) advised a man and said:

“I advise you with Taqwaa of Allaah, the One from which there is no escape from meeting Him; and there is no end for you except to Him; and He owns this Life and the Hereafter.”

And one of the Righteous wrote to one of his brothers for the sake of Allaah:

“As to what follows:

I advise you with Taqwaa of Allaah, the One Who is your close friend while you are in secret and your Observer while you are in public. So be aware of Allaah over all of your situations in your night and your day. And fear Allaah in proportion to His nearness to you and His capability over you. And know that you are in His Sight; you never leave from his Authority to the authority of another, nor from His kingdom to the kingdom of another. So honor Him with your caution, and increase in your fear.


The Meaning of at-Taqwaa:

(Taqwaa is) that the servant makes between himself and that which he fears, a barrier, protecting himself with it. As for the servant’s Taqwaa of His Lord: it is that he makes between himself and that which he fears of His Anger and Dissatisfaction, a barrier, protecting himself with that by obeying Him and avoiding sinning against Him.

Know, that sometimes at-Taqwaa is associated with al-Birr (righteousness) as is in His Statement:

وَتَعَاوَنُواْ عَلَى الْبرِّ وَالتَّقْوَى

"And cooperate in al-Birr and at-Taqwaa" - Soorah Al-Maaidah (5) : 2

And sometimes it is mentioned by itself. So when it is joined with al-Birr, then al-Birr means to fulfill the commandments, and at-Taqwaa is to avoid the prohibitions.

And when it (at-Taqwaa) is mentioned by itself, it becomes general and includes fulfilling the commandments and avoiding the prohibitions. Allaah has mentioned in His Book that Paradise has been prepared for those who have Taqwaa. So the People of Taqwaa are the People of Paradise – may Allaah make us and you from them. So for this, it is beloved for the people to have Taqwaa of Allaah in compliance with His command, seeking His reward and salvation from His punishment. Allaah said:

"Oh you who have believed, if you have Taqwaa of Allaah, He will make for you a Criterion and will expiate your sins and forgive you. And Allaah is the owner of the great bounty." - Soorah Al-Anfaal (8): 29

There are three important benefits in this Aayah:

The First Benefit: { He will make for you a Criterion }

Meaning, He will make for you that with which you can distinguish between the truth and falsehood and between that which harms and that which benefits. This enters under ‘Knowledge’ in the sense that Allaah opens up to people sciences of knowledge that He does not open up for others. So with Taqwaa, an increase in guidance is obtained, an increase in knowledge, and an increase in memorization. In this regard, it is reported that Ash-Shaafiee (رَحِمَهُ الله ُ) said:

“I complained to Wakee’ about the weakness of my memorization. So he directed me to leave sinning and said, ‘Know that knowledge is light, and a sinner is not given the Light of Allaah.’”

There is no doubt, that whenever people increase in knowledge, they increase in awareness and differentiation between the truth and falsehood, the harmful and the beneficial. Likewise, included in that is what Allaah opens up to the people from understanding, because Taqwaa is a cause for strength of understanding, and an increase in knowledge is obtained by strength of understanding. So you may see two men who both have memorized an Aayah of the Book of Allaah, one of them is able to extract from it three rulings or points of benefit, while the other is able to extract more than this according to what Allaah has given him of understanding.

So Taqwaa is a cause for the increase in understanding. Also under this topic is ‘Insight’ in that Allaah gives the one with Taqwaa insight with which he can distinguish even among people.

So as soon as he sees a person, he may know right away whether he is a liar or trustworthy, righteous or evil. So perhaps he may pass a judgment upon a person without actually having associated with him or knowing anything about him, as a result of what Allaah has given him from insight.

The Second Benefit: { and He will expiate your sins }

Expiation of sins is with righteous deeds. Indeed, the righteous deeds expiate the evil deeds as the Prophet (صَلى الله عَلَيهِ وَ سَلَّم) said:

“The five prayers, one Jumu’ah to another Jumu’ah, one Ramadhaan to another Ramadhaan are all expiations for what occurred between them as long as the major sins are avoided.”[3]

And the Messenger (صَلى الله عَلَيهِ وَ سَلَّم) said:

“One Umrah to another Umrah is expiation for what occurred between them.”[4]

So the expiation is by righteous deeds. This means that when people have Taqwaa of Allaah, He will make easy for them the performance of righteous deeds with which Allaah will expiate (sins) from them.

The Third Benefit: { and He will forgive you }

In that He will make it easy for you seeking his forgiveness and repentance. For indeed this is from the blessing of Allaah on a servant that He makes it easy for him the seeking of His forgiveness and repentance.

Secondly: Persistence and Continuation Upon Seeking Knowledge

It is incumbent upon the student of knowledge that he makes every effort in acquiring knowledge and patience over retains it by memory after gaining it. For certainly, knowledge is not obtained by relaxation and leisure of the body. So the student traverses all the paths leading to knowledge while being rewarded for that, from what is confirmed in Saheeh Muslim from the Prophet (صَلى الله عَلَيهِ وَ سَلَّم) that he said:

“Whoever traverses a path seeking by it knowledge, Allaah will make easy for him a path to Paradise.”[5]

So the student of knowledge devotes himself eagerly, strives, and spends the nights awake, while repelling from himself everything that diverts him away from or preoccupies him from seeking knowledge.

There are many well-known instances of the Salaf As-Saalih’s persistence in seeking knowledge so much that it has been narrated that Ibn Abbaas (رَضيَ اللهُ عَنْهُ) was asked, “With what did you acquire knowledge?” He said, “With a questioning tongue, a reasoning heart, and without inclinations.” And it is also reported that he said:

If it were conveyed to me that with a certain man is a hadeeth, I used to come to his door and make a pillow with my garment to rest at his door. The wind would blow dust on me. Then he would come out and say, “Oh cousin of Allaah’s Messenger, what is wrong with you? Why didn’t you send for me so that I would come to you?” So I would say, “It is more deserving that I come to you.” Then I would ask him about the hadeeth.

Ibn Abbaas (رَضيَ اللهُ عَنْهُ) humbled himself for the knowledge, so Allaah raised him because of it.

Like this, the student of knowledge must devote himself with great persistence. It is also narrated that Ash-Shaafiee (رَحِمَهُ الله ُ) was a guest one night with Al-Imaam Ahmad. Dinner was brought to him so Ash-Shaafiee ate and then the two men separated and went to their beds. So Ash-Shaafiee (رَحِمَهُ الله ُ) remained pondering over the many rulings and points of benefit that can be derived from a single hadeeth – it is the statement of the Prophet (صَلى الله عَلَيهِ وَ سَلَّم):

“Oh Aboo Umayr, what happened to the Nughayr?”[6]

Aboo Umayr used to have a small type of bird called a ‘Nughayr’. The bird died so the young boy became sad over it. The Prophet (صَلى الله عَلَيهِ وَ سَلَّم) used to play with the children and would speak to each person according to what is appropriate for him. So he (Ash-Shaafiee) spent the whole night deriving from this hadeeth, and it is said that he derived more than a hundred benefits. Perhaps when he derived a single benefit, it would lead him to another hadeeth until it was complete. So when the Aadhaan for Fajr was made, Ash-Shaafiee (رَحِمَهُ الله ُ) stood for prayer without making wudhoo and then left for his home. Al-Imaam Ahmad used to praise him in front of his family. So they asked him, “Oh Aboo ‘Abdullaah, how do you praise this man who ate, drank, and then slept without praying at night, and then prayed Fajr without wudhoo?” Ash-Shaafiee was asked about this so he said, “As for my eating until I finished everything in the container that is because I have never found any food better than the food of Al-Imaam Ahmad, so I wanted to fill my stomach with it. As for my not standing for the Night Prayer, certainly knowledge is better than the Night Prayer, and I was contemplating over this hadeeth. As for my not making wudhoo for the Fajr Prayer, I still had wudhoo from ‘Ishaa Prayer.” He did not like to use up their water for wudhoo.

I say, in any case, surely the persistence in seeking knowledge is an important matter. So let’s look into our situation now, are we upon this same type of persistence? No. As for those who study an organized education, when they leave from their studies, perhaps they pass their time amusing themselves with things that do not aid them with their lesson. I will put forth an example - and I would like that it is not the case, and that there is no actual example of it – One of the students in one of the subjects, answered questions with completely wrong answers. So the teacher asks, “Why?” He says, “Because I have given up hope of understanding this subject. I don’t study for it, however I want to possess (the degree for) it.” How and why this discouragement and giving up of hope? This is a great mistake and he must persevere until he achieves his objective.

Our Shaykh, the persistent, ‘Abdur-Rahmaan As-Sa'dee (رَحِمَهُ الله ُ) narrated to me that it was mentioned about Al-Kisaaee, the Imaam of the people of Koofah in Nahw (Arabic Grammar), that he sought the knowledge of Nahw yet was not able to grasp it. So one day, he found an ant carrying food trying to ascend up a wall. Yet, every time it climbed up, it fell back down. However, it persisted until it overcame this obstacle and ascended the wall. So Al-Kisaaee said, “This ant persisted until it achieved its objective.” So he also persisted until he became an Imaam in Nawh.

For this, we must, oh students, persist and not lose hope. For indeed, being discouraged and losing hope means shutting the door to all goodness. So we must not be pessimistic, rather be optimistic and prepare ourselves with goodness.

Thirdly: Memorization

It is essential for the student of knowledge to be concerned with the memorization and precision of what he learns; either by his memorizing by heart, or by writing. Certainly, a person is prone to forget. So if he is not concerned with reviewing and repeating what he learns, then it will surely be lost from him and he will forget it.

From the ways which assist in the memorizing of knowledge and its precision, is that a person seeks to be guided by his knowledge. Allaah said:

"And those who are guided – He increases them in guidance and gives them their Taqwaa." - Soorah Muhammad (47): 17

And He said:

"And Allaah increases those who are guided, in guidance." - Soorah Maryam (19) : 76

So whenever a person acts according to his knowledge, Allaah increases him in memorization and understanding from what is general from His Statement: { He increases them in guidance }.

Fourthly: Accompanying and Adhering to the Scholars

It is essential for the student of knowledge to seek help from Allaah and then from the People of Knowledge and he seeks help from what they have written in their books. However, limiting oneself solely to reading and research requires much time as opposed to one who sits with a scholar, clarifying for him, explaining to him, and illuminating the path for him. And I don’t say that he will not acquire any knowledge except by taking from the scholars, for people have already obtained knowledge from reading and research. However, most of the time, if he doesn’t apply himself eagerly night and day and gain understanding, then he will make many mistakes. For this it is said, “Whoever’s proof is only his book, then he will make more errors than getting things correct.”

But the ideal way is to take the knowledge from the scholars. And I advise the student of knowledge also, to not seize from every scholar more than one science; for example he learns Fiqh from more than one scholar. This is because the scholars differ in their ways of deriving the proofs from the Book and the Sunnah, and they differ in their opinions too. So you take for yourself one scholar from which you take his knowledge of Fiqh or Balaaghah, for example. You take the knowledge in one certain science from one certain scholar. However, if the scholar has (the knowledge of) more than one science, then accompany and adhere to him, because if you take the knowledge of Fiqh, for example, from this one and that one and then they themselves differ in their opinions then what will be your position while you are still only a student? Your position will be confusion and doubt. However, your constant adherence to and accompaniment of a scholar for a specific science will result in your comfort and peace of mind.


Source: Kitaabul-‘Ilm

[1] Shaykh ibn Al-‘Uthaymeen will explain the meaning of At-Taqwaa later.

[2] Recorded by At-Tirmithee, Al-Albaanee said it is Saheeh in Saheeh Sunan At-Tirmidhee, no. 616

[3] Recorded by Muslim

[4] Recorded by Al-Bukhaaree

[5] Recorded by Muslim

[6] Al-Bukhaaree


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