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Advice To Students Of Knowledge

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By: Mawlana Muhammad Ai'zaz 'Ali




Know, my dear son (Allah give you knowledge and enable you to please Him), that religious knowledge depends on two things:


First: earnestness in acquiring it and severing thought about all that is besides it, since ‘ilm (knowledge) will not give you a part of it until you give to it all of yourself. Make the identifier of the goodness of a thing and its despicability your hindrance to ‘ilm, since your hindrance to a part of ‘ilm or your aversion to it, is despicable whatever it may be, and otherwise it is not [despicable]. Allah’s obligations (fards), His necessities (wajibs), and their supplements from the emphasised practices (mu’akkadat) are exceptions. Hereof, you will see they (the ‘ulama) have agreed that studying books, repeating and revising the lessons, are more virtuous for students than supererogatory acts (nawafil) – what then is your opinion of [acts] besides them?


Second: consciousness and fear (taqwa) of God, imitation of the Sunnah of His Messenger and devotion of all works to Allah. You are more needy of this second [quality] than you are of the first, since you will find many of those who do not fear any besides Allah, given drink upon drink (‘alalan wa nahalan) of the oceans of the sciences and religious knowledge, although they have some deficiency in their earnestness and in staying awake at nights. But you will not find any of the iniquitous (fussaq), those fearless of Allah, even if he tires himself, the proper amount of tiring, and exerts himself to complete exertion, succeed at all thereby. If you find any that contradicts what I said, and you hold a good opinion of him, then that is in accordance to what the enchanting poet said:


The (true) horse is not, but like the (true) friend, rare


Even if they are many in the sight of those who do not participate in war


When you see not but beauty in their blemishes


And their appendages, then beauty from you is hidden




You must respect the books and teachers, rather all who are superior in knowledge and intelligence even if they are students, because this has a significant impact in adorning the soul with the ornament of knowledge. We have seen many of those acquiring [‘ilm] of whom a good opinion was held at the start of their acquisition [of ‘ilm] and it was sworn that they will be from the ‘ulama and the protectors of the din (religion), but when they exhibited bad behaviour with the books and teachers, they were deprived of ‘ilm and its blessings. You are aware that a small quantity with blessing (barakah) is better than a large quantity without it. Do you believe Qarun is better than one who spends all his wealth for the pleasure of Allah? No, of course not.


Burhan al-Islam al-Zarnuji, in the chapter Ri’ayat al-Ustadh of his book Ta’lim al-Muta’allim, said,


Shams al-A’immah al-Halwani left Bukhara and stayed in one of the villages for some days and his students visited him except Qadi Abu Bakr Muhammad al-Zarnajri, so he asked him when he met him, “Why did you not visit me?” He replied, “I was occupied in the service of my mother.” He said, “You will be granted long life but you will not be granted the splendour of lessons.” And it was so, because he (i.e. al-Halwani) would spend most of his time in the villages and did not arrange lessons for him (i.e. al-Zarnajri). Thus, whoever’s teacher is hurt by him, he will be deprived of the blessing of ‘ilm and will not benefit from it but little.




Beware, and again beware, of desiring by means of religious knowledge the dunya (the material world), its prestige and its wealth, because the acrobat who plays above the mountains is better than the ‘ulama who incline towards wealth, since the former consumes the dunya by means of the dunya and the latter consumes the dunya by means of the din. One of the ‘ulama said,


Purchasing a corpse with musical instruments is lighter [in sin] than purchasing it with mushafs.


He (High is His Eminence) said,


Nor sell My ayahs (verses) for a small price; and fear Me, and Me alone. (Qur’an 2:41)


It is incumbent that the goal of your ambitions and the site or your visions is not but to [what is mentioned in] these verses:


Every son of the dunya has a purpose and an aim


And verily my purpose is good health and free time


In order to reach in the science of Shari’ah a degree


By which there is for me in the Gardens a station


So in the like of this, possessors of intelligence should compete


Sufficiency is enough for me in the deceptive dunya



Al-Shafi’i (Allah be pleased with him) sung to al-Rabi’:


My ‘ilm is with me wherever I turn, it benefits me


My heart is its vessel, not the inside of my box (carrying books)


If I am in the house, ‘ilm is in there with me



Or (if) I am in the market, ‘ilm is in the market




Beware of vanity, arrogance and shyness in knowledge because it was said to one of the great ‘ulama,


One of your students served you for years and none strives as much as him in acquiring ‘ilm, yet he did not succeed thereby, and he replied, “Vanity hindered him from ascending to the paths of perfection.”


Hereof, I say that service alone is not sufficient to acquire the objective so long as impediments are not removed. We have seen many of them (students of knowledge) serve the teachers and suffice with that, so they fell into what they brought on themselves, since ‘ilm is loftier than that it should turn to one who does not turn to it. One of the great scholars was asked, “How did you succeed in the sciences?” and he said “I was not embarrassed to ask of that which I did not know, whether the one asked was young or old.” Al-Khalil ibn Ahmad said,


Ignorance (jahl) grazes between shyness and arrogance in ‘ilm.




You must be generous and spend of what Allah has given you of the treasures of knowledge, little or much, because generosity and expenditure is praiseworthy in all matters particularly ‘ilm. We do not know of any possession in this world that is not depleted by spending and is not extinguished by overspending and wasting, besides ‘ilm, because it is like the water of the ocean which does not dry up by one or two gulps, rather its expenditure does not yield but its growth, and overspending and wasting do not occur in ‘ilm.


However, Anas ibn Malik (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated from Allah’s Messenger (Allah bless him and grant him peace) that he said,


Conveying of knowledge to the non-deserving is like putting necklaces of jewels, pearls and gold around the neck of swine. (Sunan Ibn Majah)


‘Isa ibn Maryam (upon our Prophet and him be blessings and peace) said,


Convey not jewels to swine, for ‘ilm is better than pearls, and one who is not deserving of it is worse than swine.


It was related that a student asked an ‘alim (scholar) about some knowledge and he did not benefit him [with that knowledge], so he was asked “Why did you withhold from him?” He said “Every soil has a seedling and every structure has a foundation.” One of the eloquent ones said,


Every clothing has a wearer and every knowledge has an acquirer.


Abu Hanifa (may Allah be pleased with him) was asked, “How did you reach what you reached?” He replied, “I was not stingy in benefiting others and I did not shrink from acquiring benefit from others.”




I did not dot (anqut) the book in my first footnote (ta’liq) in Persian relying on the intelligence of the acquirers [of ‘ilm] and the strength of their preparation, and as an exercise for them. Then I found that the matter was difficult for them so I diacritically marked it (a’rabtuhu), but you, Oh piece of my heart and fragrance of my soul, must not rely on what is therein of vowels (harakat) and non-vowelised letters (sakinat) with total reliance, till the nominal subject (mubtada’) is not distinguished from the predicate (khabar) and the verbal subject (fa’il) from the object (maf’ul), and you thus become like those who said,


We found our forefathers worshipping them. (Qur’an 21:53)


Rather, you must rely on what you know from the rules of Nahw and the principles of Sarf because error is possible from many avenues, including the copyist or from the printers, and I do not declare myself innocent either.


Nur al-Idah bi ‘l-Isbah, pp. 5-6



Edited by Bint e Aisha
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  • 1 year later...

5 Lessons for the Seeker of ‘Ilm from the Life of Prophet Musa (upon him be peace)


Musa alayhi as-salam and Khidr alayhi as-salam Story Lessons

The incident of Prophet Musa (alayhissalam) and Khidr (alayhissalam) as recorded in Sahih Muslim states that one day while Musa (alayhissalam) was addressing his people, he was asked, who of the people is the most learned? Musa (alayhissalam) replied: “I am the most knowledgeable of the people”, it was due to his not acknowledging that there is a more knowledgeable being than him that Almighty Allah admonished Musa (alayhissalam) and instructed him to journey in search of Khidr (alayhissalam). Many lessons can be derived from this Quranic incident. Some are explained below:

1. Travelling in search of knowledge

Travel in Search for Knowledge

A student must keep in mind the greatness of his undertaking. As the saying goes: ‘No pain – No gain’, the journey to seek knowledge and reach great heights will not be free of struggle and fatigue. Prophet Musa (alayhissalam) undertook the tiresome journey with his companion, Yusha bin Noon with the sole intention of seeking the knowledge he needed from Khidr (alayhissalam). Musa (alayhissalam) described this in his own words where he said:

“We have suffered much fatigue in this journey of ours.” (Quran 18:62)

Ibn Mughal (rahimahullah) was a renowned writer in Islamic History. He kept travelling for 28 years in his search for knowledge. Hafiz Abul Qasim Sulaiman ibn Ahmed Tabarani (rahimahullah) spent 33 years of his life in the pursuit of collecting and verifying Hadith. In that period of time, he met and acquired knowledge from one thousand scholars. Ibn Maqarri (rahimahullah) once undertook a journey of eight hundred and forty miles for a copy of a valuable book that he needed.

Hasan al-Basri (rahimahullah) said “Nothing which Allah has created is greater, in terms of its reward, than seeking knowledge, neither Hajj nor Umrah [Lesser Pilgrimage], nor Jihad, nor Zakat, nor emancipating slaves. If knowledge had a physical image it would be more beautiful than the sun, the moon, the stars, the sky, and a magnificent throne.” [1]The Heirs of the Prophets, Ibn Rajab Al-Hanbali, The Starlatch Press p. 35

The rewards earned will be in proportion to the amount of struggle and fatigue that is patiently endured. The sweetness experienced after this patient endurance in the path of seeking knowledge is superior to any worldly pleasures, as Imam Muhammad ibn Hasan (rahimahullah) remarked: “Will the sons of kings ever experience such pleasure?” He said this after he spent the night in study and made a breakthrough in a difficult matter he was researching.

2. Humbling oneself and being comfortable with seeking knowledge from those of a lesser rank or age


Being conceited about knowledge or status can lead to ones detriment. A poet said: Pride proves to be so deadly an enemy for a knowledgeable person, similar to how a flood is an enemy to a high place. (Meaning: Pride destroys ones knowledge in the same way that a flood causes utter destruction even in a high and lofty place).

The student must not be arrogant about his high level of intelligence, understanding and brainpower.

“That is the grace of Allah, which He bestows on whom He wills.” (Quran 62:4)

Each man is given only a drop from the vast ocean of knowledge. Even though his knowledge may seem plentiful to him, he need not be proud of it, but instead he must use it as a motivation to dive deeper into the oceans of knowledge throughout his life.

It is said about the accursed Satan that for thousands of years he worshipped Allah excessively. He possessed a great amount of knowledge and was regarded as the teacher of the angels. But despite this he was rejected from the court of Allah and wretched because of his haughtiness.

Linked to this point is the aspect of lowering ones pride to learn from those whom you might consider as lower than yourself in rank, status or age. The etiquette of acquiring knowledge is nothing but that the student should show respect for the teacher and follow him with eagerness to learn – even if the student happens to be superior to his teacher. Prophet Musa (alayhissalam) was Kalimullah (the one who spoke to Allah). He was a high ranking messenger of Allah, yet he kept learning even after becoming a leader and did not consider it below himself to seek knowledge from Khidr (alayhissalam) who was a pious servant of Allah. Many a times you may think that you know something, yet each man’s intellect is limited and it does not comprehend many matters, as is seen from the way that Musa (alayhissalam) objected to Khidr (alayhissalam) yet in each of his doings there was wisdom.

3. Striving and avoiding laxity


Almighty Allah says:

“As for those who strive hard in our cause, we will surely guide them to our paths.” (Quran 29:69)


Whoever searches for a certain thing and strives with effort, will most definitely find what he is looking for and whoever knocks at a door with persistence will make an entrance. Your desired goal will be achieved in proportion to the amount of effort you put in. If you need to learn something, the secret is to keep striving. This was the way of the Messengers, pious predecessors and learned scholars. Never allow laziness and despondency get the better of you even if this requires a long period of sacrifice and commitment. Prophet Musa (alayhissalam) was determined to reach his goal and so he said to his companion, “I will not give up (travelling) until I reach the junction of the two seas or (until) I go on for years (a long period of time).” (Quran 18:60)

A poet wrote the following verses:

If you aim to become a decisive scholar and theologian without making effort
Then remember that this is one of the many forms of insanity
Whilst even wealth cannot be earned without some difficulty
How then can knowledge be gained in such a way. [2]Ta’lim al-Muta’allim Tariq at-Ta’allum, Maktabatul Bushra, p. 26/27


O soul, distance yourself from being slothful and from adopting carelessness
Or else be satisfied with your lot when you are considered from amongst the ones despised and humiliated. I have indeed not seen the outcome of a lazy one other than disappointment, remorse and long lost hopes. [3]Ta’lim al-Muta’allim Tariq at-Ta’allum, Maktabatul Bushra, p. 30

4. Don’t impose on the teacher, be a decent student


Before blaming the teacher or the institution check yourself. It is incumbent on the student to instil in himself or herself lofty character, towards his teacher, institution, and fellow pupils. It is part of good manners that the student clearly informs the teacher of his intention and exactly what he aims to achieve from his studies.

Prophet Musa (alayhissalam) informed Khidr (alayhissalam) of his intention of seeking the special knowledge that Allah had bestowed him with and he politely asked, “May I follow you so that you teach me something of the knowledge which you have been taught?” (Quran 18:66). He also pledged to Khidr (alayhissalam) that he will be humble and patient and strive to give off his best. Musa (alayhissalam) said:

“If Allah wills, you will find me patient, and I will not disobey your command.” (Quran 18:69)

By the student doing this in the initial days of study, it will instill confidence about him in the heart of the teacher assist the him in fulfilling his duties to the student as well as keeping the teacher pleased with him.

A wise man once said:

The teacher and the doctor both
Are not sincere in advising when they are not honoured
So bear patiently your ailment if you adopt harshness with your doctor
And be content with your ignorance if you offend your teacher.

5. If you intend something important in your studies, say Insha’Allah!

hourglass patience

Musa (alayhissalam) told Khidr (alayhissalam), “If Allah wills, you will find me patient” (Quran 18:69). He did not merely say: “You will find me patient”.  The lesson we derive here is to always keep the consciousness of Allah alive in the heart and His remembrance fresh on the tongue. Seek His help at every step.

“Whoever places his trust in Allah, Allah will be sufficient for him.” (Quran 65:3)

Imam Abu Hanifah (rahimahullah) said: “I attained knowledge through praising and being grateful to Allah, thus, whenever I understood any matter of jurisprudence or wisdom I used to say: ‘Praise be to Allah The Most High’, and thus my knowledge was increased.” [4]Ta’lim al-Muta’allim Tariq at-Ta’allum, Maktabatul Bushra, p. 40

If one adopts piety and is conscious of Allah as a student then his or her knowledge will hold great benefit.

Rayyan Institute

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