Advice For Students Of The Deen
by Sh. Shoayb Ahmed
1. We must make sure that we are acquiring knowledge firstly for the pleasure of Allah. We must be mindful of the Hadith, "Actions are according to the intentions." (Al-Bukhari & Muslim)
2. We must always practice on whatever we learn. This reaffirms our knowledge and Allah will grant us insight and knowledge of those matters which we were totally unaware of. "A person is not an Alim (learned person) until he acts on his knowledge." (Ibn Hibban)
"Whoever acts upon what he has learnt, Allah grants him knowledge of that which he was unaware of." (Abu Nuaym in Al-Hilyah)
Ibrahim ibn Ismail ibn Mujamma' said: "We used to memorize the Hadith by relying on practising on it." (Tadreeb Al-Rawi)
3. Students must work on developing a high level of Taqwa. The greater the level of taqwa, the greater the quality of ones knowledge. Allah says in Surah Al-Baqarah, verse: 282 "Fear Allah and Allah will teach you."
It is reported from Sufyan Al-Thawri: "When a man wished to acquire knowledge (ilm), he engaged himself in Ibadah before that for twenty years."
This may be achieved through being very particular on the five Salaat, regular Istighfaar for our shortcomings, Dua, recitation of the Quraan and other adhkaar.
The Dhikr is a source of peace and contentment. Surah Ra'd, verse: 28
4. The Nur and the fruits of true knowledge and the ability to retain and remember whatever was learnt is possible when the person abstains from sin. In this regard, Imam Al-Shafi complained to his teacher, Waki' about his weak memory. His teacher directed him towards avoiding sin and he went on to say that knowledge (of Deen) is a light and the light of Allah is not granted to a sinner. 5. Students must select a good teacher and a pure source of ilm. If and when the teacher is an embodiment of virtue, piety and ilm, then this will permeate to the students. Muhammad ibn Sireen is reported to have said: "Certainly this ilm is Deen, so take care as to who you take it from." (Safahaat fi Adab Al-Ra'y by Shaykh Muhammad Awwamah)
Imam Malik was asked: "Can ilm be taken from a person who has not acquired it and neither has he sat (with scholars)?" He replied: "No"
The person then asked: "May it be taken from a person who is true and authentic (reliable), but he does not memorize and does not understand?"
He (Imam Malik) said: "Knowledge is not documented from anyone except a person who memorizes and has truly acquired it and sat with the people (scholars) and really knows and practices and he possess the quality of fear of Allah."
Imam Abu Hanifah was told about a group in the masjid discussing issues of Fiqh. He asked: "Do they have a leader?"
They replied: "No"
He said: "These people will never gain true understanding (Fiqh)."
6. Students may aspire to acquire certificates from different institutions as this is what may assist them in this world, but they must remember that the transmission of ilm through the sanad must never be neglected. This is the very means by which our Deen has reached us and in this way it has been preserved.
Abdullah ibn Al-Mubarak said: "The Isnad is part of the Deen. If it were not for the Isnad, then any person would have said whatever he wished."
7. As students we must not be distracted by excessive physical comfort. Our illustrious scholars of the past underwent great difficulties to acquire knowledge even it were a single Hadith. They valued their ilm more than their lives. Yahya ibn Abi Kathir said: "Ilm cannot be acquired through physical comfort." (Tadhkirat Al-Huffaaz)
8. Many students wish to gain maximum in the shortest possible time. In trying to achieve this, they experiment with different short courses. These do not provide the desired fruits. In a couplet by Imam Al-Juwayni, he says that knowledge will not be achieved except through six things; intelligence, eagerness, hard-work, competence, the company of a teacher and a long time.
We must be willing to gradually progress in our knowledge. Imam al- Bukhari in Kitab Al-Ilm defines a Rabbani as one who trains people with basic matters of ilm before more complex ones."
9. Students must have a high degree of respect and humility for their teachers and more especially the scholars of the formers generations. When we consider ourselves after a few years on par with the pious predecessors or even in a position to ridicule them, then we will be deprived of true knowledge.
Abu Hatim Al-Razi reports from Yahya ibn Maeen: "We criticize some people and it is likely that they already have their feet in Jannah some two hundred years ago."
Abu Nuaym mentions in Al-Hilyah in the biography of Imam Malik who told a young boy from the Quraysh: "Learn etiquette (adab) before you acquire knowledge."
In Rislat Al-Mustarshideen: "Humble yourself in front of those from whom you learn."
A person must be humble in his relationship with the creation of Allah especially those who are eager to benefit from his knowledge. Allah had even instructed the Prophet Muhammad to be humble with those who followed him. Surah Al-Shu'ara, verse: 215 When one inculcates the quality of humility, then will he be a source of good for the creation. Allah mentions that He had not sent the Prophet except as a means of mercy for the world. Surah Al- Ambiya verse:107
10. We must never consider ourselves as having reached a stage where we cannot learn something new. A person remains a student forever. Saeed ibn Jubayr said: "A person is a scholar (alim) as long as he continues to learn. No sooner does he abandon knowledge, thinking that he is not in need and he is content with what he has, then he is the most ignorant."
11. We must not be deceived by some eloquent speaker who does not possess true and genuine ilm. The Prophet Muhammad is reported to have said: "My greatest fear for you after I depart from this world is the evil of the hypocrite whose knowledge is only on his tongue." (Al-Tabarani in Mujam Al-Kabir and Ibn Hibban)
12. We as students must regard our knowledge as the most valuable and prized possession. We must never feel inferior in front of people of other professions.
The Prophet Muhammad is reported to have said: "Indeed the ulama (scholars) are the heirs of the Prophets. The Prophets did not leave behind gold (dinars) and silver (dirhams), instead they left ilm. Whoever takes it has surely taken a great share." (Abu Dawud, Al- Tirmidhi, Al-Nisaai & Ibn Majah)
13. Students must inculcate in themselves the readiness to admit and say, "I don't know."
It is reported form Ibn Masud: "Whoever knows then must speak, and whoever does not know then must say, I don't know because to say this is part of ilm."
Al-Sha'bi was asked about something to which he replied and said; "I don't know." Someone told him, "Are you not ashamed to say this even though you are the jurist of Iraq?" He replied: "The angels were not ashamed when they said, Glory be to You (Allah), we have no knowledge about this." (Al-Sha'bi was referring to the incident when Allah created the Prophet Adam and thereafter instructed the angels to prostrate before him)
14. We must be mindful of the fact that we could be wrong. It is reported from Ibn Masud who used to say: "If it is correct then it is from Allah, and if it is incorrect, then it is from me and shaytaan."
15. Ever era is weaker academically and intellectually than the former. As the years go by, true and genuine scholarship is weakened.
It is reported Ya'qub ibn Shaybah from Ibn Masud: "Not a day comes upon you except that it is of a lesser degree in knowledge then the day before it. So when the ulama are all gone, people will all be on the same level. Then they will not instruct others to do good and they will not forbid evil. This is when you will be destroyed."
Ibn Taymiyah said in Rafu' Al-Malaam: "Assuming all the Hadith were gathered in compilations (books), no Alim will know all that is contained in the books. Some person may have many books, but he is not aware of its contents. However, those who lived before these compilations were gathered were much more knowledgeable in the Sunnah. Their chests were their compilations and it contained much more then these books."
16. A student must take out some time to teach whatever he has learnt . By doing this whatever was learnt is further embedded in the heart and mind.
There is great reward in this because we have been advised by the Prophet in a Hadith reported in Sahih Muslim "Whoever invites towards good, then for him is a reward equal to those who follow, but their reward is not decreased in any way."
Through teaching, a person will be following the example and Sunnah of the Prophet. In a Hadith reported by Ibn Majah the Prophet is reported to have said,
"…Indeed I have been sent as a teacher."
17. One must adhere to the teachings of the Shariah and in doing so he will be a perfect role model for others. In Surah Al-Imraan, verse: 31 "Say! If you love Allah, then follow me (the Prophet), then Allah will love you and He will forgive your sins."
In Surah Al-Ahzaab, verse:21 "Indeed there is for you in the Messenger of Allah a perfect example."
Because the ulama are the heirs of the Prophets, it is only appropriate that they are also examples for the people.
Sh. Shoayb Ahmed (shoayba---webmail.co.za)