Category Archives: The Etiquette of Seeking Knowledge

The student of knowledge is known for his eagerness to study and revise with his colleagues

With regards to the causes of the student of knowledge becoming firm in learning and retaining his knowledge of the Sharee’ah, the Noble Scholar Shaykh Muhammad ibn Saalih al ‘Uthaymeen rahimahullaah was asked:

Our esteemed father, what is the correct path that it is obligatory for the student of Sharee’ah knowledge to follow, such that he reaches that which he wishes for from pleasing Allaah, the Perfect and Most High and acquiring knowledge which is beneficial and which will be of use to him and the Muslims?

And what are the factors that will aid the student in memorising and making the issues firmly grounded in his mind and in not forgetting (them)?

Answer:

The most tremendous of the causes is that you have taqwaa (fear of and dutifulness towards) your Lord through obeying Him and leaving off disobeying Him – and your having sincerity towards Him and asking Him for (acceptance of) repentance and for help and for tawfeeq (success in attaining that which is good).

Then being meticulous in (attending) the lessons and in learning, and in preserving your time.

So these are indeed from the most tremendous of the causes.

And from the causes of that also is – studying with your colleagues and striving to (attain) the benefit such that the knowledge becomes established (with you).

So do not just content yourself with your reading and (attending) the lessons with the teacher – rather along with that, there should be studying with your colleagues who are of good character of (those issues) which are not clear to you such that the knowledge becomes established in your mind.

(Quoted in Wasaayaa wa tawjeehaat li tullaab il ilm p37 of Shaykh Muhammad ibn Saalih al ‘Uthaymeen rahimahullaah, translated by Nasser ibn Najam)

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The student of knowledge acts with wisdom and fine manners when dealing with rumours

With regards to the student of knowledge being the foremost to silence rumour mongering in a way that has wisdom and good manners and not being one who spreads rumours, the scholar Muhammad ibn Saalih al ‘Uthaymeen rahimahullaah advised the students:

And I advise you likewise to not squander your time with insulting and reviling, not (doing so) to the rest of the people nor to those in authority from the scholars or leaders.

We say: everyone makes mistakes, no doubt; and no one is rendered free from making mistakes except the one whom Allaah, the Mighty and Majestic, has rendered immune (from that). However should we take errors upon ourselves by way of other people’s mistakes?

No. If someone other than us makes a mistake, we ask Allaah to grant him success in coming to what is correct. This is the most that we can do if we are not able to get to him in order to explain to him that he is upon error.

And therefore I say: always we hear about such-and-such a person that he said such-and-such statement which we hold to be an error and something not correct.

But do we accept this merely on the basis of hearing it, thus building our belief about this man (on that) – the person about whom we have heard that which was said?

The answer: you hear something which you disapprove of about a person, be he a person of knowledge or other than a person of knowledge, a leader or other than a leader. (It may be) something you disapprove in and of itself or it may be something which you disapprove of seeing occurring from this person (in particular). So do you grab hold of what you heard in this way right from the first instant?

The answer: No. So what then is it obligatory for you to do?

The answer: Firstly, before anything else, it is obligatory to verify the authenticity of the report – because it may be that something is reported about a person which he did not (actually) say or do. So it is a must that you verify the report in the first instance.

And I will give you a principle which Shaykh ul Islaam rahimahullaah mentioned in his refutation of the Raafidees in Minaaj us Sunnah: if a statement of a Raafidee was mentioned, he would say firstly in reply to it:

I want to know from you the authenticity of the narration.

And this is something correct because if the report is not authentic then you feel at ease – meaning you have been sufficed.

So when you hear something about someone which it is destested that it should occur from him, then you firstly verify the report.

Then if the matter is established in your view – that the person who has transmitted the report is a trustworthy person and he does not have desires (which he is acting on), then the next stage is binding upon you – and it is is that you verify: Is this statement or this action (actually) something evil?

So as long as this man (who is being criticised) is a person whom you hold to be a person of goodness, and it seems not possible that he would do the evil deed, then it is a must that you verify – is this action an evil?

This is because a person may consider something at first glance to be an evil action, then after reflecting it becomes clear to him that it is not an evil action. So we often hear about so-and-so something which makes our skin shudder and which the souls have an aversion to, but then when we calm down, we find that it is not (actually) an evil action.

Thus it is a must that you ponder – is this an evil action or not?

 

These are the two stages, and they are:

Verification, firstly

Then reflecting and pondering – is this an evil action or not an evil action?

 

The third stage – if you are convinced that it is an evil action, then upon you is to contact the person about whom this report has been transmitted, and you say to him:

O so-and-so, such and such has reached me about you; is it correct?

Because many of our zealous brothers, when he is certain about a statement that it is something evil, then he goes to the one to whom the statement or action was ascribed and says to him:

We have heard such-and-such about you. How can you say that? How can you do that?

We seek refuge with Allaah! Is this from respectful behaviour?

The answer: No! Especially if the one you are addressing is older than you.

So it is obligatory that you go to him and say:

It has reached me about you that such-and-such. Is this correct?

So you know that it is correct but you (still) say to him: Is this correct?

And it may be that he says: Yes, I did say that.

So you say to him: May Allaah give you good. What was (your) approach behind (making) this statement? What was (your) approach behind (doing) this action)? - before you pass a ruling that it is an evil act.

This is because it may be that there is an evidence for it which was hidden from you. Or he is in a situation which necessitates that he does this action, but you did not know.

So this (occurred with) ‘Abdullaah ibn ‘Umar radi Allaahu ‘anhu that he related from the Prophet sall Allaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam as to how a person should sit in his prayer. Then one of his sons saw him sitting cross legged in the prayer, in contradiction to what he had reported from the Messenger, so he said to him:

O my father, how is it that you sit cross legged?

He said to him: Indeed my legs are not able to support me.

Thus does he now have an excuse for going against the Sunnah or not?

The answer: He has an excuse because it may be that for this man to whom the evil action or the objectionable action is ascribed, he has an excuse which leads him to say this statement or do this action.

However this discussion should be with good manners and tactful speech. So then either it becomes clear to you that he is upon the correct position, so you give in – or it does not become clear to you that he is upon the correct position. And with that you have established the proof upon this man and fulfilled your obligation.

And if we were to proceed in our affairs upon this manner, then the affair would be good and the end results praiseworthy. However many of the people are overjoyed to hear something which they use to criticise so-and-so; and they fly off with it to the farthest lands to spread it; and this is a problem which it is obligatory to be on one’s guard against or to distance oneself from.

(Quoted in Wasaayaa wa tawjeehaat li tullaab il ilm p147 of Shaykh Muhammad ibn Saalih al ‘Uthaymeen rahimahullaah, translated by Nasser ibn Najam)

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The student of knowledge is the first of the people to act upon his knowledge

With regards to the student of knowledge being the foremost to put his knowledge into practice, the scholar Muhammad ibn Saalih al ‘Uthaymeen rahimahullaah stated:

Upon you – baarak Allaahu feekum – is to act upon what you know because this is the fruit of knowledge.

No, what is the benefit of knowledge which the person does not act upon? There is no benefit in it – rather it will be something harmful for the person.

By Allaah, the ignorant person is better than the person of knowledge who does not act upon his knowledge.

So the proof has been established against the person of knowledge who does not act (upon his knowledge) and the excuse has been cut off for him.

So sometimes the ignorant person learns (something) and (then) acts; but as for the man who is a person of knowledge but he does not act, then his knowledge is a harm for him. Therefore the Prophet sall Allaahu ‘alaihi wa ‘alaa aalihi wa sallam said:

The Qur-aan is a proof for you or against you.[1]

And the Qur-aan is knowledge. So as for the person who memorises the Qur-aan, then is the Qur-aan a proof for him?

The Prophet sall Allaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam divided that into two categories. He said:

… a proof for you or against you.

So it is a proof for you if you act upon it and it is a proof against you if you do not act upon it.

Therefore I urge you to act upon what you have learned such that your knowledge becomes a proof for you, and a means to your attaining the everlasting abode of bliss. I ask Allaah that He makes me and you to be from its people.

Therefore it is a must to act (upon knowledge). And let us strike an example for this.

When a person knows that the prayer is obligatory upon him and that it is obligatory for him to establish them with the congregation in the mosques, then is it befitting for him that he neglects this obligation and that he does not pray except when it is easy for him? When he wakes up from his sleep, (only then) does he pray? When he has a break from work (only then) does he pray?

Is this befitting for him whilst he knows that the prayer in congregation is obligatory for him to be negligent about this?

No, this is absolutely unbefitting for him – and if not, then the ignorant person is better than him.

(Quoted in Wasaayaa wa tawjeehaat li tullaab il ilm p178 to 179, translated by Nasser ibn Najam)

[1]Reported by Muslim (223) from the hadeeth of Aboo Maalik al Ash’aree

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The student does not learn or teach knowledge in order to seek after money or worldly status

With regards to the student of knowledge seeking and teaching knowledge purely for the sake of Allaah, Shaykh Saalih al Fawzaan hafidhahullaah comments on the hadeeth:

“And a man who gained knowledge and he taught it, and he recited Qur-aan; so he will be brought in order to inform him of His blessings so he will acknowledge them;

So He will say: What did you do with regards to them?

He will say, “I learned knowledge for Your sake and I taught it; and I recited the Qur-aan for Your sake.”

So He will say: You have lied! Rather you learned it so that it would be said “He is a person of knowledge” and this has already been said.

And you recited Qur-aan so that it would be said, “He is a person of recitation.” And this has already been said.”

Then he will be ordered to be dragged upon his face until he is thrown into the Fire.”[1]

——————————-

And this is from that which makes it binding upon the student of knowledge to purify his intention for Allaah, the Mighty and Majestic, in seeking knowledge.

So his goal should not be seeking to be raised up or a worldly position of responsibility or attaining the fleeting attractions of this worldly life through his knowledge and his teaching it.

Rather his intent is only for Allaah, the Mighty and Majestic because gaining knowledge and teaching it is from the noblest of righteous deeds ; so he does not divert it (away from its correct intention) and intend the dunyaa by means of it.

Rather he only wishes the Face of Allaah by it; and whatever wealth he is given – if he is given (it) – then it is something which (just happens) to follow on and it was not something he intended.

((Al minhat ul rabbaaniyah page 21 of Shaykh Saalih al Fawzaan hafidhahullaah, translated by Nasser ibn Najam)


[1] Reported by at Tirmidhee (2382) and Ahmad in his Musnad (2/321)

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The student hates that the permissible differences amongst the people result in them accusing each other and splitting from each other

With regards to the student of knowledge being known as someone whose preoccupation is gaining knowledge and not the permissible differences that occur between the Muslims, Shaykh Muhammad ibn Saalih al ‘Uthaymeen rahimahullaah was asked:

Noble Shaykh, how would you advise the youth who are practising (their Religion) and amongst whom there has spread differing and bad feeling and hatred, and some of them make accusations against others of them – up to the point that they have forgotten their standing in front of Allaah, the Mighty and Majestic (on the Day of Judgment)?

He replied:

I advise them with that which has preceded from my speech – that this (behaviour) is not from the affair of the Muslims.

Rather Allaah, the Most High, said to His Prophet Muhammad sall Allaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam:

Indeed those who divide their religion and became sects, then you have no concern with them at all. Their affair is only with Allaah who will inform them of what they used to do.

Soorah al An’aam (6) aayah 159 

We do not deny that there will be differences occurring in the ummah; differing has been amongst the Islamic nation since the era of the Messenger ‘alaihissalaatu wassalaam.

However we do reject that this differing – that in which ijtihaad is allowed – should give rise to enmity and hatred, to the extent that your (own) brother from your mother and your father should become an enemy to you on the basis of this!

And I have already explained in the first part of (my) speech that this is the cause of time being wasted and barakah (blessing) being removed from one’s lifetime and knowledge and action.

And that it is befitting for a person that he busy himself with that which is of concern to him and which will benefit him.

And in the hadeeth that the Prophet sall Allaahu ‘alaihi wa ‘alaa aalihi wa sallam (said):

From the excellence of a person’s Islaam is that he leaves off that which does not concern him. [1]

(Quoted in Wasaayaa wa tawjeehaat li tullaab il ilm p91 of Shaykh Muhammad ibn Saalih al ‘Uthaymeen rahimahullaah, translated by Nasser ibn Najam)


[1] Reported by at Tirmidhee (2317) from the hadeeth of Aboo Hurayrah

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The student of knowledge does not bring about ta’assub and thereby cause Muslims to split away from each other

The Noble Shaykh, Muhammad ibn Saalih al ‘Uthaymeen rahimahullaah said:

Then there has indeed occurred tafarruq (splitting) and differing in opinions and ideas amongst the youth in our towns and in other than them. And ta’assub (bigoted adherence), be that to the statements or to the people who spoke (those statements).

So barakah (blessing) has been taken away from their actions.

And– instead of being one nation – they have become separated and ones who fight amongst themselves, up to the extent that the person who was your brother yesterday is your enemy today, due to ta’assub.

Therefore it is obligatory upon us to be aware of this bottomless pit and that the person strives in that which will benefit him and leave off that which contains no goodness. The Prophet sall Allaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam said:

The one who truly believes in Allaah and in the Last Day, let him speak good – or remain silent.”[1]

And He, the Most High, said in description of the servants of ar Rahmaan (the Most Merciful):

<<And when they pass by some evil play or evil talk, they pass by it with dignity.>>[2]

(Soorah al Furqaan (25) aayah 72)

Meaning – they do not waste their time in it; rather they work hard to preserve their time in that which will benefit them in their present and in their future.

Quoted in Wasaayaa wa tawjeehaat li tullaab il ‘ilm page 83-4 , translated by Nasser ibn Najam


[1] Reported by al Bukhaari (6018, 6136, 6138) and Muslim from the hadeeth of Aboo Hurayrah radi Allaahu ‘anhu

[2] Soorah al Furqaan (25) aayah 72

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For the student of knowledge, following the correct position in any matter takes precedence over everything, even if that contradicts the position of the scholar he is studying under

During a lecture on the 14th of Dhul Qa’dah in 1417 AH, Shaykh Muhammad ibn Saalih al ‘Uthaymeen rahimahullaah was asked by one of the students at the university:

Question: O Noble Sheikh, may Allaah preserve you, some of the students of knowledge seek knowledge under one of the scholars then he (the student) clings fast to this scholar and he (the student) does not accept taking knowledge except from him, and he does not take other than his statement; and he leaves off everything else, even if it is from the senior scholars!

So what is your opinion of the one who does this?

Answer: My opinion is that this is more important for the lesser student of knowledge who has (not long) started (seeking) knowledge – that he stick to the statement of the one whom he considers to be a scholar who will guide him to the (correct) path, because if he (the student) starts to take from every scholar, he will lose his time, his mind will be muddled and he will forget much of what he has learned.

So when he develops and he comes to have an acquisition (of knowledge) with him, then he can attend the sittings of this (scholar) or that one, and the readings of this book or that book.

As for the lesser (student) then it is certainly not befitting for him that he muddle his mind; so let him remain with a particular scholar about whom he is confident of his knowledge and his trustworthiness and his religion and so he persists with him.

Questioner: But, O Noble Scholar, the previous question contained (the phrase) that: he does not acknowledge the statement of anyone other than him (his own scholar), even if it comes from the senior scholars!

Answer: As for his not acknowledging the statement of anyone else, even if that is what is the correct (position), then this is a mistake.

So it is obligatory upon him (the student) that when he comes to know what is the correct (position), that he follow it – regardless of whether or not it is in agreement with the statement of the scholar that he has attached himself to.

But it is (also) obligatory upon him (the student) when he comes to know that this (second) scholar has made a statement which opposes the statement of his (the student’s) scholar and he (the student) believes this (second) position is the correct one – it is obligatory upon him (the student) that he present it to his (own) scholar such that he can discuss it with him.

This is because it may be that some matters which are unknown to the senior scholar which are not unknown to the lesser one – even if the senior scholar has knowledge with him which the lesser one does not have, and he has evidences and clear proofs which the lesser one does not have.

Quoted in Wasaayaa wa tawjeehaat li tullaab il ‘ilm page 275, translated by Nasser ibn Najam

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The student of knowledge feels no envy of people who are learning and he does everything he can to help them, not hinder them

With regards to the student of knowledge being pleased with and helping the Muslim who is learning and not having any envy of him, the Shaykh Muhammad ibn Saalih al ‘Uthaymeen rahimahullaah comments:

And from that which is befitting for the student of knowledge with regards to his colleagues is that he does not have jealousy of them regarding that which Allaah has bestowed upon them, by way of memorization or understanding or knowledge.

And that he does not have jealousy of them in that by which he may benefit them, by way of supporting (them) and helping (them) – be that in (giving them) a booklet or (sharing) research or other than that.

This is because for some of the students, Shaytaan speaks to him saying to him, “If you help your companion, he will become better than you.” And this is an error.

Rather we say, just as the Prophet sall Allaahu ‘alaihi wa ‘alaa aalihi wa sallam said:

Allaah is in the aid of the servant whilst the servant is in the aid of his brother.”

And it does not automatically follow on that if your companion is someone who is coming for the forefront (due to his knowledge) or someone who is attaining knowledge which he did not attain except with your (help), it is does not necessitate that he has got ahead of you.

So (by helping him) you are benefitting yourself and you are not harming your own self at all.

Quoted in Wasaayaa wa tawjeehaat li tullaab il ‘ilm page 82, translated by Nasser ibn Najam

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The student of knowledge takes seriously any blameworthy characteristics he finds in himself

With regards to the student of knowledge not having repugnant behaviour towards others and instead having beautiful manners, the Shaykh ‘Abdul ‘Azeez ibn Baaz rahimahullaah advises:

This is the akhlaaq (manners) of the believing men and believing women; these are their characteristics.

And the believing men and the believing women; they are awliyaa to each other.

Soorah at Tawbah (9) aayah 71

They are not enemies, they are not opponents; and rather they are awliyaa (allies) and ones who love each other – this is their description. Ones who love each other in that which occurs between them, advising each other, counselling each other to the Truth.

There is no malice between them nor hatred nor falsehood nor deceptiveness nor betrayal. Rather there is friendship and love and helping and counselling each other to the Truth.

The believing men and believing women are like this. So if you find malice in yourself towards your brother, or falsehood and oppression, then know that you have rendered your eemaan deficient and you have harmed your eemaan and you have weakened your eemaan with this blameworthy behaviour which you found in yourself, by way of betrayal or deceptiveness or backbiting or tale carrying or telling lies and oppression.

He sall Allaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam said:

Every Muslim is inviolable for (another) Muslim – his blood and his wealth and his honour.[1]

Quoted in Wasaayaa wa tawjeehaat li tullaab il ‘ilm page 21 , translated by Nasser ibn Najam


[1] Reported by Muslim (2564) from the hadeeth of Aboo Hurayrah radiy Allaahu ‘anhu.

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The student of knowledge’s memorisation is good because he leaves off sins

With regards to the effects of sins upon the ability of the student of knowledge to memorise, ‘Abdus Salaam ibn Burjis (d. 1425 AH) rahimahullaah said:

Disobeying Allaah, the Most High, is an obstacle to attaining Sharee’ah knowledge – because it (Sharee’ah knowledge) is a noor (light) from Allaah which He casts into the hearts of whomever He wishes from His servants.

And noor (light) and dhulmah (darkness) do not come together in a heart.

Therefore ibn Mas’ood radi Allaahu ‘anhu said:

Indeed I consider that a man (might) forget knowledge which he has already learned because of a sin which he does.

And may Allaah have mercy upon ash Shaafi’ee who said:

I complained to Wakee’ about my memorisation being bad

So he directed me to leave off sins

And he informed me that knowledge is a noor (light)

And the light from Allaah is not bestowed upon a person who is sinful

Quoted in ‘Awaa-iq ut talab of ‘Abdus Salaam ibn Burjiss rahimahullaah page 38, translated by Nasser ibn Najam

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