‘… their knowledge was thus ruined.’

As-salamu `alaykum wa rahmatullah

Ibn al-Jawzi makes this remarkable entry in his book, ‘Sayd al-Khatir’:

“I met many scholars whose circumstances and depths of knowledge were very different. I found the most beneficial of them to be the one who acted upon his knowledge even if others were more knowledgeable than him.

I met a group of people from the scholars of hadith who memorised and knew narrations but they used to permit backbiting under the guise of Jarh and Ta’dil (critique of narrators), and they used to charge money for the narration of hadith. They would also hasten to answer questions even if that made them fall into error, because they feared losing status (in the eyes of people).

I met ‘Abd al-Wahhab al-Anmati and he was upon the manner of the predecessors. No backbiting was heard in his gathering and he never sought a wage for listening (and narrating) hadith. If I read a heart-softening narration to him, he would cry profusely. It used to affect my heart and built it up, and I was very young at the time. He was just like those scholars whose descriptions we’ve heard about from (classical) texts.

I met Shaykh Abu Mansur al-Jawaliqi; he was known for his increased periods of silence, his extreme caution over what he said, and his precision and authenticity (in knowledge). Perhaps he would be asked a question and the answer was clear to even children, but he would hold back until he was certain (of its correctness). He used to fast a lot and observed silence a lot.

So I benefited from these two men more than I benefited from others. I came to understand that guiding people by one’s actions is greater and more inspiring than guiding them by just words. I saw scholars whose moments of seclusion was mere joking and play so they turned hearts towards this and the knowledge they had gathered was thus ruined. The people did not benefit from them in their life except a little, and after their death, they were forgotten and hardly anyone looked to their works and writings.

So fear Allah when it comes to acting upon knowledge for it is the greatest of foundations. The impoverished one is truly the only who wastes his life in seeking knowledge that he does not act upon and so he misses out on both the delight of this world and the goodness of the Hereafter, so he goes forth (into the Hereafter) as a bankrupt one burdened with evidences against him.”

Arabic text:

لقيت مشايخ، أحوالهم مختلفة، في مقادير في العلم.   و كان أنفعهم لي في صحبته العامل منهم بعلمه، و إن كان غيره أعلم منه.   و لقيت جماعة من علماء الحديث يحفظون و يعرفون و لكنهم كانوا يتسامحون بغيبة يخرجونها مخرج جرح و تعديل، و يأخذون على قراءة الحديث أجرة، و يسرعون بالجواب لئلا ينكسر الجاه و إن وقع خطأ.   و لقيت عبد الوهاب الأنماطي ، فكان على قانون السلف لم يسمع في مجلسه غيبة ،و لا كان يطلب أجراً على سماع الحديث، و كنت إذا قرأت عليه أحاديث الرقاق بكى و اتصل بكاؤه .   فكان ـ و أنا صغير السن حينئذ ـ يعمل بكاؤه في قلبي، و يبني قواعد.   و كان على سمت المشايخ الذين سمعنا أوصافهم في النقل . و لقيت الشيخ أبا منصور الجواليقي، فكان كثير الصمت، شديد التحري فيما يقول، متقناً محققاً.  و ربما سئل المسألة الظاهرة التي يبادر بجوابها بعض غلمانه، فيتوقف فيها حتى يتيقن. و كان كثير الصوم و الصمت . فانتفعت برؤية هذين الرجلين أكثر من انتفاعي بغيرهما.   ففهمت من هذه الحالة أن الدليل بالفعل أرشد من الدليل بالقول .   و رأيت مشايخ كانت لهم خلوات في انبساط و مزاح ، فراحوا عن القلوب و بدد تفريطهم ما جمعوا من العلم . فقل الانتفاع بهم في حياتهم ، و نسوا بعد مماتهم ، فلا يكاد أحد أن يلتفت إلى مصنفاتهم.   فالله الله في العلم بالعمل، فإنه الأصل الأكبر .   و المسكين كل المسكين من ضاع عمره في علم لم يعمل به، ففاته لذات الدنيا و خيرات الآخرة فقدم مفلساً على قوة الحجة عليه

6 thoughts on “‘… their knowledge was thus ruined.’

  1. Reblogged this on In the Pursuit of Writing and commented:
    Subhanallah, a much needed reminder for all those active in the pursuit of Islamic knowledge. My personal take on this as I was reading this:-
    1. Knowledge that is sought will only benefit you when it is implemented.
    2. The purpose of seeking this knowledge should be first and foremost to seek closeness to Allah by striving to learn what would please Him in ways of worship, dealings with others, rights and obligations that are due upon us
    3. There may be many who are knowledgable, but what distinguishes a person is how much reverence he gives to that knowledge through his actions, which may reflect his taqwa
    4. Being too hasty to answer a question may be devastating, so be patient and exercise wisdom in such situations
    5. Backbiting is such an easy sin to commit, subhanallah, even in the activities of teaching and learning Islamic knowledge. It reminds me of Imam Bukhari’s biography in which he is said to be very careful when talking about suspicious narrators of hadeeth.
    6. Just because a sheikh or scholar is well known, that doesn’t make him flawless. A scholar may have a lot of knowledge, but if his actions doesn’t seem right according to what he taught or what is taught by other scholars, don’t just emulate him in that. Take the good from each scholar and learn to think critically for yourself.
    7. When a knowledge is learned, strive to act upon it right away
    8. You are better able to convey a knowledge if you yourself act upon it. Allah will put barakah in it if you are truly sincere in passing on that knowledge along with truly acting upon it

  2. assalamualaikum,

    jazakillah khair! I love your beneficial posts mashaaAllah. Makes me happy to get a new post message in my inbox fr yr blog :) May Allah keep us all steadfast, sincere, and those who act upon the knowledge learned. Ameen!

  3. Assalamualaikum,
    This is a reality so apt for the many situations we face today. Silence aka meditating on what one has read and been taught makes one reflect upon great advise. When confronted with these situations becomes easier to handle. And the two examples of the above Scholar and Shaykh are extremely beneficial..Jazak Allahu Khaire

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