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Some Practical Steps for Seeking Knowledge

“‏ مَنْ سَلَكَ طَرِيقًا يَلْتَمِسُ فِيهِ عِلْمًا سَهَّلَ اللَّهُ لَهُ طَرِيقًا إِلَى الْجَنَّةِ وَإِنَّ الْمَلاَئِكَةَ لَتَضَعُ أَجْنِحَتَهَا رِضًا لِطَالِبِ الْعِلْمِ وَإِنَّ طَالِبَ الْعِلْمِ يَسْتَغْفِرُ لَهُ مَنْ فِي السَّمَاءِ وَالأَرْضِ حَتَّى الْحِيتَانِ فِي الْمَاءِ وَإِنَّ فَضْلَ الْعَالِمِ عَلَى الْعَابِدِ كَفَضْلِ الْقَمَرِ عَلَى سَائِرِ الْكَوَاكِبِ إِنَّ الْعُلَمَاءَ هُمْ وَرَثَةُ الأَنْبِيَاءِ إِنَّ الأَنْبِيَاءَ لَمْ يُوَرِّثُوا دِينَارًا وَلاَ دِرْهَمًا إِنَّمَا وَرَّثُوا الْعِلْمَ فَمَنْ أَخَذَهُ أَخَذَ بِحَظٍّ وَافِرٍ ‏”‏

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“Whoever follows a path in the pursuit of knowledge, Allah will make easy for him a path to Paradise. The angels lower their wings in approval of the seeker of knowledge, and everyone in the heavens and on earth prays for forgiveness for the seeker of knowledge, even the fish in the sea. The superiority of the scholar over the worshipper is like the superiority of the moon above all other heavenly bodies. The scholars are the heirs of the Prophets, for the Prophets did not leave behind a Dinar or Dirham, rather they left behind knowledge, so whoever takes it has taken a great share.”

al-Tirmidhi

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An excerpt from the translation of حِلْيَةُ الِبِ الْعِلْم by Shaykh Bakr Abu Zayd:

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16. The methodology of seeking knowledge and its levels

“Whoever does not perfect the foundation; is prevented from reaching their aim in knowledge”, and “Whoever wants to attain knowledge in one go, will lose it in one go.”

Therefore, it is essential to ground yourself in every subject you wish to study; by perfecting its basics and perfecting a concise book on every subject with a shaykh, and not relying upon personal efforts alone. Seeking knowledge should also be taken step by step.

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Allaah, the Most High, said:

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وَقُرْآنًا فَرَقْنَاهُ لِتَقْرَأَهُ عَلَى النَّاسِ عَلَىٰ مُكْثٍ وَنَزَّلْنَاهُ تَنْزِيلًا

“And [it is] a Qur’aan which We have divided into parts in order that you may recite it to men at intervals, and We have revealed it by stages.”

[al-Israa’:106]

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Allaah, the Most High, said:

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وَقَالَ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا لَوْلَا نُزِّلَ عَلَيْهِ الْقُرْآنُ جُمْلَةً وَاحِدَةً ۚ كَذَٰلِكَ لِنُثَبِّتَ بِهِ فُؤَادَكَ ۖ وَرَتَّلْنَاهُ تَرْتِيلًا

“And those who disbelieve say: why is the Qur’aan not revealed to him all at once? Thus [it is sent down in parts], that We may strengthen your heart thereby and We have revealed it to you gradually.”

[al-Furqaan:32]

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Allaah, the Most High, said:

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الَّذِينَ آتَيْنَاهُمُ الْكِتَابَ يَتْلُونَهُ حَقَّ تِلَاوَتِهِ أُولَٰئِكَ يُؤْمِنُونَ بِهِ وَمَن يَكْفُرْ بِهِ فَأُولَٰئِكَ هُمُ الْخَاسِرُونَ

“And those (who embraced Islaam from Banee Israa’eel, or the companions) to whom We gave the book (i.e. the Tawraat or the Qur’aan) recite it (i.e. obey its orders and its teachings) as it should be recited are those who believe therein.”

[al-Baqarah:121]

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So in front of you there are a number of things that you have to take into consideration in every subject you study:

  1. Memorise a concise book on it.
  2. Perfect it [by studying it] under a proficient shaykh.
  3. Do not engage yourself with long books and compilations on many different subjects before perfecting the basics and becoming proficient in it.
  4. Do not swap from one concise book to another without any necessity, for this is from impatience.
  5. Capture the benefits and precepts of knowledge [by writing them down].
  6. Mentally prepare yourself to seek knowledge and progress in it. Also be concerned with, and zealous in attaining and reaching what is above you, until you progress onto the long compilations with ease.

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…The seekers of knowledge and their mashaa’ikh also used to be immensely well mannered, have plenty of mutual respect along with self-esteem, and were upon the way of the Salafas-Saalih. For this reason they reached their aims and many of them became recognised scholars, and all praise is due to Allaah alone the Lord of all the Worlds.

So is it not time to call for the return to the traditional methods of seeking knowledge, by studying and memorising concise reliable books, and not just relying upon understanding alone, or upon studying pre-prepared pamphlets? It is these two things that caused the seekers of knowledge to become lost and neither memorise nor understand the knowledge!

It was narrated that al-Haafidh (A title given to somebody who memorises a vast quantity of hadeeth) ’Uthmaan ibn Khurrazaadh said: “The person associated to hadeeth is in need of five qualities, and if one of them is lost then it is considered as a deficiency; he is in need of a good mind, piety, precision, proficiency in this field, as well as being well known for his trustworthiness.” Adh-Dhahabee commented: “Trustworthiness is a portion of the deen (piety), and precision is included in proficiency; so what a haafidh really needs, is to be: fearful of Allaah, intelligent, grammatical, a linguist, righteous, modest, Salafee, and it is sufficient enough for him to write two hundred volumes and to gather five hundred reliable compilations books, and not to become fatigued by seeking knowledge till death, with sincerity and humility, otherwise let him not trouble himself.”

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17. To acquire knowledge from the mashaa’ikh

The basis of acquiring knowledge should be by way of dictation and acquisition from the teachers, and by being in the continuous company of the scholars and taking from the mouths of men, and not from the scrolls and the depths of books. It also used to be said: “Whoever enters knowledge alone, will emerge alone,” i.e. whoever becomes involved in seeking knowledge without a shaykh will emerge without knowledge, because knowledge is a profession, and every profession has its experts, therefore it is necessary to have a proficient teacher in order to learn.” End quote.

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Ibn al-Jawziyy once wrote a letter to his son explaining to him how to seek knowledge. He ended his letter with the same thing we end with now:

وَاتَّقُواْ اللّهَ وَيُعَلِّمُكُمُ اللّهُ

So be afraid of Allah; and Allah teaches you

[al-Baqarah:282]

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