Giving Priority to the Qurʾān

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  Shaykh Abū Anas Ḥamad al-ʿUthmān

It is fitting for a student that he begins with memorization of the Book of Allāh since it is the greatest of the branches of knowledge and that which should be placed first and given precedence.

bismallah

  

  The reality of this matter that the servant differs in what he asks of knowledge and guidance, and of what he seeks to ask. So with remembrance of Allāh and turning towards Him, Allāh guides such a person — as He said: “O My servants! All of you are misguided, except whomsoever I guide. So seek your guidance from me.”
Shaykh al-Islām Ibn Taymīyyah

 

KNOWING ONE’S PRIORITY: 

Hudhayfah (raḍī Allāhu ʿʿʿanhu) said:

“The Messenger of Allāh (ṣallallāhu ʿalayhi wa-sallam) related matters to us. I have seen one of them, and I am waiting for the other. He (ṣallallāhu ʿalayhi wa-sallam) informed us: “Trustworthiness was sent down in depths of the heart of the people, then they learnt it from the Qurʾān, then they learnt it from the Sunnah.” [2] Al-Ḥāfiẓ Ibn Ḥajar (d.852H) – raḥimahullāh – said: “His saying: ‘…then they learnt it from the Qurʾān, then they learnt it from the Sunnah.’  So it occurs in this narration with the repetition of “then”, which contains and indication that they would learn the Qurʾān before learning the details of the Sunnah. And what is meant by the details of the Sunnah is anything that they would learn from Prophet (ṣallallāhu ʿalayhi wa-sallam) whether it was obligatory or recommended.” [3]

Al-Maymoonee said:

“I asked Abū ʿAbdullāh Imām Aḥmad: Which is more beloved to you, that I should I begin teaching my son the Qurʾān or the ḥadīth? He said: “No!  The Qurʾān.”  I said: Shall I teach him all of it?  He replied: “Unless that is difficult, in which case teach him some of it.”  Then he said to me: “If he begins reciting first, then he will learn correct recitation and will persevere in it.” [4] Ibn Muflih said: “Upon this are the followers of Imām Aḥmad right up until our time.” [5]

Ibn Taymīyyah (d.718H) – raḥimahullāh – said:

“As for seeking to memorize the Qurʾān then this is to be given preference over many of the things that the people consider to be knowledge, but are – in reality – either totally useless or having little benefit. It is also to be given precedence in learning especially by those who wish to acquire knowledge of the Religion, its principles and its particulars.  Since what is prescribed for such a person at this time is that he should begin by memorizing the Qurʾān, as it is the foundation of the branches of knowledge of the Religion.  This is contrary to what is done by many of the people of innovation, in that one of them will pre-occupy himself with superfluous parts of knowledge; such as kalām (theological rhetoric) and argumentation; or very rare matters of differences; and blind following, which there is no need for; or very strange and rare aḥādīth which are not established, nor of benefit; and many discussions do not establish proofs.  And he abandons memorizing the Qurʾān which is more important than all of this.” [6]

Muḥammad Ibn al-Fadl said:

“I heard my grandfather say: I asked my father for permission to study under Qutaybah, so he said: “First learn the Qurʾān and then I will give you permission.” So I memorized the Qurʾān by heart.  Then he said to me: “Remain until you have led the people in Prayer with it (i.e. for Tarāwīḥ Prayer).” So I did so, and after the ’Eed Prayer he gave me permission, so I left for Marw.” [7]

Ibn ʿAbd al-Barr (d.463H) – raḥimahullāh– said:

“Seeking knowledge is of levels and is of different stages which should not be skipped over. Whoever skips over them altogether, then he has overstepped the path of the Companions and those that follow them.  Whoever deliberately takes a path other than this has seriously deviated.  However, whoever oversteps due to an ijtihād (a knowledge-based judgment that a qualified scholar makes, intending to reach the truth), then such a person has erred.  So the first knowledge is memorization of the Book of Allāh and seeking to understand it.  And it-is obligatory to seek everything which will aid in understanding it.  However, I do not say that it is obligatory to memorize all of the Qurʾān but I do say that it is obligatory and essential for anyone who wishes to become a scholar – not that it is something obligatory in itself.” [8] 

Al-Khatīb al-Baghdādī (d.463H) – raḥimahullāh– said:

“It is fitting for a student that he begins with memorization of the Book of Allāh – since it is the greatest of the branches of knowledge and that which should be placed first and given precedence.” [9]

Al-Ḥāfiẓ al-Nawawī (d.676H) – raḥimahullāh– said:

"The first thing he should begin with – is memorization of the mighty Qurʾān, which is the most important of the branches of knowledge. And the Companions and those that follow them did not use to teach ḥadīth or fiqh except to one who had memorized the Qurʾān When he has memorized it, let him beware of preoccupying himself from it with ḥadīth, fiqh or other things, to the extent that it leads him to forget anything of the Qurʾān, or makes that likely." [10]

SEEKING KNOWLEDGE IN DUE PROPORTIONS: [11]

Allāh the Mighty and Majestic said:

And it is a Qurʾān which We have divided into parts, in order that you may recite it to men at intervals. And We have sent it down in stages.” [12] 

The Prophet (ṣallallāhu ʿalayhi wa-sallam) said to ʿAbdullāh Ibn ’Amr Ibn al-ʿĀs: “Read the Qurʾān in every month." I said: I find that I have more strength than that.  He (ṣallallāhu ʿalayhi wa-sallam) said: “Recite it in every twenty nights.”  I said: I find that I have more strength than that. He (ṣallallāhu ʿalayhi wa-sallam) said: “Then recite it in every seven days and do not increase upon that.” [13]

ʿAbdullāh Ibn ʿAmr Ibn al-ʿĀs also related from the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ʿalayhi wa-sallam) that he said: “He does not understand the Qurʾān who recites it in less than three days.” [14]

ʿUmar Ibn ʿAbd al-Wāḥid, a companion of al-Awzāʿī said: “We read in al-Muwaṭṭaa to Mālik (d. 179H) in forty days, so he said: "A book that took me forty years to compile, you take from me in forty days! How little you understand of it." [15]

Al-Khatīb al-Baghdādī said: “It is fitting that he takes care in acquiring knowledge and that he should not take too much in one go.  Rather, he should take a little at a time, such that he can bear it., memorize it and be able to understand it.  Because Allāh says:

And those who disbelieve say: Why is the Qurʾān not send down to him all at once? Thus (is it sent down in parts) that We may strengthen your heart thereby.  And We have revealed it to you gradually, in stages.”[16]” [17]

Al-Khatīb also said: “And know that the heart in an organ from the organs.  It is able to bear somethings and unable to bear others-just like the rest of the body.  Thus, some people are able to carry one-hundred pounds, whereas others are unable to carry even twenty. Some people are able to walk a number of miles in a day without tiring, whereas others are unable to even walk a mile a day before they become tired...So let each person limit himself to what he is able without expending all his energies, because that will better aid him in learning with a good mind, from a firm and proficient teacher.” [18]

SUPPLICATING FOR AN INCREASE IN KNOWLEDGE: 

Allāh the Mighty and Majestic said: “Say: My Lord!  Increase me in knowledge.” [Sūrah Ṭā Hā, 20:114]

Umm Salamah (raḍī Allāhu ’anhaa) said: “Allāh’s Messenger (ṣallallāhu ʿalayhi wa-sallam) used to supplicate in the morning prayer: “O Allāh! I ask you for beneficial knowledge, righteous action and pure sustenance.” [20] Anas Ibn Mālik (raḍī Allāhu ʿʿʿanhu) said: “I heard Allāh’s Messenger (ṣallallāhu ʿalayhi wa-sallam) supplicate: “O Allāh!  Benefit me with knowledge. Teach me that which will benefit me, and provide me with knowledge from which I can derive benefit.” [21]

Abū Bakr Muḥammad Ibn Ja’far said: I heard Ibn Khuzaymah (d.311H) – raḥimahullāh – being asked: From where did you acquire this knowledge? So he said: ‘‘Allāh’s Messenger (ṣallallāhu ʿalayhi wa-sallam) said: “Zam-zam water is that for which it is drunk.” [22] So when I drank zam-zam water, I supplicate to Allāh for beneficial knowledge.” [23]

Shaykh al-Islām Ibn Taymīyyah said: [24] “The reality of this matter that the servant differs in what he asks of knowledge and guidance, and of what he seeks to ask. So with remembrance of Allāh and turning towards Him, Allāh guides such a person – as He said: “O My servants! All of you are misguided, except whomsoever I guide. So seek your guidance from me.” [25]

And as the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ʿalayhi wa-sallam) used to say: “O Allāh!  Lord of Jibrīl, Meekaa‘eel and Israafeel.  The Originator of the heavens and the earth.  Knower of the Unseen and the apparent.  You judge between Your servant in that which he differs. So guide me in that which I differ from the truth – by Your permission.  Indeed, You guide whomsoever You please, to a Path that is straight.” [26]

 
Endnotes:
 

[1] From an-Nubadh fī Aadaabit-Talabil-’Ilm (pp. 61-66), slightly abridged.

[2] Related by al-Bukhārī (no. 7086)

[3] Fat′h al-Bārī (13/39)

[4] Related by Ibn Muflih in al-Ādāb-Shar’iyyah.

[5] Related by Ibn Abī Ya’lā in Tabaqaatul-Hanaabilah (1/41).

[6] Fatāwá al-Kubrā (2/54-55).

[7] Related by al-Dhahabī in Tadhkiratul-Huffaadh (2/722).

[8] Jāmiʿ Bayān al-ʿllm wa Faḍlihi (pp. 526-528)

[9] Al-Jāmiʿ li-Akhlāqir-Rāwee wa Aadaabis-Saami’ (1/106).

[10] From the introduction to al-Majmūʿ Sharḥul-Muhadhhab (1/38)

[11] From an-Nubadh (pp. 67-69)

[12] Sūrah al-Isrāʾ, [17:106].

[13] Related by al-Bukhārī (no. 5052) and Muslim (no. 1159) and the wording is from Muslim.

[14] Ṣaḥīḥ: Related by Abū Dāwūd in his Sunan (no. 1394) and it was authenticated by al-Albānī in Ṣaḥīḥ Sunan Abī Dāwūd (no. 1294).

[15] Related by Ibn ʿAbd al-Barr in al-Tawḥīd (1/77)

[16] Sūrah al-Furqān [25:32]

[17] Al-Faqīh wal-Mutafaqqih (2/101)

[18] Al-Faqīh wal-Mutafaqqih (2/107)

[19] An-Nubadh (pp. 97-99)

[20] Ḥasan: Related by Aḥmad (6/305) and at-Tiyaalasee (p. 224).  It was authenticated by al-Ḥāfiẓ Ibn Ḥajar in Nataa‘ijul Afkaar (2/313).

[21] Ṣaḥīḥ: Related by Haakim (1/510) and he said: “It is authentic upon the condition of Muslim.” Al-Dhahabī also agreed.

[22] Related by al-Dhahabī in Tadhkiratul-Huffaadh (2/721).

[23] Ḥasan: It has been narrated by many different ways. Refer to al-Maqaasidul-Ḥasanah (no. 928) of Al-Sakhāwī for its authentication and sources.

[24] Majmūʿal-Fatāwá (4/39)

[25] Related by Muslim (no. 2577) form Abū Dharr (raḍī Allāhu ʿʿʿanhu).

[26] Related by Muslim (no. 770) from ’Aa‘ishah (raḍī Allāhu ’anhaa).

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