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So if someone says to you: How does ikhlaas in seeking knowledge come about? It comes about through a (number) of matters:
1 - It is that in doing that (seeking of knowledge), you have as your intention that you are complying with Allaah’s command because Allaah, the Most High, commanded with that (seeking of knowledge).
So He said:
Have knowledge that none has the right to be worshipped except Allaah. And seek forgiveness for your sin.
Sūrah Muhammad (47) aayah 19
And he sall Allaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam encouraged (us) upon knowledge; and encouraging upon a matter necessitates loving it and being pleased with it and commanding with it.
2 - It is that in doing that, you intend to preserve the Sharee’ah of Allaah, because preserving the Sharee’ah of Allaah occurs through learning, and it comes about through preserving (it) in the chests (of people), and it comes about through writing down, writing down the books.
3 - It is that in doing that, you intend to protect the Sharee’ah and defend it, because were it not for the people of knowledge, then the Sharee’ah would not have been protected and no one would have defended it.
And therefore you find, for example, Shaykh ul Islām ibn Taymiyyah and other than him from the people of knowledge who resisted and blocked the people of innovation and clarified the false and futile nature of their innovations, we see that they (these people of knowledge) attained a great deal of good.
4 - It is that in doing that, your intention is to be following the Sharee’ah of Muhammad sall Allaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam because you are not able to follow his Sharee’ah until you have knowledge of this Sharee’ah.
The author (Imām Al-Barbahaaree) raḥimahullāh said:
And know, may Allaah have mercy upon you that knowledge is not in being able to narrate much and in having many books, rather the scholar is the one who follows the knowledge and the sunnahs (in some versions: the Book and the Sunnah) even if his knowledge and his books are limited and whoever opposes the Book and the Sunnah then he is a person of innovation, even if he narrates much and has many books.
His saying: And know, may Allaah have mercy upon you, that knowledge is not in being able to narrate much and in having many books. `Ilm (knowledge) is not in knowing many things and reading much and having many books. Knowledge is only through having fiqh (knowledge and understanding) and through ittibaa’ (following) and in ‘amal (action upon it), even if the person has only a little knowledge. So a small amount of knowledge along with righteous action and with correct understanding of the religion is something that is much. Whereas having a lot of knowledge with little action and without following, there is no benefit in it. So the Jews have amongst them people of knowledge, they have rabbis and yet despite this their knowledge does not benefit them and they became those upon whom there is anger because they disobeyed Allaah upon knowledge and insight, so what is intended is not to have a large amount of knowledge and to have read many things, what is intended is action. This is what is intended by knowledge and this is the path of those upon whom Allaah has bestowed his favour. Just as He the Most High said (the explanation of which is), ‘Guide us upon the straight path, the path of those upon whom You have bestowed Your favour’ and they are the people of knowledge and action. ‘Not the path of those whom You are angry with’ and they are those who possess knowledge without action. ‘Nor the path of those who are astray’ [Sooratul-Faatihah, verses 6-7] and they are those who act without knowledge. So therefore knowledge will not benefit unless it is with action and action will not benefit unless it is along with knowledge. So knowledge and action must be combined and this is the path of those who have favour bestowed upon them.
His saying: And rather the scholar is just the one who follows (applies) the knowledge and the sunnahs even if he only has a small amount of knowledge and of books. The scholar is only the one who follows the Book and the sunnahs even if he has only acquired a small amount of knowledge, contrary to the case of someone who has acquired a great deal of knowledge or who has many and various books, however he does not act, then this there is no benefit in it. Knowledge becomes much and it increases and it grows along with righteous deeds. As for knowledge without action then it is stripped of blessing and it will not remain.
And the people of knowledge are of two categories:
The first one: those who are scholars with the tongue only
The second one: those who are scholars with the tongue and with the heart and they are the people of al-khashyah (fear of Allaah). He the Most High said (the explanation of which is), ‘It is only those who have knowledge amongst His servants who fear Allaah’ [Sūrah Faatir, verse 28]. So having knowledge and fear (of Allaah), these two are al-`ilmus-ṣaḥīḥ, correct knowledge. As for just knowledge of the tongue without fear of Allaah then this is the knowledge of the hypocrites, we ask Allaah for safety and security...
...Allaah the Most High said with regard to the Jews (the explanation of which is), ‘The example of those who were given the duty of acting upon the Tawraat and then they did not act upon it is just like the example of a donkey carrying volumes of books.’ [Sooratul-Jumu’ah, verse 5]. So the person who has a huge library but he abandons action or he is an innovator, his example is that of a donkey which carries books and does not benefit from them.
And likewise (from the most important of matters) also is abandonment of argumentation and disputing because argumentation and disputing are a door to blocking the correct path.
For argumentation and disputing incite a person to speak and try to support himself only; even if the Truth is made clear to him, you will find him either rejecting it or else twisting it in a detestable manner, seeking to support himself and trying to force his opponent to take his statement.
So if you see argumentation and disputing from your brother, in that the Truth (in that matter) is something clear but he does not follow it, then flee from him as you would flee from a lion. And say, “I don’t have anything except this (information which I have told you)” and leave him…
So from those matters of importance for the student of knowledge is that he leave off argumentation and disputing and that he leave off those ideas which come to his mind; leave these matters and don’t be obstinate. Make your knowledge be something simple and easy – meaning (like) the Arab who came, he came upon his camel and asked the Prophet sall Allaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam about matters of the Religion, then he (the Arab) departed without arguing because he had nothing with him except tasleem (submission).
As for arguing and disputing and quarreling then this is something that harms the person.
“The foundation of knowledge is khashyah (fear and awe) of Allaah, the Most High”.
And this statement of Imām Aḥmad is correct: the foundation of knowledge is khashyah of Allaah. And khashyah of Allaah is fear of Allaah which is built upon knowledge and glorification (of Him).
And for this reason, Allaah the Most High, said:
It is only the people of knowledge from amongst His servants who have khashyah of Allaah.
Sūrah Faatir (35) aayah 28
So if a person has true knowledge of Allaah, the Mighty and Majestic, and if he has true awareness and knowledge of Him, then khashyah of Allaah will inevitably be established in his heart.
(This is) because if he has knowledge of that, having knowledge of a Lord who is ‘Adheem (Tremendous), of a Lord who is Qawee (Perfect in strength), of a Lord who is Qaahir (Invincible Subduer), of a Lord who is All Knowing of that which the person keeps secret and hidden, then you will find him (that person) establishing obedience to Allaah, the Mighty and Majestic in a complete manner.
It is only the people of knowledge from amongst His servants who have khashyah of Allaah.
Sūrah Faatir (35) aayah 28
The scholars have said: The distinction between khashyah (fear and awe) and khawf (fear) is that khashyah occurs due to tremendous greatness of the one being feared – and khawf occurs due to the weakness of the one who has the fear, even if the one being feared (with khawf) is not tremendous and great…
So in summary, khashyah is more tremendous than khawf - but sometimes it is said, ‘have khawf of Allaah’. He, the Most High, said:
So do not have khawf of them, but rather have khawf of Me if you truly believe.
Sūrah aale ‘Imrān (3) aayah 175
And this is (being said) in direct opposition to the action of those who have khawf of the people.
(Sharḥ hilyah taalib il ‘ilm p24-25 of Shaykh Muhammad ibn Ṣāliḥ al ‘Uthaymīn raḥimahullāh)
Therefore it is a must that (he) act upon what he has knowledge of – because if he does not act upon his knowledge he becomes from the first of those who will be burned by the Fire on the Day of Resurrection:
The scholar who does not act upon his knowledge
Will be punished before the worshippers of idols
This is one aspect - if he does not act upon his knowledge, it will result in disappointment regarding the knowledge, and no barakah (blessing), and nisyaan (forgetfulness) of the knowledge… And therefore it was reported from Imām ‘Alee radi Allaahu ‘anhu that he said: Knowledge calls out for action, so either it is responded to or else it departs…
So what is it that departs? Knowledge, and this is something clear – because if you act upon (your) knowledge, you will remember it each time you act.
And I will strike an example for you – that of a man who knows the description of the ṣalāt (prayer) from the Sunnah. So he begins to act upon it whenever he prays. Will he forget what he has learned? He will not forget because he keeps on repeating it. However if he were to leave off acting upon it, he would forget.
And this is an evidence which can be perceived (by us) – that acting upon knowledge necessitates firmness upon (that) knowledge, and that (the person) does not forget it.
Adorn yourself with fine personal behaviour, such as abstinence and forbearance and patience and humbly submitting to the Truth – because the station (of being a student of knowledge) necessitates this, that the student of knowledge has abstinence from that which is in the hands of the people and abstinence from that which is linked to looking at forbidden things.
And forbearance, such that he does not hasten towards punishing if someone treats him badly.
And patience upon the harms which occur by way of that which he hears, whether it be from the common folk or from his peers or from his teacher – so let him be patience and anticipate the reward (from Allaah).
And humbly submitting to the Truth, and likewise showing humility to the creation; he humbly submits to the Truth, meaning that when the Truth is made clear to him, he yields to it and he does not seek anything else to take its place.
And likewise towards the creation; so how many a student has opened doors to his teacher which had not occurred to him; and do not belittle anything…
And it is befitting for the student of knowledge that he stay far away from acting frivolously whether that be in the way he walks or in his dealings with the people - that he is not plentiful in laughing uproariously which (is something) which kills the heart, and removes dignity. Rather he lowers his wing, being one who has the refined manners which are befitting for a student of knowledge.
Beware of the disease of the tyrants – and it is kibr (pride). And the Prophet sall Allaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam explained it in the best manner, and it was that pride is arrogance towards the Truth and belittling the people – meaning looking down upon them and having disdain for them…
(And know that) your behaving in an insolent manner towards your teacher is pride. And this behaving in an insolent manner might be upon the tongue and it might be also through being irritable and agitated. A person may be walking along with his teacher whilst strutting in a cocky manner, saying “I did such-and such and I did such-and-such.”
And likewise pride is having aversion towards the person who benefits you from those people who are lesser than you; and this also occurs from some of the students when someone lesser than them in knowledge informs them of something, they have an aversion (to this) and they do not accept it.
“Indeed I came from my land – Mauritania – and I have with me a treasure which is hardly found at all with anyone.
And it is qanaa’ah (contentment).
And had I wanted high rank, I would have known the path to achieve it.
But I do not give preference to this worldly life over the Hereafter.
And I do not sacrifice knowledge in order to attain worldly goals.”
The statement from Shaykh ash Shanqeeti, and the like of him from the people of knowledge, was not intended by them to be a declaration of commendation for themselves.
They only intended by this (statement) to benefit the creation, such that the people would imitate them and that they would be upon this path (of theirs) – because we know this from their condition – meaning the condition of the scholars – and because they did not intend to commend themselves. And they were the people furthest from that.
And he raḥimahullāh, as was mentioned by Shaykh Bakr, was from the people of zuhd. If you were to see him then you would not say anything other than he was from the people of the desert, such that you would find upon him an ordinary cloak, which did not accord with fashion; and likewise the clothes (of his).
And you would not find him giving great attention to his own smartness and that of his clothes – may Allaah have mercy upon him.