Advice on the Right Methodology in Seeking Knowledge – Shaikh Fawzaan
Quote: As for you O young men! It is obligated on you to preoccupy yourselves. First and foremost, seek beneficial knowledge with the support of the scholars-be it in the schools, the institutes, the academies or in the mosques. Attend the lessons of the scholars-those known for knowledge, steadfastness and fear of Allaah, and are free from bizarre views and strange statements. It is obligatory upon you to hold onto the upright scholars- those who direct (the Muslims) to what is correct. So take the creed (i.e. study) from them, and manners, (good) etiquettes and the correct methodology, which you are to implement in yourselves and in your dealings with others, for indeed the scholars are the inheritors of the prophets. And just as the young companions of the Prophet (sallal-laahu-alayhi-wasallam) used to seek knowledge from the Messenger of Allaah (sallal-laahu-alayhi-wasallam) and from the scholars amongst them, likewise, you should seek knowledge from the inheritors of the Messenger (sallal-laahu-alayhi-wasallam) and they are the scholars. Be acquainted with knowledge through its people-be it in the schools or by attending seminars, lectures and religious admonitions or by reading the beneficial books.
Advice on the Right Methodology in Seeking Knowledge
There are two paths of deviation at present with regards to learning:
 Learning from books without referring to the scholars! This is a path of deviation and many have deviated as a result of it. He (i.e. the person) will either misunderstand what is in the books or understands in a way other than what is intended because it has not been explained and made clear to him.
 The author (of the book) may be deviated in his views or knowledge and fills it (i.e. the book) with mistakes in affairs of knowledge. Then this ignorant youth reads and adopts it.
Therefore, the books are not to be solely depended upon. And even if the books are sound, you will not be able to understand by merely seeking after it (i.e. reading). The khawaarij were not misguided and misguiding others with their intellects and fear of Allaah, except that they disassociated themselves from the scholars and depended on their own understanding and that of those similar to them. They took instructions from one another, and thus they caused harm to themselves and to the Ummah. This is the result for disassociating from the scholars.
I advise you to busy yourselves with beneficial knowledge with the support of the scholars, and that you avoid being absorbed and speaking about the people- (such as) backbiting, tale carrying, (false) disparagement and slander. Indeed, this is evil that disperses, divides the youth of the Ummah and causes them to become factions and parties. There are those who have no other concern except, ‘’this one says and that one says that.’’ So seek knowledge until you become acquainted with the truth, but as for seeking after the mistakes of the people before you are acquainted with knowledge, and saying, ‘’this person says and that one says, and be mindful of this one person and that one’’……….this is not a sound methodology. Allaah (The Most High) said:
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا إِن جَاءَكُمْ فَاسِقٌ بِنَبَإٍ فَتَبَيَّنُوا
O you who believe! If a Faasiq (liar-evil person) comes to you with any news, verify it, lest you should harm people in ignorance, and afterwards you become regretful for what you have done. [49:6]
A Warning against the Callers to Misguidance
O young men! Be warned against the callers to misguidance because they are many today. The prophet (sallal-laahu-alayhi-wasallam) warned against them. He (sallal-laahu-alayhi-wasallam) said: ‘’What I fear most for my nation, is those leaders who will lead astray’’ -and they are those who lead them to misguidance.’’
And he (sallal-laahu-alayhi-wasallam) said: ‘’What I fear most for my ummah is every hypocrite with an eloquent tongue.’’ This is the one who possesses eloquent impressive speech and he is able to promote his dubious views, whilst falsifying the reality and delivering it to the people. Then the ignorant one thinks that it is knowledge and proof, whilst it is illusion and deceit. So it is obligatory upon you to direct your attention to knowledge and acquire it from those who are well known to be well versed in it. Do not restrict yourself to reading books and listening to audiotapes, for indeed some of the people have taken these audiotapes for learning. And amongst them is one who reads a book or listens to an audiotape and then says: ”I took from the book of such and such or from his audiotape.” This is a grave mistake (because) knowledge is acquired from the scholars. As for these books, they are designated to the scholars and questions are to be asked regarding them, and explanation and clarification given- clarification with regards to the truth and mistakes found in them.
For example, if you want to study medicine, will you read the books on medicine and then implement and give treatment to people based on what you have read? Perhaps this methodology would lead you to kill many people, because you are not a doctor, rather you are a (fake) doctor. And there is threat of a punishment upon the one who practices medicine but is not qualified to do so. Therefore, if this is the case with medicine, then what about the religion, whilst you have not obtained knowledge through a correct methodology; rather you learnt either by way of what you have heard from audio tapes and books you have read or what has been said to you….etc. This is not a path to knowledge. However, we say: There is benefit in the books and tapes together with your sitting with the people of knowledge, and that you ask the teacher questions about what is unclear regarding what you have read or heard. Allaah (The Most High) said:
فَاسْأَلُوا أَهْلَ الذِّكْرِ إِن كُنتُمْ لَا تَعْلَمُونَ
And ask the people of the reminder if you do not know. [16:43]
The People of the Reminder are the scholars, so do not depend on your understanding or that of others similar to you, or those beneath you (in rank or value); rather it is obligated on you to ask the people of knowledge. Allaah did not say: ‘’Ask one another’’; rather He said: ‘’Ask the people of the reminder’’ in particular. This is my advice to all the youth that they focus their attention towards beneficial knowledge and to acquire this knowledge from the scholars who are trusted with their knowledge. Some of the salaf said: ‘’Indeed this knowledge is Religion, so look to the one you take your religion from’’. Will you take your religion from an ignorant one or one who misguides others? This is not correct. Will you take your religion from a book? This is not correct! You do not take your religion except from a scholar who is fears Allaah. Allaah (The Most High) said:
إِنَّمَا يَخْشَى اللَّهَ مِنْ عِبَادِهِ الْعُلَمَاءُ
It is only those who have knowledge among His slaves that fear Allaah. [35:28]
Therefore, take (knowledge) from the scholars with two conditions: The person is a scholar and he is one who fears Allaah. If he is a scholar but does not fear Allaah, you do not take from him. If he is one who fears Allaah, but does not possess knowledge, you do not take from him.