In The Name of Allaah, The Most Merciful, The Bestower of Mercy.
Imaam Maalik [rahimahullaah] said that it reached him from Al-Qaasim Bin Muhammad [rahimahullaah] who said, “I met a people (i.e. Salaf) who were not amazed by speech, rather they were amazed by deeds”. [Ref 1]
Imaam Muhammad Bin Saaleh Al-Uthaymeen [rahimahullaah] said:
knowledge of the Sharee’ah is (acquired) for the Sake of Allaah – to protect Allaah’s Sharee’ah, remove ignorance from yourself and from your Muslim brothers; direct (oneself and others) towards guidance and obtain the inheritance of the Prophet (i.e. some of the knowledge left behind by the Prophet – sallal-laahu-alayhi-wasallam), because the Scholars are the inheritors of the Prophets. [Ref 2]
Al-Allaamah Rabee Bin Haadee [hafidhahullaah] said:
Knowledge has great status in the sight of Allaah. Those who are truthful in the path of seeking knowledge – those who are sincere and act upon what they know – will earn a great reward by way of which Allaah will raise their status [in this life and the next], and they are those who possess that fear of Allaah [founded upon sound knowledge regarding Allaah’s Greatness, Dominion and Perfect Sovereignty over everything], just as Allaah said:
[إِنَّمَا يَخْشَى اللَّهَ مِنْ عِبَادِهِ الْعُلَمَاءُ – It is only those who have knowledge among His slaves that fear Allaah]. [Surah Faatir. Aayah 28]
The scholar who fears Allaah – the one who is [constantly conscious of the fact that Allah sees, hears and knows everything about him] – will act upon what he knows, seek after Allaah’s pleasure and keep away from what angers Allaah. He knows what pleases Allaah [The Mighty and Majestic] and what angers Allaah.
Indeed, Allaah and His Messenger praised knowledge and the scholars, and the Messenger [sallal laahu alayhi wasallam] informed us that the scholars are the inheritors of the Prophets; however, not every scholar is an inheritor of the prophets; rather one has to be sincere in the path of knowledge, implement knowledge, act upon it and spread it amongst the people. So, he rectifies himself through this knowledge and rectifies others. If he does not act, knowledge will be a tool of corruption and destruction, and Allaah’s refuge is sought. And because of this, Allaah dispraised the one who does not act upon the knowledge he has acquired and promises him the severest punishment. Allaah said:
يَـٰٓأَيُّہَا ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُوٓاْ إِنَّ ڪَثِيرً۬ا مِّنَ ٱلۡأَحۡبَارِ وَٱلرُّهۡبَانِ لَيَأۡكُلُونَ أَمۡوَٲلَ ٱلنَّاسِ بِٱلۡبَـٰطِلِ وَيَصُدُّونَ عَن سَبِيلِ ٱللَّهِۗ وَٱلَّذِينَ يَكۡنِزُونَ ٱلذَّهَبَ وَٱلۡفِضَّةَ وَلَا يُنفِقُونَہَا فِى سَبِيلِ ٱللَّهِ فَبَشِّرۡهُم بِعَذَابٍ أَلِيمٍ۬
O you who believe! Verily, there are many of the (Jewish) rabbis and the (Christian) monks who devour the wealth of mankind in falsehood, and hinder (them) from the Way of Allah (i.e. Allah’s Religion of Islamic Monotheism). And those who hoard up gold and silver [Al-Kanz: the money, the Zakat of which has not been paid], and spend it not in the Way of Allah, -announce unto them a painful torment. [Surah at-Tawbah. Aayah 34]
Allaah [The Exalted] said:
يَـٰٓأَيُّہَا ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُواْ لِمَ تَقُولُونَ مَا لَا تَفۡعَلُونَ
ڪَبُرَ مَقۡتًا عِندَ ٱللَّهِ أَن تَقُولُواْ مَا لَا تَفۡعَلُونَ
O you who believe! Why do you say that which you do not do? Most hateful it is with Allah that you say that which you do not do. [Surah Saff. Aayah 3]
One of the most hateful [deeds] is that one speaks and gives admonition based on knowledge, but he does not act. Allaah said:
أَلَمۡ يَأۡنِ لِلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُوٓاْ أَن تَخۡشَعَ قُلُوبُہُمۡ لِذِڪۡرِ ٱللَّهِ وَمَا نَزَلَ مِنَ ٱلۡحَقِّ وَلَا يَكُونُواْ كَٱلَّذِينَ أُوتُواْ ٱلۡكِتَـٰبَ مِن قَبۡلُ فَطَالَ عَلَيۡہِمُ ٱلۡأَمَدُ فَقَسَتۡ قُلُوبُہُمۡۖ وَكَثِيرٌ۬ مِّنۡہُمۡ فَـٰسِقُونَ
Has not the time come for the hearts of those who believe (in the Oneness of Allah – Islamic Monotheism) to be affected by Allah’s Reminder (this Qur’an), and that which has been revealed of the truth, lest they become as those who received the Scripture [the Taurat (Torah) and the Injeel (Gospel)] before (i.e. Jews and Christians), and the term was prolonged for them and so their hearts were hardened? And many of them were Fasiqun (rebellious, disobedient to Allah). [Suarah Al-Hadeed. Aayah 16]
It is obligated on the Islamic Ummah to avoid the path of these misguided ones amongst the people of the scripture – those who acquired knowledge but did not act, so their hearts became corrupt and the majority of them became rebellious, disobedient. That is because not acting on knowledge leads to hardness of the heart. And when this hardness afflicts the heart, it destroys it and thus neither does the heart accept truth nor act upon knowledge. It leads to concealment of knowledge, acting contrary to knowledge, leads [the person to] follow desires and rejects truth that is a clear as the sun.
This is found in this Ummah, just as the Prophet [alayhis salaatu wassalaam] said: ‘’The best of the people are those living in my generation, then those who will follow the latter and then those who come after them. Then there will come after them people who will be treacherous and will not be trustworthy, they will bear witness without being asked to do so [a], and they will vow, but will never fulfil their vows, and fatness will appear among them.’’ [b].
They give false testimony, act treacherously and deceitfully. They behave a very sinful manner and follow evil desires, except those whom Allaah safeguards amongst the Taa’ifatul Mansoorah [i.e. the aided group of Muslims upon the straight path] – those whom Allaah’s Messenger [alayhis salaatu wassalaam] praised. Therefore, it is obligated on us to acquire knowledge for the sake of Allaah [The Mighty and Majestic] and act upon it. Ignorance is a deadly disease and knowledge is a weapon that will destroy you if you do not act upon it, and Allaah’s refuge is sought. [Ref 3]
a: Regarding the statement, ‘’They will bear witness without being asked to do so.’’ This can mean that they bear witness before being asked, or they bear witness based on falsehood, or they give witness without being from those who are worthy of it. (For further details see Sharh Saheeh Muslim 12/17)]. However, there is another Hadeeth in which the Prophet [sallal laahu alayhi wasallam] stated: ‘’Should I not inform you about the best of witnesses, they are those who bear witness before being asked.’’ The scholars say that what is intended by this hadeeth is for example: someone has a witness to give on behalf of another person based on truth, but the person does not know about it, so he [i.e. the one who should give the witness] informs the person about it; or for example, a person has already passed away and another person knows what the deceased person has left behind as inheritance, so he bears witness to that and makes it known. [Ref 4]
b: And regarding the statement, ‘’And fatness will appear among them.’’ – Meaning: These people give importance to the means of fattening themselves – food, drink and over-abundance. So, their only concern is their bodies and fattening themselves. As for being fat without choice, then one cannot be blamed for that, just as a person cannot be blamed for being tall, short, black or white…[Ref 5]
Al-Allaamah Rabee Bin Haadee [hafidhahullaah] said:
It has been reported in an authentic hadeeth -[in Saheeh Al Bukhaari and Saheeh Muslim]- that: “A man will be brought on the Day of Resurrection and thrown into the Fire, then his intestines will spill forth in the Fire and he will go around it as a donkey goes around a millstone. The people of Hell will gather around him and will say: O So and so! What is the matter with you; did you not use to enjoin good and forbid evil? He will say: Yes, I used to enjoin good, but did not do it; and I used to forbid evil and did it [i.e. commit the evil I used to forbid. [Al-Bukhaari 3267 & Muslim 2989]
After quoting this Hadeeth, Shaikh Rabee Bin Haadi [hafidhahullaah] said: Indeed, there maybe someone who is worse than this man, for he [i.e. the one worse than the man mentioned in this Hadeeth] enjoins evil and forbids good, so what will be his state of affairs, and Allaah’s Refuge is sought?! Therefore, seeking knowledge should be for the sake of Allaah and also to act [upon it], otherwise knowledge will be a cause of evil upon [the seeker] and thus he’ll remain in two situations- either in a situation where one is afflicted with the disease of ignorance or in a state where one is not benefited by knowledge, rather it becomes harmful knowledge. The knowledge Muhammad [sallal laahu alayhi wasallam] brought is beneficial in and of itself, but if a person does not act [i.e. after acquiring it], it will be a cause of evil and harm for him and he might [also] harm others. Allaah [The Exalted] said:
وَقُلِ اعْمَلُوا فَسَيَرَى اللَّهُ عَمَلَكُمْ وَرَسُولُهُ وَالْمُؤْمِنُونَ ۖ وَسَتُرَدُّونَ إِلَىٰ عَالِمِ الْغَيْبِ وَالشَّهَادَةِ فَيُنَبِّئُكُم بِمَا كُنتُمْ تَعْمَلُونَ
And say [O Muhammad] “Do deeds! Allaah will see your deeds, and [so will] His Messenger and the believers. And you will be brought back to the All-Knower of the unseen and the seen. Then He will inform you of what you used to do. [Surah At-tawbah. Aayah 105]
Act based on knowledge and know Allaah by His Perfect Names and Attributes -from Allaah’s Book [i.e. the Qur’aan] and the [authentic] Sunnah of His Messenger [sallal laahu alayhi wasallam]. Worship Allaah based on that which the Messenger conveyed [i.e. the authentic Sunnah] and based on the texts of the Qur’aan. Neither worship Allaah based on ignorance nor desires, rather worship Allaah based on knowledge. That which is sought after from seeking knowledge is to act upon it, and acting cannot be [fulfilled] except after acquiring knowledge, just as Allaah [The Blessed and Exalted] said:
فَاعْلَمْ أَنَّهُ لَا إِلَٰهَ إِلَّا اللَّهُ وَاسْتَغْفِرْ لِذَنبِكَ وَلِلْمُؤْمِنِينَ وَالْمُؤْمِنَاتِ ۗ
So know [O Muhammad] that Laa ilaaha ill-Allah [none has the right to be worshipped but Allaah], and ask forgiveness for your sin, and also for [the sin of] believing men and believing women. [Surah Muhammad. Aayah 19]
Imaam Al-Bukhaari wrote a chapter based on this Aayah, saying: Chapter: “Knowledge precedes speech and action”, because it is obligated on us to act based on knowledge and we are only to worship Allaah based on knowledge. We do not worship Allaah based on ignorance or desires. [Ref 6]
Imaam Ibraaheem Bin Adham [rahimahullaah] said:
Whoever sincerely seeks knowledge by way of which he benefits the slaves of Allaah and himself, then being unknown will be more beloved to him than bluffness. This is the one who will increase himself in humility, exertion in acts of worship, fear of Allaah and longing to (obey Allaah, carrying out His commandments, keeping away from what He has forbidden and desiring to meet Him in the afterlife), and he is humble with the people. He does not give much importance to what he goes to bed with or wakes up with (pertaining) to the things of this worldly life. [Ref 7]
Khalaf Bin Tameem [rahimahullaah] said:
I saw Ath-Thawree at Makkah and many people came to him; so he said: “To Allaah do we belong! I fear that Allaah has made this Ummah to be lost when the people are in need of the likes of me”. [Ref 8]
Distancing Oneself From Ahlul Bidah:
Aws Ibn Abdillaah Ar-Raba-iyyi Al-Basri [rahimahullaah] said, “It is more beloved to me that I sit with monkeys and pigs than sit with a man from the people of desires [i.e. the people of bidah]”. [Ref 9]
“Whoever goes out for knowledge and only desiring knowledge, it will not benefit him; but whoever goes out for knowledge and desiring to act on knowledge, he will be benefited even with little knowledge”.
Commentary: This is what is incumbent upon a student of knowledge when going out for knowledge and to the gatherings of knowledge. His aim should be that Allaah benefits him through knowledge, for indeed even a little will benefit him. As for acquiring a lot without giving concern to implementation, this will not benefit the acquirer of such knowledge; rather it will be a proof against him and not for him.
Maalik Ibn Deenaar said, “Indeed, when a slave seeks knowledge to act upon it, his knowledge will restrain him [from what is blameworthy]; but if he seeks it for other than that, it will increase him in sinful behaviour and boastfulness”.
Commentary: It will prevent him from self-importance and self-amazement; but if he seeks knowledge for other than acting upon it, he will increase in sinful behaviour and boastfulness.
“There are two acts of transgression in the Dunyaa – transgression through knowledge and transgression through wealth. And that which will save one from transgression through knowledge is [to know] that [acquiring] knowledge is worship and that which will save one from transgression through wealth is Zuhd”.
Commentary: Transgression through wealth is well known, just as Allaah said:
كَلَّآ إِنَّ ٱلۡإِنسَـٰنَ لَيَطۡغَىٰٓ
أَن رَّءَاهُ ٱسۡتَغۡنَىٰٓ
Nay! Verily, man does transgress all bounds (in disbelief and evil deed, etc.). Because he considers himself self-sufficient.
Transgression through wealth [includes] extravagance, arrogance, self-amazement, self-deception etc. The other type of transgression is through knowledge, such as boasting, showing off, desiring to be mentioned, self-amazement, self-deception etc. So, just as there are people who are afflicted with transgression through wealth, likewise there are those afflicted with transgression through knowledge. If a scholar or student is afflicted with self-amazement, self-deception and boasting, then this is all tantamount to transgression through knowledge. [Ref 10
An Example of Those Who Deviated After Acquiring Knowledge From The Upright Teachers
Bishr Bin Ghiyaath Bin Abee Kareemah Abu Abdir Rahmaan Al-Mareesee Al-Mutakallim – the Shaikh of the Mutazilah. He was one of those who misguided the Khilaafah Al-Ma’moon and the first thing he used to do is look at an affair that will bring about trial and tribulation. His father was a Jewish dyer in Kufa. He first acquire knowledge from Imaam Abu Yusuf Al-Qaadhee [rahimahullaah] and narrated hadeeth from him. He also narrated hadeeth from Hammad Bin Salamah, Sufyaan Ath-Thawree and others [rahimahumullaah], then he was overwhelmed by theological rhetoric. Imam Ash-Shaafi’ee [rahimahullaah] did advise him to refrain from theological rhetoric but he did not accept the advice. Imaam Ash-Shaafi’ee said: “It is better for a man to be put to trial with everything that Allaah has forbidden except Shirk than looking into theological rhetoric. Indeed I have come across affairs from the proponents of theological rhetoric that which I never thought I would come across”. He first met Bishr after entering Baghdaad at a time in which Bishr revived his speech that the Qur’aan is created and some evil speech was transmitted from him. Bishr was also a Murji and the Mareesiyyah sect amongst the Murji’ah are ascribed to him. [Ref 11]
The Perils of Seeking Leadership
Imaam Ibn Rajab [rahimahullaah] said:
Eagerness for high status is of two types: The first type is seeking high status through leadership, authority and wealth. This is very dangerous and in most cases it prevents [a person] from [acquiring] the good of the afterlife, its nobility, honour and elevated station. Allaah [The Most High] said: [تِلْكَ الدَّارُ الْآخِرَةُ نَجْعَلُهَا لِلَّذِينَ لَا يُرِيدُونَ عُلُوًّا فِي الْأَرْضِ وَلَا فَسَادًا ۚ وَالْعَاقِبَةُ لِلْمُتَّقِينَ – That home of the Hereafter [i.e. Paradise], We shall assign to those who rebel not against the truth with pride and oppression in the land nor do mischief by committing crimes. And the good end is for the Muttaqoon]. [Al-Qasas. Ayah 83]
The second type is seeking high status and to be raised in status above the people through the religious affairs, such as knowledge, deeds and Zuhd. This is more abominable than the first type and greater in danger and corruption, because knowledge, deeds and Zuhd are [affairs] by way of which one seeks what Allaah [has prepared for His slaves] of high station and everlasting bliss [in the afterlife]- a means to drawing close to Him [i.e. by way of sincere and righteous deeds] and to receive His favours [in the worldly life and afterlife]. Imaam Sufyaan Ath-thawree [rahimahullaah] said: “Knowledge has more virtue because it is for the [purpose] of attaining fear of Allaah; and if not, it is just like all other things.’’ [Ref 12]
Shaikhul Islaam Ibn Taymiyyah [rahimahullaah] said: Therefore, he [sallal laahu alayhi wasallam] clarified that the corruption [caused] through craving for wealth and high status in the religion cannot be lesser than the corruption [caused] by two hungry wolves let loose among a livestock, and that is [something] manifest; for indeed there is [nothing] of this [type] of craving in the sound religion. That is because when the heart tastes the sweetness of servitude to Allaah and love of Him, nothing else becomes more beloved to it than that. And through this, evil and immorality are averted from the people who are sincere to Allaah. [Ref 13]
Shaikhul Islaam Ibn Taymiyyah [rahimahullaah] also said: The seeker of leadership- even through falsehood- becomes pleased with a statement that contains an exaltation of him, even if it is falsehood; and becomes angered by a statement that contains a rebuke against him, even if it is truth. [As for] the believer [i.e. the one with strong Eemaan and fear of Allaah], he is pleased with a statement of truth whether it is for or against him; and he is angered by a statement of falsehood whether it is for or against him. That is because Allaah [The Most High] loves truth, truthfulness and justice, and He hates lies and oppression. [Ref 14]
[Ref 1: Fadlul Ilm. page: 597]
[Ref 2: Sharh Riyadh al-Saliheen 3/436]
[Ref 3: Marhaban Yaa Taalibal Ilm pages 268-270]
[Ref 4: Fat-hul Baari 5/260]
[Ref 5: Majmoo Al-Fataawaa 10/1056 -By Shaikh Uthaymeen (rahimahullaah)]
[Ref 6: Marhaban Yaa Taalibal Ilm. Pages 270-271. Slightly paraphrased]
[Ref 7: Source: Shu’ab Al-Eemaan of Imaam Bayhaqqee 2/288]
[Ref 8: Siyar 7/275]
[Ref 9: Source: Seeratus Salaf As-Saaleh by: Imaam Ismaaeel Bin Muhammad Bin Fadl Al-Asbahaanee (535AH: Chapter: A mention of those who followed the companions in righteousness]
[10: Sharh Iqtidaa Al-Ilm Al-A’mal. Lesson 1. By Shaikh Abdur Razzaaq al-Badr]
[Ref 11: An Excerpt from Al-Bidaayah Wan-Nihaayah. Vol 10. Page 281]
[Ref 12: Excerpts from the book (Two hungry wolves let loose amongst a flock of sheep) pages: 29, 47 & 53]
[Ref 13: An Excerpt from (Majmoo Al-Fataawaa) 10/215]
[Ref 14: Majmoo Al-Fataawaa: 10/600]