Story Narrated By Ibnul Arabi: [How Students Can Bring Amazing Benefits When Correcting Mistakes of Teachers]


In The Name of Allaah, The Most Merciful, The Bestower of Mercy.

Firstly, may Allaah reward Ustaadh with good – Abu Tasneem Mushaf al-Banghaalee [may Allaah preserve him] -for suggesting that we share this story.


Ibnul Arabi [may Allaah have mercy upon him] said:

Muhammad Bin Qaasim Al-Uthmaanee [may Allaah have mercy upon him] told me more than once: “I arrived in Fustat one day, then I went to the gathering of Shaikh Abee Al-Fadl Al-Jawharee [may Allaah have mercy upon him] and there I witnessed a statement that he uttered to the people. And that which he stated – in the first gathering when I sat with him – was that ‘The Messenger [peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him] طلق – i.e. he did divorce, ظاهر – i.e. he did utter the statement to a wife, ‘You are like my mother’s back’, and آلى – i.e. he made an oath to abandon his wives for a month’. When he (i.e. Shaikh Abee Al-Fadl Al-Jawharee) left, I followed him until I reached his house with a group of people. So, he sat with us in the vestibule and acquainted them with my affair because he saw stranger [i.e. I (Muhammad Bin Qaasim)] did not know the person among those who came to him before. So, when most of them departed from him, he said to me, ‘I see that you are a stranger; do you have anything to say?’ I said, ‘Yes’. He said to his companions, ‘Excuse him from having to speak in your presence’. So, they got up and I stayed alone with him. I said to him, ‘I attended your gathering today so that Allaah may bless me (with some the knowledge you possess), and I heard you say, ‘Allaah’s Messenger [peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him] آلى – i.e. he once made an oath to abandon his wives for a month and what you said was true; طلق – i.e. he did divorce women, and what you said was true; and you said that Allaah’s Messenger [peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him] ظاهر i.e. he did utter the statement to a wife, ‘You are like my mother’s back’ , but this never happened and can never be correct to say that it happened, because indeed Az-Zihaar [i.e. to say to one’s wife, ‘You are like my mother’s back’ (i.e. unlawful for me to approach)] is an evil statement and false speech, and this can never be uttered by the Prophet [peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him]. (I) So, he hugged and kissed my forehead, and said, ‘I repent from this statement. May Allaah reward you on my behalf as a good teacher’. Then I departed from his presence, and the next day I went early to his gathering; but he was in the Central Mosque before me and was sat on the pulpit. When I entered the Masjid and thus he saw me, he called out at the top of his voice (saying), ‘Welcome, my teacher. Make room for my teacher’. So, the people turned towards me and the eyes stared at me! O Abu Bakr! And you know me – meaning, he (i.e. Muhammad Bin Qaasim Al-Uthmaanee) was indicating to Ibnul Arabi about his extreme shy character, because when someone greeted him by surprise, he would feel shy – due to his extreme shyness – and turned red as if his face was painted with Gulnaar (pomegranate blossom). He (i.e. Muhammad Bin Qaasim) continued, ‘People hastened towards me, raising their hands towards me (i.e. acknowledging me) and nudging me until I reached the pulpit, and I did not know in which part of the earth I was due to my extreme shyness (i.e. shocked), whilst the Masjid was overcrowded with people and I sweated due to shyness. Then the Shaikh turned towards the people and said to them, ‘I am your teacher and this is my teacher! Yesterday, I told you that Allaah’s Messenger آلى – i.e. he once made an oath to abandon his wives for a month; طلق – i.e. he did divorce women, and ظاهر i.e. he once uttered the statement to a wife, ‘You are like my mother’s back’, and neither did a single one of you give me the correct understanding nor responded to me; but he (i.e. Muhammad Bin Qaasim) followed me to my house and said such and such to me. I repeat (i.e. right now) what took place between him and I, repent from my yesterday’s statement and return to the truth. Whoever hears it from those who were present, then let him not rely on (depend on, trust) what he says; and let the one who is present convey this affair to the one who is absent. May Allaah reward him with good. Then he (i.e. Shaikh Abee Al-Fadl) started supplicating a lot and the people responded with Aameen”. After narrating this story, Ibnul Arabi stated, “So look – may Allah have mercy upon you – at this firm adherence to the religion and an acknowledgement of the people of knowledge given by this man – whose leadership was manifest and whose worth was well known- to a stranger whom he neither knew nor where he came from! Follow his example and you’ll be led aright. [Ahkaam Al-Qur’aan 1/248-249. paraphrased]

Shaikh Abdus Salaam Burgess [may Allaah have mercy upon him] said, “Just as it is obligated on a student to recant a mistake, then likewise it is obligated on a teacher to return to the truth when he errs. He is not to be prevented from returning to the truth after reviewing a statement he made and finds that it is in opposition to what is correct, because indeed that is a sign of equity and humbling (oneself) to the truth. Therefore, it is obligatory that one follows what is correct, whether it was (conveyed) by a younger or older person. And it is blessing for a teacher that he has amongst his students one who notifies him of his mistake and leads him to what is correct, so that he does not persist on that ignorance. This requires that one shows gratitude to Allaah [The Exalted] and then being thankful to the person through whom one was guided (to what is correct), whether it was a student or other than him”. [An Excerpt from ‘Awā’iq at-Talab pg. 52 Slightly paraphrased]

Beware of pride the disease of the despots, because indeed pride, avarice and (blameworthy) envy were the first sins through which Allaah was disobeyed”. Brief Comment: The Prophet [sallal laahu alayhi wasallam] said, “Pride is to reject the truth and mock at the people”. This refers to shaytaan’s behaviour when he was commanded to prostrate to Aadam, but pride prevented him from doing so. He refused and was haughty.

“Raising yourself above your teacher is pride and being arrogant towards the one who benefits you from amongst those who are below you (in knowledge) is pride”. Brief Comment: Raising oneself can either be by way of the tongue (i.e. speech) and it can also be by way of sentiments (feelings, attitude, behaviour etc). He (i.e. the student) maybe walking with his teacher, whilst swaggering and saying, “I did this and I did this. Likewise, being arrogant towards the one who is below you in knowledge is pride. This also occurs from some of the students that if someone below him in knowledge informs him of something, you find him arrogant and does not accept. [An Excerpt from ‘Sharh Hilyati Taalibil Ilm’ pages 38-40. By Imaam Muhammad Ibn Saaleh Al-Uthaymeen (may Allaah have mercy upon him). slightly paraphrased]

Imaam al-Bukhaari [may Allaah have mercy upon him] said: A man will not become well facilitated [or prepared] until he takes knowledge from one above him, one similar to him and one below him. (1)

Imaam Abdullaah Ibnul Mubaarak [may Allaah have mercy upon him] said: A man will be from the [students or scholars] of Hadeeth until he writes from someone similar to him, someone above him and someone below him. (2)

Imaam Sufyaan Ibn Uyaynah [may Allaah have mercy upon him] said: A man will not be from the [students or scholars] of Hadeeth until he takes from someone above him, someone below him and someone similar to him. (3)

Al-Allaamah Rabee Bin Haadee Al-Madkhalee [may Allaah preserve him] said: The entire life of a person is spent in seeking knowledge – from the cradle to the grave. He does not feel proud to acquire truth from a young or older person and he never rejects truth, whether it is stated by a Muslim or Unbeliever.

Moosaa [peace be upon him] was spoken to directly by Allaah and the Tawraat was revealed to him, which contained Hudaa [i.e. that which guides a person to Eemaan, truth and protects one from misguidance] and Noor [i.e. a guiding light in the midst of the darkness of ignorance, confusion, doubts, beliefs and deeds that appear to be truth but are falsehood in reality and evil desires], but when he knew that another person possessed knowledge of that which he did not possess, [Allaah informed us he (Moosaa) said]:

لَا أَبْرَحُ حَتَّىٰ أَبْلُغَ مَجْمَعَ الْبَحْرَيْنِ أَوْ أَمْضِيَ حُقُبًا

I will not give up (travelling) until I reach the junction of the two seas or (until) I spend years and years in travelling. [Surah Al-Kahf. Aayah 60]  He went on foot – neither had a car nor a riding beast, nor a horse; [rather] he travelled on foot. (4)

Footnote I: Zihaar: Allaah [The Exalted] said:

ٱلَّذِينَ يُظَـٰهِرُونَ مِنكُم مِّن نِّسَآٮِٕهِم مَّا هُنَّ أُمَّهَـٰتِهِمۡ‌ۖ إِنۡ أُمَّهَـٰتُهُمۡ إِلَّا ٱلَّـٰٓـِٔى وَلَدۡنَهُمۡ‌ۚ وَإِنَّہُمۡ لَيَقُولُونَ مُنڪَرً۬ا مِّنَ ٱلۡقَوۡلِ وَزُورً۬ا‌ۚ وَإِنَّ

Those among you who make their wives unlawful (Az-Zihar) to them by saying to them “You are like my mother’s back.” They cannot be their mothers. None can be their mothers except those who gave them birth. And verily, they utter an evil statement and a lie. [Surah Al-Mujaadilah. Verse 2]


Ref 1: Quoted by Shaikh Abdullah Al-Bukhaari in Sharh Umdatul Ahkaam. Lesson 1
Ref 2: Taareekh Baghdaad by Al-Khateeb Al-Baghdaadee 5/68
Ref 3: Al-Jaami Li-Akhlaaq Ar-Raawee 2/218
Ref 4: Marhaban Yaa Taalibal Ilm. 245-248. Slightly paraphrased

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