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Imam Al-Nawawi's Riyad-us-Saliheen

Chapter 241

Virtues of Knowledge which is Learnt and Taught for the sake of Allah

Allah, the Exalted, says:


"And say: `My Rubb! Increase me in knowledge.'' (20:114)


"Are those who know equal to those who know not?''' (39:9)


"Allah will exalt in degree those of you who believe, and those who have been granted knowledge.'' (58:11)


"It is only those who have knowledge among His slaves that fear Allah.'' (35:28)  


1376. Mu`awiyah (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: The Messenger of Allah said, "When Allah wishes good for someone, He bestows upon him the understanding of Deen.''  [Al-Bukhari and Muslim].


Commentary:  Knowledge and understanding of Deen (religion) here stands for the understanding of the Qur'an and Hadith, religious injunctions, and knowledge of the lawful and the unlawful. This Hadith highlights the excellence of knowledge and the fact that it is a sign of Allah's Help to the person who possesses it and acts upon it.  


1377. Ibn Mas`ud (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: The Prophet (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) said, "Envy is permitted only in two cases: A man whom Allah gives wealth, and he disposes of it rightfully, and a man to whom Allah gives knowledge which he applies and teaches it.'' [Al-Bukhari and Muslim].


Commentary:  According to Imam An-Nawawi's explanation, the word Hasad (jealousy) is used in the sense of Ghibtah  i.e., envy. In Islam, jealousy is forbidden and is held unlawful. The reason being that one who is jealous wants that the person, who possesses the quality of which he is jealous, be deprived of that quality. Envy is permissible for the reason that when one seems that a person has been graced by Allah with certain gifts and qualities, he also desires to be blessed with those gifts. In the latter case, he does not grumble and grieve but eagerly prays to Allah for those gifts. `Knowledge' here stands for the knowledge of the Qur'an and Hadith because this knowledge alone is beneficial for man, and it is through this knowledge that correct judgements can be made among the people. This Hadith has an inducement for acquiring useful knowledge along with wealth to spend in the ways ordained by Allah.  


1378. Abu Musa (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: The Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) said, "The guidance and knowledge with which Allah has sent me are like abundant rain which fell on a land. A fertile part of it absorbed the water and brought forth profuse herbage and pasture; and solid ground patches which retained the water by which Allah has benefited people, who drank from it, irrigated their crops and sowed their seeds; and another sandy plane which could neither retain the water nor produce herbage. Such is the similitude of the person who becomes well-versed in the religion of Allah and receives benefit from the Message entrusted to me by Allah, so he himself has learned and taught it to others; such is also the similitude of the person who has stubbornly and ignorantly rejected Allah's Guidance with which I have been sent.''

[Al-Bukhari and Muslim]


Commentary:  This Hadith has already been mentioned, and is repeated here to highlight the eminence of knowledge and to induce Muslims to gain it. We learn from this Hadith that there are three categories of people. First, those who acquire knowledge of the Qur'an and Hadith, act upon it and also impart it to others. Such people benefit from this knowledge themselves and extend this benefit to others also. By virtue of this quality they are the best of all. Second, those people who acquire knowledge and impart it to others, but do not fulfill the requirements of that knowledge. Such people are inferior in rank to the people of the first category and can be taken to task for their omissions. Third, those who shun the knowledge of the Qur'an and Hadith. Neither they study and hear the two themselves for their own benefit, nor do they acquire knowledge to impart it to others for their benefit. This is the worst category of people. Every Muslim should try to be in the first category of the people.  


1379. Sahl bin Sa`d (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: The Prophet (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) said to `Ali (May Allah be pleased with him), "By Allah, if a single person is guided by Allah through you, it will be better for you than a whole lot of red camels.''   [Al-Bukhari and Muslim].


Commentary: "Better for you than red camels'' is an allegory for every thing that is better than anything else. Red camels used to be precious in Arabia, and their reference here is to highlight the value of guidance. Thus, this Hadith brings into prominence the importance of calling people towards Allah. But before calling others to the path of Allah, one must himself know it, and for this purpose, the knowledge of the Qur'an and Hadith is essential because one cannot provide any guidance in this respect without this knowledge.  


1380. `Abdullah bin `Amr bin Al-`As (May Allah be pleased with them) reported: The Prophet (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) said, "Convey from me even an Ayah of the Qur'an; relate traditions from Banu Israel, and there is no restriction on that; but he who deliberately forges a lie against me let him have his abode in the Hell.''



Commentary:  This Hadith contains the following three important points:


1. It stresses the importance of acquiring knowledge of the Qur'an and Hadith and imparting it to others. No matter whether one has more or less knowledge, he must communicate it to others. There is no justification to presume that preaching or inviting to the Message of Allah is the duty of religious scholars and those who are well-versed in this sphere. In fact, it is a duty upon every Muslim, so much so that if a person knows even a single Verse of the Qur'an, that is to say if he knows only one injunction of Allah, he is duty bound to communicate it to other people.


2. It allows the communication of Jewish Traditions but this permission is subject to the condition that such Traditions are not against the elucidations of the Qur'an and Hadith.


3. There is a stern warning on attributing any false saying to the Prophet (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam). This demands strict scrutiny of Ahadith. If a Hadith does not have a reliable authority or whose chain of narrators has a false link or a person of doubtful integrity, that is to say if it is weak, then it is a serious offense to quote it as a Hadith of the Prophet (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam). There are various grades of weakness, and this requires deep knowledge of the narrators and principles of Hadith to know them since scholars who are expert in this discipline are few and far. The safest course for ordinary scholars is to refrain from stating such Ahadith which are weak, no matter whether the weakness is serious or slight. The reason is that although the majority of Muhaddithun consider the slightly weak Ahadith acceptable but they cannot be identified by everybody. Thus, every Hadith which is marked as weak should not be mentioned. In the present age Sheikh Nasiruddin Al-Albani has done a very remarkable work in this field. He has separated the weak Ahadith found in the four famous volumes of Ahadith (Sunnan Abu Dawud, At-Tirmidhi, An-Nasa'i and Ibn Majah) from the authentic and prepared separate volumes of authentic and weak Ahadith. This work of Al-Albani has made it easy for the ordinary `Ulama' to identify the weak Ahadith. Only a man of Sheikh Al-Albani's calibre can do research on it. The ordinary `Ulama' and religious scholars of the Muslims are heavily indebted to him for this great work and they should keep it in view before mentioning any Hadith. They should mention only the authentic Ahadith and refrain from quoting the weak ones. It is wrong to ignore this work on the ground that Sheikh Al-Albani is not the last word on the subject. There can be a possibility of error in his work because it is after all a human effort, but it will be very unfair to regard his effort of no account merely because of a possible error. It is regrettable indeed that only because of this possible error many people refuse to accept even the correctness of the Sahihain. (i.e., Sahih Al-Bukhari and Sahih Muslim). Should we then accept their view? No, certainly not. So there is no sense in not making use of Sheikh Al-Albani's matchless contribution. As Muhaddithun have done a great service to the Muslim Ummah by collecting and compiling the Ahadith, similarly in the style of Muhaddithun, and in keeping with the principles laid down by them, the research carried out to separate the authentic Ahadith from the weak is in fact an effort to complete their mission. In this age, Almighty Allah has bestowed this honour on Sheikh Al-Albani. May Allah protect him, give him the best of the reward and give him a long life.


We now revert to the subject under discussion and say that no such saying and practice should be attributed to the Prophet (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) the authenticity of which is doubtful. On this principle, weak Ahadith, should not be mentioned. It is very unfortunate indeed that in spite of such a stern warning, many of our `Ulama' are not careful in this matter. Not to speak of weak Ahadith, they do not hesitate to mention even Ahadith Maudu`ah  forged Ahadith) only to adorn their speech. May Allah guide them to the Right Path. In fact, there is a class of religious scholars who try to refute the authentic Ahadith and validate the weak ones only to add credence to their own juristic school. May Allah save us from such evils.   


1381. Abu Hurairah (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: The Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) said, "Allah makes the way to Jannah easy for him who treads the path in search of knowledge.''  [Muslim].


Commentary:  This Hadith has already been mentioned in full. See the Commentary on Hadith No. 247. A part of it which relates to the eminence of knowledge has been reproduced here. In this Hadith, knowledge means the knowledge of the religion, that is to say the correct knowledge of the Qur'an and Hadith which is acquired without any prejudice of any juristic school. Otherwise juristic prejudice can turn knowledge into great obstruction. May Allah bestow His Mercy on us.  


1382. Abu Hurairah (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: The Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) said, "He who calls others to follow the Right Guidance will have a reward equal to the reward of those who follow him, without their reward being diminished in any respect on that account.''  [Muslim].


Commentary:  This Hadith has already been mentioned. This Hadith has glad tidings for those who learn the knowledge of religion, teach it and impart it to others.  


1383. Abu Hurairah (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: The Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) said, "When a man dies, his deeds come to an end except for three things: Sadaqah Jariyah (ceaseless charity); a knowledge which is beneficial, or a virtuous decendant who prays for him (for the deceased).''  [Muslim].


Commentary:  "His deeds come to an end'' means that he does not any longer receive the return and reward on his actions. But there are three categories of actions on which he receives reward even after his death. First, Sadaqah Jariyah such as building a mosque, or a hospital, or digging a well. As long as people will benefit from these, he will receive a reward for them. Second, "knowledge which is beneficial'' means to impart knowledge to others or to propagate knowledge by means of one's books. As long as this medium of teaching will continue and his books will be studied and people will benefit from them, he will receive a reward for it. Third, virtuous descendants. Training of children on the right lines is essential so that after a person's death they continue to pray for him. The prayer of children in favour of parents is highly useful.  


1384. Abu Hurairah (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: The Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) said, "The world, with all that it contains, is accursed except for the remembrance of Allah that which pleases Allah; and the religious scholars and seekers of knowledge.'' [At-Tirmidhi].


Commentary:  This Hadith has already been mentioned. It does not mean that this world, and whatever is in it, is really cursed. What it in fact means is that such things of this world are cursed which make a person negligent of the remembrance of Allah; or it is cursed for those who in their whole life do not remember Allah. This Hadith has been mentioned in the present chapter, which relates to knowledge for the reason that acquisition of knowledge is essential to know that such and such work will be a source of winning the Pleasure of Allah and such and such act will incur His displeasure. This is the reason the teacher and the learner have been included in the exemptions from the curse.  


1385. Anas (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: The Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) said, "He who goes forth in search of knowledge is considered as struggling in the Cause of Allah until he returns.''  [At-Tirmidhi].


Commentary:  In this Hadith the acquisition of knowledge has been equated with Jihad for the sake of Allah. Sheikh Al-Albani has regarded this Hadith weak in his "Takhriju Fiqh As-Sunnah''.  


1386. Abu Sa`id Al-Khudri (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: The Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) said, "A believer never satisfies doing good until he reaches Jannah.''  [At-Tirmidhi].


Commentary: According to this Hadith, it is a quality of a Muslim that he is very much concerned about acquiring virtues and doing good, and he is never tired of struggling for them and live by them so much so that in this struggle he reaches the end of his life. By mentioning this Hadith in Kitab-ul-`Ilm  it has been made evident that the best of the virtues is learning and teaching of religious knowledge because it is actually this knowledge which enables a person to distinguish between good and evil.  


1387. Abu Umamah (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: The Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) said, "The superiority of the learned over the devout worshipper is like my superiority over the most inferior amongst you (in good deeds).'' He went on to say, "Allah, His angels, the dwellers of the heaven and the earth, and even the ant in its hole and the fish (in water) supplicate in favour of those who teach people knowledge.''  [At-Tirmidhi].


Commentary: `Alim (learned person) here means scholar of the Qur'an and Hadith, who adheres to Faraid and Sunnah and remains busy in learning and imparting knowledge. `Abid (devout worshipper) is one who spends most of his time in the worship of Allah. The benefit of his voluntary prayer and remembrance of Allah is restricted to his own self while the benefit of knowledge of the scholar reaches others also. Hence, of the two, the latter is far superior.


If Salat is mentioned with reference to Allah, it denotes "Allah's Grace with Mercy;'' if it is mentioned with reference to the angels, it denotes "to pray for forgiveness;'' and if it is mentioned with reference to other creatures - men, animals, etc., - then it means prayer and supplication. Thus, Allah graces that person with His Mercy who teach people the beneficial knowledge, i.e., the knowledge of Islam; angels pray to Allah to forgive his (or her) sins; and other creatures pray for his (or her) well-being. In this way, this Hadith stresses the distinction of religious scholars and highlights the esteem in which they are held by Allah, His angels and His other creatures.  


1388. Abud-Darda (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: The Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) said, "He who follows a path in quest of knowledge, Allah will make the path of Jannah easy to him. The angels lower their wings over the seeker of knowledge, being pleased with what he does. The inhabitants of the heavens and the earth and even the fish in the depth of the oceans seek forgiveness for him. The superiority of the learned man over the devout worshipper is like that of the full moon to the rest of the stars (i.e., in brightness). The learned are the heirs of the Prophets who bequeath neither dinar nor dirham but only that of knowledge; and he who acquires it, has in fact acquired an abundant portion.''   [Abu Dawud and At-Tirmidhi].


Commentary:  Like the preceding Ahadith, this Hadith also mentions the eminence of learning religious knowledge, and respecting and honouring `Ulama'.  


1389. Ibn Mas`ud (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: I heard the Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) saying, "May Allah freshen the affairs of a person who hears something from us and communicates it to others exactly as he has heard it (i.e., both the meaning and the words). Many a recipient of knowledge understands it better than the one who has heard it.''  [At-Tirmidhi].


Commentary:  Besides mentioning the eminence of knowledge, this Hadith contains inducement for preaching and inviting people towards the path of Allah. It also urges us to communicate knowledge exactly as we have heard it, without changing anything in the least.  


1390. Abu Hurairah (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: The Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) said, "He who is asked about knowledge (of religion) and conceals it, will be bridled with a bridle of fire on the Day of Resurrection.''

[Abu Dawud and At-Tirmidhi].


Commentary:  We learn from this Hadith that to withhold guidance in the matter of religion from anybody who seeks it, is a grave sin which is threatened with Hell. Unfortunately, the religious scholars who are shackled in religious prejudices and terribly lack interest in juristic matters have developed a habit of concealing religious knowledge from people. In fact, this grave sin has become so alarming that any further delay to eradicate it will prove ruinous for us. May Allah grant us true guidance.  


1391. Abu Hurairah (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: The Messenger of Allah(sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) said, "He who does not acquire knowledge with the sole intention of seeking the Pleasure of Allah but for worldly gain, will not smell the fragrance of Jannah on the Day of Resurrection.''  [Abu Dawud].


Commentary:  This Hadith has an inducement for acquiring knowledge for the Pleasure of Allah alone. If a religious scholar acquires it to make it a means of worldly gains, then it turns to such a serious crime that such a scholar will not even smell the fragrance of Jannah (i.e., he will not enter it along with the saved). May Allah save us from it. However, if a scholar gains wealth and worldly gains through it without any intention, then it is altogether a different matter. In that case, it is not harmful for him as long as he uses it in a manner pleasing to Allah.  


1392. `Abdullah bin `Amr bin Al-`As (May Allah be pleased with them) reported: I heard the Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) saying: "Verily, Allah does not take away knowledge by snatching it from the people, but He takes it away by taking away (the lives of) the religious scholars till none of the scholars stays alive. Then the people will take ignorant ones as their leaders, who, when asked to deliver religious verdicts, will issue them without knowledge, the result being that they will go astray and will lead others astray.''   [Al-Bukhari and Muslim].


Commentary:  It is a sign of the nearness of the Day of Judgement that the world will be deprived of genuine religious scholars, and illiterate people will become leaders who will have neither the knowledge of the Qur'an nor that of the Hadith. Despite their ignorance of the Qur'an and the Hadith, they will be called Mujtahid (jurist entitled to independent reasoning) and Imam (leader) and will mislead people with their legal opinions and self-created problems. Besides urging us to acquire religious knowledge with a view to producing more scholars in the society, this Hadith also warns us against the ignorant self-styled `Ulama'. It also warns us against entrusting religious leadership to them.

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