Khutbah by Abdul Baarie/Ath-Thubaitie
Fellow Muslims! Speaking about great scholars is not an easy task, for however you try to grasp the life of any of them you will not be able to do so. Even you may miss the most important and the most impressive aspect of his life.
The way of life of the earliest great Ulamaa is the exemplar par excellence and showing that is an encouragement to our youths in order to discourage them from imitating evil people who have neither positive role to play in this life nor any value in human history.
Our speech about the scholars does not in any way mean being partisan to any one of them, for everybody can have his word accepted or rejected except the impeccable Prophet Muhammad (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam - may peace and blessings of Allah be upon him).
Our man of today’s talk is that great Imaam who grew up in the city of Madinah, whose mention is elevated and whose knowledge has filled the earth. He taught people in the corners of the great Prophet’s mosque and became so popular that people called him “The scholar of Madinah” or “the Imaam of the city of Hijrah”.
Maalik Ibn Anas was born in the Prophet’s city and grew up there as a lover and seeker of knowledge in spite of his poverty. His mother gave him good upbringing by telling him: “Go to Rabee’ah and learn from him manners before you learn knowledge”. This woman knew her role in life and her mission of educating and grooming the youth. She knew that manners are good companions of knowledge and that knowledge is valueless without manners. This woman moulded a man and as such moulded a nation.
Mother’s role is not restricted to nurturing body and guarding it against physical diseases. Rather, she has greater mission to accomplish. Her mission includes strengthening the faith, building a strong personality, developing intellectual capability and encouraging children to aim high. All these cannot be achieved except by first giving preference to meritorious act of upbringing over concerns for this world.
This was what actually happened in the life of Maalik and that was what made him a school in manners from whom students learn and the whole Ummah benefits.
Maalik once told a Quraishee youth: “O my nephew, learn manners before you learn knowledge”.
Yahya ibn Yahya At-Tameemee said: “I stayed with Maalik after the completion of my learning knowledge from him for a year in order to learn manners and good qualities from him. And the qualities are the same as those of the companions of the Prophet and those who followed them.”
Brothers in faith! Modern educational methods sometimes appear like mere texts that are devoid of any moral content thereby making knowledge losing its splendour and impact. If knowledge were to be separated from manners – however much the knowledge may be – you will see a huge defect in its influence on people’s conduct and purity of their deeds. Therefore, there is no good in a knowledge that does not earn one good morals.
Creating a gap between knowledge and manners breeds ill behaviours like attacking the Ulamaa, being rude to them, bad conduct, maltreatment of parents, blind imitation of unbelievers in matters of dressing and being hostile to teachers and educators either physically and verbally.
The city of the Prophet had a significant impact on Maalik’s personality, for it has been flourishing with scholars. The first school in Islamic history was the Prophet’s mosque and there have always been classes there conducted by competent scholars and these classes provided the Muslim children with good education that guaranteed for them religious and moral qualities that make man good-mannered.
Brothers in faith! It goes without saying that bad environment only destroys and does not build …If not, what is the benefit of teaching a child Islamic values in the morning and in the evening he goes to bad companies who destroy what his parents has put in order? Or what is the benefit of teaching a child manners for years and then to be taken to corruption ridden environment by his very father?!
Imaam Maalik sat to give fatwa (formal legal opinion) and did not do so until 70 scholars had attested to his worthiness of that. What a difference between the one who praises and forward himself and the one who is praised and forwarded by the knowledgeable and distinguished people! Maalik said: “It is not everyone who would like to sit in the mosque and teach the hadith and give fatwa are worthy of that. Let the one who wants to sit for fatwa first seek for the advice of pious and distinguished people; if they see that he is fit for that, let him do that; for I did not sit to teach hadith and give fatwa until 70 scholars attested to his worthiness of that.”
Imaam Maalik said: “I am only human, I make mistakes and I do give correct opinions. As for my opinions, examine them, if they are in accordance with Sunnah take them.” With this valuable statement, Maalik established a moderate line between those who follow their leaders blindly and those who reject authentic evidences outright and reject the sayings of scholars and say, “They are men and we are also men.”
What a difference between those men and these men! What a difference between dead men whom Allah immortalises their names for centuries and valueless men who though are living are counted among the dead! Mere mention of the formers’ names activates the heats while keeping the company of the latter deadens the hearts. Those scholars of eminence did not only possess knowledge but were also leaders in morals, piety, self-abstinence and fear of Allah.
There are however some followers of these scholars who prefer only imitation and do not wish to exceed that in spite of their ability to differentiate between the truth and falsehood.
It is also a mistake to look down upon other people’s works or to feel that one’s good deed is better than others. This is because all these talents and capabilities are provisions from Allah and not from any human being. This is a great concept that Maalik wanted to show people that serving Islam is an obligation that should involve every Muslim in all professions without anyone revolting against others. Maalik wrote to one of the worshippers of his time, “Allah has portioned out deeds as He has portioned out provisions. Many are endowed with energy and the will to pray (as many supererogatory prayers as possible) but are not endowed with (much of voluntary) fasting; others are endowed with giving charity but are not endowed with fasting; others are endowed with Jihad and others with seeking for knowledge. Spreading knowledge is one of the best deeds and I am contented with Allah has endowed one with and I do not think that what I do is less meritorious than what you do but hope that both of us are doing good and righteous deeds.”
Therefore charitable people, worshippers, those who spend their times in the cause of Allah, the scholars, the propagators of Islam and those serving Islam in their various fields are all doing righteous deeds - if they are sincere in their intentions.
Whenever Maalik was asked a question, he would tell the questioner, “Go now and let me think over it.” When the questioner was gone, Maalik’s students would ask him the reason for what he said and he would answer. “I fear a Day with the Questioner (Allah) and what a (terrible) Day!”
A man was sent by the people of Maghrib to ask Imaam Maalik about some issues. The man would ask Maalik a question and he would say, ‘I do not know, for we do not know of this issue in our land and we have not heard any of our scholars saying anything about it, but you can come back again!’ On the following day, the man went back to Maalik and Maalik told him: “You asked me question but I do not know the answer!’ the man said: ‘ O Abu Abdullaah! I came from a people who think that there is none in the world who is more knowledgeable than you!’ Maalik answered: “I am not perfect.’
He was also asked a question and he asked the questioner to give him time to make some research and the man said: ‘But the issue is very simple. Maalik retorted, ‘There is nothing simple in knowledge! Don’t you her the saying of Allah: “ We shall send down to you a weighty word.” (Qur’an 73:4)
Maalik used to say, “The people of knowledge and understanding that I have met in our country, when one of them was asked a question on an issue, he would feel like the one about to die. But the people of our own time love giving fatwaa (without hesitation). Had they know what they are going to face tomorrow (in the Day of Judgment) they would not have done that. Umar, Ali and ‘Alqamah are some of the best companions of the Prophet, yet when anyone of them was asked a question, he would consult his fellow companions before giving an answer to it. But it is unfortunate that fatwaa has become the pride for the people of our time”
These are the erudite and sagacious scholars who filled the world with their knowledge and good deeds and yet used to say, “I do not know”. You will however be surprised to see some people who know next to nothing about Islamic law and yet desecrating it by speaking about the allowed and forbidden things. Even, a topic on Islamic law may come forth in a meeting and the meeting will not end before all the attendants -irrespective if their different fields of knowledge - give their opinions saying for instance, ‘According to my view . . .’ ‘As far as I believe . . .’, etc.
SubhaanAllah! When did the matter of legalising and forbidding become a subject to ignorance and conjecture?!! If an engineer were to practise medicine and prescribe drugs, what are you going to say about him and what is going to be his fate?! What then about the one who dares to desecrate the Islamic law and speak about the lawful and forbidden things without knowledge particularly on special events that are so complicated that if Umar were to witness such events, he would have gathered all the companions who took part in the Battle of Badr to help solve the problem. But unfortunately fatwa in our age has become a spacious ground in which all those who wish to become popular or are seeking people’s pleasure at the risk of Allah’s displeasure contest.
Brothers in faith! Issues pertaining to Islamic belief are static ones over which no one is allowed to give his independent judgment. Likewise are issues that have evidences in the Qur’an and Sunnah and issues on which scholars have consensus. It is incumbent on all Muslims to leave the say on matters of knowledge to whom they are due and not to enter into the issues of Halal and Haram on which they have no knowledge. Maalik said, “Whoever wants to give answer to a question should first assume himself standing between Paradise and Hell and ponder about how he is going to be saved in the Hereafter before he answers.”
Some people may be thinking that these Ulamaa are only well-versed in controversial issues and discussion of scholastic opinions and that their classes are devoid of admonishing Hadeeth that address the hearts and remind of Paradise and Hell. In order to show that their classes are resplendent in various kinds of sciences, let us hear what Maalik said to a brother of his admonishing him:
“Remind yourself of the agonies of death, what you are going to experience and what is going to be your fate after death; your standing before Allah, your reckoning, then your perpetual abode of either Paradise or Hell. Provide for that moment what will make things easy for you then, for when you see those who have earned the wrath of Allah and the horror of their torment and you hear their cries in the Fire with their gloomy faces; unable to see and talk and exclaiming for destruction and greater than all this is Allah’s turning away from them and their despair of His answer to their pleas and He will say: “Remain you in it with ignominy! And speak you not with Me.”(Al-Mu’minoon 23:108) if you know all this, nothing in this world will be too great for you to sacrifice if you want salvation.”
Imaam Maalik was sick for 22 days and died at the age of 87. Naafi’ (his famous student) said: “Maalik died at the age of 87 and lived in Al-Madinah as its Mufti for 60 years.”
May Allah have mercy on Maalik, for he used to say: “I met some people in Al-Madinah who had no faults but they speak of other people’s faults, then people created faults for them. I also met other another group of people in Al-Madinah, who had faults but kept away from speaking of other people’s faults and the people also keep off from speaking about their faults.”
Asking questions is the key to knowledge
The fact that Jibreel (’alaihis-salaam) asked questions to Allah’s Messenger (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) about Islam, eemaan and ihsaan, the Last Hour and its signs, contains proof that asking questions is the key to knowledge and this is stated in the Qur’an:
Ask the people of the Reminder, if you do not know. Surah an-Nahl (16):43 and Surah al-Anbiyaa (21):7.
Also Allah’s Messenger (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) stated that it is a cure for ignorance, as occurs in the hadith of the man who had the head fracture, where he said, “Why didn’t they ask when they were ignorant? Indeed the cure for not knowing is to ask.” And since the matter is as explained, then asking questions in a good way will assist in that matter, because whoever asks a question in a good way will learn. Therefore the great scholar, Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyyah (may Allah have mercy on him) said in Miftaah Daaris-Sa’aadah:
“And knowledge has six levels. The first of them is asking questions in a good manner ...there are some people who are prevented from it (knowledge) because they do not ask questions in a good manner, either because they never ask questions, or because they ask a question about something when something else is more important than it. Like the person who asks about superfluous things ignorance of which will not harm him, but leaves those things which are essential for him to know. This is the condition of many of the foolish students.”
Mujaahid said, “Knowledge will not be learnt by one who is too shy, nor one who is too proud.”
Al-Khateeb al-Baghdaadee said in his book, Al-Faqeeh wal-Mutafaqqih (2/143), “And it is befitting that shyness should not prevent a person from asking questions about something that has happened to him. But if he does become too shy and embarrassed to ask a question to the scholar, then he should give his question to one he feels at home with or one he feels relaxed with for him to ask the scholar on his behalf and to inform him about its ruling.”
So in summary, whoever wishes to reach the levels of the scholars let him begin by asking questions. How fine is the saying Allah has caused the scholar Ibn al-’Arabee to say, “How close the things are to being attained when they are given their due worth, and how far from attainment when they are not given their due worth. So ask the scholar you will be a scholar like him. Whoever attains wide knowledge must spend the dowry for that. So carefully consider the knowledge which you give a ruling with, there is no good in knowledge without careful consideration. For a person may strive and still be falling short, and the efforts of a person may be frustrated, even though he doesn’t fall short. The men whose actions we take as an example have gone and those men who censure every evil action also. I am left within the later people who seek to adorn one another to hide each others shortcomings.”
Know that asking questions in a good manner will help the scholar to give the answer, as Maymoon ibn Mihraan said, “Asking questions in a good manner is half of knowledge.”
Therefore it is essential to explain the knowledge of how to ask questions, because being ignorant of that will lead to confusion. Maalik ibn Anas said, “Ibn ‘Ajlaan came to Zayd ibn Aslam to ask him about something but he became confused in it, so Zayd said to him, ‘Go away and learn how to ask questions and then come and ask.’”
(i)The question should be one to find something out, it should not be asked to cause trouble, nor should it be to show someone’s ignorance, and it should not be made as a test for someone. Because this is the condition mentioned in the Book of Allah: Ask the people of the Reminder, if you do not know. Surah an-Nahl (16):43 and Surah al-Anbiyaa (21):7. So one who does not know then he asks in order that he may be taught. However,it is permissible for one who knows that he asks the scholar in order to teach those people who are sitting round about. Because this is what Jibreel (‘alaihis-salaam) did with Allah’s Messenger (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam), his questions were asked in order to teach the Companions (radhiallahu ‘anhum) who were sitting around the Prophet.
(ii)It is not allowed to ask questions about something which there is no need of, things whose answers will trouble the one who is asking the question. Anas (radhiallahu ‘anhu) said, “Allah’s Messenger (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) gave a khutbah and I have never heard the like of it. He (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) said,`If you knew what I know,then you would certainly laugh only a little,and you would weep a lot.”’ So the Companions (radhiallahu ‘anhum) covered up their faces and they were weeping, so a man said, ‘Who is my father?’ He said, ‘Your father is so and so.’ So this aayah was sent down: Do not ask about things, which, if they are made plain to you may cause trouble to you.
(iii) Likewise, it is not allowed to ask questions about things which may cause difficulty and cause hardship to the questioner or for other Muslims. Sa’d (radhiallahu ‘anhu) said that the Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) said, “The severest of the Muslims in sin with regard to the Muslims is one who asks about something that was not forbidden but it is made forbidden due to his asking the question.”
(iv) Therefore the Companions (radhiallahu ‘anhum) and the Taabi’een used to hate asking questions about things before they happened and they would not answer those questions. Since this is going to excess which is something Allah has forbidden and He has declared His Prophet free from it. He ordered His Prophet to say: Say, ‘I do not ask you for any reward for it and I am not one of the ones who goes beyond bounds.’ Surah Saad (38):86.
Ar-Rabee’ibn Khuthaim said, “O servant of Allah,whatever knowledge Allah has given to you in His Book, then give praise and give thanks to Allah for that. Whatever knowledge He has kept concealed from you,then leave it to the One who knows it and don’t go to excesses, because Allah, the Mighty and Majestic said to His Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam): I do not ask you for any reward for it and I am not one of the ones who goes to excesses. It is just a reminder for all of men and jinn. And you will certainly know the news of its truth after a short while (after death and the Resurrection). Surah Saad (38):86-88.
Ibn ‘Abdul-Barr said in his book, Jaami’Bayaanil-’Ilm wa Fadlihi (2/138-139) “A group of the people of knowledge said, ‘The opinion (Ra’y) that is blameworthy, criticised, abandoned and which it is not allowed to look into, nor to occupy oneself with, is innovated opinion and its like from the innovated types.’ But others say, and they are the majority of the people of knowledge, ‘Blameworthy opinion that is mentioned in these narrations by the Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) and from the Companions and the Taabi’een is speaking about the rulings of the Shari’ah based upon personal opinion of what is good, and based upon surmise, preoccupying oneself with intricate and difficult matters, and with thorny questions, referring details of happenings to each other and making analogy based upon that without referring them back to their origins and looking at their causes and taking that into consideration.’
Applying one’s opinion before things actually occur and then laying down details to follow on from this and resultant side issues before anything happens and speaking about this before these things occur. This is like pure speculation. They say: So preoccupying oneself and delving into these things is an abandonment of what occurs in the Sunnah.
It involves looking into things which the Sunnah is silent about, and it means abandonment of occupying oneself with that which is essential from the Sunnah and the Book of Allah, the Mighty and Majestic, and its meanings.” I say: and even if the excuse given for this hair-splitting, this laying down of details, this giving hypothetical answers, was that it is used just to train oneself upon the matters of fiqh, then it is still the same as is pointed out by Haafiz ibn Hajr al-Asqalaanee (may Allah have mercy on him) in his book, Fath al-Baaree.
(v) Al-Khateeb al-Baghdaadee (may Allah have mercy on him) in his book, Jaami’li-Akhlaaqir- Raawee wa Adaabis-Saami’, (1/211-214) brings a number of chapters in this regard and we will mention the most important of these headings due to their importance:
From correct manners is that when the scholar of hadith narrates a hadith and then something appears to the student while he is narrating and he wants to ask about that thing, he should not ask about it at that time. Rather he should have patience until the narrator has finished narrating his hadith and then he can ask about whatever he wants to ask about.
He should avoid asking the narrator of hadith when his heart is preoccupied.
It is not befitting that he should ask him when he is standing up, nor when he is walking, because there is a saying appropriate to each place, and there are places appropriate for the narrating of hadith-and they exclude the streets and lowly places.
It is obligatory that the questioner should mention to the scholar of hadith those chains of the hadith which he wants to hear narrated from him, and if a hadith has many chains the questioner should specify the best of them and should specify the points of benefit he wishes to hear narrated by him. If the scholar of hadith responds and grants his request to narrate to him, then the student should be easy upon him and he should not trouble him.
(vi) It is permissible to ask a scholar about his proof. Al-Khateeb al-Baghdaadee said in his book, Al-Faqeeh wal-Mutafaqqih,(2/149), “And if the scholar gives him an answer to his question it is permissible for him to ask him about his answer, did he say it based upon a narration or did he say it based upon opinion.”
(vii) It is hated to keep repeating a question to the scholar in a troublesome manner. Al-Khateeb al-Baghdaadee said in his book, Al-Faqeeh wal-Mutafaqqih, (2/149), “And if he asks the scholar to explain and he explains it to him and then he repeats again and asks him to explain again, it is allowed for the scholar to add more. If he asks him again after that then it is allowed for the scholar to hold his tongue because frequent repetition will vex him. However it is recommendable for the scholar to be mild and treat with tolerance and make allowance for the people.”
(viii) It is allowed for him to ask about speech that is unclear to him. ‘Abdullah ibn Mas’ood (radhiallahu ‘anhu) said, “I prayed along with Allah’s Messenger (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) one night and he stood for a very long time until I thought about doing something bad.” A student said to him, “What did you think of doing?” He said, “I thought of sitting down and leaving him.”
[Excerpted from The Manners Of The Scholar and the Seeker of Knowledge by Shaikh Saleem ibn ‘Eed al-Hilaalee As-Salafee al-Atharee]
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