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'Ilm - Gotta Have It

Muhammad Alshareef

category: Knowledge


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Ibn Al-Jawzee said, "Let me tell you about my own situation. I am never content, saying to myself that I have read enough books. If I find a book which I haven't seen before," notice he says seen, not read, "it is as if I have stumbled upon a pot of gold." For him, finding a book that he had never seen before was like finding a treasure chest.

We should contemplate over why we do not see this sort of drive towards knowledge. It could be the sins of our very community that are holding us back and putting a wall between us from moving forward and studying this deen, learning it, and acting upon it.

Ibn Mas'ood rahimahullah said, "I think that a person could forget the knowledge that he has learned because of his sins."

It is mentioned in Tabaqaat Al-Hanafiyyah 2/487, that when Abu Haneefah had a question that he could not figure out, he would say to his students, "This forgetfulness is due to nothing other then a sin I have committed." So when he had a mental block in his halaqa he would say "Astaghfir Allah." He would ask Allah ta'aala for forgiveness, or he would get up in the middle of a halaqa, leave the students, and go pray, hoping that Allah would forgive him. Then, when the issue would become clear to him, he would become happy and say, "It is my good news that perhaps Allah has forgiven me."

This was told to Al-Fudayl ibn Iyaad, and when he heard this he began to weep and commented, "This is because of the upright life that he lives. As for others, they would not realize this." Abu Haneefah understood that the mental block comes from our sins, but few others do.

The people before us would spend their money in seeking this knowledge. Often, a number of classes are free and you would think that the people would come to the halaqa more, but that is not the case. You would think that if there is a charge on the class they would say, "I’m going to pay money to learn about Islam?" and the numbers would lessen. But this is not the case. In the past they would spend their wealth in this cause.

The scholar Ali ibn Aasim said, "(When I was young) My father gave me 100,000 dirhams and he said, ‘Take this money and go. I don’t want to see your face until you replace this 100,000 dirhams with 100,000 ahadith. Until then, we don’t know you and you don’t know us.’" From Al-Bidaayah wan-Nihaayah we learn about Abu Ja'far Muhammad ibn Ahmad An-Nasafee, that he lived in such poverty (as did many scholars) that his son asked, "When are we going to relax in this poverty that we are in?" So he went to sleep one night in sadness and depression due to the poverty and need and the debts that he owed. As he sat there in his sadness, suddenly his mind went on a tangent, and an issue of fiqh, which had caught him, came to his mind and suddenly he knew the solution to it. So he jumped up in the middle of the darkness cheering and shouting. He said, "Ayn Al-Mulook!" which is akin to saying, "Who’s the man!" in our times. His wife thought he must have had one of these million-dollar-schemes to get all the money, so she asked him, "What happened?" He said, "Don’t you realize that I have just figured out the solution to this fiqh issue?" And she was shocked at all this happiness. Even though they were in the state they were in he was happy because Allah opened up this issue for him.

It took Abu Ubaid Qaasim ibn Salaam 40 years to write his book Ghareeb Al-Hadeeth. In explaining the days when he was writing the book, he said, "Perhaps while listening to some scholars I may benefit one point, a gem, from what they said, and then hurry home to write it in the proper chapter of the book. After that I would spend the entire night with a grin on my face. I would sleep with a smile in utter happiness because of that point I just benefited."

We have all heard of Nawawee and others’ books that are so long that if we ever opened them, we would never finish them. Where did they get the time to learn the knowledge and write it? We could never read it cover to cover, forget even writing it! Imam Nawawee rahimahullah didn't go to the library and just have the knowledge evaporate into his head. He said he used to make du’a for the knowledge. And this is true – you should make du’a for knowledge but follow it up with actions, and in sha Allah, Allah will bless you. In his schooling days, Imam Nawawee used to attend 12 halaqas or classes every day, from morning to evening. And they weren’t really the type of feel-good-halaqas where the people would go back without having really written anything. You can see the knowledge that he gained from every single class.

I remember in Madinah University there was a student who used to sleep in class. He didn’t pay; he got scholarships so he would just sleep in class. We had 25 classes a week and he slept for all 25 every single week of the entire year. In the final class before the final exam, there is always a designated person to ask the teacher to make the exam easy. Our tawheed teacher came in and this guy woke up and said, "Khaffaf, yaa shaykh," "Make it easy for us, yaa shaykh." So the shaykh didn’t really know who this guy was and he felt kind of shy as he was put on the spot, and he was trying to make excuses saying, "You know, it is not in our hands, the universities make us make it hard," and so on. But this person, and this was the only time he was ever awake, went back to sleep after making that statements. So the shaykh begins lecturing and it turns out that guy is asleep, so the teacher started knocking on the table. He said, "No sleeping, oh he who is looking for an easy exam. Wake up." It was a valuable lesson. If you want your exams to be easy, then you have to wake up.

A poet once related the story of a woman who used to get mad at her husband for spending all his money on books and spending everything in his right hand to buy these books. One day he said, "Just leave me alone. Perhaps in these books I will find a book that will help me to take my book in my right hand on the Day of Judgment."

PART III: Lazyboy

When you see someone wanting to buy a sofa, they say, "I want the American sofa, it’s called Lazyboy." This is an icon of American lifestyle, so everyone likes the sofa. They don’t even feel insulted by the name, and of course, overseas they are trying to copy this tradition.

They have what is called in Arabic nadee at-farfeeh, which is an amusement park. In this amusement park, someone had put up on the third floor whatever games they could think of, and they called it Nadee at-Tarfeeh. This should have been translated as ‘Amusement Park,’ but whoever they got to do the translation did a very good job, for he translated it as ‘Distraction Club.’ He hit the nail right on the head. It was the exact meaning of what these places are.

What will our excuse be in front of Allah subhaanahu wa ta'aala when this knowledge that is fard upon us to learn is not acted upon because we are following a certain soap opera that we cannot miss? Or we may have season tickets, which means that we are going to go to eighty games in a year and we’re so happy to get these tickets? Or we may make the television our life? We make these games and amusements our life. This is a harb, a battle with Shaytan who is our #1 enemy and the leader of his army of enemies.

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