Ten Guidelines for Obtaining Knowledge by Abdullah bin Salfeeq Adh dhufairee
First: Seeking Allaah’s Assistance
A person is weak - he has no motion or power except by Allaah’s leave. If he entrusts things to himself, he will fall into ruin and perdition. But if he entrusts his affairs to Allaah and seeks His assistance in seeking knowledge, Allaah will aid him. Allaah has incited us towards this in His noble Book, as He says:
“You alone do we worship and in You alone do we seek assistance.” [Surah Al- Faatihah: 5]
And He says:
“And whoever puts his trust in Allaah, then He is sufficient for him.” [Surah At- Talaaq: 3]
And He says:
“And upon Allaah put your trust if you are truly believers.” [Surah Al-Maa’idah: 23]
The Prophet 0 said: “If you were to put your reliance upon Allaah the way you ought to, He would surely provide for you just as He provides for the birds - they set out with empty stomachs and return with their stomachs full.”
The greatest sustenance that Allaah can provide us with is knowledge. Our prophet Muhammad sallalaahu alayhi wa sallam would always put his reliance in Allaah and seek His assistance in all of
his affairs. It is authentically reported that the Prophet sallalaahu alayhi wa sallam would supplicate when going outside, saying: “In the Name of Allaah, I put my trust in Allaah, and there is no might or power except by Allaah’s Leave.” This proves what we stated above that he sallalaahu alayhi wa sallam would always put his trust in Allaah.
Second: Good Intention
A person should make his intention for the sake of Allaah when seeking knowledge, thus doing that purely for His sake alone and not desiring to be heard or to become famous, nor seeking one of the worldly goals.
Whoever makes his intention for the sake of Allaah, Allaah will grant him success in that matter and reward him. This is since knowledge is a form of worship. In fact, it is the greatest form of worship.
An individual is not rewarded for his deed unless he performs it purely for Allaah’s sake and whilst following the Messenger S in that matter. Allaah says:
“Verily, Allaah is with those who are dutiful (Taqwaa) to Him and those who are good-doers.” [Surah An-Nahl: 128]
The greatest form of dutifulness ( Taqwaa ) to Allaah is making one’s intention purely for the sake of Allaah. As for the one who seeks knowledge for the sake of showing off, then apart from being a loser in this world, he will also be punished for this in the Hereafter as has been reported in the hadeeth about the three people who will be dragged on their faces into Hell, amongst whom will be a man who sought knowledge so that it could be said: “He is a scholar” and such was said about him.
Third: Humbling Oneself before Allaah and Asking Him for Success and Prosperity
One should also ask his Lord to increase him in seeking knowledge, since an individual is destitute and in the utmost need of Allaah. This is why Allaah has encouraged His servants to ask of Him and to lower themselves before Him, as He says:
“Call unto Me, I will respond to you.” [Surah Ghaafir: 60]
And the Prophet sallalaahu alayhi wa sallam said: “Our Lord descends every night to the lowest level of heaven and says: ‘Who is calling Me that I may respond? Who asks of Me that I may give him? Who seeks My forgiveness that I may forgive him?”’
Allaah commanded His Prophet to ask Him for an increase in knowledge, as He said:
“And say: ‘My Lord! Increase me in knowledge.’” [Surah TaHa: 1 14]
And Allaah said speaking on behalf of Ibraaheem:
“My Lord! Bestow Hukm (i.e. knowledge) on me, and join me with the righteous.”
[Surah Ash-Shua’raa: 83]
The word Hukm refers to knowledge, as the Prophet sallalaahu alayhi wa sallam said: “If the Haakim (judge), strives hard performing Ijtihaad...”
The Prophet sallalaahu alayhi wa sallam supplicated for Abu Hurairah to be granted the ability to memorize. He sallalaahu alayhi wa sallam also supplicated for Ibn ‘Abbaas to be granted knowledge, as he said: “O Allaah, give him understanding of the Religion, and teach him the ta’weel (interpretation of the Qur’aan).”
Allaah answered His Prophet’s supplication, such that afterward Abu Hurairah didn’t hear anything except that he memorized it and Ibn ‘Abbaas came to be the scholar of the ummah and the interpreter of the Qur’aan.
The scholars have continued to carry on this practice, thus lowering themselves before Allaah and asking Him to grant them knowledge. Look at the example of Shaikh-ul- Islaam Ibn Taimiyyah, may Allaah have mercy on him - He would go to the masaajid, prostrate to Allaah and supplicate to Him, saying: “O teacher of Ibraaheem, teach me! O educator of Sulaymaan, grant me understanding!”
And Allaah answered his supplication, such that Ibn Daqeeq-ul-‘Eid said about him: “Allaah gathered the knowledge for him to the point that it was as if it (i.e. the knowledge) was between his eyes and he would take what he wished from it and leave off what he wished from it.”
Fourth: An Upright Heart
The heart is the container where knowledge is stored. If the container is firm, it will store and protect what is placed in it, and if the container is damaged, it will lose what is placed in it.
The Messenger of Allaah sallalaahu alayhi wa sallam made the heart the foundation of everything, as he said:
“Verily, there is a morsel of flesh in the body that if it is correct, the entire body will be correct, and if it is corrupt, the entire body will be corrupt. Indeed, it is the heart.”
An upright heart comes about through awareness of Allaah and knowledge of His Names, Attributes and Actions. It also comes about by way of reflecting on His signs and creations, and by pondering on the Qur’aan. An upright heart also comes about due to one constantly prostrating (in prayer) and frequently observing the night prayer.
One should also avoid the things that corrupt and sicken the heart, since if these things are present in the heart, it will not be able to carry the knowledge. And even if the heart does carry it, it will not be understood, as Allaah says about the hypocrites - those with diseased hearts:
“They have heart with which they do not comprehend.” [Surah Al-A’raaf: 179]
The diseases of the heart are of two types: Desires and Doubts
Desires are such as love for this worldly life and its pleasures and being preoccupied with that; love for unlawful images; listening to unlawful things such as musical voices and instruments; and looking at the forbidden.
Doubts are such as corrupt beliefs; innovated actions; and ascribing to innovated ideological movements.
Some other diseases of the heart that also serve as obstacles before knowledge are: jealousy, spite and pride.
Some other things that corrupt the heart are: excessive sleep, excessive speech and excessive eating.
Therefore, one should avoid these diseases and corruptors in order to rectify the heart and make it upright.
Intelligence may be natural and it may also be acquired. So if a person is naturally intelligent, he should work towards strengthening it. And if he is not, then he should condition himself until he is able to acquire it.
Human aptitude is one of the strongest methods that assist one in obtaining, understanding and memorizing knowledge. It also aids one in differentiating between the various (Fiqh) issues, gathering evidences and other matters.
To be continued
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