by The Eminent Sheikh Salih Ibn Abdul Aziz Ali Sheikh
“So how does the student become moderate in seeking knowledge? His is such by not trying to gather all of the matters of knowledge at one time, just as it was mentioned by Imaam Az Zuhri (Rahimahullah) who was a well known Tabi’ee:
من رام العلم جملة ذهب عنه جملة, وإنما العلم يطلب على مر الأيام والليالي
“Whoever seeks to acquire knowledge all at once, then it will go away from him all at once, rather knowledge is sought by the passing away of many days and nights.”(i.e. in time)
This principle was eloquently explained by the poet who said:
اليوم علم وغدا مثله من نخب العلم التي تلتقط
يحصل المرء بها حكمت وإنما السيل اجتماع النقط
“Today knowledge and tomorrow the like of it and through this process the individual will obtain the wisdom he needs, for the river becomes such by the gathering of droplets of water.”
Hence moderation is required when seeking knowledge and the student can not obtain this moderation by trying to acquire knowledge all at once. For example, the student desire to acquire all the knowledge of Tafseer so he goes and reads Tafseer Ibn Jareer [i.e. Jaa’mi ul Bayan an Ta’weel il Qur’an by the Imam the Mufassir Abu Ja’far Muhammad Ibn Jareer At Tabari Rahimahullah] along with the fact that Tafseer Ibn Jareer is a very extensive and comprehensive book which all the other explanations of the Qur’an is dependant on.
The individual who does this has sought to acquire knowledge all at one once in that he started and ended with one of the most extensive works in the field of Tafseer. If you were to ask him how much he comprehended from this book you will find that he only understood a little. He can remember that he read such and such from the explanation of certain verses be he lacks the ability to explain to you what he understood in a manner which consistent with the true meaning of the verse.
It is imperative for the student of knowledge to learn these matters moderately and gradually which is actually from the Sunnah and a vital etiquette in the realm of seeking knowledge. Likewise the individual who desires to study the science of hadeeth, he hastily begins with Nayl ul Awtar [of Imaam Muhammad Ibn Ali Ash Showkaani Rahimahullah] or Fath ul Bari [Explanation of Sahih Al Bukhari by Al Hafidh Ahmad Ibn Ali Ibn Hajr Al Asqalaani Rahimahullah], know that this individual will never acquire knowledge in light of methodology of the People of Knowledge who came before him. He resembles the one who reads books and magazines on current affairs, he has some scattered pieces of information but this is not, in essence, true foundational knowledge.
Also in the matters of Fiqh, if you ask him; “What books have you read from the matters of Fiqh?” He will reply that “I am currently reading Al Mughni” [of Imaam Muwafaq ud Deen Abu Muhammad Abdullah Ibn Ahmad Ibn Muhammad Ibn Qudamah Al Maqdasi Rahimahullah] or “I am reading Majmoo’a” [of Imaam An Nawwawi] and it is safe to say that this individual is not moderate in seeking knowledge due to the fact that by this methodology of his, he is seeking to acquire all of the knowledge at once. Al Mughni and Majmoo’a are two of the most extensive and comprehensive books in the field of Fiqh and they tackle some of the major and most complicated matters of the People of Knowledge in the matters of Fiqh.
Therefore the new student should not begin his quest for seeking knowledge by reading these types of books from beginning to end. There is no doubt that these books are resources for him when he needs to research a matter, and he should refer to them and other extensive books in the field of Fiqh if the situation necessitates this, but he should not read them from front to back for the sake of saying that he read them!!
Also from the branches of being moderate when seeking knowledge is that the student, at the beginning of his quest for knowledge, should not emphasize greatly the extensive details of certain knowledge based issues which he is studying. If he neglects this principle then he is eventually going to forget many of the fundamental matters, and by such, he is going to defeat his purpose of seeking knowledge. The lack of a firm academic foundation causes the student to neglect the necessary principles which will enable him to comprehend the specifics of certain issues relating to knowledge.
Some of us attend lessons which are extensive and very detailed for many years and sometimes completing these lessons or certain chapters from them. You find some students sit for six months at a time attending these lessons and they believe they are truly acquiring knowledge but this is not the case. This is not the correct methodology in seeking knowledge rather they neglected the principle of moderation. Allah Jala wa Ala says:
ولن كونوا ربانيين بما كنتم تعلمون الكتاب وبما كنتم تدرسون
“…Be you Rubaaniyoon because you are teaching the book and because you are studying it.” – [Surah Ali Imran (3:79)]
Imam Al Bukhari (Rahimahullah) explained the meaning of the word Rubaani in his Sahih:
الرباني هو الذي يرب الناس بصغار العلم قبل كباره
“The Rubaani is the scholar who nurtures the people with the simple matters of knowledge before the difficult ones.” – [Sahih Al Bukhari in the Chapter of Knowledge from the statement of Abdullah Ibn Abbas Radiyallahu anhuma 1/37]
It is neither virtuous nor appropriate for the scholar or the student of knowledge to mention to those whom he is teaching all of what he knows about a particular issue of knowledge. The teacher only gives to those who is listening to him what is necessary for them to understand the issue at hand and he avoids giving them what is above their comprehension. Therefore it is imperative for the student of knowledge to be moderate in his search for knowledge and learn at a gradual pace because if he learns in this manner then he will teach and disseminate the information which he has in the same manner.”
Reference : المنهجية في طلب العلم
The Methodology of Seeking Knowledge
By The Eminent Sheikh Salih Ibn Abdul Aziz Ali Sheikh
See section: Moderation
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