Praise be to Allah,
Our righteous predecessors would travel long distances only to hear one Hadith of the prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). Today we have all the latest technologies through which knowledge is available at just a few clicks away. However, the etiquettes of seeking knowledge remain the same. Here are the few most important etiquettes which the seekers of knowledge must adhere to.
1- Intention: Gaining Devine knowledge is worship. The seekers of knowledge must have pure intention to please Allah alone. The prophet (peace be upon him) is reported to have said,
“The reward of deeds depends upon the intentions and every person will get the reward according to what he has intended….”[i]
Moreover, there is also a severe warning for those who seek fame or praise of this world through knowledge. The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said:
“Whoever seeks knowledge to compete with the scholars or to prove himself superior to the ignorant or to make the people look up to him, Allah will cause him to enter Hell.”[ii]
2- Patience: The path of gaining knowledge may not be easy for everyone. It is also seen that a seeker of knowledge is very haste in the beginning. He wants to gain knowledge on a variety of subjects in the shortest possible time. This makes him jump from one book to another or move from one shaykh to another. Therefore, we need to have patience. They should remember even the Quran has been revealed over around 23 years and the best of generations took time to practice what they learned. The one who seeks knowledge should start with the basic books and gradually move to advance or more detailed branches of knowledge. All this should be done under the supervision of qualified shaykh. The seekers of knowledge should never be content in seeking knowledge.
It was narrated from Abu Sa’eed al-Khudri (may Allaah be pleased with him) that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “The believer will never have enough of listening to good things (seeking knowledge) until he reaches Paradise.”[iii]
3- Avoiding pride and arrogance: Another trait that a seeker of knowledge should avoid is being arrogant or boastful of the knowledge. The lives of the Salaf are filled with examples of humility. It was narrated from Ibn ‘Umar that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Whilst a man was letting his garment drag out of pride, he was swallowed up by the earth and will continue sinking in it until the Day of Resurrection.”[iv]
Imaam Ath-Thahabee narrated that Amr ibn al Aswad al Ansi would take his left hand in his right while walking so that when he was asked about this, why he did this, he said, “I did it out of fear that my hand would make a gesture of hypocrisy”.
4- To put the knowledge into practice. The seeker of knowledge must have a sincere intention in pursuing knowledge and should put that knowledge into action as much as possible.
The Messenger of Allah ( peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said:
“The two feet of the servant will not cease (from standing before Allah) on the Day of Judgement until he is asked about four matters: On his life and how he spent it; On his wealth and where he earned it; And on what he spent it; And on his knowledge and what he did for it.”[v]
Yazeed bin Abee Ziyaad from Ibraaheem from ‘Alqamah that ‘Abdullaah ibn Mas’ood said:
“Learn! Learn! So when you have learned, then act”[vi].
The warning against not putting the knowledge into action is warned in the following hadith of the prophet ( peace and blessings of Allah be upon him).
“A man will be brought on the Day of Judgement and thrown into the Hellfire where his intestines will spill out. So it will be said (to him): ‘Weren’t you the one who used to command good and forbid evil?’ So he will say: ‘I used to command you to do good yet not do it myself. And I used to forbid you from evil yet commit it myself.’[vii]“
5- Respecting the shaykh– Islam has paid great attention to teachers for their role in building a positive society. The high moral exhibited by our pious ancestors were all because of the teachings of their shaykhs. We have a beautiful example of Imam Shafi’s respect for his teacher- Imam Malik.
Imam Shafi’i (rahimahullah) says: “When I arrived in Madinah, I saw the reverence and awe that Imam Malik (rahimahullah) commanded. This increased my respect for him to an extent that at times while in his presence I would turn the page as gently as possible out of fear that I may disturb him”
The students should have a proper manner while sitting in the class. they should be polite in asking questions and never try to argue with their teacher or interrupt him when he is teaching.
5- Seek the help of Allah- The seeker of knowledge must seek the help of Allah whenever he is confused and asks Him to make things easy for him. We should be consistent in asking Allah to overcome laziness, weakness, or any obstacle which might come in the path of gaining knowledge. The messenger of Allah ( peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) would often ask Allah the following du’a:
“O Allah, I take refuge in You from anxiety, and sorrow, and weakness, and laziness, and miserliness, and cowardice, and the burden of debts and from being overpowered by men”[viii].
We should consistently thank Allah for the bounties on us. Imam Shafi said, “ to be able to thank Allah for a blessing is a blessing within itself”.
When Aisha R.A was. asked about the prophet Muhammad’s character, she replied his character was that of the Quran. On another occasion, Prophet Muhammad said that he has been sent only to perfect morality and manners. These narrations and others show us the importance of manners in Islam. If we follow the example of Prophet Muhammad, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, we will be a success in this life and the Hereafter if Allah wills.
Allah Knows Best
[i] Sahi Bukhari, Vol. 1, Book 1, Hadith
[ii] Narrated by al-Nasaa’i, 2654; classed as saheeh by al-Albaani in Saheeh al-Nasaa’i
[iii] Narrated by al-Tirmidhi (2686) who said: It is hasan ghareeb. It was classed as saheeh by al-Haakim (4/129) and al-Dhahabi agreed with him. It was classed as da’eef by al-Albaani in Da’eef al-Tirmidhi.
[iv] Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī 5790
[v] al-Mu’jam al-Kabīr 111, Grade: Sahih li ghayrihi (authentic due to external evidence) according to Al-Albani
[vi] Its chain of narration is sound in mawqoof form (i.e. a saying of a Companion). Ziyaad bin Abee Ziyaad here refers to Al-Qurshee Al-Haashimee.
Quoted in Knowledge Mandates Action, By Imaam Abu Bakr Ahmad bin ‘Alee Al-Khateeb Al-Baghdaadee [Died: 463H] With Verification and notes by Imaam Muhammad Naasir-ud-Deen Al-Albaanee, page 12
[vii] Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī 3094, Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim 2989. Grade: Muttafaqun Alayhi (authenticity agreed upon) according to Al-Bukhari and Muslim
[viii] Al-Bukhari 7/158. See also Al-Asqalani, Fathul-Bari 11/173