Summary: Today, the publication of books that have been translated into the English language have undoubtedly allowed Muslims to read what otherwise would have been inaccessible to those of us who cannot understand the language of the Revelation - Arabic. However there is an alarming consequence to this - unknowingly, print is replacing person, and books replacing transmission. Now, more than ever is there the heightened danger of people trying to take away their own interpretation of our Din simpley from books. 'Ali al-Qari said in his book 'Mu'taqad Abi Hanifa al-Iman fi Abaway al-Rasul' that:
The early scholars said: The hadith scholar without knowledge of fiqh is like a seller of drugs who is no physician; he has them but he does not know what to do with them; and the fiqh scholar without knowledge of hadith is like a physician without drugs; he knows what constitutes a remedy, but he does not dispose of it.
Although Classical Islamic culture valued as a memory aid it also recognised the dangers of the ways books allowed for the decontextualisation of knowledge from the authoritative control of a given teacher or school. Bypassing the tradition means by which 'ilm was acquired, individuals were able to claim religious authority, independant of proper certification by an established teacher or school. Classical Islamic culture emphasised the importance of internalising knowledge - until knowledge is internalised and recognised by an authoritative teacher to have been integrated properly into the general understanding and conduct of the student, it was not viewed as knowledge at all.
The theme of this book looks at the distortion of traditional scholarship within Islam that has occured, due to a break in the transmission or a paralysis of knowledge. Looking specifically at how the Prophet of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, has been venerated in a tradition that began from the time of the first generation of Muslims, the book simply attempts to convey to the reader what has stemmed from over a thousand years of orthodoc scholarship.
Extracts from the first chapter:
The full first chapter can be read at http://www.amalpress.com
- "Context. Its significance cannot be overstated. One can take something out of context thereby radically altering what the original message or meaning was, and it is only by placing it back into its appropriate context that a true understanding materialises."
- "We must never forget the reverence that is associated from reading and relating hadiths, something that sadly has been eroded by the substitution of taking our Din from books, as opposed to living authorities. This general misleading acceptance of the premise that the Din can simply be taken from books, has created an environment whereby, 'book learning has been substituted for 'understanding'; quality is sacrificed entirely to quantity and memory has been substituted for intelligence in the altogether verbal and bookish conception of present day education.'"
- "Underpining all this is the assertion of knowledge, and more precisely, the actual manner by which we gain this. There is also the misunderstanding that exists between knowledge and information. Imam Malik has been reported to have said, 'knowledge is a light which Allah places where he wills; it is not a great deal of narration.' In this way, we would distinguish between INFORMATION and KNOWLEDGE. Information can be gathered as data by a computer, but that is different from having knowledge."
- "The Salaf regarded one's knowledge as something by which one is judged, so that it is either a witness for or against one. It was for this reason that UNLIKE TODAY, the Salaf were far from eager to answer the legal questions of the people. 'Abd al-Rahman In Laila, may Allah be pleased with him, said that: 'I have never seen one hundred and twenty Companions from the Ansar (and) whenever anyone asked a religious question they would always refer it to the next person, who in turn would refer it to the next and so on until it returns to the first.'
'Ata Ibn al-Sa'ib, may ALlah be pleased with him, said that 'I have seen many of the people (of the first and second generations) and if anyone was to ask them a question they would tremble out of fear of Allah.'
- "It has been narrated that whenever Imam Shafi'i was asked a question, he woudl not answer immediately. Upon being asked why he was not answering, he would reply, 'Not until I know which is better, to keep silent or to answer.' Of Imam Ahmad, it has been related by al-Athram who said that he always used to hear Ahmad Ibn Hanbal saying, "'I don't know,' and he is well known for this answer."
- "Imam Malik was once asked fifty questions, where he did not answer a single one, and then he would say: 'One who wishes to answer any questions, must before answering, look at himself (present himself) in front of heaven and hell (contemplating about them) and ask himself what will save him from the fire; then after this, he may answer.'"
- "The early scholars knew the worth and value of hadiths, which are not simply words, something which some have reduced them to today. We find that people are more interested in winning their argument than actually benefitting and internalising the knowledge they gain."
- "Jabir, may Allah be pleased with him, said that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, 'Do not acquire knowledge in ordere to compete with the scholars, nor to argue with the ignorant, not to gain mastery over the gatherings. Since whoever does that, then : The Fire! The Fire!'
- "Shaykh 'Uthman Dan Fodio writes in his Najm 'l-Ikhwan: 'Realise brothers that argumentation without knwoledge causes the losss of much good and leads the ones arguing to invalidate a path from one of the paths of Shahriah....It says in the prophetic tradition, 'Verily the shahriah came in 313 paths. There is not a single path from amonth them which a servant takes except that by means of it his Lord will enter him into Paradise.' This has been related by al-Tabarani and others. For if a person knows all these paths, then he has the right to argue concerning it. However, if ****HE IS IGNORANT OF EVEN A SINGLE PATH****, then it is not possible for him to enter dispute or perhaps he will invalidate by his arguments one of the paths of the Shariah, or perhaps he refuses to act by it, and loses much good. As a result, he comes counted among those who reject the Shahriah.'"