A discourse by Mufti Mohammed Taqi Usmani to the Ulama
We must value 'ilm
Advice of a Saint
The Method of Appreciating Knowledge
From the Cradle to the Grave
On the Death-Bed
A True Student
Convey the Acquired 'ilm to others
see also: The importance of Makatib (Maktabs - Madressas - Primary Islamic Institutes)Introduction
Teachings of Islam
Respected Ulama, I have been requested to render some advice. I do not consider myself worthy for this august task, nevertheless, we all know the famous Hadith, ‘Deen is nasihah (advice)’. Therefore, it does not necessarily entail that only elders can give nasihah. Juniors too can advice, i.e. the advice which the Arabic word depicts. In Arabic, nasihah means ‘wishing good’. Therefore a person of a lesser status too can wish good and advise. Thus keeping this in mind, there is no problem in offering advice. What advice can a person like me give? I shall mention a few words I heard from the elders as a reminder or by way of conversation. May Allah give all of us the ability to reap and benefit from this advice.
Firstly we must remember that anybody who has any link with this knowledge of Deen which is such a great favour from Allah that if he spends his entire life span in thanking Allah, he will be unable to fulfil this right. Not at all, not even a thousandth of its due. Today, unfortunately we do not value this favour. Instead, value is only for money, status, fame and position. However, there is no value for being favoured with having some attachment to this knowledge. Allahu Akbar!
A thought comes to mind regarding an event reported by one of our elders. A man was teaching ilm ul-fiqh to a student and he told the student, “I am giving you something, which has more value than gold, silver, pearls and jewels. Every mas’alah is very precious.” The student was very happy about this. When he finished his lesson he went home and his mother asked him to buy some vegetables. He went to the greengrocer and ordered the vegetables. The greengrocer charged him 50 pence. He said to the merchant, “I do not have 50 pence. Instead I have something that is more valuable than gold and silver. I shall explain to you a mas’alah. My teacher said that each mas’alah is so precious that it is more valuable than gold, silver, pearls and jewels.” The greengrocer was annoyed by this statement as he did not appreciate the value of ‘ilm. Therefore he told him in a harsh way, “Away with you! Go and give it to others. I need my 50 pence.” The student was dejected. He turned back to his teacher and told him. “You told me that each mas’alah is more valuable than gold, silver, pearls and jewels – yet it is not even worth 50 pence in the sight of the greengrocer.” The teacher told him, “My son! You went to the wrong place! I shall ask you to do something. Here is a precious stone, take it to the greengrocer and try to get your vegetables in exchange for this precious stone.”
The student went to the greengrocer and handed over the precious stone to him in exchange for the vegetables. The greengrocer declined his offer and said, “I need my 50 pence and not this small stone!”
The student went back to his teacher and narrated the incident to him. The teacher told him, “Now, my son, take the precious stone and go to the jeweller and offer it to him.” When he reached the jeweller, the latter was bewildered at the fact that this young boy was in possession of such a valuable stone. He looked at him from head to toe and asked him, “Where did you get this precious stone from? It seems as if you stole it from somewhere. A boy like you cannot possess such a valuable stone!” The boy explained to him, with difficulty, where he obtained it from and claimed his money.
Thereafter he went back to his teacher and told him what had happened. The teacher told him, “You went to the greengrocer. He does not know the value of a precious stone. How would you expect him to appreciate it? The greengrocer's shop was not the place where a precious stone could be appreciated. Yes, a jeweller is an expert in his field. Hence he knows what is the price and value of this stone. He knows the reality of it.”
Therefore this ‘ilm that Allah has linked us to, in whatever way and form, we cannot expect the greengrocer, the rich, the worshipper of status to appreciate and honour it. Only those fortunate ones upon whom Allah has bestowed this art of recognizing its value can dignify this ‘ilm. In our present day, this art of recognizing its value is missing. Therefore, we do not appreciate ‘ilm, and not know it's value. Those who were aware of its reality; that is of appreciating ‘ilm, used to say, ‘Radeena qismatal Jabbaar fi na lanaa ilmun walil juhhaali maalu.’ (We are pleased with what Allah has allotted for us. We have knowledge and the ignorant have wealth.) These were the people who valued ‘ilm. Even if the wealth of the whole world was placed at their feet, they did not give it any importance. They knew the value of ‘ilm. Allahu Akbar!
Once one of the pious predecessors, Shaikhul Hadith Maulana Zakaria Sahib Rahmatullahi alai, came to our Darul Uloom. We requested him to render some advice. Usually he did not speak a lot and this is the miracle of the Auliya of Allah – they do not make a lot of speeches, yet the whole world benefits from their character. At that time, Maulana Zakaria Sahib was weak and mazur (paraplegic). But we still insisted that he proffer some advice. He said, “Brothers! I will render you one piece of advice, ‘Maulwiyo, apni qadar pehchaano’!” (O Ulama, recognize your value.) That was all he said and left! What did he say? ‘Maulwiyo, apni qadar pehchaano!’
A short sentence indeed! But volumes can be written on this statement. Today, our tragedy is that we have not recognized the way that will lead us to appreciate knowledge – how Allah has linked us to ‘ilm. If we cannot value and honour this ‘ilm, there is no need for us to stay here in a Darul Uloom. Look for other avenues. Go away and try something else. If you need money and fame, there are unlimited paths that you can tread. Look at those sportsmen or actors who spend their life in sport or acting! They are earning very well with their activities. There are so many ways to acquire fame. Therefore, if we want to develop our relationship with it, make sure we value and honour this ‘ilm. If there is no sense of dignity and honour for ‘ilm in your heart leave this place. ‘Ilm is not dependent on you. Allah is the kafeel (guarantor) and waarith (owner) of this ‘ilm. He will look after it. Other creations who will value this ‘ilm will be created!
My honourable father, Mufti Mohammed Shafi Sahib Rahmatullahi alai (Grand Mufti of Pakistan), said, “There are two ways of recognizing how to value and appreciate ‘ilm, (1) Become a seeker of knowledge (taalibe ilm). (2) Do not restrict this knowledge to knowing only.”
The first way is to develop in oneself the unending urge to seek knowledge, i.e. to become a taalibe ‘ilm.”
Who is a taalib? One who has talab (quest). One will appreciate something only when there is a talab for it. The meaning of talab in Urdu can be compared to the word ‘Addiction’ in English. When a person has a talab for betel leaf (paan), it is like an addiction; he is always in search for it. After consuming one paan, he will have some temporary tranquillity in his heart. But a few minutes later, the same feeling will develop again – the insatiable urge to consume another betel leaf. Similarly with smoking and drugs – may Allah save us. There are various types of addictions. Hence my honourable father said that we must have talab for ‘ilm like that for a betel leaf.
We have the famous saying ‘Utlubul ‘ilm minal mahd ilal lahd.’ With regards to the science of Hadith, it is a fabricated Hadith. But as far as the meaning is concerned, it is correct. A person went to pay a visit to Imam Abu Yusuf Rahmatullahi alai when he was ill - a few minutes before his death. After talking a little while about his health, Imam Abu Yusuf asked the visitor, “What is more rewarding – to pelt the Shaytaan at Mina walking or riding?” Ponder over this! He is on his deathbed, yet this question is preoccupying his mind. The visitor replied, “Walking is best because there are more difficulties to bear.” Imam Abu Yusuf said, “No!” The visitor said, “Then riding.” Imam Abu Yusuf said, “No! To pelt the jamaraatul aqabah riding and the remaining jamaraat walking is best.” He was in a state of sickness. People were coming to visit him, yet look at what was worrying his mind. The visitor said, “I left his house. After taking a few steps, I heard a crying voice. I knew the Imam Sahib had left for the next world.” This is the meaning of ‘Utlubul ‘ilm minal mahd ilal lahd.’
Another example is that of Mufti Azizur Rahmaan Sahib Rahmatullahi alai who wrote Fataawa Azizi in ten volumes. How did he spend his life? My father said, “Before Mufti Sahib could leave for Darul Uloom in the morning, he would look after the needs of the widows. If there was anything to buy, he would buy it for them. At times the widows would tell him, “Molvi Sahib! You brought the wrong commodity.” or, “I asked you for such an amount and you brought this amount.” This great personality would answer, I will go again.” He was the Mufti A’zam of India and yet he was such a humble character! History bears testimony that when the soul of this august son of Islam departed from his body, he had a fatwa (legal verdict) in his hand which fell on his chest! This is the meaning of ‘Utlubul ‘ilm minal mahd ilal lahd.’ Until we do not have this talab, we cannot value ‘ilm. Unfortunately, in today's time we call ourselves Ulama. Everybody claims, “I am an Aalim!” or, “We, the Ulama have done this and that!” These types of statements are flowing from our tongues! Brothers, think a bit on the following incident before we claim to be Ulama. Once Hasan Basri Rahmatullahi alai (a tabiee), one of the greatest Aalims Islam has ever produced, was walking and a person called him thus, “Ya Faqeeh!” (O jurist!) Hasan Basri turned back and said, “A wa hal ra’ayta faqeehan qattu.” (Have you ever seen a jurist that you are calling me a jurist?) This was during the golden era of Islam! Yet today we start calling ourselves Ulama.
Maulana Ashraf Ail Than Rahmatullahi alai used to say, “I am a taalibe ‘ilm” during his whole life. My father and Dr Abdul Hai Sahib, a khalifah of Maulana Thanwi, both narrated that Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanwi said, “If all the intelligentsia and the philosophers of the world come together and raise any objection challenge or have any doubt concerning any mas’alah, Alhamdulillah, this insignificant creature (referring to himself), will silence them in two minutes.” In two minutes he will silence them and yet this slave of Allah is a taalibe ‘ilm! The Ulama occupy a very lofty position. He never considered himself as an Aalim. If we call ourselves taalibe ‘ilm in our times, it is already a great achievement. We are not even taalibe ‘ilm, forget about calling ourselves Aalims!
My father said that a taalibe ‘ilm is one in whose mind a mas’alah is revolving every single moment - while walking, sitting, eating – his mind must always be preoccupied with a mas’alah. Unfortunately, today we have developed a sense of contentment and qanaa’at (satisfaction) with regards to our level of ‘ilm. We have contented ourselves with a few books and commentaries, but where Allah has ordered us to limit ourselves and abstain from them, we have developed greed, i.e. for wealth and this world.
Allah has said to his beloved Prophet , who was a custodian of all the sciences, ‘Qul rabbi zidni ilman’ (Say, O my Lord! increase me in knowledge.) This shows there is no contentment in the amount of ‘ilm for you, O Prophet. What about us then? Instead of furthering our research and studies, we are doing the opposite. While the Hadith states, “Two persons are never satisfied, one who is seeking knowledge, and the other who is seeking the world.” But unfortunately, we have confined our studies to a few commentaries and hawashi (marginal notes) and we no longer pursue our studies. Hence, my father used to say, “Creating talab for ‘ilm is a way that would lead one to the recognition of valuing and appreciating ‘ilm. At all times there must be a mas’alah in our mind and we must try to solve it.”
The second path that will help you to appreciate and value your ‘ilm is to convey its benefits to others. Do not sit idle with this great wealth you have acquired. Pass it on to others. We must ponder on the various ways of disseminating this ‘ilm to others. May Allah grant Maulana Abul Hasan Ali Nadwi good health and long life that we may benefit from him. He made a beautiful statement concerning the nature of an Aalim. He said, “According to me an Aalim is like a pipeline. One end is found in Madina i.e. the Ulume-Nabwi. The second end is found amongst the laymen – scattered in the world.” Therefore, a true Aalim is one who quenches himself first and then irrigates others. But if this Aalim stops his activities amongst the masses, he will be like a blocked pipeline. The benefit of ’ilm will not be achieved unless it is conveyed to others. We must always have the concern of ‘how to deliver the goods’. And for that, we need to understand the nature of people. We must know their masaa’il, we must know their problems – then only can we show the public what light we have brought from Madina! Then only can we be called Ulama. By just sitting with this ‘ilm and having no worry of conveying it to others, or knowing nothing about people's problems and the answer to them, or whether the layman understands or does not, he does not care, or has a careless attitude in solving any particular mas’alah – this can never be the attitude of an Aalim. This is not the work of an Aalim.
What a beautiful statement was uttered by Sufyaan Thauri Rahmatullahi alai which is food for thought for us. He said, “A jurist is one who shows a solution to a problem, who takes people out of difficulty. As far as your statement ‘This is haram and that is haram’- this anybody can do!” That is, besides showing what is prohibited, a Faqeeh must also show what is permissible, give a substitute to the people, what is the way out of this problem, etc. If one cannot show the way out or the solution, he is not a Faqeeh.
Hadhrat Yusuf Alayhis salaam was in jail. A person came to him so that he may interpret the king's dream. Hadhrat Yusuf Alayhis salaam could have interpreted the dream straightforwardly – that seven years of drought will come upon you. But first he gave a solution to the problem and thereafter interpreted the dream. First he showed the way out and then he announced the advent of the seven years of drought. This is a Nabi! One in whose heart there is pain for others. Despite all of them being kaafir – the king's messenger was a kaafir, the king was a kaafir, the people were kaafir – yet Hadhrat Yusuf Alayhis salaam showed them the solution to their problem. Therefore, an Aalim’s job is to remedy peoples difficulty by conveying to them the light he acquired from ‘ilm-e-Nubuwat. He must be well acquainted with the masaa’il. I read in the book of Imam Sarakhsi Rahmatullahi alai that Imam Mohammed Rahmatullahi alai, after delivering lessons would leave his institute and take a walk in the market almost everyday. People asked him, “O Imam! You are so often in the market. Are you doing a lot of shopping or what?” He would answer, “Brother, the fact is that I walk around to see how the businessmen are carrying out their dealings and what are the masaa’il for those dealings so that when I explain to them the solution to their problems, it will be with complete insight. This is why I walk in the market place.”
Therefore, we should realize this sense of responsibility and constantly worry about saving others and giving solutions to their problems. May Allah Ta’aala create these qualities within us with sincerity, according to his pleasure. If this will happen be assured that problems will be solved. May Allah Ta’aala grant you and I the ability to practise (Ameen).
Hakimul Ummat Hazrat Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanwi Rahmatullahi alai presenting nasihah to the Ulama, said,
“In particular I address the Ulama and students of the Deen and say, You content yourself with pride on account of only the possession of knowledge. You consider yourself qualified for the lofty ranks of ‘ilm. Every now and again, whether appropriate or inappropriate, you quote to the masses the Hadith, ‘The superiority of an Aalim over an Abid is like my (i.e. Rasullulah’s - Sallallahu alaihi wasallam) superiority over the most inferior amongst you.’
But, are you aware what kind of knowledge has this excellence? Does this superiority only apply to knowledge or knowledge accompanied with practise? If there were no dire warning of punishments in the Kitab and Sunnah for non practising Ulama, then to some degree your averment could be entertained. But, when there are these warnings (in the Quran and Hadith) how can knowledge alone be a medium of pride.
You display considerable pride, thinking, ‘We are Ulama.’ Remember, without self annihilation you are nothing. You have to annihilate yourself and understand that you are nothing. As long as you have not attained this attribute of self annihilation then understand you are ruined.
Man should never have pride, no matter what pedestal he occupies. How can he have pride when he is an embodiment of defects and faults? Always strive in pursuit of cultivating humility. Only then will there be safety. If humility is not inculcated, there will be no safety ahead.”
“Nowadays some (learned ones) suffer under the deception that delivering a speech in Arabic is a great excellence and a source of pride. I maintain that no matter how eloquent you become in Arabic and even if you become Abul ‘Ilm (the father of knowledge), you will not be able to converse in Arabic as Abu Jahl had. If only knowledge of Arabic and ability to speak in Arabic were ‘ilm, then Abu Jahl would be a greater Aalim. But, in spite of the superiority of his Arabic, he remained Abu Jahl (the father of the ignorant).”
“Nowadays, once a person has studied a couple of Arabic books, he is given the title of Molvi whereas in actual fact he is not a Molvi. A Molvi is a person who understands the laws of the Shariah and practises accordingly in both the Zaahiri and Baatini spheres. He has to be a man of Allah. A man of Allah is never a jaahil.”
“I take qasam (oath) and say if the greatness of Allah Ta’aala enters into the heart, you will become ashamed if someone addresses you as ‘Maulana Sahib’, ‘Hafiz Sahib’, etc.”
“When one gains kamaal (perfection or excellence in the moral and
spiritual realms) then one will realize that one is in actual fact a jaahil.”
“We (i.e. Molvis) do very little, but publicize it (our little) much because the desire is only to create a name among people.”
“Nowadays the Talabah (students of Deedi Madaaris) are not concerned with Uloom (true knowledge). Their concern is simply to complete a course (of study). They consider it a great Mi’raaj (ascension into the heavens), progress and perfection to have a big turban tied around their heads and be doled out a long certificate. Thus, they (think) they have become Molvis and Maulanas. However, this is not an occasion of happiness nor a sign of having achieved any excellence (kamaal). Nowadays some students although they are turbaned (and officially titled Molvi), lack entirely in ‘ilm and aql (intelligence).”
worlds and peace and blessings be upon the Master of
the Messengers, his descendants and his companions.