'Their Knowledge Was Superior'

Many in the latter generation have been afflicted with undue argumentation such that they think their much talks, debates and disputes in the matters of the Deen make them more knowledgeable than other than them. This is plain ignorance. Check the profile of the Older Companions and the scholars among them such as Aboo Bakr, Umar, ‘Alee, Mu’aadh, Ibn Mas’ûd and Zayd bn Thâbit; how were they? They had little words compared to Ibn ‘Abbâs [and others such as Ibn Umar, Abdullâh bn Zayd, Aboo Hurairah, etc.] yet the former were more knowledgeable. So also were the words of the Taabioon; they were more than the Companions’ while the latter were more knowledgeable. So also were the Taab-Taabioon; they had more words than the Taabioon yet the latter had more knowledge. Therefore the real knowledge is not how plentiful are the narrations and write-ups rather it is a light beamed into the heart with which the slave knows the right from falsehood even if he expresses that with few words so far he could achieve his aim of passing a message.

The Prophet [sallallaahu alayi wa sallam] was gifted with few but far-reaching words. There is a prohibition from excessive talks and engrossing into hearsays. The Prophet [sallallaahu alayi wa sallam] had said Allâh the Mighty did not raise a prophet except to deliver the Message, that excessive words are from Shaytan. Therefore excessive words are blameworthy.

The Khutbah of the Prophet [sallallaahu alayi wa sallam] used to be little. When he talked, he would present it in a way his words could be counted. He had once said ‘there is bewitching in some explanations.’ He said it to decry such explanations not to praise unlike what some people have thought that it was to praise. Whoever has pondered on the context of the hadith would know that it was not to praise.

There is a report in [Sunan] At-Tir’midhî and other collections on the authority of ‘Abdullâh bn ‘Amr [RadiyaLlaahu an’hu] back to the Rasool [sallallaahu alayi wa sallam] that he said: ‘Allâh hates the loquacious among men those who twist their tongues as cattle do.’ [Hasan: As-Sahîhah 2/568] There are several other ahadith expressing, mar’foo and mauqoof, the same meaning as the hadith cited. Therefore it must be known that it is not every person who speaks or talks about knowledge [of Islam] knows more than the others.

The Muslims have been afflicted with some ignoramuses who believe those who talk much about the Deen in the latter generations knew more than those who came before them. There are some who think there was a fellow who knew more than all the Companions and the Taabioon who came before him because he had much explanations and write-ups. There are some who say he knows more than the jurists whom people follow. That means the person knows more than those before the jurists because we know the latter to have more words than the people before them. Examples of the jurists include Ath-Thaurî, al-Auzâ’î, al-Layth, Ibn al-Mubaarak and the other jurists on their pedestal; and of course (if to follow their argument), those before them among the Taabioon and the Companions. Such thought is belittlement to Salaf Sâlih and an act of harbouring evil thought about them, so also an attribution of ignorance to them and short-sighted knowledge. Laa haula wa laa quwwah illa bi-llaah.

Ibn Mas’ûd [RadiyaLlaahu an’hu] had said correctly about the Companions: They were the best at hearts in the Ummah, most deep-rooted in knowledge and the least in overzealousness.

He also said: Definitely you are in a time when you have many scholars but few khutabaa [speakers]. A time is coming when there will be few scholars but many speakers. Whoever has much knowledge and speaks little is praiseworthy whoever is other than that is blameworthy.

The Prophet [sallallaahu alayi wa sallam] described the people of Yemen with Eemaan and Fiqh because the people were known for few words but much knowledge. This is the real understanding and beneficial knowledge. The best of knowledge to explain the Qur’aan and the meanings of ahadith as well as speaking about matters of halâl and harâm is whatever has come from the Companions, the Taabioon and their Followers till the [latter and] popular scholars of Islam, those whom people follow and whom we have mentioned earlier on. Adapted from: Ibn Rajab Al-Hambali's Fadl Ilm as-Salaf ‘Ala al-Khalaf [‘Superiority of the Knowledge of the First Generation over the Latter Generations’], p.4-5.

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