Required Learning [What is a Muslim Required to Study?]

It is reported that Hasan b. Rabī’ asked ‘Abdullāh b. Al-Mubārak – Allāh have mercy on him – about the meaning of the hadith, “Seeking knowledge is obligatory upon every Muslim”. He replied:

It is not [the expert knowledge of hadith and fiqh] you are seeking. Seeking knowledge is an obligation when a man comes to something concerning his religion (dīn): he is to ask about it until he knows it.

Al-Khatīb Al-Baghdādī, Al-Faqīh wa Al-Mutafaqqih article 162.

It is reported that ‘Alī b. Al-Hasan b. Shaqīq asked ‘Abdullāh b. Al-Mubārak – Allāh have mercy on him, “What knowledge is considered obligatory upon people to learn?” He replied:

A man must not proceed to do anything except upon knowledge, He is to ask and learn. This is what is obligatory upon people as regards learning knowledge.

He explained further:

If there is a man who has no wealth, it is not obligatory upon him to learn Zakāh. When he has 200 dirham, it becomes obligatory upon him to learn how much (Zakāh) he has to pay, when he has to pay, and who he has to pay. This is also the way with everything else.

Al-Baghdādī, op. cit. article 163.

It is reported that Ibn Wahb once mentioned knowledge, to which Imām Mālik – Allāh have mercy on him – commented:

Knowledge is surely good, but look to what is binding upon you from the beginning of your day to its end, and from the end of your day to the following morning, adhere to that and do not give preference to [learning] anything else.

Al-Baghdādī, op. cit. article 165.

It is reported from ‘Abdullāh b. Ahmad b. Hanbal that he asked his father (Imām Ahmad) – Allāh have mercy on him – whether it is obligatory upon a man to seek knowledge. He replied:

As for [the knowledge] through which he can uphold his prayers, and other matters of his religion like fasting, Zakāh – and he mentioned the other main aspects of the religion – then a man should know about that.

Al-Baghdādī, op. cit. article 166.

Five Essential Qualities of a Mufti

Ibn Battah records that Imām Ahmad – Allāh have mercy on him – said:

No man should appoint himself to issue verdicts (fatwa) until and unless he fulfills five characteristics:

  • First, he should have a [firm and good] intention; for if he does not, he will have no light upon him, and nor will his words.
  • Second, he should be forbearing, tranquil and serene.
  • Third, he should be strong upon what he is involved in, strong in its knowledge.
  • Fourth, he should have sufficient means (wealth), otherwise the people will chew him up.
  • Fifth, he should know people and their ways.

Ibn Battah, Ibtāl Al-Hiyal p24.

After quoting this statement, and before his commentary on it, Ibn Al-Qayyim states:

This is one of the proofs of the eminence of Imām Ahmad and his lofty status in knowledge and insight; for these five are the pillars of fatwā, and to the extent that there is deficiency in any of them, to that extent faults will appear in the mufti.

I’lām Al-Muwaqi’īn, 6:106

The Real People

It is reported that ‘Abdullāh b. Ahmad b. Hanbal – Allāh have mercy on him – said:
I asked my father, “Who are the [real] people?” He replied, “The [real] people are none but those who say haddathanā and akhbaranā (those who report hadīth).”

Abū Bakr Al-Daynūrī, Al-Mujālasah wa Jawāhir Al-’Ilm article 3438.

From the Beauty of Knowledge

It is reported that Imām Ahmad b. Hanbal – Allâh have mercy on him – said:

Al-Shâfi’î saw me sitting in his circle, and there was some ink on my shirt I was trying to hide. He said, “Young man, why are you hiding it? Having ink on ones clothes is a sign of lofty conduct: to the sight it is black, but to the insight it is white (with the light of knowledge).”

It is reported that ‘Abdullâh b. Al-Mubârak – Allâh have mercy on him – said:

Ink on the clothes is the perfume of the scholars.

- Some put this in verse (from Arabic):

The ink-pot’s ink is the perfume of men
As saffron is the perfume of women
So the former befits the garments of those men
As the latter the garments of wives

It is reported that Imâm Ahmad said, seeing the students of hadîth approaching with their ink-pots:

These are the lanterns of Islâm.

Al-Khatîb Al-Baghdâdî, Al-Jâmi’ li-Akhlâq Al-Râwî, articles 508, 509, 512 .

The Humble Heretic

‘Alî b. Abî Khâlid – Allâh have mercy on him – reports:

I once said to Ahmad, “This shaykh – referring to an older man who was with us – is my neighbor. I told him not to keep the company of a certain person, and he would like to hear what you have to say about him: I am referring to Hârith Al-Qasîr (Al-Hârith Al-Muhâsibî). Many years ago, you saw me with him and told me not to sit with him nor speak with him. I have not spoken to him since that time. This shaykh, however, does sit with him. So what do you say?”

I saw Ahmad go red with anger, his eyes bulging; I had never before seen him like this. He started to say, “Him! May Allâh do such-and-such to him! Only those well-informed of him know what he really is, only those who really know him know what he is. Al-Mughâzilî, Ya’qûb and so-and-so sat with him, and he caused them to adopt the views of Jahm (Ibn Safwân, leader of the Jahmites). They were destroyed because of him.”

The old man said, “But Abû ‘Abdillâh, he reports hadîth, and he is mild and humble; he has done such-and-such [good works].” Abû ‘Abdillâh (Imâm Ahmad) became angry and began repeating, “Let not his humility and softness deceive you”. He also said, “Do not be fooled by his bowed head, he is an evil man; only those well-informed of him through experience know him. Do not speak to him – with all disrespect to him. Are you going to sit with everyone who narrates from Allâh’s Messenger – may the praise and peace of Allâh be upon him – though he be a heretic (mubtadi’)? No, with all disrespect.”

Tabaqât Al-Hanâbilah, article 325.

Page 1123