بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
This principle (1) alludes to the fact that the correctness and success of the Islamic nation is adjoined to two necessary affairs. If one of the two is absent then there can neither be correcting of the Islamic nation nor success. These two things are as follows:
The First: Beneficial Knowledge
The Second: Righteous Actions
These two things are that in which Allah sent with our Prophet Muhammad -sallahu alayhi wa salaam. The Exalted says:
هو الذِّي أرسل رسوله بالهدى و دينِ الحقِّ ليُظهره على الدين كلِّه
“It is He Who has sent His Messenger with guidance and the religion of truth in order to make it uppermost over all others ways…” [As-Saff: 9]
Guidance is beneficial knowledge and the religion of truth is righteous actions. These two things are coupled to the point were knowledge is of no benefit without action and action does not benefit without (being preceded by) knowledge. As a result knowledge without action did not benefit the Jews. They had with them the Torah and they knew what was contained therein, so they carried it but did not enact it. Thus Allah likened them to donkeys that carry books on their backs but literally do not benefit from that which they carry. The Exalted says:
مثل الذين حمِّلوا التوراة ثمَّ لمْ يحملوها كمثل الحمار يحمل أسفار بئس مثل القوم الذين كذَّبوا بآيات الله والله لا يهدي القوم الظالمين
“The example of those who were entrusted with (the obligations of) the Torah yet failed in its fulfillment is like the example of a donkey that carries books (but does not benefit from them because it does not understand them). How bad is the example of people who deny the verses of Allah, and Allah does not guide an oppressive people.” [Al-Jumu’ah: 5]
Furthermore Allah referred to them as those who incurred His anger due to their disobedience to Him upon firm knowledge. Consequently Allah was angered by them because they received (the blessing) of knowledge yet they did not enact it. Therefore whomsoever is described with this characteristic becomes worthy of this threat and is one who has earned Allah’s anger. To reiterate, every single person who knows but does not enact his knowledge then, without doubt, Allah is angry with him, regardless if he is a Jew or from this nation. Similarly actions without knowledge,or actions preceded by desires, blind following, and by customary traditions does not benefit even if it fatigues its doer. Indeed actions without knowledge is misguidance and Allah referred to it as such. He also referred to those who act without knowledge as being astray and this is present in the last portion of Al-Fatiha.
اهْدنا الصراط المستقيم – صراط الذين أنعمْتَ عليهم غير المغضوب عليهم و لا الضّالين
“Guide us to the straight path. The path of those to whom you have bestowed blessings, and not (the path) of those who earned your anger, nor of those who went astray.” [Al-Fatiha: 7]
Allah mentions three groups.
The First Group: Those to whom which Allah has bestowed His blessings.
They are those upon the straight path who couple beneficial knowledge with righteous actions and they are who Allah referred to in His statement:
و من يطع الله و الرسول فأولآئك مع الذين أنعم الله عليهم من النبيِّين و الصدِّيقين و الشهداءِ و الصالحين و حسُن أُولآئك رفيقاً
“And whoever obeys Allah and the Messenger, then he will be in the company of those to whom Allah has bestowed blessings, from the prophets, the truthful, the martyrs, and the righteous. And how excellent these companions are!” [An-Nisaa: 69]
The Second Group: Those who incurred Allah’s anger.
They are those who acquired knowledge (alone) and abandoned action. They have earned Allah’s anger due to the possessors of knowledge not being equated with those who do not. Whoever disobeys Allah while knowing this fact is worse than those who do so ignorantly.
The Third Group: The Astray.
They are those who put forth actions but abandon knowledge (first). They act and are diligent in that regard yet their actions are not based on knowledge. They do not acquire evidence from the book and the sunnah, nonetheless it is binding for actions to be built on evidence. As a result every action that has no evidence is an innovation. The Messenger -sallahu alayhi wa salaam- said,“Whoever does an action that is not in accordance with our command is rejected.” Likewise he said, “I caution you from newly invented matters (in the religion), surely every novelty is an innovation and every innovation is misguidance.”
Thus these individuals tire themselves with actions while in reality they are misguided. As a result their actions are worthless because they did not build it on a (proper) foundation, they did not build it on the Book and the Sunnah. So none of them find salvation except the first group, those who couple beneficial knowledge with righteous actions. They are those whose path we ask Allah, in every unit of the prayer, to guide us towards. Moreover we ask to be distant from the other two contradictory paths.
Also pertinent to this subject is that without doubt from the third category of those that worship Allah without knowledge are the Sufis. The Sufis are diligent with respect to Allah’s remembrance, worship, asceticism, and being overstrict (in religious affairs), however it is all done upon other than knowledge, in fact they abstain from knowledge and encourage (others) with this. They make fun of those who have a concern for acquiring knowledge. Hence they say that these individuals busy themselves with a means (to accomplish a goal) and abandon the objective. The objective with them is action and the means (in which to accomplish it) is knowledge.
This is correct the objective with them are actions and knowledge is the aid to accomplishing them. However the objective can not be reached without the means to get there. So if the means are lost the objective will never be reached. In light of this, we do not say to the people busy yourselves with with seeking knowledge and abandon actions, on the contrary we (only) say couple the two. Unite knowledge with actions. So the Sufis have not ceased being upon their path of busying themselves with worship, remembrance, isolation for worship at specified times, and technical terms which they or the elders of their paths invent. Due to this, they pledge their allegiance to them which is misguidance upon misguidance because it is built upon other than knowledge. Their followers don’t want knowledge, on the contrary they are the most reluctant of people concerning knowledge, and this is the Shaitan’s deception. Therefore it is obligatory to couple knowledge with action.
Continuing, the Prophet -sallahu alayhi wa salaam- divided the people into three categories as it relates to that in which he was sent from beneficial knowledge and righteous actions. (2)
The First Category: Those who connect knowledge of the narration with its text by way of memorization, precision, and they stay far away from foreign words and or expressions, along with comprehension thereof. They adjoin the memorization of it, comprehending and explaining it, clarifying it and whatever else is included from that. This category is the best of all the categories and they are the specialist concerning the chains of transmission and the meaning of the text. They are the people of comprehension among the hadith scholars, those like Imam Ahmad, Imam Al Bukhari, Imam Ash-Shaafi’ee, and the remainder of the people of comprehension from the scholars of hadith. This is the highest level and we ask Allah the Generous to bestow upon us this virtue.
The Second Category: They are below the first, however with them is good and virtue. They have concern for the narration and its chain of transmission by studying the chains and declaring the authentic from other than it. They memorize the manuscripts with precision but they do not busy themselves with comprehending its meaning, on the contrary they simply memorize. This type holds water but does not cause any crops to grow. As for the first type it is like good soil of the earth that not only sustains water but also causes vegetation to grow. Hence the people benefit from it. They benefit from the water and the vegetation.
The second category only holds the water, thus the Islamic nation benefits in that it (is able) to embark on preservation of the book and the sunnah reliably (due to this groups efforts). These are the scholars who are only busied with the chains of transmission. This category has an abundance of good and virtue despite the fact that they are below the category mentioned before them. Nonetheless they benefit the people tremendously by memorizing the text, being precise in that, and being distant from forgery and foreign expressions placed therein.
The Third Category: There is no good in them. They are like barren land that grows nothing nor holds water. This group has no knowledge, they are ignorant people who have no concern for knowledge. Neither do they busy themselves with acquiring it ever, nor are they known to possess it. There is no good nor benefit with them.
These are the levels of people with regards to that in which the Prophet -sallahu alayhi wa salaam- was sent. The last category neither lifts their heads nor show concern with regards to that which the Prophet -sallahu alayhi wa salaam- was sent, they don’t memorize chains nor understand the meanings of the text so they lose in both matters. Consequently there is no good with them. By way of his statement the Prophet -sallahu alayhi wa salaam- intended the encouraging of people to seek knowledge and comprehension of Allah’s religion. He also warned from ignoring it. Thus as long as the first two categories remain then the people will be upon good. With them is the very source of good. Thus if these two categories cease til there remains no one except the third group, then the Islamic nation’s circumstance will be bad and this most certainly will occur during the last days, when knowledge will be removed by way of the deaths of scholars and none among them remains in order to be returned to except the third level of people.
So where will the people go? Who will they depend upon for acquisition of knowledge and practical application? Who will they ask if the scholars are lost and knowledge is removed? This is a sign of evil for this nation. The Islamic nation can not thrive unless there exist knowledge and its people, (meaning) knowledge and action. If they cease the Islamic nation will plunge into darkness and will take from the heads of those who are ignorant. They will be asked and will issue verdicts without knowledge. They are astray and they lead others astray.
In conclusion knowledge is not acquired spontaneously, on the contrary it’s acquired by seeking it. There is nothing man hopes to achieve that comes easy. Knowledge has foundations and paths just as the Messenger -sallahu alayhi wa salaam- said, “Whoever traverses a path in order to obtain knowledge, Allah will make easy for him the path to paradise.” Hence it is necessary to proceed upon a path of learning and acquiring knowledge from the scholars as long as they are present, as knowledge is not sought from books, the ignorant, nor the self taught individual attempting to resemble the scholars because that is not knowledge. These types of people are referred to as bookworms and at the end of time they will be abundant and the (authentic) scholars will be few in number. The abundance of bookworms (those who seek knowledge exclusively by readings books) will not benefit (anyone) in the least and if there are no scholars then these individuals will harm the people more than benefiting them, or they will not benefit them at all. Therefore it is required to obtain knowledge from the scholars, (studying) its fundamentals, manuscripts, and rudimentary guidelines.
Translated by Najeeb Al Anjelesi
Source: الإصباح في بيان منهج السلف في التربية و الإصلاح
1: The shaykh is referring to the principle, “The Muslims’ victory and the correcting of their condition is linked to two affairs: 1. Beneficial knowledge 2. Righteous actions.
2: The shaykh is referring to an authentic narration upon the authority of Abu Musa Al Ashari where the Prophet -sallahu alayhi wa salaam- said: “The example of guidance and knowledge with which Allah has sent me is like abundant rain falling on the earth, some of which was fertile soil that absorbed rain water and brought forth vegetation and grass in abundance. (And) another portion of it was hard and held the rain water and Allah benefited the people with it and they utilized it for drinking, making their animals drink from it and for irrigation of the land for cultivation. (And) a portion of it was barren which could neither hold the water nor bring forth vegetation (then that land gave no benefits). This is the example of the person who comprehends Allah’s religion and gets benefit (from the knowledge) which Allah has revealed through me. Thus he learns and then teaches others. The last example is that of a person who does not care for it and does not accept Allah’s guidance revealed through me (He is like that barren land.) Collected by both Al-Bukhari and Muslim.