Acquiring Knowledge From Books Alone

فَاسْأَلُوا أَهْلَ الذِّكْرِ إِن كُنتُمْ لَا تَعْلَمُونَ

Ask the people of knowledge, if you do not know.

Shaykh Salih Al-Fawzan حفظه الله  said:

“Learning from books without the Ulimaa, so this is the deviate path and many who are astray because of this. Because he does not understand what’s in the books or understand what the books intends. Because books do not explain it self for him (the reader) or makes it clear or perhaps the author is deviant in his understanding or in his knowledge, so his books are with mistakes in knowledge, so he reads it, this youth who is ignorant. So he embrace it, so these books do not depend on it. Even if its the correct books (etc. authentic books and authors), so indeed you do not understand the books according to what is required. And what astray the Khawarij (first sect in Islam, who made the blood of the Muslim halaal, and killed many of the Sahabah) with their intellect along with their devotion and they where astray except the reason that they isolated (themselves) and they depended upon their understanding, and they depend on the likeness of them, so they obtain (their understanding) with one another. So they became harmful upon each other, and upon the Ummah (Islamic Nation) , and this is the result of isolation from the Ulimaa. You are instructed to be occupied with seeking beneficial knowledge under the support of the Ulimaa and to stay away from plunging into things (starting trouble), speaking about people, and backbiting and gossiping, and criticizing and slander. Indeed this is an evil outspread, divided the Ummah’s youths and made them groups and parties because what is present in people ( from criticizing, backbiting, gossip and calumniation, due to their incorrect understandings).”

Shaykh حفظه الله  also said:

“Having books is not enough. The children of Israel perished while they had the Torah and the Bible.vWhen they did not have scholars to establish the [legislated] truth, they perished. So the presence of books among us and the proliferation of books and the variety of books – [then all of] this is undoubtedly good, but it is not enough. Because someone who reads these books without insight [from the scholars], misleads the people and thinks he is a scholar.”


Shaykh Muhammad bin Salih Al-Uthaymeen رحمه الله  said:

“It is obligatory upon the student of knowledge to seek assistance from Allaah (Subhaanahu wa Ta’aala), then from the people of knowledge, in addition to seeking assistance from that which the people of knowledge have written in their books because confining oneself to reading alone requires a lot of time, which is contrary to sitting with a scholar who explains and sheds light upon matters for him…”

Shaykh رحمه الله  also said:

“…That he who takes his knowledge simply from books, then his knowledge is mostly weak. It is not built upon principles or rules. As a result of this, we find he has many mistakes. This is because he does not possess any principles or rules upon which he is able to build the different aspects of knowledge which are found in the Quran and the Sunnah.”

Source: Kitab Al-Ilm

Shaykh Bakr bin Abdullah Abu Zayd حفظه الله  said:

The basis of acquiring knowledge should be by way of dictation and acquisition from the teachers, and by being in the continuous company of the scholars and taking from the mouths of men, and not from the scrolls and the depths of books. The first type of student (i.e. the seeker of knowledge who takes from the teachers) falls under the taking from ones relative when they talk [and this is the example of one who takes from a] teacher; the second takes from a book which is inanimate; therefore how can the ties of lineage be possible? It also used to be said: “Whoever enters knowledge alone, will emerge alone,” i.e. whoever becomes involved in seeking knowledge without a shaykh will emerge without knowledge, because knowledge is a profession, and every profession has its experts, therefore it is necessary to have a proficient teacher in order to learn.

Shaykh Salah Al-Din Al-Safadi a student of Imam Al-Dhahabi رحمه الله  said:

ولهذا قال العلماء لا تأخذو العلم من صحفى ولا من مصحفى يعنى لا تقرأ القرآن على من قرأ من المصحف ولا الحديث وغيرهعلى من أخذ ذلك من الصحف

“Do not take knowledge from a person who acquires it from the scripts, and do not take the Qur’aan from a person who has recited the Qur’aan from the mus-haf. Meaning: do not recite the Qur’aan to a person who just read it from the mus-haf (without reciting it to a shaykh), or hculeeth etc. from a person who acquired [hadeeth] by reading from the scripts..” (Sharh-lhyaaa)

Al-Waleed said: Imam Al-Awzaa’ee رحمه الله  used to say:

كان هذا العلم كريماً، يتلاقاه الرجال بينهم، فلما دخل في الكتب، ظهل فبه غير أهله

” This knowledge used to be noble, passed down [from men] to men, but when it entered the books the wrong people became involved in it.” (As-Siyar)

Imraan ibn Hussain رحمه الله  said:

“Oh People! Learn the Knowledge of the religion from us (the direct students of the prophet who know more than you), If you do not do so then you will certainly be misguided!” (Al Kifaayah of al Khateeb al Baghdaadi)

Q: A man teaches the people the sciences of the Islamic legislation and the Aqeedah of the Salaf even though he did not acquire knowledge from the mashaayikh and the scholars; is knowledge taken from him?

Shaykh Al-Fawzan حفظه الله replied: As long as he does not have foundation from the scholars (i.e. did not acquire knowledge from them in person and has no recommendations for that), rather he sought (knowledge) from papers and books, then knowledge is not taken from him because he does not understand the Madhab of the salaf.  And it (i.e. Madhab of the Salaf) is not understood except by studying under the scholars.  (It) is acquired (from the scholars)–this knowledge is (acquired from the scholars) and not only through reading. It is acquired (through the scholars), but reading is only an aid and not depended on. The likes of this (person) is called a Muta-aalim* and knowledge is not taken from him.

*Muta-aalim: i.e. someone who feigns knowledge and understanding but does/did not seek knowledge directly from the people of knowledge.


Compiled by: Zeeshan Rashid Bhat


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