We now present a parable regarding the states of humanity in responding to the Prophet Muhammad's call. Their states are many: one who is a sincere striver, one who is moderate, and a person who oppresses his soul. In showing how each group responds, this parable also reveals the virtue of righteous scholars over all other people.
A prophet is like a messenger who comes from a land belonging to a most magnificent king. He delivers the king's message to the rest of the lands. His fidelity to the message is manifest. The content of the message is as follows: there is no goodness as perfect as the king's goodness; no justice as complete as his justice; and no authority as firm as his authority. It is the king's desire that all of his subjects come to reside in his land. Whoever comes to him with a good record, he will reward him with the best of rewards. Whoever comes to him with a evil record, he will severely punish him. He will inform his subjects of all that they have done, good or bad.
The messenger thus travels to the far reaches of the kingdom, admonishing the inhabitants of those lands to prepare for the journey. He warns them of the imminent destruction of every parcel of land except the king's. He dispatches assistants to prod the wretched laggards who delay their preparation. He continuously describes the fine attributes of this king, [his] beauty, perfection, majesty, and generosity.
The people are divided into many groups based on their response to this messenger. Among them is one who believes him forthright. His only concern is seeking out what this king loves from his subjects to ensure that when he sets off [toward the king] he has an abundance of those things. He occupies himself with purification and calling on others as best as he could to prepare for the journey. He similarly asks about what the king loathes and then avoids it and enjoins others to shun it as well.
His greatest concern is asking about the attributes of the king, his greatness and generosity, all of which increases his love for the king, his exaltation of him, and his deep yearning to meet him. He eventually travels to the king, bringing [as gifts] the most precious and beloved things imaginable. His journey to the kingdom occurs as part of a grand procession. He knows from the messenger's instructions the most direct route to the king and the best provisions for the journey. Such is a description of the righteous scholars who are well guided and who guide others to the path of Allah. They come to the king as an absentee returning to his people. They await him with eager anticipation and the most earnest longing.
Another group is composed of those obsessed by their own preparation. They do not concern themselves with others. This is the description of the ordinary devout worshippers; they know what is beneficial and act on the basis of that knowledge.
Yet another group is made up those who behave as if they are included among the sincere people, as if their intention is to prepare for the journey. In reality, though, their intention is to occupy their condemned homeland. This group represents the scholars and worshippers who show off their deeds hoping to gain some temporal benefit. They are in the worst of states when they ultimately appear before the king. lt will be said to them, "Seek the reward of your actions from the very ones you performed them for. You will have nothing here with us."'
Another group consists of those who understand the messenger's dictates but are overcome with laziness and do not themselves prepare for the journey, neglecting what the king loves and indulging in what he dislikes. These are the scholars who fail to act on their knowledge. They are on the precipice of destruction, though they benefit others with their knowledge and their description of the path. Their students undertake the journey and are saved, leaving their teachers behind to be destroyed.
There is yet another group that believes the messenger's call, but fails to receive direction from him. These people fail to learn the details of the king's likes and dislikes. They undertake the journey guideless, and thus hurl themselves into roads rife with difficulties, horrors, wastelands, and disease. Most of them either perish or stray from the path, never reaching the king. They are ignorant believers acting without knowledge.
Yet another group is made up of those who completely ignore the messenger. They continue with their everyday routine, as if their homeland is not on the verge of annihilation. Some of them belie the messenger. Others confirm him with their speech, while ignoring his teachings. They are the generality of humanity, the masses who reject divine guidance and reject worship. Their ranks include the disbelievers, hypocrites, and rebellious fools who oppress and wrong their own souls. They feel that the caller has forced them onto the path, expelled them from their homeland, and unjustly summoned them before the king. They come before him as a rebellious slave comes before his angry master.
If you consider these divisions, you will not find any group more honoured or closer to the king than the righteous scholars. They are the best of humanity after the messengers, may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon them all.
Travelling for Sacred Knowledge
Paths Leading to Sacred Knowledge
Knowledge of the Tongue and the Heart
Categories of Scholars
The Harm and Enmity of Corrupt Scholars
The Deception of Satan
Examples of Virtuous Scholars
Grazing the Gardens
All of Creation Assisting the Scholar
Scholars and Worshippers
Virtue of Knowledge
The Virtue of Adam over the Angels
The Scholars Truly Fear Allah
Heirs of the Prophets
Abstinence Of The Early Scholars
About Fudayl Ibn Iyad
About Hasan Al-Basri
About Sufyan Al-Thawri
About Imam Ahmad Ibn Al-Hanbal
About Imam Yahya Ibn Abi Kathir
About Imam Muhammad Ibn Aslam Al-Tusi
About Imam Al-Awzai