The Prophet has said, "Verily, the angels lower their wings to the seeker of sacred knowledge, pleased with what he is doing." Ibn Majah narrates a hadith related by Zirr ibn Hubaysh in which he said:
I met Safwan ibn Assal He said, "What has brought you here?" I replied, "My quest for knowledge." He said, "I heard the Messenger of Allah say, 'No one goes forth from his home seeking knowledge except that the angels lower their wings to him, pleased with what he is doing."
This narration is related by Tirmidhi and others directly from Safwan.
Interpretations regarding the phrase "the angels lower their wings" vary. Some commentators interpret it literally, saying the angels spread their wings and extend them to students of sacred knowledge, carrying them towards their destinations on earth, helping them in their quest, and easing their acquisition of knowledge.
An atheist once heard this hadith and said to some students of sacred knowledge, "Lift your feet! Don't trample on the angels' wings and break them." He said this out of ridicule. As a punishment for these words, he remained fixed in his place until his feet dried and he collapsed. In another narration, the atheist said, "They broke the angels' wings!" He then made himself a pair of nail-studded sandals and walked to the circle of knowledge. Thereafter, his feet became afflicted with gangrene.
Other commentators interpret the phrase as meaning the angels lower their wings out of humility, as well as their subservience to the student of knowledge. This interpretation is derived from Allah's saying, Lower your wing in humility to those believers who follow you (Quran, 26:215). This opinion has validity in that the angels actually have wings.
Yet other commentators interpret it to mean that the angels surround the gatherings of dhikr with their wings overlapping one another until they reach the heavens. A similar interpretation is found in one of Safwan's narration of the hadith, "The angels surround the student of knowledge with their wings, then they ride on each ocher until they reach the lower heaven exuberant by the student's quest." Perhaps this is the weakest interpretation. Allah knows best.
[The hadith states], "As for the scholar, everything in the heavens and earth, even the fish in the water, seek forgiveness for him." Allah informs us in His Book that the angels seek forgiveness for the generality of believers. He says, Those [angels] who carry aloft the Throne [of God], and those surrounding it, glorify the praises of their Lord. They believe in Him and seek forgiveness for the believers (Quran, 40:7). He says also, The angels glorify the praises of their Lord and seek forgiveness for the inhabitants of the earth (Quran, 42:5). This forgiveness is comprehensive, extending to all believers. Yet all things on earth, even the fish in the sea, seek forgiveness for the scholars.
Tirmidhi relates a hadith from Abu Umama that the Prophet said, "Indeed, Allah, the angels, the denizens of the heavens of the earth, the ants in their burrows, and the fish in the sea pray for blessings to come upon those who teach good to people." Tabarani relates from Jabir that the Prophet said, "Everything, even the fish in the sea, seeks forgiveness for one who enlightens the people."
He further relates from Bara ibn Azzam, from the Prophet, "The scholars are the heirs of the prophets. The inhabitants of heaven and earth love them. When the scholars die, the fish in the sea seek forgiveness for them from the time they die until the Day of Resurreccion."
It is related that such forgiveness is also sought for the student.
Imam Ahmad relates on the authority of Qabisa ibn al-Mukhariq:
l came to the Prophet, and be asked, "What has brought you here?" I said, "My years have advanced and my bones are fragile. I have come to you in order that you might teach me something with which Allah will benefit me." He said, "O Qabisa, you haven't passed by a single burrow, nor a tree, nor a mud hill, except that its inhabitants sought forgiveness for you.
The following verse is a further indication of this concept: O you who believe! Remember Allah much, and glorify him morning and evening. He sends His blessings upon you, as do His angels, that He may take you from darkness to light. And He is merciful to the believers (Quran, 33:41-43).
Allah and His angels send blessings upon the people of dhikr.
And as previously mentioned, knowledge is among the best forms of dhikr. Hakim relates that Salim ibn Amir said:
A man came to Abu Umama and said, "Abu Umama, l have seen in my dream angels praying for your forgiveness every time you enter and leave, every time you stand and sit." Abu Umama replied, "May Allah forgive me. Do not mention such things. If you wished, the angels would pray for your forgiveness." He then recited, O you who believe! Remember Allah much and glorify him morning and evening. He sends His blessings upon you, as do His angels, that He may take you from darkness to light. And He is merciful to the believers. (Quran,33:41-43).
Some commentators explain that the beasts seek forgiveness for the scholars because the scholars spread goodness and mercy in the world. Also, the scholars command people to do good to all creation, even to slaughter in the most merciful way those animals that can be lawfully slaughtered. The goodness of scholars is there-by extended to the entire animal kingdom. For this reason animals seek forgiveness for the scholars.
Another meaning reveals itself to some commentators: animals are dutifully obedient to Allah and submissive to Him. They glorify Him and are not rebellious. Obedient beasts thus love obedient humans. That being so, what should their attitude be towards the scholar, who teaches people about Allah and the rights owed to Him and who calls to His obedience? Allah loves one who possesses these characteristics. Allah purifies him, praises him, and orders everyone and everything in the heavens and the earth to love and pray for him. ln this way does He send His blessings upon the scholar. He places love for him in the hearts of His believing servants.
Allah the Exalted says, Indeed, those who believe and do righteous deeds, the Merciful will evoke love for them (Quran, 19:96).
Love for the scholar is not limited to the animate. In fact, inanimate objects also love him. This meaning is conveyed in the explanation of the verse: Heaven and earth wept not for [the wrongdoers] (Quran, 44:29). Commentaries on this verse mention the following narrations: "The sky weeps forty days for the believer when he dies." And, "The earth says to the believer when he is buried, 'You were the most beloved of those walking on my surface. You will see [my gentle treatment] when you are placed in my interior.'"
Only sinful men and jinn hate the believer and the scholar because the rebellion [of the sinners and the jinn] against Allah requires that they place their obedience to their wild inclinations ahead of their obedience to Allah. Therefore, they hate obeying Allah and hate obedient people. Those who love Allah and obedience, love those who obey Him. They especially love those who call people to His obedience and command by the same call.
Furthermore, when knowledge appears on earth [due to the presence of the scholars] and is acted on, blessings abound and sustenance descends from the heavens. This benefits life for all, including ants and all other kinds of tiny creatures. This is due to the blessings generated by and for the scholar. The denizens of the heavens give glad tidings for the acts of obedience and righteous deeds that ascend from people on earth, and they seek forgiveness for those who are responsible for those deeds.
The opposite accrues to one who conceals knowledge that should be rightfully manifested. Allah, the angels, and the denizens of heavens curse the concealer of knowledge because he strives to extinguish the light of Allah. As a result of his concealment, sin, oppression, enmity, and tyranny appear on earth. Allah says, Indeed, those who conceal what We have revealed of the clear proofs and guidance after it has been made clear to people in the Book, they are cursed by Allah and cursed by those who rightfully curse (Quran, 2:159). It is said that this verse was revealed concerning the People of the Book who concealed the descriptions of the Prophet contained in their scriptures.
Abu Hurayrah used to say, "Were it not for one particular verse in the Quran, Iwould not have narrated a single hadith." He then recited the above-mentioned verse.
Bara ibn al-Azib relates from the Prophet, concerning the verse, they are cursed by Allah and cursed by those who rightfully curse (Quran, 2:159), "He informed us of those entitled to curse [these corrupt people]; they are the beasts of the earth." This is also related directly from Bara. A group of the righteous Salaf have said about those who conceal beneficial knowledge, "The beasts of the earth curse them, saying, 'We have been denied rain because of the sins of the Children of Adam.'"
Concealing religiously beneficial knowledge leads to ignorance and sin. This results in the cessation of rainfall and in the descent of tribulations that afflict the beasts of the earth. They perish because of the sins of the Children of Adam, and they curse those who are responsible for their demise.
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