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Chapter 10. Heirs of the Prophets

As for the Prophet's saying, "The scholars are the heirs of the prophets," this means that they inherit the knowledge that the prophets taught. They succeed the prophets in their communities in the sense of calling people to Allah and His obedience, prohibiting rebellion against Allah and defending His religion. Hasan al-Basri attributes the following saying to the Prophet, "May the mercy of Allah be on my successors." The Companions asked, "O Messenger of Allah, who are your successors?" He said, "Those who revive and teach my sunnah after my passing." A similar hadith is related by Ali from the Prophet.

The scholars occupy the position of the prophets in a noble station between Allah and humanity. This is as Ibn al-Munkadir has said: "Truly, the scholars are between Allah and humanity; therefore, be careful how you approach them."

Sufyan ibn Uyayna said, "The greatest people in rank are those who stand between Allah and humanity: the prophets and the scholars."

Sahl ibn Abdallah said:

Whoever wants to look at the gatherings of the prophets, let him look ar the gatherings of the scholars. Someone asks, "What do you say about a man who takes an oath against his wife to divorce her based on some condition." The unlearned replies, "His wife is divorced." Someone else comes forward with the same question. A discerning man responds, "He should break this type of oath." This sort of question should only be directed to a prophet or a scholar.

Noble Dreams Tell the Exalted Station of the Scholars

A pious woman during the time of Hasan al-Basri dreamed that she was seeking a religious verdict concerning extra-menstrual bleeding [istihada]. It was said to her, "You search for a verdict while Hasan is in your midst holding the Seal of Gabriel [Jibril]?" This indicates that Hasan inherited the wisdom vouchsafed by Angel Gabriel. This is known as the "Seal of Gabriel."

Someone saw the Prophet in a dream and said to him, "O Messenger of Allah! We are at odds between Imam Malik and Layth. Which of them is more knowledgeable?" The Prophet said, "Malik is the heir of my knowledge."

Another person dreamed that the Prophet was sitting in the Masjid in the midst of an assembly, while Imam Malik was standing before him. Infront of the Prophet was a container of musk. He took it and gave it to Imam Malik who then distributed it to the assembly. This was interpreted to mean that Imam Maiik was blessed with knowledge and strictly adhered to the sunnah (the exemplary way of the Prophet).

Fudayl ibn Iyad saw the Prophet in his dream sitting down, and beside him was a gap. Fudayl advanced to sit there. The Prophet said to him, "This is the seat of Abu Ishaq al-Fazari."

One of those gathered asked, Which of the two is better?" The Prophet said, "Fudayl was a man who benefited himself with his devotions, and Abu lshaq was a man who benefited the public with his knowledge." This indicated that the latter was a scholar whose knowledge benefited other people. Fudayl was a devout worshipper whose benefit was confined to himself.

The scholars will intercede on behalf of the believers after the intercession of the prophets, as Tirmidhi relates from Uthman the statement of the Prophet, "On the Day of Judgment, the prophets will intercede, then the scholars, then the martyrs."

Malik ibn Dinar said, "I have heard that it will be said to the devout [on the Day of Judgment), 'Enter Paradise!' While it will be said to the scholar, 'Rise and intercede!'" This narration, however, is related from Abu Hurayrah with a very weak chain.

The scholars will be a proof at the Gathering Station [al-Mahshar] during the tumult of the Day of Judgment. The people garhered there wilI think that they only stayed in their graves a brief time. The scholars will make it clear that the truth is to the contrary. Allah the Exalted says:

On the day that the Hour is established, the criminal transgressors will swear that they only tarried a brief time. Thus were they deluded from the truth. Whereas those given knowledge and faith will say, "You tarried, in accordance to Allah's Book of decree, until the Day of Resurrection."

(Quran, 30:55-56)

The scholars will also comment on the debasement of the idolaters on the Day of Judgment, as Allah says: On the Day of Resurrection, He will debase {the idolaters] and say, "Where are My partner gods that you used to dispute [the believers] about?" Those given knowledge will say, "Debasement and evil this day are upon those who reject faith!" (Quran, 16:27).

It has been related from the Prophet . "People will need scholars in Paradise just as they need them in the world. When the Lord summons the people of Paradise to stand before Him, He will say to them, 'Ask what you desire.' They will run to the scholars, who will say, 'Ask Him to enable you to see Him. What in Paradise is greater than that!"' All of these narrations make it clear that there is no rank after prophethood better than that of the scholars.

Scholars, the Befriended of Allah

The Quran relates, Allah bears witness that there is no God but Him, as do the angels and those endowed with knowledge (3:18). In this verse, the prophets have not been mentioned individually, but inclusively with the scholars. This is sufficient honouring of the scholars in that they have been menrioned in a way that includes the prophets. This is the basis of those who say, "The scholars who act on their knowledge are the protected friends of Allah." Both Abu Hanifah and al-Shafi have said, "If the scholars and jurists are not the protected friends of Allah, then Allah has no such friends."

Imam Ahmad said, "The people of hadith are the abdal [people of superior piety]."

The Prophet said, "Indeed, the prophets do not leave money as an inheritance. Rather, they leave knowledge. Whoever seizes it has taken a bountiful share indeed." So knowledge is the heritage of the prophets, which means that the scholars are the heirs to what the prophets leave behind, namely, beneficial knowledge. Whoever seizes it and prizes it has obtained a great fortune, which his companions can rightfully envy. Ibn Masud saw a group of people studying in the Prophet's Masjid. A man said, "Why have they gathered? He sijd, "They have gathered for the inheritance of Muhammad; they are distributing it among themselves," [that is, distributing knowledge]. Once Abu Hurayrah headed toward the market. Upon leaving, he said to his family, "You abandon the inheritance of Muhammad being distributed in the Masjid and remain here! His heritage is the Quran, as well as the Sunnah that explains and makes clear its meanings."

It is related in Sahih al-Bukhari that Ibn Abbas was asked, "Did the Prophet leave anything?" He said, "He did not leave anything except what is between the two covers [of the Book]," that is, the Quran.' It is related in Sahih al-Bukhari and Sahih Muslim that lbn Abu Awfa was asked, "Did the Prophet bequeath anything?" He said, "He bequeathed the Quran." The Prophet gave a sermon after the Farewell Pilgrimage and said:

l am but a mortal being. The (Angel of Death) is about to come to me, and I will respond to his summon. I am leaving with you two weighty things. The first is the Book of Allah, in which there is guidance and light. Whoever seizes hold of it and takes it, he will be guided. Whoever lets it escape, he will go astray.

Imam Ahmad relates that Abdallah ibn Amr said:

The Prophet came out to us and said,"I am the unlettered Prophet." He said this three times. [He then continued], "There is no prophet after me. I have been given speech that is decisive and comprehensive. I have learned the number of the guardians of Hellfire and the number of angels bearing the lofty Throne [of Allah]. The faults of my nation have been wiped out. Therefore, listen well and obey me as long as I am with you. When I am taken away, you must adhere to the Book of Allah. Hold as lawful that which it legislates as lawful, and hold as unlawful that which it prohibits." Then he said, "The prophets do not leave money as an inheritance. Rather, they leave knowledge."

The Prophet means by this that they do not leave anything except knowledge. This is consistent with the verse, Solomon was the heir of David (Quran, 27:16); and His statement concerning Zachariah [Zakariyya ], And bestow upon me an heir who will receive my heritage and the heritage of the family of Jacob (Quran, 19:5-6). What is intended here is the heritage of knowledge and prophecy, not material wealth. The prophets did not accumulate material belongings that can be left behind in worldly bequest. The Prophet said, "Whatever I leave behind other than provision for my servant and maintenance for my family, it is chariry." He did not leave anything behind except a coat of armour, his weapon, his white mule, and a piece of land, which he gave in charity." [In a similar narration] it is mentioned that the Prophet did not leave behind anything except a single tool and land that he and his family used to grow their food. He gave it to the Muslims in charity.

All of this indicates that the messengers were not sent to gather worldly possessions for their families. Rather, they were sent to call people to Allah, struggle in His path, disseminate beneficial knowledge, and leave that knowledge as a bequest for their com­munities.

Abu Muslim al-Khulani attributes [the following saying] to the Prophet: "Allah did not inspire me to collect wealth and be a merchant. Rather, He revealed to me, Glorify the praises of your Lord and be among those who prostrate themselves [unto Him] and worship your Lord until death comes to you (Quran, 15:99)."

Tirmidhi and others relate that the Prophet said, "What do I have to do with the world! The similitude of myself and the world is like a rider; he seeks shade briefly under a tree, rises, and moves on."

Hence, the Prophet said:

"The religious scholars are the heirs of the prophets. The prophets do not leave money as an inheritance. Rather, they leave knowledge."

In this part of the hadith two things are alluded to. First, the scholar is the true heir of the Messenger. Just as the scholar has inherited the Messenger's knowledge, it is fitting that he leave a heritage of knowledge as the Messenger did. The scholar's heritage is what he leaves behind through teaching, writing, and other endeavours which benefit people after him. The Prophet said, "When the servant dies his actions are cut off except for three things: beneficial knowledge, continuous charity, or a righteous son who prays for him." If the scholar teaches one who acts on his knowledge after him, he has left behind beneficial knowledge and continuous charity. Teaching is a form of charity, as has been related previously from Muadh and others. Those people whom the scholar taught have a status equivalent to his righteous children; they pray for him. Therefore, they confer upon him all three of these distinctions because of the knowledge he left.

As for the second point, the scholar does not leave behind any worldly thing, just as the Messenger did not. This is the scholar's way, owing to his exactness following the prophets. This scrupulousness is encompassed in his following the Messenger and his Sunnah, turning away from the world, taking little from it, and being content with that. Sahl al-Tustari used to say, "Among the signs of the love of the sunnah is the love of the Hereafter, dislike of the world, and not indulging in anything except sufficient provision for the Hereafter."