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Chapter 7. Scholars and Worshippers

It is obvious from the preceding chapters that love of the sincere scholars is an essential part of this religion. Ali said to Kumayl ibn Ziyad, "Loving the scholars is an act of worship." A well­ known narration exhorts us, "Be a scholar, a teacher, a listener, or one who loves them. Do not be in a fifth category and thereby be ruined." One of the righteous predecessors (Salaf) said, "Glory be to Allah who has made for the people a way out."

This means that whoever abandons any of the first four praiseworthy categories necessarily enters a fifth and is thus ruined. He is neither a scholar, a student, a Listener, nor one who loves scholars. He is therefore ruined. Whoever hates scholars, he loves their ruin. One who loves their ruin, loves for the light of Allah to be extinguished on earth and for sin and corruption to appear. This is consistent with what Sufyan and others among the righteous Salaf have said.

Once a servant of a ruler hated Abu Faraj ibn al-Jawzi and strived to harm him. One of Ibn Jawzi's friends saw the man in a dream being carried to Hellfire and inquired of the reason for such a terrible state. It was said, "Because he hated Ibn jawzi.'' Ibn Jawzi relates, "When the hatred and abuse [of this person] became unbearable, I sought refuge with Allah that He expose his weakness. Allah ruined him soon thereafter."

To Kill a Scholar is to Kill a Successor of the Prophet

At the time that Hajjaj killed Sa'id ibn Jubayr, the people were in dire need of Sa'id's knowledge. [Hajjaj] thus prevented the people from benefiting from that knowledge. Then someone saw in a dream that Hajjaj [suffered the trials of] being killed once for everyone who fell during [his assault on Sa'id]. For slaying Sa'id, he was killed seventy times.

This understanding is consistent with the idea that the most severely punished of people is one who kills a prophet, since the murderer has striven to work corruption in the earth. Whoever kills a scholar has killed a successor of the Prophet and has like­wise gone to great lengths to spread corruption in the earth. For this reason, Allah has specifically linked the killing of prophets and the killing of righteous scholars, Those who reject the signs of Allah and unjustly kill the prophets and kill those who command justice, announce to them a painful punishment (Quran, 3:21).

Ikrima, as well as others among the righteous forbears, said concerning the following verse: Whoever kills a human being, except as retribution for murder or corruption in the earth, it is as if he has killed all of humanity; and whoever saves a life, it is as if he has saved all of humanity (Quran, 5:32), "Whoever kills a prophet or a just imam, it is as if he has killed all of humanity; and whoever supports a prophet or a just imam, it is as if he has saved all of humanity."

The Full Moon, the Stars, and the Planets

The Prophet said, "The superiority of the scholar over the devout worshipper is like the superiority of the full moon over the rest of the heavenly bodies." The meaning conveyed by this hadith has been related from the Prophet, by way of Muadh and Abu Darda with a broken chain of transmitters. This metaphor contains a comparison between the scholar and the full moon. The full moon represents the scholar, owing to the exquisite luminance of its Light, while the planets represent devout worshippers. The difference in the radiance of the full moon and that of the planets represents the difference in virtue between the scholar and the devout worshipper. The underlying reason for this and Allah knows best is as follows: a planet's light does not extend beyond itself, whereas the light of the full moon shines upon the earth's inhabitants; they are illuminated by it and guided in their travels.

The Prophet mentioned the planets, not the stars, because the planets are not used for guidance [as much as the stars]. Hence, they have the status of the devout worshipper whose benefit is limited to himself. As for the stars, they are the heavenly bodies that are used for guidance, as Allah the Exalted says: And by the stars are {people} guided [through the land and sea] (Quran, 16:16). He also says, It is He who has set for you the stars that you may be guided by them through the darkness of the land and sea (Quran, 6:97). In another hadith, the Prophet also compared the scholars of his nation to the stars.

It has been said that the moon derives its light from the sun, just as the scholar is a reflection of the light of the divine message. For this reason he has been compared to the moon and not the sun.

The Prophet was a lamp and a luminous moon which shone upon the earth. The scholars, as his heirs and successors, are compared to the bright and luminous full moon.

Righteous Scholars: the First to Enter Paradise

The Prophet narrates in a sound hadith, "The first contingent to enter Paradise will resemble the full moon; those entering after them resemble twinkling stars.'' It is not unreasonable to say­ and Allah knows best that the righteous scholars are among this first contingent because they occupied the status of the full moon in the world. They are joined by the distinguished believers, those whose anecdotes are remembered, hearts are softened when they are mentioned, and their words are sought. As for the second contingent, they are the ordinary believers.

When al-Awza'i died-he was the imam of the Syrians in knowledge and was intensely fearful of Allah, a person saw him in a dream saying, "I haven't seen anything in Paradise greater than the rank of the scholar and the righteous sober individuals who fear Allah."

The Virtue of Knowledge over Ordinary Worship

The hadith of Abu Darda clearly indicates the preference of knowledge over ordinary worship. There is much evidence for this position. Allah says, Are they equal those who know and those who know not? (Quran, 39:9). He also says, Allah elevates in degrees those who believe among you and those possessing knowledge (Quran, 58:11). Ibn Masud and others among the righteous forbears have explained this to mean that Allah raises those endowed with knowledge degrees above the unlearned believers.

Tirmidhi relates from Abu Umama that two men were mentioned to the Prophet one of them a devout worshipper and the other a scholar. The Prophet said, "The virtue of the scholar over the devout worshipper is like my virtue over the lowest of you."

Tirmidhi and Ibn Majah relate a hadith from Ibn Abbas who related that the Prophet said, A single knowledgeable believer is harder on Satan than a thousand devout worshippers."

Ibn Majah relates that Abdallah ibn Amr said:

The Messenger of Allah emerged one day and entered the Masjid. He found before him two gatherings. One engaged in Quranic recitation and invoking Allah, the other in scholarly discourse. The Prophet said, "In each group there is good. These are reciring the Quran and invoking Allah. If He wills He will grant their request, and if He wills He will withhold it. These are engaged in scholarly discourse, and I have been sent as a teacher." He then sat with the latter.

Ibn al-Mubarak, after relating this hadith in Kitab al-Zuhd, adds, "The [latter] are better."

Tabarani relates from Abdallah ibn Umar from the Prophet "A little knowledge is better than abundant worship." Bazzar, Hakim, and others relate from the Prophet on the basis of numerous chains, "Copious knowledge is more beloved to Allah than copious worship, and scrupulousness is the best thing for your religion." Zuhri - attributes the following saying to the Prophet, "The scholar is seventy degrees more virtuous than the devout worshipper. Between each two degrees is a distance that would take a swift horse a hundred years to traverse."

The narrations from the righteous forbears on this subject are quite numerous. For example, it is related from Abu Hurayrah and Abu Dharr, "The least amount of sound knowledge is more beloved to us than a thousand units [Rakah] of voluntary Prayer."

Ibn Majah states that Abu Dharr related this directly from the Prophet. Abu Darda said, "Studying religious knowledge for an hour is better than spending a night in Prayer." It is related from Abu Hurayrah from the Prophet, "[Attaining religious knowledge] is more beloved to me than standing the entire night in Prayer. "

Abu Hurayrah also said, "Knowing a ruling relating to a command or prohibition is more beloved to me than [fighting] seventy battles in the way of Allah. "

lbn Abbas said, "Studying part of the night is more beloved to me than spending its entirety in Prayer." Abu Musa al-Ashari said, "Studying with Abdallah ibn Masud is better for my soul than a year of worship.

Hasan al-Basri said, "Learning an aspect of knowledge and teaching it to a Muslim is more beloved to me than possessing the entire world and using it in the way of Allah." He said on another occasion, "If a man correctly learns an aspect of knowledge and acts upon it, it is better for him than the entire world; even if he were given the world and used it all toward the Hereafter." He also said, "The ink of the scholars and the blood of the martyrs flow in a single stream." He said, "Nothing which Allah has created is greater, in terms of its reward, than seeking knowledge, neither Hajj nor Umrah [Lesser Pilgrimage], nor Jihad, nor Zakat, nor emancipating slaves. If knowledge had a physical image it would be more beautiful than the sun, the moon, the stars, the sky, and a magnificent throne."

Al-Zuhri said, "[Seeking knowledge] is better that the worship of two hundred years." Sufyan al-Thawri and Abu Hanlfah said, "There is nothing after obligatory worship better than seeking knowledge.'" Sufyan also said, "We know of no action bet­ter than seeking knowledge and hadith, if one does so with a good intention." He was asked, "What should his intention be?" He said, "He should desire Allah and Paradise."

Al-Shafi said, "Seeking knowledge is better than voluntary Prayer." Imam Malik saw one of his students recording knowledge. The student abandoned his writing and stood up to perform a non-obligatory Prayer. Thereupon, Imam Malik said, "I'm surprised at you! That which you stood for is not better than what you abandoned."

Imam Ahmad was asked, "What do you consider better, that Ispend the night in voluntary Prayer or that I record knowledge?" He replied, "That you record what you know of your religion is more be loved to me." He also said, "Nothing is equivalent to knowledge." Muafi ibn lmran said, "Writing a single hadith is more beloved to me than spending a night in Prayer."