You think you are better in wisdom than our Salafs?

It is strange that today we find people allergic to the use of the term “Salaf”. Once you mention this term, they don’t listen to anything else and start complaining “Salaf, Salaf, Salaf, this is all that you have”. They say that since the times have changed, they have increased in wisdom than our righteous salafs. They have their own logical opinion on everything, and they call this opinion as wisdom. Strange indeed, has become the affairs of this ummah.

al-Hafidh Ibn Rajab al Hanbali (may Allah have mercy on him) wrote in his treatise “Fadhl ‘Ilm as-Salaf ‘ala ‘Ilm ul-Khalaf” (The virtue of knowledge of the Salaf over the Khalaf):

فيجب أن يعتقد أنه ليس كل من كثر بسطة للقول وكلامه في العلم كان أعلم ممن ليس كذلك. وقد ابتلينا بجهلة من الناس يعتقدون في بعض من توسع في القول من المتأخرين انه أعلم ممن تقدم. فمنهم من يظن في شخص أنه أعلم من كل من تقدم من الصحابة ومن بعدهم لكثرة بيانه ومقاله.

It is necessary to realize that not everyone who speaks a lot, delving into great detail, with regards normal speech and knowledge is more knowledgeable than one who does not.

We have been tried by the ignorant amongst people who start believing that just because someone speaks a lot, he is more knowledgeable than those who have preceded him!

Amongst them are some who believe that a particular person is more knowledgeable than the Companions and those who came after them simply because he goes to minute details when explaining matters and has an opinion on everything.

ومنهم من يقول هو أعلم من الفقهاء المشهورين المتبوعين. وهذا يلزم منه ما قبله لأن هؤلاء الفقهاء المشهورين المتبوعين أكثر قولا ممن كان قبلهم فإذا كان من بعدهم أعلم منهم لاتساع قوله كان أعلم ممن كان أقل منهم قولا بطريق الأولى. كالثوري والأوزاعي والليث. وابن المبارك. وطبقتهم. وممن قبلهم من التابعين والصحابة أيضاً.

فإن هؤلاء كلهم أقل كلاماً ممن جاء بعدهم وهذا تنقص عظيم بالسلف الصالح وإساءة ظن بهم ونسبته لهم إلى الجهل وقصور العلم ولا حول ولا قوة إلا باللَه .

Some of this group says that he is just more knowledgeable than the famous Legal Jurists who enjoy a following; however this statement of theirs implies the same as the previous. This is because those famous Legal Jurists spoke more than those who came before them, hence if someone who came after them knows more than them just because of his detailed discussions, then for sure he should be more knowledgeable than those who spoke less than them such as Thawri, Awza’i, Layth, ibn al-Mubarak, those of their generation, and those who came before them of the Successors and Companions.

Such a stance constitutes clear disrespect of a serious nature towards the righteous Salaf and indeed amounts to having an evil opinion of them and accusing them of ignorance or deficiency in knowledge. There is no strength or ability except with Allah! [1]

ولقد صدق ابن مسعود في قوله في الصحابة أنهم أبر الأمة قلوباً. وأعمقها علوماً. وأقلها تكلفاً. وروي نحوه عن ابن عمر أيضاً. وفي هذا إشارة إلى أن من بعدهم أقل علوماً وأكثر تكلفاً.

وقال ابن مسعوداً أيضاً إنكم في زمان كثير علماؤه قليل خطباؤه وسيأتي بعدكم زمان قليل علماؤه كثير خطباؤه فمن كثر علمه وقل قوله فهو الممدوح ومن كان بالعكس فهو مذموم.

Ibn Mas’ud spoke the truth when he said, ‘Amongst mankind, they had the most righteous of hearts, they had the most profound and in-depth knowledge, and they were the least pretentious,’ [2] thereby indicating that those to come after them are of a lesser stature with regards knowledge but more pretentious. The likes of this has also been reported from ibn ‘Umar. [3]

Ibn Mas’ud also said, ‘You are in a time in which the scholars are many but whose speakers are few. After you will come a time in which the scholars are few but the speakers are many.‘ [4] Hence whoever’s knowledge is great but speech is little is to be commended, and whoever is the opposite is to be censured.

Source: “Fadl ‘Ilm as-Salaf ‘ala ‘Ilm ul-Khalaf” of Ibn Rajab, Pages 28-30

Ibn rajab (may Allah have mercy on him) then goes on to mention:

وفي كلامهم في ذلك كفاية وزيادة فلا يوجد في كلام من بعدهم من حق إلا وهو في كلامهم موجود بأوجز لفظ وأخصر عبارة ولا يوجد في كلام من بعدهم من باطل إلا وفي كلامهم ما يبين بطلانه لمن فهمه وتأمله ويوجد في كلامهم من المعاني البديعة والمآخذ الدقيقة مالا يهتدى إليه من بعدهم ولا يلم يه.

فمن لم يأخذ العلم من كلامهم فاته ذلك الخير كله مع ما يقع في كثير من الباطل متابعة لمن أخر عنهم.

In their (our salaf’s) words is sufficiency and more, there is no truth that one finds in the words of those who came after except that it can be found in their words in the most succinct and comprehensive of ways. There is no falsehood to be found in the words of those who came after except that you will find in their words, after understanding and due consideration, a clarification of its falsity.

There is to be found in their words such profound meanings and subtle derivations that those who came after would never have even begun to broach, let alone been guided to!

Whoever does not take knowledge from their words will miss out on all that good as well as falling into much falsehood by way of following those who came after.

Source: “Fadl ‘Ilm as-Salaf ‘ala ‘Ilm ul-Khalaf” of Ibn Rajab, Page 32

Ibn Rajab (may Allah have mercy on him) also mentions:

ومن علمه غير نافع إذا رأى لنفسه فضلا على من تقدمه في المقال وتشقق الكلام ظن لنفسه عليهم فضلا في العلوم أو الدرجة عند اللَه لفضل خص به عمن سبق فاحتقر من تقدمه واجترأ عليه بقلة العلم ولا يعلم المسكين أن قلة كلام من سلف إنما كان ورعا وخشية للَّه ولو أراد الكلام وإطالته لما عجز عن ذلك.

Whoever’s knowledge is not beneficial and deems himself better than those who preceded him in his stances and his elaborate, laborious speech, will also deem himself better than them (the salafs) in knowledge or ranking in the Sight of Allah. He will look down upon those who came before him and mock them for having little knowledge. This pauper does not realize that the lack of speech arising from the Salaf was because of their wara’ [5] and fear of Allah, had they wished to lengthen or detail their discussions, they were fully capable of doing so.

Source: “Fadl ‘Ilm as-Salaf ‘ala ‘Ilm ul-Khalaf” of Ibn Rajab, Page 48


[1] Ajurri #127 records from Awza’i that he said, ‘Follow the footsteps of those who preceded you even if it mean that the people absolve themselves of you; beware of the opinions of people even if they beautify and embellish their words.’

[2] Recorded by ibn ‘Abdu’l-Barr #1810 with a Dha’if Isnad, however the narration is good. Almost the exact same wording is reported from aI-Hasan by ibn ‘Abdu’l-Barr #1807 with a Sahih Isnad.

[3] Abu Nu’aym, vol. 1, p. 378 # 1060 from ibn ‘Umar with a Dha’if Isnad.

[4] Abu Khaythamah #109 and Tabarani, al-Kabir #8066.

It was declared sahih by ibn Hajr, vol. 10, p. 510, and Albani in his notes to Abu Khaythamah.

Tabarani also records that ibn Mas’ud said, ‘You are in a time in which the prayer is lengthy and the sermons are short; the scholars are many and the speakers are few. There will come a time when the prayer is short and the sermon is lengthy; the speakers will be many and the scholars few.’ Haythami, voL 7, p.285, said, ‘Its narrators are those of the Sahih’

[5] Bayhaqi, al-Zuhd al-Kabir #832 and Harawi, Dhamm al-Kalam, #114 record from Dahhak that he said, ‘As for them, they learnt wara’ however there will come upon you a time wherein people will merely learn how to speak.’

Ibn al-Qayyim, al-Fawa’id, p. 118, said that wara’ was, ‘Leaving all that one fears may harm his Hereafter.’

al-Jurjani, al-Ta’rifat, p. 325, said that it was ‘The leaving of anything doubtful for fear of falling into the prohibited. It is also said that it is to adhere firmly to all beautiful deeds.’ Tabarani, al-Kabir records on the authority of Hudhayfah that the Prophet, peace and blessing be upon him, said, “The excellence of knowledge is better than the excellence of worship. The best of your religion is wara’.” Mundhiri said that its isnad was hasan and it was declared sahih by Albani, Sahih al-Targhib #68.

Author: Islamic Treasure

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