The Signs of Beneficial Knowledge

Shaykh Bakr ibn ‘Abdillaah Aboo Zayd (rahimahullaah) in his book “Hilyah Taalib al-‘Ilm” summarized the signs of beneficial knowledge and he mentioned:

تساءل مع نفسك عن حظك من علامات العلم النافع، وهى:

- العمل به.

- كراهية التزكية والمدح والتكبر على الخلق.

- تكاثر تواضعك كلما ازددت علماً.

- الهرب من حب الترؤس والشهرة والدنيا.

- هجر دعوى العلم.

- إساءة الظن بالنفس، وإحسانه بالناس تنزها عن الوقوع بهم

وقد كان عبد الله بن المبارك إذا ذكر أخلاق من سلف ينشد:

لَا تَعْرِضَنَّ بِذِكْرِنَا فِي ذِكْرِهِمْ  لَيْسَ الصَّحِيحُ إِذَا مَشَى كَالْمُقْعَدِ

Ask yourself about how much you share from the signs of beneficial knowledge, which are as follows:

1. Implementing it.

2. Hatred of being praised, complemented, or displaying haughtiness over others.

3. Increasing your modesty with the increase of your knowledge

4. Fleeing from the love of leadership, fame, and worldly pleasures.

5. Abandoning the claim to have knowledge.

6. Having bad suspicions about oneself, and good suspicion about other people, so as to steer clear from disparaging them.

‘Abdullaah ibn al-Mubarak used to say, in poetry the following lines when the manners of the Salaf were mentioned:

Do not compare us to them … For the healthy person, who walks, is not the same as the crippled one. [1]

Source: “Hilyah Taalib al-‘Ilm” of Shaykh Bakr ibn ‘Abdillaah Aboo Zayd (rahimahullaah), Chapter 6, page 191.

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):

ومن علامات العلم النافع أنه يدل صاحبه على الهرب من الدنيا وأعظمها الرئاسة والشهرة والمدح فالتباعد عن ذلك والاجتهاد في مجانبته من علامات العلم النافع. فإذا وقع شيء من ذلك من غير قصد واختيار كان صاحبه في خوف شديد من عاقبته بحيث أنه يخشى أن يكون مكراً واستدراجاً كما كان الإمام أحمد يخاف ذلك على نفسه عند اشتهار اسمه وبعد صيته.

From the signs of beneficial knowledge is that it will teach one to flee from the worldly effects, the greatest of which is the desire for leadership, fame, and praise. It will teach one to avoid these and to expend effort in staying away from them. If any of this does occur, without his choice or desire, he is in a state of extreme fear of his end because it could just be a divine plan and a means of gradually leading him to perdition (istidraj). It was because of this that Imam Ahmad (rahimahullaah) used to be in a state of fear when he became famous.

ومن علامات العلم النافع أن صاحبه لا يدعى العلم ولا يفخر به على أحد ولا ينسب غيره إلى الجهل إلا من خالف السنة وأهلها فإنه يتكلم فيه غضباً للَّه لا غضباً لنفسه ولا قصداً لرفعتها على أحد.

From the signs of beneficial knowledge is that one does not lay claim to having knowledge or become boastful of it. He does not accuse others of ignorance unless they oppose the Sunnah and its people, in which case he speaks against him out of anger for the sake of Allah, not out of personal anger or the desire of gaining ascendancy over him.

وأما من علمه غير نافع فليس له شغل سوى التكبر بعلمه على الناس وإظهار فضل علمه عليهم ونسبتهم إلى الجهل وتنقُّصهم ليرتفع بذلك عليهم وهذا من أقبح الخصال وأرداها.

وربما نسب من كان قبله من العلماء إلى الجهل والغفلة والسهو فيوجب له حب نفسه وحب ظهورها إحسان ظنها وإساءة ظنه بمن سلف

As for he whose knowledge is not beneficial, he has no concern but to show his supremacy over the rest of the people by means of his knowledge, to accuse them of ignorance, and to demean them. This is from the meanest of traits to be found in people!

It is possible that this person even accuse the scholars who came before him of ignorance and negligence; such a person loves his self and desires to promote it, he has a good opinion of himself and a bad opinion of the salaf (those who came before him).

وأهل العلم النافع على ضد هذا يسيؤون الظن بأنفسهم ويحسنون الظن بمن سلف من العلماء ويقرون بقلوم وأنفسهم بفضل من سلف عليهم وبعجزهم عن بلوغ مراتبهم والوصول إليها أو مقاربتها

The People of beneficial knowledge are the exact opposite; they have a bad opinion of themselves and have a good opinion of the scholars of the past. Their hearts accept the nobility and excellence of their predecessors and their inability to come close to their ranks, let alone actually reach them!

وما أحسن قول أبي حنيفة وقد سئل عن علقمة والأسود أيهما أفضل. فقال واللَه ما نحن بأهل أن نذكرهم فكيف نفضل بينهم

Excellent indeed is the saying of Abu Hanifah (rahimahullaah) when he was asked as to which of the two was better, ‘Alqamah or al-Aswad, he replied, ‘By Allah we are not even deserving of mentioning them let alone determining which of them is better!’

وكان ابن المبارك إذا ذكر أخلاق من سلف ينشد.

لَا تَعْرِضَنَّ بِذِكْرِنَا فِي ذِكْرِهِمْ لَيْسَ الصَّحِيحُ إِذَا مَشَى كَالْمُقْعَدِ

When the manners of the Salaf were mentioned to ‘Abdullaah ibn al-Mubarak, he would say the following lines of poetry,

Do not compare us to them … For the healthy person, who walks, is not the same as the crippled one. [1]

Source: “Fadl ‘Ilm as-Salaf ‘ala ‘Ilm ul-Khalaf” of Ibn Rajab, Pages 46-48


[1] Also mentioned in Sifwatus-Safwah of Ibn al-Jawzee (rahimahullaah), 2/410

Author: Islamic Treasure

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  1. Beautiful, jazaakumullaahu khaiyra, may Allaah keep our hearts firm on his deen, and turn our hearts away from riya, ujub and takabbur, aameen. Was salaamu ‘alaiykum.

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