بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم


One of the basic questions from anyone the least bit interested in studying Islam is, what texts should be studied. Or the question may be, what is studied to get intermediate and advanced knowledge in Islamic Studies.

Meaning, the brothers and sisters want to know, what the surriculum is, in these “Arab Salafi” universities. I am being satirical.

What I have done here below is break down the subjects by their root and the main books that are studied in 99% of Athari/Salafi Universities world wide, if you have attended an Islamic University to attain a bachelors degree or a masters thesis, you would have come across the following texts.

It was easy for me to do, beacause, I physically went through the whole process during my own studies, and the rest was attainable by using the text of: “The Etiquette of Seeking Knowledge”, by our shaikh Bakr Abu Zayd rahimahullah.

The next point I wanted to reiterate, is that while attainging the following texts and reading them is very easy due to the internet and many Islamic Book Shops, it is one thing, while, studying them with a shaikh is a completely different thing. It’s The East vs The West, they are uncomperable. May Allah guide us towards mashayekh that will teach us authentic knowledge.

I stress the paragraph above because we have brothers that have completely seperated themselves from the people of knowledge, and have established people from amongst them as the people of knowledge, this is a grave error for many reasosn and may lead me to write a seperate post regarding it.

As for seeking knowledge in the jazeerat al-Arab , after the stage of the Qur’aanic schools and the completion of the memorization of the Noble Qur’aan, it passed through three stages with the mashaa’ikh, with regards to the lessons held in the masaajid (mosques):

  1. The beginners.
  2. The intermediates.
  3. The advanced.

As for Tawheed, [they would be taught]:

Al-Usool ath-Thalaathah wa Qawaa’id al-Arba’ah, and then Kashf ash-Shubuhaat, then Kitaab at-Tawheed (all these four by Shaykh Muhammad ibn ‘ Abdil- Wahhaab rahimahullaah), this is on tawheed of ibaadah.  Al-Ulluhiyya

Regarding Tawheed al-Asmaa ‘ was-Sifaat (the tawheed of the Names and Attributes of Allah ﷻ); al-‘Aqeedah al-Waasitiyyah, al- Hamawiyyah and at-Tadmuriyyah (all these three by Shaykh al-Islaam Ibn Taymiyyah rahimahullaah), then al-Aqeedah at-Tahaawiyyah along with its explanation.

As for Arabic grammar:

Al-Aajuroomiyyah, then Mulhat al’Iraab by al-Hareeree, then Qatrun-Nadaa ‘by Ibn Hishaam, and Alfiyyah Ibn Maalik, along with its explanation by Ibn Aqeel.

As for Hadeeth:

Al-‘Arba’een-Nawawiyyah, then ‘Umdatul-Ahkaam by al-Maqdisee, then Buloogh al-Maraam by Ibn Hajar and al-Muntaqa by al-Majd Ibn Taymiyyah (Ibn Taymiyyahs Grand Father) (rahimahumullaah), and then they would delve into the ‘Six Compilations of Hadeeth’ (al-Bukhaaree, Muslim, an-Nasaa’ee, Aboo Daawood, at-Tirmidhee, and Ibn Maajah) and others. As for the Science of Hadeeth: Nukhbatul-Fikar by Ibn Hajar, then Alfiyyatul-‘lraaqee (rahimahullaah).

As for Fiqh:

The Etiquette of Walking to the Salaat by Muhammad ibn ‘Abdil- Wahhaab, then Zaad al-Mustaqni’ by al-Hajjaawee {rahimahullaah) or } Umdatul-Fiqh, and al-Muqni for differences within the madhhab and al-Mughnee for differences at an advanced level; all these three are by Ibn Qudaamah {rahimahullaah).

In the Principles of Fiqh:

Al-Waraqaat by al-Juwaynee {rahimahullaah), then Ruwdatun-Naadhir by Ibn Qudaamah {rahimahullaah).

As for the Laws of Inheritance:

Ar-Rahbiyyah along with its explanation, and al-Fawaa’id al-Jaliyyah.

As for Tafseer:

Tafseer al-Adheem of Ibn Katheer {rahimahullaah). As for the Principles of Tafseer: al-Muqadimah by Shaykh al-Islaam Ibn Taymiyyah {rahimahullaah).

As for the Seerah (the biography of the Prophet ﷺ:

Mukhtasar as-Seeratin-Nabawiyyah by Muhammad ibn ‘Abdil Wahhaab (and its origin byIbn Ishaac and Ibn Hishaam), and Zaad al-Maaad by Ibn al-Qayyim {rahimahullaah).

As for Arabic vocabulary:

Special attention would be given to [classical] Arabic poetry; such as al-Mu’alaqaatus-Saba’ and reading in the Qaamoos by al-Fayrooz-abaadee {rahimahullaah) and so on, through the stages of knowledge on different subjects.

And with this they would study the long compilations such as the Taareekh by Ibn Jareer (History as narrated by him) and by Ibn Katheer also, and concentrate on the works of Ibn Taymiyyah and his seeker Ibn al-Qayyim {rahimahumullaah), and the books and the fatwaas of the Imaams of the Da’wah (the Da’wah of Muhammad Ibn ‘Abdil-Wahhaab), especially their writings on ‘aqeedah.

In this manner time would be engaged in seeking knowledge, within the gatherings of knowledge, from after fajr till forenoon, then after that there would be time for a nap just before dhuhr, and lessons would be held after the five daily prayers.

The [seekers of knowledge and their mashaa’ikh also used to be immensely [well] mannered, have plenty of mutual respect along with self-esteem, and were upon the way of the Salaf as-Saalih. For this reason they reached their aims and many of them became recognized scholars, and all praise is due to Allah ﷻ alone the Lord of all the Worlds.

So is it not time to call for the return to the traditional methods of seeking [knowledge], by studying and memorizing concise reliable books, and not just relying upon understanding [alone], or upon studying pre-prepared pamphlets? [It is these two things] that caused the seekers [of knowledge] to become lost and neither memorize nor understand [the knowledge]! And it is Allah ﷻ [alone] who we seek help from.

It was narrated that al-Haafidh (OF HADITH) ‘Uthmaan ibn Khurrazaadh (died 282AH) {rahimahullaah) said: “The person associated to hadeeth is in need of five qualities, and if one of them is lost then it is considered as a deficiency; [he is] in need of a good mind, piety, precision, proficiency in this field, as well as being well known for his trustworthiness.”

Adh-Dhahabee (rahimahullaah) commented: “Trustworthiness is a portion of the deen (piety), and precision is included in proficiency; so what a haafidh really needs, is to be: fearful (of Allah ), intelligent, grammatical, a linguist, righteous, modest, Salafee, and it is sufficient enough for him to write two hundred volumes and to gather five hundred reliable compilations (books), and not to become fatigued by seeking knowledge till death, with sincerity and humility, otherwise let him not trouble himself.”

Make Sure!!

To Acquire knowledge from the Mashaa’ikh.

The basis of acquiring knowledge should be by way of dictation and acquisition from the teachers* and by being in the continuous company of the scholars and taking from the mouths of men, and not from the scrolls and the depths of books. The first type of student (i.e. the seeker of knowledge who takes from the teachers) falls under the taking from ones relative when they talk [and this is the example of one who takes from a] teacher; the second takes from a book which is inanimate; therefore how can the ties of lineage be possible?

It also used to be said: “Whoever enters knowledge alone, will emerge alone,” i.e. whoever becomes involved in seeking knowledge without a shaykh will emerge without knowledge, because knowledge is a profession, and every profession has its experts, therefore it is necessary to have a proficient teacher in order to learn.

There is almost a consensus from the scholars upon this, except for a very few who were isolated in their opinion [that it is unnecessary to have a shaykh], such as ‘Alee ibn Ridwaan al-Misree at-Tabeeb (“the doctor 1 , died 453H), and he was refuted by the scholars of his day and age and those who came after them. Adh-Dhahabee said in his biography: “…and he did not have a shaykh, rather he engaged himself in taking from the books, and he wrote a book about acquiring a skill by reading from the books, and that it is more prosperous for the learner, and this is wrong“ And as-Safadee wrote an ex- tensive refutation on what he said, which was mentioned by az-Zubaydee in his explanation of al-Ihyaa’ along with a number of other scholars, all putting forward a number of arguments; amongst them that which Ibn Batlaan put forward in his refutation in [which he said]: “…the sixth point: there are things that exist in the book that divert from knowledge, and they are non-existent in the teacher, and it is due to distortion that occurs due to the resemblance of the letters, in addition to the non-existence of the pronunciation, and the mistakes that occur due to: straying of the eyes, lack of experience in i’raab (implementing the rules of Arabic grammar), corruption of the existing book, handwriting that cannot be read, or reading that which is not written, not knowing the madhhab of the author, poor quality of the scripts, poor transcription, lack of stopping at the correct punctuation, mixing up terminology of different subjects and using the terminology of one subject in context of an- other, and the existence of Greek terminology [that] the writer did not take from the [Arabic] language.

All of the things mentioned obstruct knowledge, and the learner is relieved of them when he reads to the teacher. If the situation is such, then reading to the scholars is more advantageous, and virtuous than personal study, and this is what we wanted to explain… As-Safadee said: ‘For this reason the scholars said: do not take knowledge from a person who acquires it from the scripts, and do not take the Qur’aan from a person who has recited the Qur’aan from the mushaf. Meaning: do not recite the Qur’aan to a person who just read it from the mushaf (without reciting it to a shaykh), or hadeeth etc. from a person who acquired [hadeeth] by reading from the scripts. . .”

As for the tangible proof that establishes the falseness of Ibn Ridwaan’s theory: then it is that you will read thousands of biographies written in different eras throughout history that are full of mentions of the teachers and their seekers: some [seekers] have many [mashaa’ikh], while others have few. Refer to some of the examples of those who have many teachers – to the extent that some of them had thousands – as mentioned in al-‘Uzzaab taken from al-lsfaar by the author (i.e. the Shaykh himself).

Aboo Hayyaan Muhammad Yoosuf al-Andaloosee (died 745AH) used to say when Ibn Maalik was mentioned to him: “Where are his teachers?” and al-Waleed said: “al-Awzaa’ee used to say: this knowledge used to be noble, passed down [from men] to men, but when it entered the books the wrong people became involved in it.” A similar account was narrated by Ibn al-Mubaarak from al-Awzaa’ee.

Without doubt; flaws occur when taking from the scripts, even with an ijaazah , especially at that time when there was no dotting or voweling, so that in turn the word could become distorted in a way that would change the meaning. Such flaws are non-existent when taking from the mouths of men. Errors also occur when narrating from memory, as opposed to narrating from an edited script. Ibn Khaldoon researched this topic very well in his [famous] Muqadimah (Foreword).

It was said by some (in poetry):

“And whosoever does not read the books to the scholars Then his certainty in difficult issues is conjecture.”

And Aboo Hayaan used to frequently recite [the following poetry]:

“The gullible one [wrongly] assumes that books guide The one of understanding in attaining knowledge, And it escapes the ignorant one that in it are obscure issues that confused the mind of a person with understanding. If you wish [to attain] knowledge without a teacher, You will stray from the Straight Path. And the issues will become so confusing to you That you will become more astray than Tuma the Wise.” [1]

I ask Allah to make the words of Our Shaikh Bakr Abu Zayd penetrate our hearts, his Book on the Ettiqette of Seeking Knowledge is the most comprehensive book on the subject. I will attach it to the post as a pdf.

May Allah grant us beneficial knowledge of the Qur’an and Sunnah, so that we may act upon it and be able to share it with others, for the betterment of this blessed ummah.

والله تعالى أعلم

وصلى اللهم وسلم وبارك على نبينا محمد وعلى آله وصحبه والتابعين

أخوك أبو ناص


[1] Hilyatu Taalib al-‘Ilmi – The Etiquette of Seeking Knowledge – Shaykh Bakr Abu Zayd

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