is like one who tries to clean the sole of his shoe by wip
ing it with his face. So he causes the object which is
served to become a-servant and the servant, something that
is served, which is contrary to good sense (lit., a turn
ing upside down against the mother of the head or brain). And he is like one who stands up on the great Judgment Day with the guilty who droop their heads before their Lord. (cf. 32:12).
(As for) those who assert that their aim is to draw nigh to Allah with what they are doing in the science of jurisprudence, scholastic theology, and teaching these and other subjects, notice to what a pass their affairs have come; for they spend their wealth and prestige and they suf
fer patiently various kinds of humiliation in the service
of the sultans for their sustenance. Should they forsake that, they would be forsaken (i.e. people would forsake
them) and would not continue to come to them.
Then the teacher expects the pupil to sustain him in every misfortune; to succour his master; to treat his enemy with enmity; in regard to his needs,to take the place of a donkey for him; in regard to his wishes,to be tractable in his hands; and, if he (the pupil.) falls short in his obligation, he (the teacher) will revolt against him and become
lea:^ned person who is satisfied with this stage for him
self. Then heiinds joy in it. Then heis not ashamed to
say, "ftiy objective in teaching is to spread knowledge which draws (one) nigh to Allah and to aid His religion." Then
observe the signs in order to see the (various) kinds of
3. The third office is that he should not reserve any
thing from his advice to the pupil; and that is, that he should prevent him from exposing himself to a rank before he deserves it and from engaging in a hidden knowledge be
fore finishing the clearly obvious.
Then he should call his attention to the fact that the objective of the quest of knowledge is to draw nigh. to Al
lah; not leadership, rivalry, and contention. And to his utmost ability he should present the ugliness of that in himself (the pupil). }•gnat an ungodly teacher corrects is
not greater than what he corrupts. If the teacher knows from
present world, he will observe the knowledge which he seeks. If it is knowledge of the different schools of jurisprudence and disputation about theology and the science of givin; le
gal opinions and judgments in law-suits, he should restrain
reading la yubgi with SY.Z instead la yada'
the pupil's inner life that he
seeks knowledge only for the
him from that. For these sciences are not knowledge of the next abode nor even the knowledge about which some one said, "',ie learned knowledge other than for the sake of Allah, and knowledge refused to be for any but Allah."
Verily that (knowledge which refused) is the science
of explanation and the science of traditions and the science of the next abode and knowledge of the character of the soul and how to train it with which the early Fathers were wont to engage in.
If the pupil learns it, while his objective is the present world, then there is nothing to do but leave him; for he prepares for it out of an eager desire to be an exhorter and seek followers; but he may be warned (either) during or at the end of the matter. For in it there are (certain) sciences which cause pious fear of Allah and which minimize the present world and magnify the next abode.
That is about to lead to what is right in the next abode so that he himself is admonished by what he exhorts others, and his love of approbation and prestige acts in the same
way as the grain which is scattered around a snare with which one catches a bird. And Allah has done that with his worshippers, for He made sensual desire to be something by which man might leave descendants, and He created the love of prestige also so that it might be a means to revive the
This is expected of these sciences. As for the pure disagreements, theological disputes, and knowledge of unfamiliar subsidiary branches, specialization in them along with a turning away from others only increases the hardness of one's heart, his being heedless of Allah, persistence in his error, and his quest of prestige, except (in the case of) one whom Allah has visited with His favor or has blended some other religious science with it.
There is no proof for this (quite so good as) experiencEe and testimony or seeing (mushahadah). You should notice, consider, and understand in order to witness its verification in servants and countries. And may Allah aid us.
It was observed that Sufya.n al-Thawri was sad. So somebody asked him, "What's wrong with you?" and he replied, "We
have become hirelings of the children of the present world. They importune us (in the quest of the science of tradition)
so that, when they learn (it) they are made a judge, an of195 ficial (tax-gatherer), or a major-domo."
4. The fourth office, which is part of the 2iinituae of
the art of teaching-, is to forbid the pupil from bad character by way of implication as much as possible, and not to speak exolicitly, and by way of compassion or sympathy, not by way of censure; for explicit speech tears away the veilof
res:oect and induces an audacity to rush into disagreement
and stir up one's craving to persist. For .Muhammad, who is
eve^y teacher's guide (or model), said, "If people were forbidden to scatter camels' dung (with their fingers), they
would scatter it and retort, 'They would not prohibit us
from (doing) it, unless there were something to it."
The story of Adam and Eve and what they were forbidden from warns you about this. And I did not remind you of the
story so that it might be the topic of an evening's conver
sation (or parlor gossip) but for you to be warned by it
in the way of an example, and because implication also in
clines good souls and clever minds towards a discovery of
its meaning. And the joy of understanding the meaning is.
of those things from which one's understanding is not remote.
5. The fifth office is that anyone who is responsible
for one of the sciences should not vilify the sciences which
are beyond him in the presence (nafs) of the pupil, such as
a language teacher who has the habit of vilifying the sci
ences of tradition and explanation (and saying), "That is pure handing down and hearing and something pertaining to women (an old wife's tale) in which there is no intellectual
consideration." The teacher of scholastic theology shrinks from jurisprudence and says, "That is a subsidiary branch,
and it is speaking about women's menses. What is that in
comparison to speaking about the attributes of al-Rahman?"
These are blameworthy characteristics of teachers which
shouldbe avoided. Rather, one who is responsible for a sin
gle science should enlarge the way for the pupil to learn something else. If he is entrusted with knowledge, he should observe a gradual progress in promoting the pupil from stage to stage.
6. The sixth office is that he should limit the pupil to the measure of his understanding and not give him some
thing which hisoind has not reached. Then he would shrink
(from it) or his mind would be confused. In that imitate the chief of mankind (.'-iuhamrnad), where he said, "We, a companyof prophets, were commanded to put people in their proper ranks
and to speak to them according to the measure of their minds."
Then he should divulge the truth to him, if he (the
teacher) knows that he is independent (enough) to understand
it. The Prophet said, "N o one ever relates a tradition to people whose minds are not ready for it without (causing) confusion among some of them."
'Ali said, while pointing to his breast, "Verily, right
here is much knowledge. Oh that I could find carriers for it." And he was right, for the hearts of the virtuous are the graves of secrets. It is not desirable for a learned
person to divulge everything he knows to everybody. This is (so) when the pupil understands it and is not fitted to get any benefit from it. Then how much more so concerning what he does not understand!
'Isa said, " Do not hang your jewels around the necks
Wisdom is certainly better than jewels. So whoever
abhors it is worse than swine. Therefore somebody said, "Measure out to every worshipper according to the standard of his intelligence, and weigh out to him according to the sca~Les of his understanding so that you will be free (of responsibility) for him and he will get benefit from you. Otherwise a disapproval takes place on account of the dis
similarity of the measure."
On being questioned about a certain matter one of the
learned failed to reply. So the inquirer demanded, "DidnLt you hear Allah's Messenger say, 'Whoever conceals some use
ful knowledge will come bridled with a bit (made) of fire
on the Resurrection Day?'"
So he replied, "Forget about the bit and go. If some
one should come who is suited (for it), and I conceal it, then let him bridle me."
Allah has said, "Do not give your wealth
(4:4), as a notification that it is more suitable to keep
SNZ reads 'ilmihi instead of fahmihi
to the foolish"
knowledge from anyone who spoils and harms it, and the wrong of giving (it) to one who does not deserve (it) is no
less than the wrong of preventing one who deserves it (from
Shall I scatter pearls among pasturing camels?
They will become stored with the sheperds of the sheep, For they have become ignorant of their value. So I do not take to hanging them around the necks of
The benevolent Allah was gracious in His kindness, And I encountered a people (suitable) for knowledge and wise sayings.
I scattered benefits and I benefitted by friendship;
Otherwise it would be stored up and concealed.
whoever bestows knowledge on ignorant people, loses it;
And whoever prevents those who deserve it (from having
it) has done wrong.
7 The seventh office is that one should give a weak pupil only the clear knowledge which is suitable for him, and not to mention the fact that beyond that there are fine points which he (the teacher) keeps from him, for that weakens his desire for the clear things and confuses his mind (galbahu) and mares him imagine that his teacher is miserly in giving
who is happiest in ( the thought that) his intelligence is perfect.
By this he (the teacher) knows that (when) anyone of the masses is bound with the bonds of the divine law and has
firmly grounded himself in the beliefs handed down on the
authority of the Fathers (al-salaf) without anthropomorphism
(tashbth) and without allegorization (i.e. interpreting in
a manner not according to the obvious meaning (ta'wil) and,
along with that, has bettered his conduct; and when he sees that his mind does not bear more than that, then he ought not disturb his belief. Rather, he should be left with his work. (as he is). Forjverily, if the teacher mentions outer allegorizations to him, he is unloosed from the bonds of the
masses; and it would not be easy to bind him with the bonds
of the elite. Then the partition between him and disobedience would be lifted and he would be turned into a willful Shaitan which destroys himself and others.
It is not fitting to go deep into the truths of the minutiae of knowledge with the masses, but to be content to teach them worship and faithfulness in the work which they
are doing and to fill their hearts with zeal for the Garden and dread for the Fire, just as the Qur'an speaks or mentions. Do not stir up doubts in them, for many a time
doubt connects with one's heart and it becomes difficult for him to loosen. it. Then he is thrown into misery and perishes. In short, one should not open the door of discussion to the masses, for it spoils them for their work by which mankind is sustained and tby which) the elite continue to live.
8. The eighth office is that the teacher should practice what he knows and his deeds should not belie his words, because knowledge is apprehended by the inner sight and work is known by physical sight, and those who have physical sight are more numerous.
If a deed contradicts knowledge, rectitude is prevented. Verily, people ridicule and suspect every one who accepts something and says to people, "Do not accept it. It is deadly poison." He increases their greed for what they are forbidden from, and they say, "Were it not that this is the best and most delicious of things, he would not prefer it."
The teacher who guides aright and the pupil who seeks guidance are like the tree trunk andits shadow and the mold and the clay; how can the clay be molded by something which has no shape, and when will a shadow be straight while the treEe trunk is crooked?
Therefore some one said along the same line , "Do not prohibit people, while you do the same thing. If you do so,
your shame will be great."
Allah said, "Do you enjoin what is right upon others
and forget yourselves?" (2:41)
For that reason the crime of the learned person in his disobedience is greater than that of the ignorant; for as a
result of his fall a great many people fall, when they imitate him. The crime of a bad custom, as well as that of anyone who practices it, rests on the one who starts it. On account of that 'Ali said, "Two kinds of men break my back; a learned person who is divisive and an ascetic person who is ignorant; for an ignorant person deceives people by
his asceticism, while a learned person deceives them by his 198
divisiveness." And Allah knows best.
PART SIX CONCERNS THE PERILS OF KNOWLEDGE AND AN EXPOSITION OF THE SIGNS OF THE OTHER WORLDLY AND THE CORRUPT DIVINES
Concerning knowledge and the learned we have mentioned some of the excellent features (that have come to
us through evidential verses and traditions). And concerning the corrupt divines there have come (to us.from the same sources) great threats (and intimidations) which point to the fact that, of all creation, they will be most severely punished on the day of judgment. It is very important to know the signs that distinguish between the worldly and other-worldly divines. By the 'ulama' al-dunya we mean the corrupt divines ('ulamVV al-sUl); those whose objective in the present world is soft living and gaining prestige and rank among its people.
Mu}.ammad said, "The person to be most severely punished on the day of judgment is a learned man whom Allah did not cause to benefit by his knowledge.'t
It is also said that he said, "A man does not become learned until he becomes one who acts according to his
"Knowledge is of two kinds": said he, "(external)
knowledge on the tongue, which is Allah's evidence against 199
His people, and knowledge in the heart, which is beneficial
He said, "In the latter times there will be ignorant worshippers and impious learned people."
He said (again), "Do not learn knowledge as a means to vie with the learned and to dispute with the stupid or to attract people to you. For whoever does that is in danger of 'the Fire."
(At another time) he said, "If anyone conceals knowledge within himself, Allah will bridle him with a bit made of fire."
"Verily, we are more concerned about you from others", said he, "than we are from impostors."
Someone asked, "And what is that?"
"From leaders (imams) who lead. astray", he replied. (On another occasion) he said, "One who has increased in knowledge and not in sound guidance has only increased his distance away from Allah."
'Isa said, "How long will you praise or describe the
road for night travelers (i.e. ascetics who journey toward 200 Allah), while you remain with the perplexed?"
This and other examples from the traditions (akhbar) prove the great responsibility of knowledge. As for the learned person, he is either exposed to eternal destruction or to eternal happiness. Verily with deep investigation into knowledge, safety is denied, unless happiness. is attained.
As for the traditions from the Companions (Sth&r), 'Umar has said, "What I dread most for these people is one who is both a liar and learned."
"How can he be both a liar and learned?" somebody asked. He replied, "Learned of tongue and ignorant in heart and deeds."
Al-1asan said, "Do not be one of those who gather the knowledge of the learned and the choice things of the philosophers (al-hukamm') and in deeds act as the stupid."
A man said to Abu Hurairah, "I should like to learn knowledge, but I am afraid I shall squander it."
"The abandonment of knowledge is a sufficient squander
ing of it", he replied.
Someone asked IbrahTm Ibn 'Atbah, "What person has
He answered, "In the course of the present world, it is
one who does a favor to someone who does not thank him; at death, the learned man who has neglected (to do what he knows)."
Al-Khalll Ibn Ahmad said, "Men are four (kinds): a
man who knows and knows that he knows. That person is a learned man. So follow him. Then there is the man who knows and does not know that he knows; that person is sleeping. So wake him up. Then there is the man who does not know and knows that he does not know; that person is seeking guidance. So guide him. Then there is the man who does not know and who does not know that he does not know; that person is ignorant. So reject him.
Sufy-Sn al-Thawri said, "Knowledge calls to actions; if they respond, it will remain; if not, it will depart."
Ibn al-Mub.'Lrak said, "A man continues to be learned as long as he seeks after knowledge; and when he thinks that he
has become learned, then he has become ignorant."
A:.-Fudail Ibn 'AiyA4 said, "I pity three kinds of people:
a mighty man who has been brought low, a rich man who has become poor, and a learned man of whom the present world makessport. "
"The punishment for the learned is the death of their heart", said al-Hasan, "and the death of their heart is (for them.) to seek the present world with the work (that belongs to) the next abode."
Concerning this somebody put into rhymed prose
"I am astonished at one who buys error with guidance
More amazing is one who buys the present world with his religion
And (even) more amazing than these two is the one who sells his religion for the present world of others.
For he is more amazing than these two."
Muhammad said, "Verily, a learned person will be severely punished; the people of the Fire will gather around him in great astonishment at-the severity of his punishment."
He meant a wicjted learned person.
As&mah Ibn Zaid said, "I heard the Messenger of Allah
say„ 'On the day of judgment a learned person will be brought and thrown into the Fire, and his intestines will gush out, and he will go around them just as a donkey goes around a millstone. Then the people of the Fire will gather around him and ask, 'What is the matter with you?' He will reply, 'I used to command (people) to do good, and I did not do It; and I used to forbid them from evil, and I used to do it.'"
Verily a learned person will receive double punishment for his disobedience, because he disobeyed. in spite of the
fact, that he knew (better). On account of that Allah said, 205
"Verily, liars. are in the lowest degree (darak) of the Fire"
(4:2.44), because, they disbelieved after knowledge.
He made the Jews worse than the Christians, although
they did not attribute a child to Allah, nor did they say that He is one of three; but they denied (the prophet) after knowledge; for Allah said, "They know him (the prophet) just as well as they know their own children" (2:141; 6:20).
Allah said, "Then, when that (i.e. the Book) came to them of which they had knowledge,' they disbelieved it. May the curse of Allah rest upon the unbelievers"2(26:83)
In the story of Balaam the son of Ba'frV , Allah said, "Relate to them (i.e. the Jews) the story of the one to whom we gave our signs and who departed from them, so that Shaltan followed him, and he became one of the seduced" (7:174), so that he said, "His likeness is that of a dog which lolls out his tongue, if you charge at him, or if you leave him" (7175)
A wicked learned person is like that, for Balaam was given the revelation of Allah, and he inclined towards his appetites. So he was likened to a dog; that is, whether he were given wisdom or not, he would pant after his appetites.
'Isa said, "The corrupt divines are like a rock that has dropped on the source of a water-course. It neither drinks the water nor leaves it free for agriculture."
(And he said), "Corrupt divines are like the reeds ofa privy, the exterior of which is whitened whereas its interior is ill-smelling, and like tombs whose exterior is well
constructed and whose interior (is full of) dead men's bones."
These two kinds of traditions (al-akhbar wa 'l-Ath&r) make it clear that the state of a learned man who is one of the sons of the Present World is worse and his punishment more severe than (that of) an ignorant person. For truly those who succeed in getting close to Allah are the otherorldly divines,, and they have signs that distinguish them (from others).
1. One of them is the fact that they do not seek the present world by their knowledge, The least grade of a learned person is that he apprehends the contemptibleness and vileness of the present world with its vexatione.and its evanescence, and the greatness and continuity of the next abode, the purity of its bliss, and the majesty of its kingdom.
He knows that the two are contradictory and that they are like a man's two wives. -Whenever you please one of them, you displease the other. They are like the two pans of a balance; whatever you do to make one heavy, you lighten the other. They are like the East and the West; as much as yob approach one, you become distant from the other. They are like two cups one of which is full and the other empty; then in proportion as you pour from one in order to fill the other, the first one becomes empty.
For truly one who does not know the conte mptibleness. and vexations of the present world and the mixture. of its pain and pleasure, then the cessation of that part of it which is clear (from admixture) ---such a one is feebleminded. For sight and experience guide (one) to that. How can one who has no intelligence or one who does not know the greatness`of the next abode: and permanence be one of the learned? He is an unbeliever despoiled of faith. How can one who has no faith and one who does not recognize the contradiction between the present world and the next abode be counted among the learned? (One who does not know) that to Join the two is to seek something that is out of place is(not only) ignorant of all the laws of the prophets, but he is a disbeliever in the Qur'an in its entirety from beginning to end.