Seeking Knowledge Until Death

[ Part Nine of a series of inspiring articles from a recorded lecture entitled, “Min Ma’een al-Imaam Ahmad” (“Benefits from the Life and Works of Imam Ahmad”) by Shaykh Saalih Aal ash-Shaykh (may Allaah preserve him) ]

Seeking Knowledge Until Death

Imam Ahmad had two sons, ‘Abdullaah and Saalih. They were half-brothers, meaning that each of them had a different mother. Saalih, the son of Imam Ahmad, said, “A man saw my father carrying a mih-barah.” A mih-barah was a wooden inkwell that students used to carry along with their pens.

He said, “A man saw my father was carrying a mih-barah, and said, ‘O Abaa ‘Abdillaah!’ Look at how the all the people were fascinated by him, even the elders of the people! He said, “O Abaa ‘Abdillaah! You have reached this position, you are the imam of the Muslims!” He had a problem seeing Imam Ahmad carry his mih-barah as the young students would carry it, or that he would still read books or shoulder the same responsibilities that the youth did.

Imam Ahmad replied with a statement that nullified this man’s whole understanding. He said, “With the mih-barah all the way to the maq-barah (the graveyard).” What did he mean? He meant, “I will be busy with knowledge until I die.”

Another narration mentions that he said it at another occasion to another group of people. “As for me,” he said, “I will seek knowledge until I am placed in the grave.”

When the time of his death came near, he said to those around him, “Get me the hadeeth of Hushaym.” So they told him the hadeeth. This Hushaym was Hushaym ibn Basheer, Imam Ahmad’s first teacher. He met him in the year 179, when he began seeking knowledge at the age of 16.

He was between 15 and 16, as he was born in the year 164 and began seeking knowledge in 179.

So they read the hadeeth. It mentioned that Ibn Seereen used to dislike a person groaning from pain. At that time, Imam Ahmad had became very ill and he used to groan due to the pain.

When they informed him that Ibn Seereen used to dislike groaning, he did not groan again until he died.

This is the reality of his statement, “I will seek knowledge until I am placed in the grave.” Meaning, “I must continue benefiting from knowledge.” So if you have left your youth behind and become a teacher or an educator, or a lecturer or professor in the university, or an author, and you say, “I have finished seeking knowledge…” This is the situation of someone who does not know the reality of the affair.

Al-‘Ilm is knowledge of what? It is knowledge of the Speech of Allaah and the speech of His Messenger (sallallaahu ‘alayhe wa sallam). Has anyone reached a level of awareness of the meanings of the Speech of Allaah and His Messenger (sallallaahu ‘alayhe wa sallam), and also the statements of the scholars explaining the Book and the Sunnah, a level of awareness that is sufficient?

No one has reached that level!  No one who has the right intention and a proper heart has reached that level. Regarding this, Imam Ahmad said, “With the mih-barah all the way to the maq-barah.” He was addressing everyone, advising us to continue seeking knowledge and not to give it up for any petty reason.

In the study circles of our masjids we have seen a great number of students who are eager to learn for two months, and then they abandon it. Three months or so only. What is this?! Some of them seek knowledge for 3, 4, 5, or 7 years and then they abandon it.

Why is that? Is it because the dunyaa has come to you, so you are finished and now you head off into the dunyaa? Is it because a position was offered to you and you took it? Is it because you have reached a certain status, you have become a school director or professor in the university? For this you stop seeking knowledge? No! You must continue seeking knowledge until you die. This is what will correct the society’s problems, if their scholars take this advice. As for the students of knowledge, then they must hold fast to this advice, “With the mih-barah all the way to the maq-barah.” He must stay with his book until he dies, reading, learning, memorizing, reviewing, teaching, until his end.

What are the people saying these days? The rulings related to prayer, we know them, no problem. If you asked them about many of the rulings, you will find that they actually do not know them. Why is that? It is because they have become satisfied with the knowledge they have, even delighted that they have the knowledge they have. We ask Allaah that He excuses us and that He is pleased with us.

If you asked them about affairs even greater than the prayer, issues of ‘aqeedah, issues of towheed, you will find that they have not fully grasped the issues, and they used to be students of knowledge! Why is that? Because they were negligent, and thus abandoned it. Knowledge is honor, if you abandon it, it will abandon you. If you take the task seriously, you will be given some of it, from what Allaah has decreed for you.

Continue reading… Part Ten – Seeking Safety and Good Health When Supplicating

Or go to the Index of articles in this inspiring series.

Translation, Titles, and Footnotes by: Moosaa Richardson

Originally published on 1423-05-16

9 thoughts on “Seeking Knowledge Until Death

  1. Salaam Alaikum
    The article it has helped me much because am one of them who abodorn learning at the early stages. To my opinion I think this happens sometimes luck of seriousness and resources. As i have said that i have benefitted in the articles but let think about those who has no access to the net how can the get such good messages. Please think other altenative beside this electronics communication. I suggests books and be sending to those who apply for the course like in my case I don’t have computer to download the lessons if i find chase is only for 30 mins and i do pay for that so think other wise.
    thank you
    Eid Filtr Mubarak

  2. Barakallahu feekum wa Jazakumullahu khayra…!!!

    Indeed very few PONDER over it…
    May Allah guide us all…Aameen..!!

  3. Assaulamu alaikum waramatullahi wahibarakatuh this is very beneficial for me because I see it so much with in the community and with in myself letting this dunya become our life line,inshaallah we should in my opinion stick to the simple things in Islam and like learning aqeedah which is like baiting me in to wanting to learn any and everything I can a out this deen… and it is so many sirah stories and great things the scholars have said and done that we would inshaallah beg for much much knowledge [slightly abridged by admin]

  4. Do you know how to get hold of applications from for princess nora university as there is none on their website please

    JazkAllaumma kharayan

  5. Assalaamu alayk akhi.
    Regarding the following from the article, about groaning when in pain:
    “When they informed him [Imaam Ahmad] that Ibn Seereen used to dislike groaning, he did not groan again until he died.”
    Can you shed a bit more light on this please in terms of why Ibn Sireen disliked groaning in pain?
    Jazaak’Allaah khair.

    • wa alaykas-salaamu wa rahmatullaah. It is like complaining to the creation about the qadr of the creator. The Salaf used to be real men who would face hardships from the qadr with fortitude, seeking reward only from Allaah, not looking for any sympathy from people. And Allaah knows best.

  6. Assalamualaykum warahmatullah.

    Baarakallahu feek brother moosa.

    I had a few questions.

    Things which are haraam to do, is it WAAJIB on every muslim to know them just as it is waajib on every muslim to know about salaah, sawm etc., for if a man doesn’t know such and such is haraam, he can very well fall into it.

    And the nawaaqidul islaam, is it WAAJIB for a muslim to know what things nullifies his deen?

    As for books likes thalathatul usool, al qawaid al arbah, kitaab at tawheed and nawaaqid islaam, is it only for tullaab and not for common man to read even if it requires sharh and available translations?

    Jazakallahu khairaa

    • Wa ‘alaykas-salaamu wa rahmatullaahi wa barakaatuh. Yes it is obligatory on every Muslim to know about haraam matters in general, in order to avoid them. He is not required to know about every prohibited matter, yet whatever is related to the basics of Islam and his needs is required. For example, a merchant is required to know about the halaal and haraam of transactions.

      As for the nawaaqidh al-Islaam (things that nullify one’s standing as a Muslim), then yes Muslims are required to know of them in order to stay out of them.

      And those who understand books like thalaatatul Usool and the others you mentioned, they should assist those who don’t understand them. Whoever is able to read them and understand them should do so. And Allaah knows best.

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