[ 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 Bakkah.net: 1423-05-16