SAYYIDIL HABIB UMAR BIN HAFIZ ON INTERACTION WITH THE PIOUS PEOPLE OF KNOWLEDGE
The Pious People of Knowledge
The People of Iman (faith) and Yaqin (certitude) are those who rush to goodness. The elect from this group are the pious people of knowledge; the people of knowledge who put what they know into practice. It is obligatory for us to support the pious in their works.
The basis for this is Allah (ﷻ)’s words in the Qur’an:
إِنَّمَا وَلِيُّكُمُ ٱللَّهُ وَرَسُولُهُ ۥ وَٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُواْ ٱلَّذِينَ يُقِيمُونَ ٱلصَّلَوٰةَ وَيُؤۡتُونَ ٱلزَّكَوٰةَ وَهُمۡ رَٲكِعُونَ
Meaning: Your help is with Allah ﷻ, His Messenger ﷺ, and the Believers; those who establish the solah and pay the zakah, and make ruku’ i.e. bowing down in humility. [Al-Ma’idah: 55]
By extension, this category of people include those who are ‘alim (the people of knowledge), those who engage in ta’allum (learning) and ta’lim (teaching), and those who partake in da’wah (callling others to Allah). It is obligatory to cooperate and support them to the best of our abilities.
The knowledge of the pious is hikmah (wisdom) from Allah ﷻ, as mentioned in His words:
يُؤْتِي الْحِكْمَةَ مَنْ يَشَاءُ
Meaning: He gives hikmah to whoever He wishes [Al-Baqarah 269]
From the meanings extracted from the hadiths of our Prophet ﷺ; the similitude of one who helps others in goodness (general goodness other than teaching) compared to those who teach (including those who assist in teaching) is like a spit compared to a vast ocean.
The companion, Sayyidina Ibnu Mas’ud, says that whosoever leaves his home in search of knowledge without manifesting (the rewards and blessings of) fi sabilillah (being in the path of Allah); he would have been from amongst those who were aberrant in viewing knowledge.
The Specific and Non-Specific Knowledge
Specifically, the knowledge made reference to here is Al-‘ilm ash-Shari’y (Sacred Knowledge) which can be broken down into the three sciences of Qur’an, Hadith, and Fiqh, which can be further broken down into the following six branches of knowledge:
- The Qur’an
- Usul al-Qur’an i.e. the sciences of the Qur’an
- The Hadiths
- Usul al-Hadith i.e. the sciences of Hadith like mustolah hadith (hadith nomenclature), riwayah (narration), and dirayah (morphology)
- Fiqh (law)
- Usul al-fiqh (jurisprudence)
The essential outputs of these six branches of knowledge are the three pillars of the religion; Islam, Iman, and Ihsan.
The science of Islam is known to us today as fiqh whilst Iman is what we make iqtiqad upon upon i.e. the science of aqidah. Aqidah is what is taught about beliefs by the Messenger ﷺ to his companions who in turn taught the generations that follow in excellence, preserving them until two figures (in the history of Islam) who preserved Iman for the later generations emerged namely, Abu Hassan Al-Ash’ariy and Abu Mansur Al-Marturidiy.
The third knowledge is Ihsan whose objective is the cleansing of one’s soul and witnessing (the majesty of Allah ﷻ) as mentioned in the hadith:
أَنْ تَعْبُدَ اللَّهَ كَأَنَّكَ تَرَاهُ، فَإِنْ لَمْ تَكُنْ تَرَاهُ فَإِنَّهُ يَرَاكَ
Meaning: … that you worship Allah as though you see Him and if you don’t see Him, know that He sees you.
The science of Ihsan is known to us today as tasawwuf.
The realities of tasawwuf are based upon the Qur’an and the Sunnah of the Messenger ﷺ, and they cannot be realised except with the prerequisites of Islam and Iman. One can only reach the sullam (staircase) of Ihsan through the sullam of Islam and Iman, and the fruit of Ihsan is knowing and loving Allah.
In regards to knowledge which are not specifically from Al-‘ilm ash-Shari’y; there are those that are considered to be Al-‘ilm an-Nafi’ (beneficial knowledge) as they benefit mankind broadly. Al-‘ilm an-Nafi’ includes engineering and others like it. If one seeks and implements it with the right intention, the output (blessings, rewards) of these types of knowledge would also be considered to be from Islam, Iman, and Ihsan.
Each of the groups mentioned above deserve our assistance and support, and doing so puts us and them into a single category – we would be considered part of them. Each of these groups may have different ways of benefiting mankind; using different wasilah (tools and devices) but they are a single group in goodness.
The variation in wasilah of knowledge is like the ijtihad (endeavour) which brings about the variation we find in schools of thought in fiqh and tasawwuf, and it is not permitted for anyone from any of these schools to frown upon or curse one another.
The Connection of the People of Knowledge with Each Other
Imam Abu Hanifah (founder of the Hanafi school of fiqh) and Imam Malik (founder of the Maliki school of fiqh) both took knowledge from Imam Ja’far as-Sodiq, the son of Muhammad al-Baqir bin Ali Zainal Abidin bin Hussein bin Ali bin Abi Talib and Fatimah bint Rasulullah ﷺ.
Imam Malik was known to be someone whose face became cheerful whenever the Prophet ﷺ was mentioned in front of him due to his love for the Prophet ﷺ. Some of his students had asked him about this and he said, “If only you saw how our teachers were when the Prophet ﷺ was mentioned in front of them, you would not find this to be anything of significance.” Then he told of how his teachers would cry loudly whenever the Prophet ﷺ was mentioned in front of them. The face of Imam Ja’far as-Sodiq in particular would light up in honour of and love for his ascendant, the Prophet ﷺ.
Imam ash-Shafi’i, founder of the Shafi’i school of fiqh, said that every student of fiqh is indebted to Imam Abu Hanifa. He had so much respect and honour for Imam Abu Hanifah that he prayed the Subuh prayers at the mosque of Imam Abu Hanifah without reciting the basmalah (reciting bismillahi rahmanir rahim) loudly and the qunut (making du’a in the last i’tidal of the Subuh prayers) i.e. in contrary to his own ijtihad. When asked about this, Imam ash-Shafi’i said he did so as part of his adab to Imam Abu Hanifah.
Imam ash-Shafi’i would say:
إذا ذكر العلماء فمالك النجم
Meaning: When the scholars were mentioned, Imam Malik was most exalted above them all.
It is related that Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal, founder of Hanbali school of fiqh, never left making du’a for Muhammad bin Idris (Imam ash-Shafi’i) after every solat. One day his son asked, “Who is this person you always make du’a for?” Imam Ahmad said, “He is like the sun to our world, or good health to one’s body!”
When Imam ash-Shafi’i was living in Baghdad, he was known to be regular in his visits to Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal and likewise Imam Ahmad was known to be regular in his visits to his teacher, Imam ash-Shafi’i.
Imam Shafi’i mentioned in some lines of poetry:
قالوا يزورك أحمد وتزوره * * * قلت الفضائل لا تفارق منزله
The people say, you visit Ahmad and he visits you.
I say, honouring does not negate stations.
إن زارني فبفضله أو زرته * * * فلفضله فالفضل في الحالين له
If I visit him, it is because of his honour. If he visits me, it is also because of his honour.
In both situations, the honour is his (Imam Ahmad’s).
When these lines reached Imam Ahmad he said, “The honour is yours O Muhammad bin Idris.”
One day, Imam Ahmad fell ill and visited Imam Shafi’i him. Soon afterwards, Imam Ahmad recovered and Imam Shafi’i fell ill but recovered after Imam Ahmad visited him.
So, Imam Shafi’i composed the following lines of poetry:
مرض الحبيب فعدته * * * فمرضت من خوفى عليه
I became ill because my beloved (Imam Ahmad) was ill
فأتى الحبيب يزورنى * * * فبرءت من نظرى اليه
When my beloved recovered and visited me, I became well at the sight of him being well.
These are some examples of how the pious people of knowledge, from the imams of the various schools of fiqh, respected one another. How then could the followers of these imams have animosity towards each other when the imams have done otherwise?
Interacting with the Pious People of Knowledge
Summarily, the Pious People of Knowledge are the people of knowledge, the true students of knowledge, and the true teachers of knowledge, who practice their knowledge. They hold on to the two schools of aqidah; Asha’irah, and Maturidiyyah, the four mu’tabar (known, considered) schools in fiqh; Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi’y, and Hanbali, and any of the valid paths of Ihsan. These people deserve the support of Muslims in their works.
May Allah gather us all with the pious! Amin.
– This is the first of four groups of people Habib spoke about in the Dars Fajr, 3 November 2016, Masjid Aal Abdul Razak, Singapura
Watch Dars Fajr: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Hx5sfFlySg