Imam Bukhaaree's Advice to Al-Qaadee Al-Waleed
Al-Qaadee Al-Waleed ibn Ibraaheem Al-Bukhaaree was one of the students of Imam Bukhaaree, and when he grew up, he became the chief judge of the district of Ar-Rayy. He related that, when he was just entering into the early years of adulthood, he developed a yearning to seekout the knowledge of Hadeeth. And he of course went to one of the most eminent Hadeeth scholars of his time and told him about his desire to become a student of knowledge. That scholar was Imam Bukhaaree (may Allah have mercy on him), and if the beginning of his response seems enigmatic at first blush, it becomes clearer towards the end of the narration.
He said to Al-Waleed. "O my son, do not embark upon an endeavour until you know its limits (i.e., what you will be required to learn in order to master the endeavour or course of studies you are embarking upon) and until you know the talents that will be required of you in order for you to succeed at it. And know that a man does not truly and completely become a scholar of Hadeeth until he writes down four things with four things and the example of four things; until he writes duting four stages; until he writes in four conditions; until he writes in four places; until he writes down on four things; and until he writes down from four kinds of people. When he does all of that, four things will become easy for him [to lose (i.e., those four things will not preoccupy his time and his thoughts)]; also, he will be tested in four things. And if he remains patient throughout those tests, Allah will honor him with four things in this world, and will reward him with four things in the Hereafter."
Al-Qaadee Al-Waleed asked, "May Allah have mercy on you. Interpret for me all of the groups of four things you mentioned."
Imam Bukhaaree said, "Yes, the four things one needs to write about are legislations of the Messenger
and all information that one can gather about him; the Companions
and their doings; and the rest of the scholars (of Islam) - their biographies, their names, their Kunyahs, the places they went to, and the eras during which they lived.... The examples of narrations one should know about are a narration that has a complete and connected chain of narrators; one that has a chain that is only missing the name of the Companion who related; one that is Mawqoof (i.e., stops short at someone before the Prophet
; therefore, it can be ascribed to a Companion, but not to the Prophet
); and one that is disconnected."
Imam Bukhaaree went on to explain, "One must write down narrations (and knowledge in general) when one is young, when one reaches an age of understanding, during the years of one's young adulthood, and during one's middle years. One must write down (narrations and preoccupy oneself with knowledge under four conditions: ) when one is busy, when one is free, when one is poor, and when one is rich. And one must write down (narrations and knowledge in four places: ) on the tops of mountains, while travelling by sea, in cities, and in the desert. And one must write down (narrations and knowledge on four things: ) on stones, on shells, on leather, and on shoulder bones (of animals) until the time comes when one is able to transcribe that written information onto actual paper. And one must write down from (four kinds of people: ) from those who are above him, those who are below him, those who are at his level, as well as from the books of his father - but he he has to be sure that he is transcribing from the actual handwriting of his father and not from the handwriting of someone else. Furthermore, one must strive to do four things: to seek out knowledge, seeking only the Countenance of Allah and His Good Pleasure; to act in accordance with the Book of Allah; to spread knowledge among students; and to author works, as to keep one's remembrance alive even after death."
Imam Bukhaaree went on to say, "And one will not accomplish these things without four things that he, as the slave of Allah, must acquire himself: knowledge of the Book (of Allah), of language, of As-Sarf (a branch of knowledge in Arabic which deals with the study of words before they make their way into a sentance), and of An-Nahwu (the study of words after they enter into a sentance, or in other words, the changes words undergo once they are written in sentances). And then one will need four things that are from the gifts of Allah (which He gives to whomsoever among His slaves He wishes): health, ability (and talent), a strong drive (to learn), and a retentive memory. If one is blessed with all of these things, four things will become easy for him (i.e., they will become insignificant in his eyes when compared to his great purpose in life): family, children, wealth, and homeland. And one will be tested in four things: Enemies who find satisfaction in his failures and mistakes; friends who find fault with him; ignorant people who level accusations against him; and (contempary) scholars who become jealous of him (and of his achievements). If he remains patient through all of these tests, Allah will honor him with four things in this world: With the honor of becoming content with one's lot in life; with the aura of awe one inspires in others through one's profoundly deep faith (in Allah); with the sweet satisfaction of having (and of studying) knowledge; and with an eternal life (i.e., even after such a scholar dies, he will live on through good works and knowledge he will have left behind). And Allah will reward him with four things in the Hereafter: with the shade of the Throne (on a Day during which there will be no shade save that shade); with being able to drink from the Basin of Muhammad
(when there will be no water save for the water in that Basin); and with being in the company of the Prophets in the highest level of Paradise: "Then they will be in the company of those on whom Allah has bestowed His Grace, of the Prophets..."
Having explained what it entails to be a life-long student of knowledge, Imam Bukhaaree (may Allah have mercy on him) said to Al-Qaadee Al-Waleed: "O my son, in general terms I have informed you of the various things I have heard from my teachers on this topic. So either come now to fulfill the purpose for which you have come to me (to seek knowledge), or abandon this endeavour (if you feel that you will not be able to live up to the terms I explained to you.).