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View Full Version : FATWA: How should a Muslim deal with books of knowledge?

Ummu Sufyaan
09-05-2007, 08:00 AM
Inshallah, this fatwa should be useful to all you knowledge seekers out there.
I particulary liked point number 2.
How should a Muslim deal with books of knowledge?

How should a Muslim deal with books of knowledge?


Praise be to Allaah.

1. How should he deal with the book?

Dealing with the book involves several things:

1 – Knowing the subject of the book – so that he can benefit from it, because he needs to specialize. It may be a book of sihr (witchcraft) or trickery or falsehood. So he has to know the subject of the book so that he can benefit from it.

2 – He has to know its terminology. Because knowing the terminology means that you will save a lot of time. This is what the scholars do in the introduction to their books, for example we know that when the author of Buloogh al Maraam says “agreed upon”, he means that the hadeeth was narrated by al-Bukhaari and Muslim, whereas the author of al-Muntaqaa uses this phrase in a different manner – when he says “agreed upon”, he means that the hadeeth was narrated by Imaam Ahmad, al-Bukhaari and Muslim. Similarly in books of fiqh, the scholars use the words qawlayn, wajhayn, riwaayatayn and ihtimaalayn differently. Riwaayatayn (two reports) means two reports from the imaam; wajhayn (two views) means two views among the companions, i.e., the companions of the leaders of the madhhab; ihtimaalayn (two possibilities) is used in cases of uncertainty as to which of the two views is correct; and qawlayn (two opinions) is more general in meaning than that.

Similarly, we also need to know what an author means if he says ijmaa’ (consensus) or wifaaq (agreement). If he says ijmaa’, he means consensus among the ummah, and if he says wifaaq he means agreement with the three imams, as is the usage of the author of al-Furoo’ concerning Hanbali fiqh. Similarly the followers of each madhhab all have their own terminology, so it is essential to know the terminology of the author.

3 – Knowing the style and phrases used in the book. Hence you will find that when you read a book for the first time, especially the academic books which are filled with knowledge, you will come across a phrase whose meaning you will have to ponder over, because you are not familiar with it. But if you read the book again you will become familiar with it.

There is also something which needs to be added to the book, which is writing comments in the margins and at the foot of the pages. This is something which the seeker of knowledge needs to make the most of. If he comes across something which needs further explanation or evidence, and he is afraid that he may forget it, then he should make a note either in the margin or at the foot of the page. Often a person misses out on such benefits because he does not make notes which take no more than a minute or two to do. Then when he comes back he may or may not remember it.

The seeker of knowledge has to pay attention to that, especially in books of fiqh. In some books you may come across a matter and its rulings which causes you to be confused and have doubts. If you refer to books which are more comprehensive than the book you are reading, and you find something which explains the matter, then you should make a note of it so that you can refer to it again if you need to, without having to refer to the original book from which you have quoted it. This will save you time.

2 – Reading books is of two types

1 – Reading in depth to ponder and understand. This necessarily takes time.

2 – A quick reading to get an idea of the subject of the book, the topics covered and the content of the book. This is done by thumbing through the book and skimming it. This does not involve the same level of thinking as the first method. The best way to read books is to ponder the meanings and seek help from scholars who have understanding. It comes as no surprise that the book which is most deserving of such a reading is the Book of Allaah. You must be patient and persist in reading, for man has not been given any greater gift than patience.

3 – Collecting books

The seeker of knowledge should be keen to collect books, but he should prioritize. If a person does not have much money, then it is not good and is not wise to buy a lot of books and have to pay for them, because this is bad management. If you cannot buy books with your own money, then you can borrow them from any library.

4 – Being keen to read important books

The seeker of knowledge must be keen to read the most important reference books, not modern works, because some of the modern writers do not have deep knowledge, so if you read what they have written you will find that it is superficial. They may quote things verbatim, or they may distort them to make them longer, but it is all waffle. So you have to read the most important reference works written by the salaf, because they are better and more blessed than many of the books of the later generation. Most of the books of the later writers are short on meanings but long-winded. You may read a whole page which could have been summarized in one or two lines. But you will find the books of the salaf to be easy, straightforward and well written, with not even one word that has no meaning.

Among the best books that the seeker of knowledge must be keen to read are the books of Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyah and his student Ibn al-Qayyim (may Allaah have mercy on them both). It is known that the books of Ibn al-Qayyim are easier, because the style of Ibn Taymiyah is strongly-worded because of his abundant knowledge and alert mind, and Ibn al-Qayyim saw the knowledge of Ibn Taymiyah as a well-built house, and his own role as that of organizing and adorning. But Ibn al-Qayyim was free minded; if he thought that his shaykh’s view differed from what he thought was correct, he would speak up. When he thought that the pilgrim should go out of ihraam for Hajj then re-enter ihraam for ‘Umrah, because Ibn ‘Abbaas (may Allaah be pleased with him) thought that if the person who has not brought an animal for sacrifice enters ihraam for Hajj or Qiraan, he must go out of ihraam for Hajj then enter ihraam for ‘Umrah, whereas Ibn Taymiyah thought that this applied only to the Sahaabah, he [Ibn al-Qayyim] said, “I am more inclined towards the opinion of Ibn ‘Abbaas than to the opinion of my shaykh.” He clearly stated that he was of a different view, so he was independent in his thinking. But it comes as no surprise that he followed his shaykh (may Allaah have mercy on him) in matters which he thought were true and correct. Undoubtedly if you think about most of the opinions of Ibn Taymiyah you will find that they are correct. This is something which anyone who ponders his books will know.

5 – Evaluating books

Books may be divided into three types:

1 – Good books

2 – Bad books

3 – Books which are neither good nor bad.

Try to make sure that your bookshelf is free of books which have bad content. There are books which are described as literature, but they simply kill time without producing any benefit. And there are harmful books which contain specific ideas or promote incorrect ideology. These also should not be allowed on your bookshelf, whether that is because the methodology the use is wrong, or because of their wrong understanding of ‘aqeedah, and revolutionary books which promote a harmful ideology.

In general, no harmful book should be allowed on your bookshelf, because books nourish the soul just as food and drink nourish the body. If you nourish it with books such as those it will cause you a great deal of harm and you will follow a methodology which goes against the methodology of the seeker of sound knowledge.

From Fataawa al-Shaykh Muhammad ibn Saalih al-‘Uthaymeen, Kitaab al-‘Ilm, p. 87-91


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09-06-2007, 11:05 AM

I agree... indeed this is the right way of approaching any book of knowledge.

I have been a book lover all my life... read many books of different types... from Masonic, to New Age, to Science, to Literature and Philosophy... but my favorite before Islam was the Bible... Old and New Testaments...

I have been reading the Bible for a long time and I have always read it in its entirety and grasped its whole context... I also have discerned the falsehood in it... I have always been aware of it since childhood... I guess it is because I have prayed always for the gift of discernment... that whever I see truth I will be able to tell it from falsehood.

As I have grown to be attached to the Bible... sometime, somhow, the desire to read the Qur'an kept crossing my mind for some reason I cannot really explain. However, I kept it to myself.

When something happened in my life that I was et with great adversity... I came to the point of surrendering totally myself to God and allowed God to have full control over my life. And since then, everything seems to happen without my efforts and control - but everything seem to happen as if a divine hand is moving the world around me.

To cut a long story short. Last year, Alhamdulillah! I got my first English Qur'an. I read it the whole month of Ramadan inside the mosque every prayer time... ceaselessly... at least 1 chapter per day. I finished it cover to cover since most chapters are short so I was able to finish it in 30 days.

I took my shahadah after finishing it...

My question... why did I not find it difficult to grasp the entire context of the Qur'an? It seems so clear? It seems so easy to understand.

But As I have been encountering many reverts for the past month... I am actually surprised why it seems like the Qur'an is difficult to understand and that you must have to read hadiths or other supplemental Islamic Books in order to understand it... this is a bit puzzling to me.

The oly time I got my eyes land on the pages of a Hadith book was only last week... thats' after one year of reading the Qur'an in both english and the Transliterated Arabic Quran... over and over again... every Magrib, Isha or Fajr Salah.

I believe I have no doubt nor questions about the Qur'an... in fact it only confirmed all the past scriptures... both Old and New Testaments... in fact, it sounded more like the Old Testaments... specially... Genesis, Psalms of Dawud and the Pentateuch.

Alll the reason why I believe because I know how God speaks in the former scriptures... and in the Qur'an - it is still the same God who is speaking there... and there is no contradiction. the only contradictions in the bible is when in some verses where some words have been changed, deducted or added - but it is easy to spot them - if you fully know and grasp the context.

this is the reason I don't read verses alone... but whole chapters.

Just my insight.


Allahu Akbar!

Ummu Sufyaan
10-15-2007, 12:42 AM
i have been wondering, concerning this quote:
2 – He has to know its terminology
how does a person know the terminology of a book, because most books i have seen dont secify what they mean by 'agreed upon,' and other such sayings.

10-15-2007, 03:22 AM
format_quote Originally Posted by maryam11
i have been wondering, concerning this quote: how does a person know the terminology of a book, because most books i have seen dont secify what they mean by 'agreed upon,' and other such sayings.

Salaam sister!

I know this is not for me to answer... but this is a good question. Astagfirhallah! I am tempted to answer it and I hope there is benefit in doing so.

Here it goes... It is not really adviseable to stop a person from reading a book simply because he or she doesn't know the terminology. If this will be the case... then, many books will be left unread.

The desire to read a book is enough drive to make a person know the terminology as he or she progresses in his or her reading.

Reading is like pouring water into a container... wherein you are filtering any unnecessary sediments in order to have clean water only into your container.

the act of sorting or filtering (ie., getting reid of unwanted elements in the water manually or by filtration)... is comparable to the process of knowing the terminology.

The way a word cannot be understood if it is used by only one sentence... untill you read another sentence using the same word under a different light.

And should there be limited clues to provide you about what a certain word or phrase means... the enthusiasm in reading will be the same force that will drive the reader to look for the meaning in another source. since we are all living in the age of information - it is very handy to have google.

When I first read an English Qur'an... there were some words and names which I have encountered only for the first time in my life. I kep reading nevertheless.. and immersed myself into the book. Then, I reread it again.... and when I still wasn't able to decipher some words... I ask an Arab... or another born Muslim.... then the picture becomes clearer everytime.

Basically the same when water is being filtered... it becomes clearer on the second and the third filtration process... and will be more clearer and cleaner using the right filter elements.

then... as time goes... due to repeated filtration... i.e., reading.... we are stuffed inside with really clean water.. i.e. information - which later on becomes knowledge.

therefore, in conclussion... raw data or information can be likened to unfiltered water. knowledge on the otherhand is processed information or filtered water.... wisdom therefore is the seal and proof of knowledge... or like the seal and the certification of clean - pure water. (0 sediments).

I hope this has shed some light to the question.

Salaamu alaikum.

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Ummu Sufyaan
10-16-2007, 07:28 AM
jazakallahu khair. good points raised.

10-18-2007, 05:37 PM

Wonderful piece of advice......may Allah swt reward you all.


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