By Shaykh Muhammad ibn Haroon Abasoomar

To acquire knowledge under the expertise of a fully qualified, Sunnah conscious ‘alim of deen is absolutely essential. Failure to do so generally results in absolute misguidance. In fact, this has been the practice of theanbiya‘, as well as our pious predecessors.

1.The Qur’an was revealed by Allah for guidance and knowledge of theummah. But, without the explanation of Allah’s Messenger (Allah bless him and grant him peace) the meanings would definitely be misunderstood. Allah addresses the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) in the Qur’an, “And we have revealed to you the Qur’an, so that you may explain to the people what was revealed to them.” (16:44)
This is the greatest, most evident proof for our view.

2. Allah mentions in the Qur’an, “Ask the people of knowledge if you do not know.” (16:43)

3. Dawud (peace be upon him) is said to have benefited immensely from Luqman (peace be upon him), before Dawud (peace be upon him) received prophethood. (Tafsir al-Qurtubi)

4. Musa’s (peace be upon him) sojourn to Khidhr (peace be upon him) is well-known and enshrined in the holy Qur’aan.

5. Furthermore, during the era of theTabi’in (Followers), whenever anyone would claim to have any knowledge, he would be questioned as to which person he has acquired that bit of knowledge from. (Sahih al-Muslim)

6. Hafidh Khatib al-Baghdadi (Allah have mercy on him), the famous muhaddith (hadith expert) of the fifth century, states, “Many scholars of the classical times had – at the time of death – either destroyed his book himself or instructed so. This was due to the fear that it may end up in the hands of ignorant ones who would not understand its verdicts and would only take the apparent meanings there from.” He thereafter narrated several incidents of the classical scholars who had done so. From among them were: Imam ‘Abida al-Salmani, Imam Shu’bah ibn Hajjaj, Imam Abu Qilabah and Imam ‘Isa ibn Yunus. (Taqyid al-‘Ilm, pgs. 61-62)

7. Imam Muhammad ibn Sirin, Hakam ibn ‘Atiyyah and Waki’ ibn al-Jarrah (Allah have mercy on them) have all stated that the primary cause for the misguidance of Bani Isra’il was the books that they inherited from their forefathers. (Taqyid al-‘Ilm, pg.61 and its footnotes)

8. Imam al-Awza’i (Allah have mercy on him) says, “Knowledge was sublime for as long as it was obtained from the mouths of the learned men. But when it ended up in books, it’snur(divine light) disappeared.’ (Taqyid al-‘Ilm, pg.64)
Note: The purpose of the previous 3 quotations is to prove that mere studying of books is incorrect and void of divine assistance. The ideal would be to study those very same books under the auspices of a learned teacher. In no way do we intend to degrade the books of Shari’ah whatsoever.

9. Imam Malik (Allah have mercy on him) was once asked if knowledge could be acquired from one who did not sit in the company of the ‘ulama [instead he sufficed with books only]. He replied in the negative and said, “Knowledge should not be acquired except from one who has memorised, accompanied the scholars, practised upon his knowledge and has piety in him.” (Adab al-Ikhtilaf, pg.145)

10. Shaykh Muhammad Awwamah (may Allah protect him), an unparalleled muhaddith of current times, mentions beautifully, “They [the ‘ulama] never used to pay attention to one who did not have any ustadh (teacher), neither would they consider such a person worthy of even being spoken to due to him being prone to mistakes.” He further says, “Qadi ‘Iyad (Allah have mercy on him) and others have narrated that when Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal (Allah have mercy on him) was requested by the ruler of his time (al-Mu’tasim) to discuss a certain matter with ibn Abi Du’ad, he [Imam Ahmad] turned his face away and said, ‘How can I discuss with such a person whom I have never seen at the door of any ‘alim ever!” (Adab al-Ikhtilaf, pg.144)

And Allah Knows Best.