On the Methodology of Acquiring Knowledge

Praise be to Allah, the Mighty, the Exalted, and blessings and peace be upon His chosen messenger.
The Qur’anic and hadith texts on the virtues and excellences of knowledge are numerous, and need not be listed here, for they are not the subject of disagreement.  Those who so desire may peruse them in the appropriate references.  What is, however, sometimes overlooked, is that knowledge is taken first and foremost from the scholars; books alone are not sufficient to make a person a scholar.  The scholars say, “Knowledge may not be taken from a SuHufi (‘journalist – one who studied only from books) nor the Qur’an from a muSHafi (one who learned to recite the Qur’an on his own, without a teacher).”

1. Evidence from the Qur’an and Sunnah

Allah sent the Qur’an – a book – with a Messenger – a teacher, to explain its contents.
(“And We have sent down to you the Reminder in order that you might explain to people what has been sent down to them.”) [Qur’an]
The story of the Sahabi who misinterpreted the verse about the black and white threads of dawn is well known.  And, according to a narration in Sunan Ibn Majah, the Prophet criticized those Companions who, based on the outward meaning of the Qur’an, gave the fatal fatwa that tayammum is not permissible for one who has water, even if he fears the water will harm him.  It is reported that he said, “Could they not have asked, since they did not know? The only remedy for incompetence is asking.” Read more

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