Cautioning of Abdullah ibn Mas’ūd to one of his comrades

 

Abdullah ibn Mas’ūd said to one of his companions:

“You are living in an age in which scholars of jurisprudence are numerous, while those who recite [and memorize] the Qur’an are few, an age in which the limits set by the Qur’an are preserved in people’s memories though its specific words may be lost. It is an age in which those who ask are few, while those who have answers to give are many, in which they prolong prayer while keeping their sermons brief, and in which people show preference for [virtuous] action over whims and desires.

 

However, an age is coming in which scholars of jurisprudence will be few, while those who recite and memorize the Qur’an will be many. The words of the Qur’an will be committed to memory while the limits it sets will be lost. Many will be those who ask, but few will be those who have answers to give. Their sermons will be lengthy and their prayers brief, while they show preference for their whims and desires over the virtuous actions they might perform.”

[Narrated by Imam Malik with a chain of transmission traceable to Abdullah ibn Mas’ūd. See al-Muwatta’, the section entitled Jami al-Salah (“A Compendium on Ritual Prayer”)]

 

Indeed, both our academic and practical lives have been afflicted by many such imbalances and reversals in values and priorities.

The numbers of those who recite and memorize the Qur’an are on the rise while those who derive true knowledge and wisdom from it have grown steadily fewer.

 

There is an exaggerated emphasis on mastering forms and utterances, while the meanings which they were meant to convey and the rulings for which they form the basis are lost.

 

Attention is given to appearances and formalities, while objectives and essences are overlooked. Particulars rule the day while universals are, for all practical purposes, forgotten.

 

Traditions based on the example of the Prophet (ﷺ) are put to death while innovations are brought to the fore.

 

[Taken from “Theory of higher objectives and intents of Islamic law”, pg 16]

 

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