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Balancing between Seeking Knowledge and Softening the Heart— Ibn al-Jawzi


Imam abu’l-Faraj ibn a-Jawzi, in his book Sayd al-Khaatir, wrote the following on the importance of softening the heart in the midst of talab al-’ilm (seeking knowledge):

رأيت الاشتغال بالفقه وسماع الحديث لا يكاد يكفي في صلاح القلب إلا أن يمزج بالرقائق والنظر في سير السلف الصالحين‏.‏ لأنهم تناولوا مقصود النقل وخرجوا عن صور الأفعال المأمور بها إلى ذوق معانيها والمراد بها‏.

I feel that occupying oneself with fiqh and acquiring narrations is hardly enough to rectify the heart, unless one mixes with that the study of al-raqaa’iq (heart-softening narrations) and examining the biographies of the salaf al-saaliheen, because they [i.e. the Salaf] realized the intended purpose of those narrations and extracted the commanded actions from them, perceiving their intended meanings and desired understandings thereby.

 

 

‏ وما أخبرتك بهذا إلا بعد معالجة وذوق لأني وجدت جمهور المحدثين وطلاب الحديث همة أحدهم في الحديث العالي وتكثير الأجزاء‏.‏ وجمهور الفقهاء في علوم الجدل وما يغالب به الخصم‏.‏ وكيف يرق القلب مع هذه الأشياء‏.‏

And I do not inform you of this except after personal trials and error, because I have found that the majority of the muhadditheen and students of hadeeth are primarily concerned with the shortest chain of narration and increasing the number of narrations. And that the majority of the fuqahaa’(jurists) are primarily concerned with knowledge of debate, argumentation and how to win an a dispute. And how can hearts by softened with these things?

 

 

وقد كان جماعة من السلف يقصدون البعد الصالح للنظر إلى سمته وهديه‏.‏ لا لاقتباس وذلك أن ثمرة علمه هديه وسمته فافهم هذا وامزج طلب الفقه والحديث بمطالعة سير السلف والزهاد في الدنيا ليكون سبباً لرقة قلبك‏.‏

And there used to be a group of the salaf who would visit a righteous servant in order to observe his characteristics and manners, and not to take knowledge from him. And that is because the fruits of his knowledge were his manners and conduct, so understand this! So combine the study of fiqh and hadeeth with studying the lives of the salaf and those who exercises zuhd in this dunya in order that this might be a cause of softening for your heart.

 

 

وقد جمعت لكل واحد من مشاهير الأخيار كتاباً فيه أخباره وآدابه‏.‏ فجمعت كتاباً في أخبار الحسن وكتاباً في أخبار سفيان الثوري وإبراهيم بن أدهم وبشر الحافي وأحمد بن حنبل ومعروف وغيرهم من العلماء والزهاد والله الموفق للمقصود‏.‏ ولا يصلح العمل مع قلة العلم‏.‏ فهما في ضرب المثل كسائق وقائد والنفس بينهما حرون ومع جد السائق والقائد ينقطع المنزل ونعوذ بالله من الفتور‏.‏

And I have compiled a book for each and every one of the well-known and excellent people, containing their tales and their manners. I have compiled a book about the exploits of al-Hasan (al-Basri), and a book about the exploits of Sufyan al-Thawri, Ibrahim ibn Adhham, Bishr al-Haafi, Ahmad ibn Hanbal, Ma’roof, and others from the ‘ulamaa’and those who were known for their zuhd, and Allah is the giver of success. And deeds are not performed correctly with (only) a little knowledge. And what should be understood (from all this speech) is in the parable of a stick and a carrot [i.e. a push-factor and a pull-factor, one thing which is motivating you by fear and another which is motivating you with a reward], and a person’s soul is stubbornly in between the two. But with a persistent stick and carrot, one can keep moving, and we seek refuge with Allah from apathy.

 

[Sayd al-Khaatir 1/71]

 

Eight things I learnt from Shaqeeq


 

It was narrated that Shaqeeq [ibn Ibraheem] al-Balkhee said to Haatim [al-Assam- his student]:

You have accompanied me for a long period of time, so what have you learnt?

Haatim replied:

 

Eight things:

 

The first:

I looked at the creation and found that every person has something that is beloved to him, but when that person reaches his grave, he would depart from his beloved. So I made the most beloved thing to me my righteous deeds, so that they may be with me in my grave.

 

The second:

I looked at the saying of Allaah the Elevated:

{… and restrained himself from impure evil desires and lusts. } [An Naazi’aat: 40]

So I strove against my self, repelling desires and lusts from it until it settled upon obedience to Allaah.

 

The Third:

I saw that whoever possessed something valuable would keep it in a safe and secure place, I then looked at the saying of Allaah the Glorified:

{ Whatever is with you will come to an end, and whatever is with Allaah will remain.} [An Nahl: 96]

So whenever something of value came into my possession, I gave it in His cause, so that it may remain for me with Him.

 

The Fourth:

I saw that people return to wealth, lineage and nobility, and they are all worthless, so I looked at the saying of Allaah the Glorified:

{Indeed the most honourable of you with Allaah are those who have Taqwaa } [Al Hujuraat: 13]

So I worked on attaining Taqwaa so that I may be honorable with Allaah.

 

The Fifth:

I saw that people envy each other, so I looked at the saying of the Elevated:

{ It is We Who portion out their livelihood between them } [Az Zukhruf: 32]

So I forsook envy and jealousy.

 

The Sixth:

I saw them taking each other as enemies, so I looked at the saying of the Glorified:

{ Surely, Shaytaan (Satan) is an enemy to you, so take (treat) him as an enemy } [Faatir: 6]

So I left their enmity and took Shaytaan as my only enemy.

 

The Seventh:

I saw that they humiliate themselves in pursuing provision, so I looked at the saying of Allaah the Glorified:

{ And no moving (living) creature is there on earth except that its provision is due from Allaah. } [Hood: 6]

So I concentrated on what was due to Him from me, and left what was due to me to Him.

 

The Eighth:

I saw them dependent upon their trades, professions and health, so I depended upon Allaah the Glorified.

 

[Ahmad ibn ‘Abdur Rahmaan al-Maqdisee, Mukhtasar Minhaaj al Qaasideen, pg-28; Translator: Abu Abdul-Waahid, Nadir Ahmad ]

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