Event Review: Seeking Sacred Knowledge with Shaykh Ahmad Saad
What: Seeking Sacred Knowledge
Where: Singapore Post Auditorium
Who: Shaykh Ahmad Saad Al-Azhari
When: 12 Muharram 1435 (16th November 2013), 8pm
“The event was well done, credits to be given to the dedicated committee who have planned and executed this knowledge seeking event and to have made it possible for the audience to meet and learn from Syakh Ahmad Saad Al-Azhari! Someone whose lineage can be traced back to Rasullulah (S)! In connection with this, Syakh has mentioned this when he was explaining about the importance of sacred knowledge for us. I quote, ‘We have a responsibility to be connected to the Prophet through a chain transmission.’ I feel humbled by this opportunity.”
Shahirah Nassir, student
Just as the talk began, my friend whispered that she didn’t even notice Shaykh Ahmad Saad enter the auditorium of 200 attendees. Such was the humility of Shaykh Ahmad and the lack of fanfare for his entrance. Masha Allah.
Mentioning the previous day’s talk (Glimpses from the Patience of Scholars), Shaykh Ahmad Saad began the evening by reminding us of the importance of knowledge.
وعن أبي الدرداء رضي الله عنه قال سمعت رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم يقول: “من سلك طريقًا يبتغي فيه علمًا سهل الله له طريقًا إلى الجنة، وإن الملائكة لتضع أجنحتها لطالب العلم رضا بما صنع، وإن العالم ليستغفر له من في السماوات والأرض حتى الحيتان في الماء، وفضل العالم على العابد كفضل القمر على سائر الكواكب، وإن العلماء ورثة الأنبياء وإن الأنبياء لم يورثوا دينارًا ولا درهما وإنما ورثوا العلم. فمن أخذه أخذ بحظ وافر” ((رواه أو داود والترمذي)).
Abud-Darda (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: The Prophet Muhammad (S) said, “He who follows a path in quest of knowledge, Allah will make the path of Jannah easy to him. The angels lower their wings over the seeker of knowledge, being pleased with what he does. The inhabitants of the heavens and the earth and even the fish in the depth of the oceans seek forgiveness for him. The superiority of the learned man over the devout worshipper is like that of the full moon to the rest of the stars (i.e., in brightness). The learned are the heirs of the Prophets who bequeath neither dinar nor dirham but only that of knowledge; and he who acquires it, has in fact acquired an abundant portion.” [Abu Dawud and At- Tirmidhi] (Riyad As-Salihin Book 13, Hadith 1388)
Shaykh Ahmad shared that because the attendees came to seek knowledge, Allah’s forgiveness and blessings began not upon entering the auditorium, it began as early as when we first decided to attend the talk and seek knowledge. SubhanAllah.
Why is knowledge sacred?
In Shaykh Ahmad’s words, knowledge is ‘so sacred that we can’t just open a book a get it’. This vastly contrasts the common perception today where we usually just google or refer to our textbooks. The following saying of the scholar Abu Nu’aym hints that knowledge includes the adab and way of seeking it.
“He who does not respect the elders, show mercy to the young and honour the rights of our scholars, does not belong to us.” (Abu Nu’aym)
Knowledge is also sacred because it connects us directly to Allah SWT. With knowledge, we learn to understand and worship Allah. With knowledge, we are following the legacy of our prophets, the blessed men directly connected to Allah.
What does scared knowledge do?
Sacred knowledge saves a person from ignorance and sin. With knowledge, we come to understand why something is done or so. With knowledge, we learn to do things Allah is pleased with.
Sacred knowledge also gives one power over rulers. Whilst Shaykh Ahmad shared stories of Caliph Harun (during the Abbassid rule) asking his scholars to help settle national problems, we can also see this in our everyday lives. With knowledge, we don’t have to rely on authority. This doesn’t mean we don’t respect them. But we are better equipped to make our own decisions.
Tools for seeking sacred knowledge
There are 4 tools that Shaykh Ahmad explained we should use to seek sacred knowledge:
1. Authentic books
Both content and order are important. We should be using books of valid, true knowledge and at a level which is suited for us. For example, we could be learning beginners’ Arabic but it wouldn’t help if we used a book for advanced speakers. The way the book is arranged will also make it easier for us to understand its content. This was why the students of renowned past scholars such as those of the four mazhabs took years to assemble and compile the teachings of their teachers into books. Books we easily obtain today such as Imam Tirmidhi’s hadith book Jami Timidhi and Imam Syafie’s fiqh book Riyad as-Salihin.
2. Talented teachers
These have both knowledge and the ability to teach it. Shaykh Ahmad shares that talented teachers teach in appropriate levels: bite-sized first and then much more. For instance, Prophet Muhammad (S) taught a man to memorize the Quran by first verbally repeating the three Quls (Surah al-Ikhlas, Surah an-Nas, Surah al-Falaq) throughout a journey together.
During prayer together, the Prophet (S) reads the same surahs. Then, he advises the man to pray similarly every day. The Prophet (S) also had the man sit with him when the Prophet (S) settled disputes. Eventually, the man memorizes the whole Quran and even goes on to settle national disputes as a leader. SubhanAllah.
3. A sound mind
Our food should be halal. Our activities should please Allah. Shaykh Ahmad reminds us to strive to obey Allah even in our thoughts.
4. Studying and revision
I sat up at this. Shaykh Ahmad questioned what we’ll be doing with the notes we took during the talk. Does it sit on a shelf? Does it hide in the book, hardly looked at again? He reminded us to keep revising and re-reading it. Alhamdulillah, writing this event review got me to revise my notes. InshaAllah, during later revision, I should rewrite my notes into proper sentences (Admit it. You write in random words and doodles too!). I should also verify hadith and verses I heard snippets of and only scribbled (illegibly).
Importance of sacred knowledge for me (yes, you.)
We have a moral responsibility towards purifying our souls and that is through knowledge. We also have a responsibility to stay away from extreme ideas to differentiate scholars from claimants. Shaykh Ahmad asserts that Allah SWT may forgive us for our ignorance now but will He forgive us for choosing to be ignorant?
Is there a distinction between sacred and ‘secular’ knowledge?
Does math, science, languages and humanities quality as sacred knowledge or only ‘secular’ knowledge? Shaykh Ahmad clarifies that sacred knowledge is that which is for Allah SWT only. ‘Secular’ knowledge usually has more than just one reason. We may study for Allah but we will later use that knowledge (and the diploma/degree we earn) for a job, to earn money, to attain status. However, some also study religious knowledge to qualify for a job (to be an ustaz). And so, religious knowledge is not necessarily sacred knowledge.
Thus, every form of knowledge is split into two parts: for dunya and for akhirah. The bigger the part we use up in this world, we get a smaller remaining part of it in our akhirah. The bigger the part for akhirah, be it by the nature of the knowledge or how we use that knowledge, the more sacred it is. Notably, sacred knowledge is also that which teach us how to survive in the akhirah as compared to ‘dunya survival’.
Do we self-study? How should we start?
Finally, Shaykh Ahmad cautions us against studying without a teacher. Alone, there is no one to tell us when a certain information or knowledge is wrong or invalid. Syaitan may become our teacher. May we all be reminded and careful always, inshaAllah.
Shaykh Ahmad also reminds us that the pleasure of doing haram will disappear but the sin will stay with us. Similarly, the pain or difficulty of doing halal will disappear but the reward will stay. We should focus and do little at a time. Imagine that if we memorize an ayat a day, we memorize the Quran in 8 years. And how many of us remember 8 years ago like it was yesterday? SubhanAllah.
Other answers and reminders
I left the evening with many of my internal questions answered. A newfound friend that I travelled home with shared her thoughts on whether we should aspire to forgo sleep as much as the past scholars did. I was still thinking about this aspect of patience that Shaykh Ahmad shared during his talk ‘Glimpses from the Patience of Scholars’ the day before!
She shared that whilst we sleep for 8 hours, scholars ‘napped’ for 2 to 3 hours and feel as well-rested as we do. Masha Allah. Doing zikir before sleep may help us get this kind of rest, inshaAllah. May we all benefit from the talk and the beautiful insights of both the speakers and attendees, inshaAllah.
Noor Hanisah Binte Noordin
Noor Hanisah is a full-time Muslimah, daughter, sister and learner. She is passionate about community service, outreach & development.
Bio of speaker: Shaykh Ahmad Muhammad Saad Ash-Shafi’ie Al-Azhari Al-Hasani is modest man of smiles, stories and poetry, frequently shares his own experiences during his talks as well as makes his audience laugh. Born into an Egyptian family of scholars descending from the Prophet(S), he memorized the Quran at age 10, studied Islamic Sciences from various scholars and graduated with a B.A. (Hons) in Islamic Studies from the Al-Azhar school system. He is a father of three, Director of Ihsan Institute for Arabic & Islamic studies, and teaches in the North London Central Mosque.