Book Spotlight: Merit of Knowledge and Scholars

This translation of ‘The Merit of Knowledge and Scholars’ by Shaykh Muḥammad Naqī ‘Alī Khān al-Qādirī  expands on the methodology of the scholars – discussing the virtues of seeking sacred knowledge and the merits that ensue. A guide for the seeker who aims to travel the path of knowledge and remove himself from the state of ignorance [al-juhl]. The book is a clear, concise and detailed compilation of qur’ānic verses and narrations [aḥādīth] of the Messenger which comment on the challenges of seeking knowledge and the stages, pitfalls and difficulties a student [ṭālib al-ʿilm] has to endure.

The Messenger of Allah states: “Verily, the ʿulamāʾ are the inheritors of the Prophets who leave only their knowledge behind as their legacy; not dirham, nor dīnār.”

Listing 9 verses of the Qur’ān and 33 narrations of the virtue of knowledge and those that hold it, it is by no means an unimportant work by Shaykh Naqī ʿAlī Khān who was born on the 1st of Rajab in 1246AH/ 1830AD in Dhakhīra, Bareilly. He studied at the hands of his blessed father, Shaykh Mawlānā Riḍā ‘Alī Khān. 

Shaykh Naqī ʿAlī Khan’s works exist in the form of lecturing, teaching and authoring. He sacrificed his entire life in preaching the religion and defending the honour of the Prophet. He has authored many books on various subjects and topics. His son, Imām Aḥmad Riḍā Khān has mentioned over 25 of his written works. 

Shaykh Muftī Wājid Iqbal commented the following: “This book is a must have for all students of knowledge who wish to combine sincere intentions with the best of etiquette; with both their teachers and their study of the Dīn.”

Mullā ʿAlī Qārī states: “Verily those that do not act upon their knowledge are not scholars.”

However, while working on this book, the translator and Sadr ul Ulama Academy felt more could be said about this topic. In an attempt to make complete the literary work, Inbāʾ al-Aṣdiqāʾ bi Makānat al-ʿIlm wa al-ʿUlamāʾ was added to the work. This later work was an original appendix which corroborated and expanded on what Shaykh Naqī ʿAlī Khān had written and sought to make comment on a modern day student’s journey through the islamic sciences [dars-e-nizāmī]. This work drew from the comments of giants like Imām Fakhruddin Rāzi’s al-Tafsīr al-Kabīr and Imām ʿAlā al-Dīn Hindī’s Kanz al-ʿUmmāl to name a few.

The addendum adds to the common disease which plagues many in the western world who are unable to provide a scholar the benefit of the doubt for his mistake.

Imām Aḥmad Riḍā Khān writes —

“It is ḥarām to pick out faults in scholars and to lay accusations upon them. Due to this if one distances himself from a religious leader and refrains from asking questions then this is like poison for him.”

Scholars are humans. All humans err. Therefore scholars err. This analogy is simple. Even the weakest of minds can acknowledge this. Why should we overlook all our defects and start pointing out the shortcomings of a scholar? Only the Prophets and the Angels are ma’ṣūm (free from sin). Therefore, even if we do see a scholar slip then we must give him the benefit of the doubt. Now, we see some individuals who distance themselves from such scholars and are reluctant to ask them questions. With regards to such individuals Imām Aḥmad Riḍā mentions that this is like poison for them. This means that doing so is causing harm to one’s self and is depriving one’s self from knowledge.

"Seek knowledge from the cradle to the grave."

Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him)