66. The things that nullify this Hilyah

O brother – may Allaah save us from tripping up – if you have read the highlights from Hilaaytu -Taalibil – ‘ilmi (the Arabic title of the book in the readers hand) and its etiquette, and have fallen into some of the nullifying affairs, then understand that the greatest things that destroy the organization of its alignment (in the same manner the alignment of beads on a necklace would be corrupted) are the following:

  • Disclosing secrets.
  • Spreading rumors from one group of people to another.
  • Vainglory and lying.
  • Excessive joking.
  • Interrupting two people during a conversation.
  • Spite.
  • Jealousy.
  • Evil suspicion.
  • Sitting with the mubtadi’aah.
  • Walking into the direction of unlawful affairs.

Beware of these sins, and sins that are related to them, and restrain yourself from all that is unlawful. If you do not, then know that your piety is weak, and that you are frivolous, a joker, a backbiter, and a carrier of rumors, and it is impossible for you to become a seeker of knowledge who is pointed at with fingers, blessed with knowledge and its implementation.

May Allaah make your steps firm, and grant everyone piety and success in the Second and the First [life].

And may the blessings and salutations of Allaah be upon our Prophet Muhammad and his family and Companions.

Bakr ibn ‘Abdullah Aboo Zayd


The End of the Treatise:

The Etiquette of Seeking Knowledge by Shaykh Bakr Abu Zayd.

66. No walaa’ and baraa’ (declaring allegiance and declaring innocence) should be pledged over sectarianism and partisanship1

The people of Islaam have no distinguishing characteristic except Islaam and peace. O seeker of knowledge! May Allaah bless you and bless your knowledge – seek knowledge and implement it and call to it upon the way of the Pious Predecessors. Do not be a person who frequently goes in and out of these groups or you will leave [the path of] freedom to enter [a way of] constriction, for all of Islaam is a path and a way for you and all the Muslims are the Community and the Hand of Allaah is with the Community. There is no sectarianism and partisanship in Islam. I seek refuge from Allaah on your behalf that you become weak, and become like a robber between these sects, groups, false ideologies, and extremist parties if you pledge allegiance and declare innocence for their sakes.

Become a seeker of knowledge upon the Path, pursuing the tracks [of those who preceded you (the salaf)] and following the Sunan and calling to Allaah with insight, and acknowledging the virtues and precedence of the people of virtue. Hizbiyyah (partisanship),2 with its innovated paths and appearances (which the Salaf were unacquainted with), is the greatest obstacle to knowledge and the cause of the dispersion of the Community, and it has very much weakened the rope of unity of Islaam and caused afflictions upon the Muslims. So beware of these parties and sects whose members move around for its sake, and whose evil star has shone. Their likeness is no more than that of a roof gutter: it gathers grimy water and scatters it everywhere, except for those upon whom Allaah has bestowed His Mercy so they become upon that which the Prophet and his companions were upon.

Ibn al-Qayyim said when he mentioned that sign of the people of servitude to Allaah:3 “…And the second sign, is in his (i.e., Aboo Ismaa’eel al-Hurawee’s) saying: ‘…And they are not affiliated to any name’, meaning that they are not renowned to people with names which they are known by, the names [or titles, as the sects are] with which have become signs for the people of the other paths. Similarly they are not bound to any one activity, with which they are named, and known by, nor known by other activities, for indeed this is a defect in servitude and it is restricted servitude.

As for unrestricted servitude it is where a person is not known by a specific name from amongst its meaning because he answers the call of servitude regardless of the type [of worship], and he participates in all the activities of all the people of servitude, and he is not bound by set regulations, signs, names, uniform or [any other] innovated path. Rather, if he were to be asked about his shaykh he would reply: the Messenger (salallaahu ‘alayhi wasallam), or [if he were to be asked about] his Way he would reply: Adherent following, and [if he were to be asked about] his uniform he would reply: At-taqwa (fear of Allaah), or [if he were to be asked about] his madh-hab (religious school of thought in jurisprudence), he would reply: implementation of the Sunnah, or [if asked about] his aim he would reply:

“seeking His Face”

[Suuratul An'aam (6):52]

or [if about] his place of dwelling he would reply:

“In houses (mosques) which Allaah has ordered to be raised (to be cleaned and to be honoured), in them His Name is remembered. Therein Glorify Him in the mornings and in the afternoons or the evenings. Men whom neither trade nor sale diverts from the Remembrance of Allaah, nor performing As-Salaat, nor giving the Zakaat.”

[Suuratu Noor (24):36-37]

or if he were asked about his lineage he would reply (poetry):

“My father is Islaam; I have no other father save him,

If they boast with Qays or Tameem.”4

Or if he were asked about what he eats and drinks, he would reply: “you have no concern with it, as it has its water container, and its feet and it will reach water, and eat of trees so leave it till its owner finds it.”5[Poetry]:

“What a shame! You have spent your lifetime, and its hours have passed

Between the humiliation of impotence and laziness,

And the people have taken the path of salvation,

And upon it traveled to the highest goal at ease.”

He then said (i.e. Ibn al-Qayyim): “…And as for his saying, ‘Indeed they are the treasures of Allaah wherever they may be’: The treasures of the king are what he stores with him for his important affairs, and does not give it to anyone. Similarly, the treasures of an individual are that which he stores for his needs and affairs. These people, when they were hidden from the people [because they are anonymous], and they are not noticed or distinguished from the [rest of the] people by a mark, or affiliated to the name of an (innovated) way, or madh-hab, or shaykh, or uniform, then these people are similar to the example of hidden treasures.

These people are the farthest away from defects because defects lie beneath these (innovated) names or being attached to them, and lie beneath adherence to these ideological ways and [these] newly established and innovated ways, which have become [a] common [thing]. This is the cause of the majority of people becoming cut off from Allah without realizing [it]. The astonishing thing is that they are recognized by the people for their zeal and aspiration, and striving towards Allaah, and in reality they – except for a few – are the ones who are cut off from Allaah by these marks and bindings. One of the imaams was asked about the Sunnah (i.e. the People of the Sunnah), so he replied: “They are the ones who have no other name but the Sunnah.” He means that Ahl as-Sunnah have no other name that they are affiliated to.

There are amongst the people those who are bound by a [particular] uniform or by sitting in a [certain] place and not anywhere else, [or] by a particular way of walking and not walking in any other way, [or] by a uniform and an appearance that they never change, by a particular form of worship and they do not worship except in this manner even if other forms are better than it, or by a particular shaykh to whom they turn and [turn to] no other but him even if the others are nearer (in following) to Allaah and his Messenger than him.

[People are bound by] all of these categories are prevented from reaching the Highest Goal and are deterred from it. Customs, names, circumstances and ideologies bind them from adherent following so they became secluded from it, and their station is the farthest station from it. You will see one of them worshiping by performing a set of exercises, seclusions and complete emptying of the heart. They consider knowledge as a thing that cuts them off from the Path. If walaa’ and baraa’ (declaring allegiance and declaring innocence) for the sake of Allaah was mentioned to one of them or enjoining the good and forbidding the evil, he would consider it as something trivial and evil, and if they see people from amongst them who establish these things, they will exile him from amongst them, and they would not consider him as one of them. Such people are the farthest people from Allaah even if they were the most notable people. And Allaah knows best.”


[1] See Fataawa Shaykh al-Islaam Ibn Taymiyyah (3/341-344, 415-416, 419 – and this is important -; 4/46-154 – also important; 11/512, 514, 515; 3/342, 416-421) and the index (36/179-180, and 37/28).

[2] And in the book, Hukm al-Intimaa‘, by the Shaykh, there are more benefits and more details.

[3] These are the names of two notorious Arab tribes, i.e. if they become proud of being from these two tribes then I will become proud of my affiliation to Islaam. Salmaan al-Faarisee said this line of poetry (M).

[4] A hadeeth narrated in al-Bukhaaree from the hadeeth of Zayd ibn Khaalid al-Juhanee. (M)

  • Transcribed from: The Etiquette of Seeking Knowledge | Shaykh Bakr Abu Zayd

63. Beware of the new Israa’eeliyaat1

Beware of the new Israa’eeliyaat in the venom of the Orientalists from the Jews and the Christians; for it is more damaging than the old Israa’eeliyat,  because the Prophet (salallaahu ‘alayhi wasallam) has clarified the position to be taken regarding them, and the scholars have conveyed the [Islaamic] opinion concerning it. As for the new ones that filtered into al-Fikr al-Islaamee (Islaamic ideology)2 after the revolution of civilisation and the meeting of one knowledge with another, and the restraint of the spread of Islaam, then it is pure evil, and a tribulation gushing forth, and the Muslims’ heedless has turned them away from it, and others took it under their wing, so beware not to fall into it. May Allaah protect the Muslims from its evil.

64. Beware of Byzantine debate3

I mean lame debate or that with little benefit, for the Byzantines used to debate on the sex of the Angels while the enemy was at the gates of their country, until they were defeated by them. Also, debate that has little benefit leads away from the Path. The way of the Salaf is to refrain from extensive dispute and argumentation, and that to indulge increasingly in it is a result of a deficiency in piety, as al-Hasan (al-Basree) said when he heard a group of people arguing: “These people have become bored with worship, and speech has become light upon [their tongue], and their pity has decreased and that is why they speak.” Narrated by Ahmad in az-Zuhd and Aboo Nu’aym in al-Hilyah.”4


[1] Maqaasid ash-Shar’iyyah al-Islaamiyyah by ‘Allaal al-Faasee (p. b). [This terminology refers to the old Judaic narrations which are extracted from the "Tawraat" and introduced into Islaam by either: Jews who remained upon their faith or Jews who reverted to Islaam. They were introduced into Islaam by such people to elaborate the stories which Allaah mentioned in the Qur'aan or the Prophet (salallaahu 'alayhi wasallam) in hadeeth, or they can be stories with no origin in the Qur'aan or the Sunnah. The first group of people introduced them into Islaam with the intention of distorting the texts of the Qur'aan and Sunnah. For example: Defining the tree that Aadam and Hawaa' ate from amongst many other examples which the books of tafsir are unfortunately full of. The Prophet (salallaahu 'alayhi wasallam), similarly the scholars - based upon the teachings of the Prophet (salallaahu 'alayhi wasallam) - clarified the position to be taken from such narrations and they also categorised them. (M)]

[2] I don’t know the reason that drove the Shaykh - may Allaah preserve him – to use this phrase, because the scholars declared that it is impermissible to use, and amongst them the Shaykh himself in his book Mu’jaam al-Manaahee, he said: “And amongst them – i.e. phrases that are innovated into Islaam – al-Fikr al-Islaamee (Islaamic ideology) and al-Fikraatul-Islaamiyyah (Islaamic ideology) to mean Islaam. How is it possible that Islaam which originated from revelation can be called an ideology? And ideology is a production of the human mind, so how is it possible that Islaam can be manifestation of the human ideology? And Islaam originates from infallible revelation whereas ideology is not infallible.” (p.373)

And Shaykh Ibn al-’Uthaymeen – may Allaah preserve him – said in Majmoo’ al-Fataawa: “…and this word – I mean the word al-fikr – that is used to mean religion must be cast out of the dictionaries of Islaamic books because it leads to this ill meaning which is to call Islaam an ideology, or Christianity an ideology or Judaism an ideology…so it will lead to these religions (in their pure, original form) made into mere worldly ideologies to be taken up by whomsoever wishes. In reality these heavenly faiths (in their pure, original form) are heavenly faiths from Allaah, in which a person believes they are revealed by Allaah”, (3/136). And Allaah knows best. (M)

[3] Mu’jaam at-Taraakeeb, (pg. 280)

[4] And Ibn Rajab mentioned it in Fadl ‘Ilm as-Salaf ‘alal Khalaf

  • Transcribed from: The Etiquette of Seeking Knowledge | Shaykh Bakr Abu Zayd

58. (Merely) “putting pen to paper”

Precaution should be taken from writing books that lack creativity in the eight aims of writing, which – in the long run – leads to merely “putting pen to paper”. Beware of becoming engaged in writing books before perfecting the tools required, becoming qualified, and developing at the hands of your teachers, or else you will have registered a discredit against yourself.

As for the one who becomes qualified, has perfected the tools required, whose knowledge is vast, has had experience in research, revision, reading, and abstraction of the long compilations, has memorised the concise books of knowledge, and can summon up the issues of knowledge engaging in beneficial writings then it is amongst the best things that noble, virtuous people can engage themselves in; and do not forget the saying of al-Khateeb: “Whosoever writes a book, then he has put his mind on a tray and offered it to people.”

59. Your stance on the mistakes of those who preceded you

If you stumble across a mistake of a scholar, then don’t become happy with it so that you may use it to degrade him, but you should only be happy that you corrected the issue, because a just person will definitely affirm that there is no imaam except that he has mistakes and self-delusions, especially those who have written excessively. Only a person who is a muta’aalim (one who feigns knowledge) will make a controversy and be happy with it so as to degrade him (i.e. the preceding scholar): “He wants to treat a minor cold but it ends up turning into leprosy.”1

Yes, the mistake or self-delusion of an Imaan [who is drowning in the sea of his knowledge and virtue] should be pointed out, but should not stir up the dust around him by degrading and defaming him [and as a result] the people who resemble [such a person (who does such actions)] will become encouraged by him.

60. Deterring dubious affairs2

Do not make your heart like a sponge that absorbs anything that it comes across, and avoid arousing dubious issues in your mind or [the minds of] others, because dubious issues are swift abductors (of the hearts), and the heart is weak. The main people who spread them are the “carriers of wood”3 – the mubtadi’ah - so take protection from them.

61. Beware of grammatical errors (in Arabic)

Avoid grammatical errors in speech and writing, for a lack of grammatical error is honorable, shows pure literary taste, and an appreciation of elegant meanings due to sound structure [of speech and writing]. On the authority of ‘Umar that he said: “Learn Arabic [grammar], for indeed it increases honour.4 There are also narrations that the Salaf used to hit their children if they made grammatical errors.5

Al-Khateeb narrated that Ar-Rahbee said: “I heard some of our peers say: “If a person who makes grammatical errors writes from another person like him, and he writes from another person like him, the hadeeth will end up in Persian!6 And al-Mubarrid said in poetry:7


54. False hopes

Beware of false hopes, and among them is a claim to have knowledge in something that you have no knowledge of, or proficiency in that which you have no proficiency. If you do so then you have drawn a thick curtain between yourself and knowledge.

55. Beware of being “Aboo Shibr” (the father of a span)1

It was said knowledge is three spans: Whosoever enters the first span will become arrogant, and whosoever enters the second span will become humble, and whosoever enters the third span will know that he knows nothing.

56. Becoming manifest before becoming qualified.

Beware of becoming manifest before becoming qualified, for it is the defect of knowledge and actions. It was said: “Whosoever manifests himself before his time, then he has manifest himself to humiliation.”

57. Deterioration of manners in knowledge

Beware of what the people deprived of knowledge indulge in: they revise one or two issues so that if they are among distinguished people in a gathering they bring them up for debate in order to manifest their knowledge! And how many evils are there in this? The least of these evils is that he knows that the people know his reality. I clarified this and other related defects in my book at-Ta’aalum, and all praise is due to Allaah the Lord of the Worlds.


[1] Tathkiraatus-Saami’ wal Mutakallim, (p. 65).

  • Transcribed from: The Etiquette of Seeking Knowledge | Shaykh Bakr Abu Zayd

47. Protection of knowledge

If you attain status, then remember that the rope that helped you to reach it was seeking knowledge. So by the grace of Allaah, and then due to your knowledge, you reached whatever status you have reached in this teaching post, or fatwa, or judiciary post, and so on, so give knowledge its due respect and fair share of implementation, and its due status. Beware of the way of those who do not show reverence towards Allaah, those who base their foundation upon protecting their status, so their tongues become enwrapped from speaking the word of truth, and they are led to act accordingly by the love of their status.

Therefore adhere to preserving your value by preserving your piety, knowledge, and self-esteem, with wisdom and good diplomacy: “Preserve Allaah and He will preserve you”, “Preserve Allaah at times of ease, He will preserve you at times of hardship”.

If you are dismissed from the burden of responsibility – and this is your path even after a long period – then no harm is done, for it is a praiseworthy expulsion, and not one of blameworthiness and degradation.

It is an astonishing affair that those who have been prevented from a large proportion of prosperity do not have adherence, repentance, or do they return to Allaah except after retirement, and even though such people’s repentance is religiously valid, is like the faith of the old commoner, because his benefit is not passed on (to the people). As for [his character during his] period of employment you will find him to be amongst the most evil and harmful of people, or too cold-hearted and dumb in speaking the truth. I seek refuge in Allaah from such humiliation.

48. Diplomacy not compromise (on behalf of the religion)

Compromising on behalf of the religion is a despicable characteristic; as for diplomacy, then it is not, but do not mix between the two, or you will be led by comprise to the presence of open hypocrisy, and compromise will blemish your faith.1


[1] Refer to the important book al-Ghurabaa’ by al-Aajurree (p. 79-80), and Rawdatul-’Uqalaa‘ (pg. 70) by Ibn Hibbaan.

  • Transcribed from: The Etiquette of Seeking Knowledge | Shaykh Bakr Abu Zayd

45. The alms of knowledge

Give the alms of knowledge (meaning): Openly proclaiming the truth, enjoining good and forbidding evil, weighing up between the [religious] advantages and disadvantages, spreading the knowledge, the love of benefiting [the people], sacrificing honor, in interceding for a good cause for the sake of the Muslims in the affairs of the Truth and general interest.

Abu Hurayrah narrated that the Prophet (salallaahu ‘alayhi wasallam) said: “When a person dies his deeds are cut off except three: a continuous charity; or knowledge which is benefited from; or a righteous child who prays for him.” Narrated by Muslim and others. Some of the people of knowledge said1: “These three are not combined except for a scholar who spends his knowledge; because spending it is charity which is benefited from, and the receiver of it is a (metaphorical) child of this scholar by way of learning.”

Therefore covet this etiquette, for it is the main fruit of your knowledge.

Due to the nobility of knowledge, it increases with the increase of spending it (i.e. by way of teaching etc.) and decreases with fear of spending it, and its defect is concealing it.

Therefore do not be put off from the obligation of conveying and passing on [knowledge] by the claim that these are evil times (hence one must abandon mixing with people), or that there is a predomination of evil people, and the weak effects of giving sincere advice, but if you do, then it is an action that the sinful people would give gold for, and it is appropriate for them to leave all virtues, and publicise corruption.


[1] Tadhkiratus-Saami’ wal Mutakallim

  • Transcribed from: The Etiquette of Seeking Knowledge | Shaykh Bakr Abu Zayd

44. The signs of beneficial knowledge

Ask yourself about how much you share from the signs of beneficial knowledge, which are as follows:

  1. Implementing it.
  2. Hatred of being praised, complemented, or displaying haughtiness over others.
  3. Increasing your modesty with the increase of your knowledge.
  4. Fleeing from the love of leadership, fame, and worldly pleasures.
  5. Abandoning the claim to have Knowledge.
  6. Having bad suspicions about oneself, and good suspicion about other people, so as to steer clear from disparaging them.

‘Abdullaah ibn al-Mubaarak used to say, in poetry if the manners of the Salaf were mentioned:

“Do not compare us to them

For the sound person who walks

is not the same as the crippled one.”

  • Transcribed from: The Etiquette of Seeking Knowledge | Shaykh Bakr Abu Zayd

34. The sanctuary of the seeker of knowledge

The sanctuary of the scholar is “I don’t know”, and he destroys this [his sanctuary] by refusing to say it out of pride, and by answering instead “It was said…such-and-such.” Therefore, if half of knowledge is saying “I don’t know,” then half of ignorance is saying, “It was said…such-and-such”, or “I think…such-and-such.”1

35. Preserving your capital [i.e. lifetime]

Preserve your time! Your time in acquiring knowledge, so be a confederate of action and not a confederate of idleness and boastfulness, and a devotee to productivity and not to idle-play and idle-talk. Preserve your time through serious exertion, adherence to study, being in the company of scholars and occupying yourself with knowledge by reading or being read to, researching, contemplating and memorizing especially during the prime of your youth and in the early years of your life, the source of your well-being. Seize this precious opportunity (i.e. seeking knowledge in your youth) in order that you attain the highest levels in knowledge, for it is the “time of the heart’s composition, and the assembly of thoughts” due to freedom from all that preoccupies and diverts [your heart and mind] through the responsibilities of life, and due to the lack of dependants.

“What does the breadwinner want with dependants;

For indeed only the single person strives to attain them.”

Beware of being overcome by procrastination; so do not procrastinate by saying to yourself ‘after I finish doing such-and-such,’ or, ‘I will do such and such after I retire from doing this task’ and so forth. Rather, you should hasten to it immediately before the saying of Abu at-Tahhan al-Qaynee applies to you (poetry):

“I was bent by the bending factors of time until

I became as if I was a hunter drawing nearer to the prey;

Taking short steps, that if anyone were to see me; would think,

That I am tied up, when I am not.”

And it was said (in poetry) by Usaamah ibn Muniqdh:

“And with the age of eighty, weakness caused mischief in my body,

And the weakness of my leg and the shivering of my hands upset me.

And if I were to write, my handwriting would like that of a shaky person,

Like the writing of a shivering person with shivering hands;

And you will become amazed at my hand, too weak to carry a pen.

When it used to carry the spear to the lion’s throat,

So say to the one who wishes to live long:

This is the outcome of a long life.”

So if you hasten, then this is a witness from yourself that you carry “high aspirations in knowledge”.


[1] At-Ta’aalum, p.36


  • Transcribed from: The Etiquette of Seeking Knowledge | Shaykh Bakr Abu Zayd

Preserving knowledge through writing [it]

Do your utmost to preserve the knowledge in written form, because binding knowledge by way of writing is a safeguard from losing it and a shortcut in the time it takes to search [for it] when it is needed, especially regarding issues that are not be found in their likely locations. Perhaps its greatest benefit is when you became old aged and weak: you will have at your disposal material from which to draw other material without any toil in searching and without having to carry out thorough research.

For this reason set aside a scrapbook, or a notebook for yourself where you can write the precious benefits and random topics that are not found in their likely locations, and if you use the cover of your notebook to index the contents, then this is fine. Then you would transfer what you have gathered into a [different] notebook, organise it according to subject, and write the heading of each issue, the name of the book, and the page and volume number. Then write above what you have written (in rough) “transferred” so as not to confuse it with that which has not been transferred, just as you might write: “reached page such-and-such” in that which you have read from the book, so as not to miss out what you haven’t read. There are a number of works written by scholars in this manner, such as: Badaa’i al-Fawaa’id by Ibn al-Qayyim, and Khabaaya az-Zawaaya by az-Zarkashee, and al-Ighfaal, and Baqaayaa al-Khabaaya and many others.

Therefore bind the knowledge with writing,2 especially unique benefits that are not found in their likely locations, and things that are hidden in corners which are out of context, and scattered pearls which you see and hear that you fear will pass by and so on; and also because the memory will weaken, and forgetfulness is frequent. Ash-Sha’bee said: “If you hear anything, write it, even on a wall,” narrated by Khaythamah.

If that which Allaah willed to grant you (from knowledge) is gathered before you, then organise it in a notebook or scrapbook according to subject; for it will come to your aid in times of constraint in which even a very reliable person will be helpless in achieving anything.


[1] Al-Jaami’ by al-Khateeb, (2/16, 183-185).

[2] There is also a hadeeth to this meaning authenticated to the Prophet (salallaahu ‘alayhi wasallam). Refer to al-Silsilah as-Saheehah, (no. 2026).

  • Transcribed from: The Etiquette of Seeking Knowledge | Shaykh Bakr Abu Zayd

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