Imaam Sufyaan did not believe that a student of knowledge should dedicate himself to spreading knowledge, particularly when he was not in demand and when a sufficient number of scholars were available to the people. He felt that a student of knowledge should dedicate all of his time to the pursuit of knowledge, and that he should disseminate knowledge only after he gains expertise in a particular field. Al-Mahdee Abu ‘Abdullaah reported that he once heard Sufyaan say:

“The first stage of knowledge is silence; the second is listening and memorizing; the third is applying what one learned; and the fourth is teaching and spreading the knowledge that one learned.”

The profound wisdom contained in this advice makes it deserving of being taught to all students of knowledge, and even being written in gold. In a similar vein, Ath-Thauree once said:

“Whoever relates Ahaadeeth before there is a need for him to do so, will, in the end, suffer humiliation.”


And the following saying of Sufyaan (may Allaah have mercy on him) epitomizes his drive to learn:

“We will continue to learn as long as we are able to find someone who can teach us.”

  • Selected from: The Biography of Sufyaan ath-Thauree (rahimahullaah), p43

Imaam An-Nawawee said:

“So the first thing which he should begin with is the memorization of the mighty Qur’aan, which is the most important of the branches of knowledge. And the Salaf did not used to teach hadeeth or fiqh, except to one who had memorized the Qur’aan. So when he has memorized it, then let him beware of pre-occupying himself from it with hadeeth, or fiqh, or other things, to the extent that it leads him to forget anything from the Qur’aan, or makes that likely.”

[Al Majmoo' Sharhul Muhadhab (1/38).]

In the Name of Allaah…

A student actively attends an important lesson regularly, takes notes, and tries not to miss anything.  He gets there early to get a good seat to make sure he can hear clearly.  If someone asks him something in the lesson, he merely gestures for him to ask later.  His phone is always on silent, he pays no attention to it during the lesson.  Whatever people want from him, he will attend to it after the lesson.  He is focused on the lesson entirely.  He asks follow-up questions.

Another Scenario:
A student attends the same important lesson regularly, but he does not take notes.  He does not get there early, and so he sits in the back.  If someone asks him something in the lesson, he responds and helps.  He points out the direction of the bathroom… he may even explain who the shaykh is to a new student.  His phone is active, he occasionally answers calls or reads and responds to text messages.  Since he misses much of the content of the lesson, he does not ask follow-up questions.

If years go by and the student continues upon the path mentioned in the first scenario, then we have the makings of a serious student, maybe even a scholar eventually, and Allaah is the One who grants success.

If years go by and the student continues upon the path mentioned in the second scenario, then we have another brother who “studied”.

Would you believe that the two scenarios are describing the same student?

Its a common before-and-after case for a student who bought or was given an audio recording device.

It is common that when the recorder is used, the student relaxes, he doesn’t take notes, its “all there in the recording”, I’ll review it later, I’ll take notes when I listen to it, I’ll even transcribe it later…  And the Shaytaan has slipped in, in the most deceptive of ways, and taken him far away from what will benefit him, by getting him to rely on that recorder.  In the end, he’s got loads of recordings that are way too many for him to begin to review, and under the pressure of a university system, he has no time to go back and study them, until perhaps his studies are over.  Then, he listens to them, but now he’s like everyone else in the West, listening to audio recordings, he’s not a student of knowledge in a study circle with the scholars.  He had the chance to be one, but he let it slip away.

While the technology we have been blessed with can serve our religious goals in many ways, this is a very subtle point that needs to be highlighted regarding the use of audio recordings at Islaamic lessons.  This applies more directly to students of knowledge in the Muslim lands studying under the scholars.

Advice: Don’t use a recording device.  Sit at the feet of your shaykh, and watch his lips!  Try not to miss a word.  Don’t miss a class.  Phone is on silent or off.  Pen in hand.  Book or text on your lap.  Material previewed before the lesson.  Your notes reviewed with a good student after the lesson.  There is no safety net!  You must get that knowledge at that sitting, or you will miss it!  This approach is many times more effective than attending to record the lecture.

If you feel you have that safety net, you will very likely let your guard down and become lazy at the lesson, to one degree or another, so beware of the subtle tricks of your sworn enemy!

Who would have thought that Shaytaan could use a voice recorder at a scholar’s lesson against you?!
And Allaah knows best.Moosaa ibn John Richardson


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