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Can Knowledge Be Obtained From Books Alone?

9th October 2015

Shaykh Saalih al-Fawzaan حفظه الله said, 

"Knowledge is not achieved merely through extensive reading or by accumulating books. It is gained by studying with the people of knowledge, such that it is acquired from the scholars. Knowledge is achieved, thus, by the scholars passing it on and is not just by collecting books as some people think today. 

Some people today collect books, reading from the books of hadeeth, jarh and ta'deel, tafseer and the likes thereof. They claim that, with that, they have gained knowledge. However, this type of knowledge is not built upon a foundation, nor is it built upon principles, because it is not gained from the people of knowledge. It is a must, therefore, to sit in the circles of remembrance, with the teachers and scholars. 

It is a must that one is patient upon seeking knowledge. And whoever does not taste the humility of learning for an hour is trialed with ignorance all his life." [1]



What is your view of the saying, "The one whose teacher is his book, his errors are greater than that which he is correct in"? 


This is the expression which we know, and it is correct, as the one who does not study with the people of knowledge, does not take knowledge from them, and does not understand the path that they have passed upon in seeking knowledge, certainly makes many errors. Also, it may be unclear and doubtful to him the difference between what is right and what is wrong or incorrect regarding specific issues, as he has not fully understood the Sharee'ah evidences, nor the established methods which the people of knowledge have made use of; meaning those which they utilised and acted upon in making such determinations. 

(However,) as to whether his mistakes will be more numerous than they are correct, then this is something debatable. But in any case, he will make many mistakes, as he did not learn from the people of knowledge nor benefit from them. Thus, he does not understand the principles which must be utilised in reaching conclusions, and therefore makes many mistakes. Additionally, he cannot distinguish between mistakes and what is correct within printed and manuscript books, as an error may appear in a book and he does not have the familiarity and ability to recognise that, and so believes it to be correct. He then may give a ruling of permissibility for that which Allaah has forbidden, or declare forbidden that which Allaah has made permissible, because he lacks insight. This occurs simply because of a printing or writing error that he came across in a book. 

For example, it may state, "Such and such is not permissible," while what is correct from the original text is that it is permissible, as there may be an unwarranted addition to the text of that printing which is an error. Or the opposite where it says, "Such and such is permissible," while what is correct in the original text is that it is not permissible. This would be caused by an omission in that specific printing or line, and this is a tremendous mistake. Similar is the expression, "...what is correct is such and such," while what is actually correct is that it should state, "....what is not correct is such and such." So he would get confused in this because of his lack of perceptiveness and knowledge and so does not recognise an error that may be present in a book, or situations similar to this. [2]


[1] Understanding Islam is a Means for Salvation 

[2] Shaykh 'Abdul 'Azeez Ibn 'Abdillaah Ibn Baaz رحمه الله: A Collection of Rulings and Various Statements, vol 7, p243 

posted by Seifeddine-M on 9th October 2015 - 0 comments


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