Humility: The Importance of Inner Knowledge
By Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali
“So, as long as knowledge remains, people will be guided. But sacred knowledge will remain as long as the scholars remain. When the scholars dwindle in number, people fall into error. The Prophet (sallahu alayhi wa sallam) relates this meaning in a sound hadith:
Allah does not withdraw knowledge by extracting it from the hearts of men, rather He takes away the religious scholars. When no religious scholar remains, people take the ignorant as their leaders; these ignorant ones are questioned and give verdicts without knowledge. They are astray and lead others astray.
Tirmidhi relates from Jubayr ibn Nufayr (radhi allahu anhu), on the authority of Abu Darda’:
We were with the Prophet (sallahu alayhi wa sallam) and he said, “There [will be] a time when knowledge will be snatched from the people until they will be unable to benefit from it.” Ziyad ibn Lubayd said, “O Messenger of Allah, how will Allah seize knowledge from us when we recite the Qur’an? I swear by Allah, we recite it and teach it to our women and children!” He said, “May your mother be bereaved of you, Ziyad. I used to consider you one of the learned people of Madinah! The Torah and the Gospel are with the Jews and Christians, yet do they benefit from them in any way?”
Jubayr ibn Nufayr said:
I met ‘Ubada ibn al-Samit and said to him, “Will you not listen to what Abu Darda’ is saying? I then informed him of what he said concerning the loss of knowledge. He said, “Abu Darda’ has spoken truthfully. If you wish I will inform you of the first knowledge to be removed from people. It is humility [khushu’]. You will enter the central masjid and hardly find a single humble person!”
Nasa’i relates a similar hadith from Jubayr ibn Nufayr, on the authority of ‘Awf ibn Malik (radhi allahu anhu), from the Prophet (sallahu alayhi wa sallam). He says in this hadith, “The Prophet (sallahu alayhi wa sallam) mentioned the straying of the Jews and the Christians despite their possessing scriptures.”
Jubayr ibn Nufayr also related:
I met Shaddad ibn Aws and I informed him of the hadith of ‘Awf ibn Malik, and he said, “He has spoken the truth. Shall I not inform you about the first occurrence of the lifting of knowledge? Humility will be lifted to the point you will not see a single humble person.”
Imam Ahmad relates a hadith in which Ziyad ibn Lubayd (radhi allahu anhu) mentioned something, whereupon the Prophet (sallahu alayhi wa sallam) said, “That will be in the time when knowledge is gone.” Ziyad mentioned this hadith and said, “Do not the Jews and Christians read the Torah and the Gospel without acting on it in any way?” In this version of the hadith, Ziyad did not mention the ensuing events contained in longer versions.
All of these narrations relate that the departure of knowledge resides in the failures to act on it. The Companions explained that the reason for this is the passing of inner knowledge from the hearts – with inner knowledge referring to humility. In this vein, Hudhayfa (radhi allahu anhu) relates, “Surely, humility will be the first knowledge to be lifted.”
(p 10-11 of “The Heirs of the Prophets” by Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali, translated by Imam Zaid Shakir)