The Death Of The Scholars
Praise be to Allaah, the Ever-Living, Who does not die, although mankind and jinn die, and peace and blessings be upon the Messenger of Allaah, concerning whom Allaah said (interpretation of the meaning): “Verily, you [O Muhammad] will die, and verily, they (too) will die.” [Al-Zumar 39:30]
Praise be to Allaah, Who is the only One Whom we praise, even when adversity strikes. He determines the length of people’s lifetimes, and has decreed all things. Everything with Him is in due proportion, All-Knower of the unseen and the seen, the Most Great, the Most High. Whatsoever is on earth will perish, and the Face of our Lord, full of Majesty and Honour, will abide forever.
The honour of the scholars is great indeed. Their Lord has made them witnesses to the greatest of truths and has mentioned their testimony alongside His own and that of His angels. Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning):
“Allaah bears witness that Laa ilaaha illa huwa (none has the right to be worshipped but He), and the angels, and those having knowledge (also give this witness); (He is always) maintaining His creation in Justice. Laa ilaaha illa huwa (none has the right to be worshipped but He), the All-Mighty, the All-Wise.” [Aal ‘Imraan 3:18]
Allaah has raised their status in this world and the next, as He says (interpretation of the meaning): “… Allaah will exalt in status those of you who believe and those who have been granted knowledge…” [al-Mujaadilah 58:11]
They are the heirs of the Prophets, who have assumed their role in conveying the Message and calling people to Islam. They are the people of abundant good fortune, as the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “The scholars are the heirs of the Prophets, for the Prophets do not leave behind any dinars or dirhams (i.e., wealth), but they leave behind knowledge. Whoever receives this knowledge receives abundant good fortune.” (Reported by al-Tirmidhi, 2606). Allaah wills good for the scholars, as the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Whoever Allaah wishes good for, He enables him to understand the religion properly.” (Reported by al-Bukhaari, 69).
They are the people who understand the words of Allaah, may He be glorified and exalted, as He says (interpretation of the meaning):
“And these similitudes We put forward for mankind, but none will understand them except those who have knowledge…” [al-‘Ankaboot 29:43]
They are the people who truly fear Allaah, as He tells us (interpretation of the meaning): “… It is only those who have knowledge among His slaves that fear Allaah…” [Faatir 35:28]
They are the most knowledgeable of people about evil and what leads to it, so they warn people of it. Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning):
“… Those who have been given the knowledge (about the Torment of Allaah for the disbelievers) will say: ‘Verily! Disgrace this Day and misery are upon the disbelievers.’” [al-Nahl 16:27]
“But those who had been given (religious) knowledge said: ‘Woe to you! The Reward of Allaah (in the Hereafter) is better for those who believe and do righteous good deeds, and this none shall attain except those who are patient (in following the truth).” [al-Qasas 28:80]
The salvation of people is connected to the presence of scholars; if the scholars are taken away then the people are doomed. ‘Abd-Allaah ibn ‘Amr ibn al-‘Aas said: “I heard the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) say, ‘Allaah does not take knowledge away by taking it away from people’s (hearts); He takes knowledge away by taking away the scholars (i.e., when scholars die), and when there is not one scholar left, the people will turn to ignorant leaders who, when they are consulted, will give fatwas without knowledge. They are misguided and they misguide others.’” (Reported by al-Bukhaari, 98).
The phrase “by taking it [knowledge] away from people’s (hearts)” implies wiping it from their hearts. During his Farewell Pilgrimage, the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Learn before knowledge is taken away or lifted up.” A Bedouin said, “How will it be lifted up?” He said, “Knowledge disappears when its bearers disappear” three times. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said, “Allaah will not take away knowledge after it has been given to you.” According to another report, he said, “Knowledge will not be taken from the people” or “from the hearts of the people.” A Bedouin asked him, “O Prophet of Allaah, how will knowledge be taken up from among us when we have Masaahif (copies of the Qur’aan) among us and we have learned what is in the Qur’aan and have taught it to our children and womenfolk and servants?” The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) looked up at him angrily and said, “These Jews and Christians have the scripture among them and they don’t adhere to a single letter of what their Prophets brought them!”
There are other corroborating reports that verify these additions to the hadeeth. It was reported that Abu al-Samah said: “There will come a time when a man will fatten his mount in preparation for travel, and will travel through different countries asking for someone to give him knowledge of the Sunnah that he could follow, and he will not be able to find anyone to give him a fatwa except with uncertainty, and this has indeed happened.” (Adapted and summarized from Fath al-Baari). ‘Umar ibn ‘Abd al-‘Azeez wrote to Abu Bakr ibn Hazm to find out what was there of the hadeeth of the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him). He wrote, “Find out what there is and write it down, for I am worried that knowledge will disappear when the scholars pass away… spread knowledge and sit down to teach the one who does not know, for knowledge does not disappear unless it is kept secret.” (Saheeh al-Bukhaari, Kitaab al-‘Ilm, Baab)
Imaam Ahmad (may Allaah have mercy on him) said: “People need knowledge more than they need food and drink, because they need food and drink two or three times a day, but they need knowledge all the time.” Thus the loss of scholars is a great calamity, “because the death of the entire tribe is less serious than the death of one scholar.” (Majma’ al-Zawaa’id, 1/201).