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Milestones on the Road to Seeking Knowledge

by Sh. Abdul Aziz Al-Sadhan

Translation and Editing by: Al-Sirat Al-Mustaqeem team

Examples of the Salaf’s concern with Time

Here, I will be giving you examples from the lives of the Salaf so that we see how much of our time we have wasted; hoping that these examples (by the Grace of Allah) would be a reason to motivate us towards seeking knowledge and would give us a sense of the mountain of time we waste.

These examples would make it clear to all of us that the Salaf were very stingy when it came to every second of their life, for Time is, as Yahya ibn Hubayra [1] described:

Time is the most precious thing you should safeguard **

And yet I see it the easiest thing you lose

الوقتُ أنفسُ ما عنيتَ بحفظه *** وأراهُ أسهلَ ما عليكَ يضيعُ

From these examples:

What was mentioned by Al-Sam’aani[2] in his book “Adab Al-Imlaa’ wa Al-Istimlaa’”:

“And that is an example that shows that he did not spend any of his time except in seeking [knowledge], or [acts of] Remembrance such as Istighfar (asking Allah for forgiveness), Tasbeeh (saying: Subhan Allah), or Tahleel (saying: La Illah Illa Allah).

In the past, the circles of knowledge were attended by a huge number of people, and it was mentioned that the lectures of Muhammad Ibn Ismael were attended by twenty thousand”[3].

The point to take from this story is what Al-Sam’aani mentions about the Muhadith (Narrator of Hadith) that whenever he narrates [a tradition and says]: Waki’ narrated [to me] (as an example) [and pauses], during the time those attending used to write down what he just said, the Muhadith used to then use these few seconds in Istighfar, and Tasbeeh, etc until they have had a chance to record what he said, then would continue with the narration.

So look at these few moments and how he refused to waste them, and then look at how many hours and days pass from our lives without even noticing!

One of the scholars said about ‘Abdullah the son of Imam Ahmad, that: “By Allah I did not see him except smiling or reciting or going through a book”, and another said about Al-Khatib Al-Baghdadi: “I never saw Al-Khatib except that in his hand was a book that he was reviewing”.

As a Poet once said:

Days pass us by, one after the other, and we are **

being led to the end of our lives while the eyes are watching

تمر بنا الأيام تترى وإنما *** نساق إلى الآجال والعين تنظرُ

Our youth that had passed isn’t coming back **

and this depressing white hair isn’t going anywhere

فلا عائد ذاك الشباب الذي مضى *** ولازائل هذا المشيب المكدرُ

Al-Hasan Al-Basri [May Allah have mercy on him] says:

“O Son of Adam, you are but a number of days, whenever a day passes then a part of you has gone”[4].

So know that time is divided into three categories, as Al-Khaleel ibn Ahmad said:

“Time that has already passed and would never return, time that you are currently in, so be watchful of how you will spend it, and time [yet to come] which you are waiting for, but might never reach”[5].

If all the Humans, the Jinns, and the Angels gathered together, and they were assistants to one another, they would never be capable of bringing back even one second that passed from our lives.

Al-Dhahabi said in the biography of ‘Abdulwahab ibn ‘Abdulwahab ibn Al-Ameen:

His times were preserved, where not an hour would pass except in reading, remembrance, prayers, or recitation[6].

And Muhammad ibn ‘Abdulbaqi says:

“I do not know that I wasted one hour of my life in wastefulness and play”[7].

Certainly, you do not know how long you will live. Therefore, you have to put aside procrastination, pull up your sleeves, and you should not get tired from gathering goodness and benefit with all its kinds.

We hear of people complaining about having no time to read and others complaining about their little memorization and others complaining about their times not being organized.

We all live in one society even if the distances between us are relatively large, and we all see in ourselves and in our brothers some negligence and shortcomings in different aspects, which I will be mentioning a few of them.

[1] Zayl Tabaqaat Al-Hanabila (1/182)

[2] Adab Al-Imlaa’ wa Al-Istimlaa’ by Al-Sam’aani (1/74)

[3] Adab Al-Imlaa’ wa Al-Istimlaa’ by Al-Sam’aani (p. 17)

[4] Hilyat Al-Awliyaa by Al-Asfahani (2/148)

[5] Tabaqaat Al-Hanabila (1/288)

[6] Ma’rifat Al-Quraa Al-Kibar (2/465)

[7] Siyar A’laam Al-Nubalah (20/26)