Class04-Challenges in gaining Knowledge

Class 4

‘Challenges in gaining Knowledge’

Since knowledge is a path that leads towards Paradise, and Paradise is surrounded by many dangers, this means that the path of knowledge is also surrounded by many dangers. So there are many things in it that the evilly-inclined soul dislikes.

And since knowledge facilitates the path to Paradise, and the Devil has made a covenant that he will cut off the path to Paradise, then indeed, the path of knowledge is a path in which the Devil places what deceptions he can in order to divert the person on the path away from his objective.

We will list below a few challenges/obstacles people face when they start to gain knowledge.

1. Who to take Knowledge from?

This unfortunately is one of the most successful ways Shaitaan has succeeded to keep people away from starting to gain knowledge, when their heart yearns for knowledge Shaitaan starts putting in doubts, there are so many differences who is right who is wrong? Shaitaan confuses people till they give up the thought of starting to gain knowledge.

First Step –Dua

Every day, in each of our Salahs, we ask Allah to guide us to the right path, Ihdinas Siraat Al Mustaqeem¸ and in a Hadeeth Qudsi it is mentioned that Allah replies to every ayah that we recite of Surah Fatiha in prayers, and when we recite Ihdinas Siraat Al Mustaqeem Allah says, “This is for My servant, and My servant will have what he has asked for”. So for those starting to gain knowledge, make sure your heart is alive in your prayer and make Dua to Allah for guidance with sincere belief that Allah will guide you to the right path. 

Getting involved in disputes and difference of opinions

Beware of being preoccupied in the beginning with the disputes among the scholars, or among people who are into debates and refutations in general, because this confuses the mind. In general, we should take as rule that the differences and disputes are to be left for the scholars or the experienced seekers of knowledge. Unfortunately, today we see someone who just sat in one lecture of a sheikh, comes out and starts bad mouthing another sheikh who holds a different opinion. We should all know our place and refrain from commenting about scholars or seekers of knowledge.  

The Messenger of Allaah ﷺ said: “Do not acquire knowledge for the sake of competing with the scholars or to argue with the foolish or to take control over a gathering, for whoever does that, then (for him will be) the Hellfire, the Hellfire.” (Shu’ab-ul-Eemaan 2/288)

Selecting the right Scholars to take from

Here we may point out some signs and indications that will help one in this regard. They are:

  1. Takes and teaches from Quran & Sunnah based on the understanding of the Sahaba. Everyone you go to will say this, but when we ask for references, they will not be able to produce them so, take from teachers who only quote Quran & the Sunnah and are able to back their teachings based on the texts.
  2. Keen to follow the example of the righteous of the early generations, namely the Sahaabah and Taabi‘een, and the leading scholars.
  3. They always mention the scholars of earlier generations, in general they do not drift away from their path, and every fatwa or word that they utter they attribute to one of the earlier leading scholars such as Abu Bakr, ‘Umar, Sufyaan, al-Awzaa‘i, Abu Haneefah, Maalik, ash-Shaafa‘i, Ahmad, al-Ghazaali, al-‘Izz ibn ‘Abd as-Salaam, an-Nawawi, Ibn Taymiyah, Ibn al-Qayyim, Ibn Katheer, Ibn Hajar and other scholars of Islam concerning whose prominence in knowledge, devotion and sincerity the Muslims do not differ.
  4. Are veryreligiously committed and have a good attitude. But if you find anyone nowadays who does not refer to the scholars (mentioned above) or show any pride in them, and does not follow their general methodology in understanding the Islamic texts, then you should realise that there are chances he might drift and chose innovations. 
  5. They do not call to a new group, they always call to the methodology and practice of the Sahaba. This is the most important and themost prominent signs of the true scholar. As for the one who claims to belong to some specific group with specific beliefs, such as the Bareilawis, Qadianis and so on, or who distinguishes himself from the main body of Ahl as-Sunnah wa’l-Jamaa‘ah, with some newly-invented name or some special way of worshipping, this is usually a sign of innovation and drifting away from the path of the Sunnah. 
  6. Qualified or studied under reputed scholars. There is nothing wrong with taking academic certification into account, and taking it into consideration, especially postgraduate certification in a particular specialty from a prominent university that is recognised throughout the Muslim world in that specialty.
  7. Other Scholars testify to his knowledge and understanding. One of the most important signs that we advise people to pay attention to is that this mufti or scholar should be someone who became famous for his sincerity and knowledge among the academic elite and specialized circles, not only among ordinary people. Rather scholars and specialists should testify to his understanding and skill, and they should acknowledge that he is well versed and his views are well-founded.

Following a Particular Madhab

It is not obligatory for a Muslim to follow any particular madhhab among these four. People vary in their level of understanding and ability to derive rulings from the evidence. There are some for whom it is permissible to follow (taqleed), and indeed it may be obligatory in their case. There are others who can only follow the shar’i evidence. In Fataawa al-Lajnah al-Daa’imah this question was answered in a detailed manner, which is worth reading in full. Click here to read it (from Islamqa).

The brief is that it is allowed for a person who lacks knowledge to follow a Madhab, but if someone is presented with clear hadeeth then he/she should not reject it because it is not part of the madhab he/she follows.

None of the Imams called people to follow his madhhab, or was partisan in following it, or obliged anyone else to act in accordance with it or with a specific madhhab. Rather they used to call people to follow the Qur’aan and Sunnah, and they would comment on the texts of Islam, and explain its basic principles and discuss minor issues according to general guidelines, and issue fatwas concerning what people asked about, without obliging any of their students or anyone else to follow their views. Rather they criticized those who did that and said that their opinions should be cast aside if they went against a saheeh hadeeth. One of them said: “If the hadeeth is saheeh then that is my madhhab.” May Allaah have mercy on them all.

Take the Good leave the bad

This is a common things being said, “I’ll just take the good and I will leave the bad”, the major issue with this is that as beginners we do not know what is what, so he can’t protect himself from falling into a fitnah. 

The general rule we should follow is that we take proper knowledge from specialists which is what we follow in our worldly knowledge, so we should try and learn faith from a scholar qualified in the field of Aqeedah, fiqh from one who is a specialist in Shariah and so on. We can listen to other speakers for motivation purpose but that are not related to core beliefs and rulings of the Deen.

2. Three Weapons of Shaitaan against the people who try to seek knowledge

The origins for sins lie in three things: greed, jealousy and pride.

It was greed that cast our father Aadam out from Paradise. This is what the Devil whispered to him when he saw his eagerness for Paradise.

It was jealousy that caused the enmity to occur between the two sons of Aadam, when they both brought sacrificial offerings and it was accepted from one of them but not from the other, who then raised his hand to kill the other one out of jealousy.

It was pride that brought Iblees into disbelief. “And (remember) when We said to the angels: ‘Prostrate to Aadam.’ So they all prostrated except for Iblees – he refused and was proud and was one of the disbelievers.” (Surah Al-Baqarah: 35)

Since these three things are the foundations for all sin, and all offenses can be traced back to them, then indeed the distractions and obstacles of seeking knowledge can also be traced back to them!

Examples of each:


  • A student might overwhelm himself/herself with learning which might eventually lead him/her to abandon the path of seeking knowledge.
  • Trying to understand everything too soon and jumping between subjects, which might lead a student to feel confused and lack the feeling of fulfilment.
  • When a student crams his daily schedule with acquiring knowledge, thus preoccupying himself with it every day, attending numerous classes and study circles. So his body does not rest, whereas your soul indeed has a right over you and your body also has a right over you. So you must give everything that has a right (over you) its due right.


  • Jealousy against colleagues/peers. This leads to the one to stubbornly refrain from asking them because he is jealous of them. So he doesn’t research or study with them, whereas the thing that gives knowledge life is consulting and reminding one another about it. Therefore, this deprives him from seeking knowledge.
  • Envious of the Teacher. Such student will rebel against him and his class/subject.


  • Doesn’t ask others out of pride. Perhaps Allaah has granted someone the ability to attain knowledge. But the envious arrogant person considers him to be lower than himself, so as a result of this, he doesn’t learn from him. Same applies for the person who has high pride he/she might refrain from asking the teachers.

Al-Bayhaqee reported in Shu’ab-ul-Eemaan from Abu Haazim that he said: “You cannot be a scholar until you have three characteristics in you: (!) Do not transgress over those above you, (2) Do not look down with contempt at those below you, and (3) Do not take the worldly life in exchange for your knowledge.”

  • Boast, Argue & make false claims. How often we see people getting into arguments and since they believe they cannot loose they might even fabricate evidences to prove their point.  

3. Forgetfulness – not good memory

He is only called man (insaan) because of his forgetfulness (nasiyaan), and it is only called the heart (al-qalb) because it changes so rapidly (yataqallib).

In the past they said that the first one to forget (awwal naasin) was the first man (awwal al-naas), meaning Adam, peace be upon him. Forgetfulness is something that varies from person to person according to each individuals nature; some may be more forgetful than others.

Some of the things that may help to combat forgetfulness are the following:

  1. Keeping away from sin, because the bad effects of sin result in a bad memory and the inability to retain knowledge. The darkness of sin cannot co-exist with the light of knowledge. The following words were attributed to al-Shaafa’i, may Allaah have mercy on him: I complained to [my shaykh] Wakee about my bad memory, and he taught me that I should keep away from sin. He said that knowledge of Allaah is light, and the light of Allaah is not given to the sinner.

Al-Khateeb reported in al-Jaami (2/387) that Yahya ibn Yahya said: A man asked Maalik ibn Anas, O Abu Abd-Allaah! Is there anything that will improve my memory? He said, If anything will improve it, it is giving up sin.

  1. Dhikr. Frequently reciting dhikr, tasbeeh (saying Subhan Allaah), tahmeed (Al-hamdu Lillaah), tahleel (Laa ilaaha ill-Allaah) and takbeer (Allaahu akbar), etc. Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning): “And remember your Lord when you forget”. [al-Kahf 18:24]
  2. Not eating too much, because eating too much makes one sleep too much and become lazy, and it dulls the senses, besides exposing one to the risk of physical diseases. Most of the diseases which we see result from food and drink.
  3. Foods good for Memory. Some of the scholars have mentioned certain foods which increase the memory, such as drinking honey and eating raisins and chewing certain kinds of gum resin. Also the scholars mentioned, too much acidic food is one of the causes of laziness and weak memory.
  4. Hijamah. Ibn Qayyim mentioned in Al-Tibb al-Nabawi that cupping (Hijaamah) of the head can help the memory and reduce forgetfulness.

May Allah bless everyone who intends to Learn His Deen for His Sake and make it easy for them and make them a source of guidance for many