THE PRESERVATION OF KNOWLEDGE

The Preservation of Knowledge

It is essential to preserve knowledge. When
knowledge remains, the honour and dignity of the
people of knowledge will remain. If not, the people of
knowledge will become disgraced and downtrodden.

The only way of preserving it is to keep it away from
unworthy people. The following is stated in Sunan Ibn
Mājah:
Hadrat Ibn Mas‛ūd radiyallāhu ‛anhu said: Had the
people of knowledge preserved knowledge and given it
to those who were worthy of it, they would have ruled
over the people of their time through it. Unfortunately,
they gave it to worldly people so that they may acquire
of their material possessions. Consequently, they
became disgraced and downtrodden by the worldly
people.

Hadrat Ibn Mas‛ūd radiyallāhu ‛anhu makes
reference to excellent points. He encourages the
‛ulamā’ towards the preservation of knowledge and
shows them how to preserve it. That is, for it to be
imparted to those who are worthy of it. He states
further that as long as ‛ulamā’ preserve their
knowledge, their leadership will remain intact. If not,
it will cease and they will be humiliated and
disgraced. If an ‛ālim’s student is unworthy and
materialistic, then instead of being a source of pride
for the ‛ālim, he will cause his disgrace. An ‛ālim
occupies a certain rank. However, the popularity of
his knowledge and virtue in this world is dependent
on worthy students who spread out to different
corners of the world and become engrossed in the
work of Dīn. This results in praises for his teacher,
all sections of the community speak highly of him,
his popularity spreads far and wide, and he becomes
beloved and appreciated in the sight of people. They
then start following him and he becomes their leader.

The Way to Preserve Knowledge
The annotator to Sunan Ibn Mājah states that the
manner of preserving knowledge is for ‛ulamā’ to save
themselves from the employ of tyrants and the
company of materialists. I say, although he is right, it
is for the preservation of the carnal selves of the
‛ulamā’. And this is also necessary. However, Hadrat
Ibn Mas‛ūd radiyallāhu ‛anhu is referring to the
preservation of knowledge which has to be done by
keeping it away from unworthy people. This is why
after saying “preserved knowledge” he said, “and
given it to those who were worthy of it”. The manner
of preserving knowledge is explained in the second
part of the sentence. After all, unworthy people
cannot preserve and safeguard anything.

The Story of a Falcon
There is a famous story of a king who had a falcon
which he loved dearly. It flew away one day and went
near an old woman who caught hold of it. The
woman looked at its crooked beak and thought to
herself that it must be quite difficult for the falcon to
peck at grains and seeds. She therefore cut off its
beak. She then looked at its claws and noticed that
they too were curved. She clipped them as well. She
continued cutting and clipping at it until she
rendered it useless. In the meantime, the workers of
the king were searching for his falcon. In the course
of their search, they reached the house of the old
woman. They caught the falcon and took it to the king.

The king was grief-stricken when he saw the
condition in which it was. He instructed for it to be
taken outside and an announcement be made: “The
person who hands himself over to unworthy people
will end up like this falcon.”
Did you see! The old woman did not know the value
of the falcon so she could not appreciate it. This is
why she rendered it useless.
Now can knowledge which is so intricate and deep be
preserved by ordinary people? Will it not need
capability and proficiency? Will it be preserved by all
and sundry? Certainly not.

Marif Muslihul Ummat 3