Among the perfect pleasures of a scholar in their independence from people

I have never known a pleasure, honour, nobility, nor comfort, and neither safety better than solitude and aloofness. Due to it, one is able to attain the safety and well-being of his body, religion and rank before Allah and the people. That is because those who intermingle with people, are looked down upon, as people do not magnify the position of those who mix with them. It is because of this perception, the value of the Caliphs was ennobled; due to their remaining concealed. When the lay people see a scholar acting upon the convenient in a permissible matter, he is regarded with contempt by them.


Therefore, it is compulsory to protect one’s knowledge and establish the value of that knowledge before them. A pious predecessor states, ‘We used to joke and laugh, but when we became leaders, I do not see that that act can accommodate us any longer.’ Sufyan ath-Thawri says, ‘Learn this Sacred Knowledge, keep it under control, do not mix it with jokes, otherwise the hearts will discharge it.’

Thus, taking people into account should not be negated. The Messenger (peace be upon him) told ‘Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her), ‘If your people were not new [in Islam] and closer to Kufr (disbelief), then I would demolish the Ka’bah and rebuilt it by placing two doors for it.’ Ahmad bin Hanbal stated about the two rak’ahs before Maghrib: “I saw people disliking them, thus I gave them up.”


Do not listen to an ignorant man who sees this behaviour as a ‘show off’. This is only for the protection of the Sacred Knowledge.


The clarification of this attitude can be understood from the fact if a scholar came out bare-headed, or with a piece of bread that he was eating, then he is degraded in their sight. Though this is permissible, but it became like mixing the doctor’s prescription with dieting. A scholar is ought not to become too relaxed with the people. That is to protect them. When he needs to do anything permissible, he should do so away from their eyesight.


This is the integrity Abu Ubaydah took into consideration when he saw Umar bin al-Khattab arriving at the Levant (ash-Shaam), riding on a donkey, while both his legs were put to one side. He said, “O leader of the believers! The senior officials will meet you.” How nice was that thought which he noticed! However, Umar intended to educate Abu Ubaydah the preservation of the principle. He stated, ‘Allah honoured you through Islam, whenever you sought honour somewhere else, he degraded you.’


He meant that your seeking of honour should be through the religion and, not through the physicality and outward appearances of actions.


Since the appearances are noticed. Though a person could be naked at home alone, however, when he appears in public, he should dress up with a suit and ‘Imamah (turban) and a robe.


Such an act should not be taken as pretention neither should it be attributed to boasting about oneself. Malik bin Anas would take shower, use perfume and sit down to lecture on Hadith.


Do not pay attention to what you see, such as the scholars spending their time at the gates of the rulers. That is because aloofness and solitude are more protective for the scholar, as well as the Sacred Knowledge. The loss scholars earn in that is many times more than the profit they make. The leader of the jurists, Sa’eed bin al-Mussayab would not visit the rulers, thus they remained pacified about him. This is an act of an assertive person.


If you want pleasure and comfort, then do so right inside your house, away from your family members, thus, your living will be pleasurable. Appoint a time to meet your family members. When they come to know about the appointment, they will display mannerism when meeting you. Thus, social living will be much better in that way.


There should be a part in the house where you can confine to alone, where you can chat (read) the lines of your books, racing on the tracks of your thought. Avoid meeting people, especially the laymen. Try to earn a living, it will protect you from being greedy. This is the ultimate pleasure for a scholar in this world.


Ibn al-Mubarak was asked, ‘What is the matter that you do not sit with us?’ He replied, ‘instead, I go to sit with the companions and  at-Tabi’un’, indicating that he likes to read his books.


When a scholar is bestowed with independence and solitude, if he has understanding, he compiles books, thus his pleasure integrates. If he is granted understanding, where he ascends to interact with The Creator, and to obsecrate (entreat solemnly) to Him, then he has hastily entered the Paradise before his death.


We ask from Allah to grant an active zeal that ascends to perfection and an ability to do good deeds. Ultimately, those walking on the path of Truth are indeed a few individuals.


By Ibnul Jawzi

Translated by Moulana Zuber Karim


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