Islamic Studies

Ettiquettes of the Student of Knowledge [Part One]: Imam al-Murdawi al-Hanbali D. 699 A.H

The Imam Wrote:

فكابد إلى أن تبلغ النفسُ عذرَها         وكن في اقتباس العلم طلاّع أنجُد


So, bear with your soul until it reaches its [legitimate] excuse

And be, in your acquisition of knowledge, a climber of towering plateaus

Simple Explanation:

The student of knowledge must learn to bear with his/her evil desires. By going against them and disciplining his/her soul, he/she is sure to reach high stations. This requires loads of patience with the soul; enduring its challenges and facing its hardships.

Work diligently until you reach your souls potential. Think of the efforts of the salaf. If your eyes get tired, remember that Zackariyah al-Ansari read until he went blind, if your head hurts from reading, remember that Ibn Hajar read the Sunan of Abi Dawod in one day with his sheikh and if you feel tired and unable to ride the bus to your sheikh, remember Masroq who walked to Iraq for the tafsir of one verse of Qu’ran. Briefly: work hard.

The word used by the Sheikh, Allah’s mercy be upon him, كابد refers to one who endures difficulties. The Arabs used it for one who traveled during the night enduring its hardship and its horrors. This word is from the same Arabic word for liver as well.

The student of knowledge is a traveler. One of the darkest, most difficult parts of that journey is the soul. If you slip, it is not the end. Get back up, repent to Allah and endure its onslaught. Just as the liver engages in purifying the body, engage in purifying your soul; struggle, fail, repent and rejoice. Things will not happen overnight. Remember that exercising bad qualities and habits takes time.

Recently I was talking with Chris a trainer friend of mine. I asked him, “I’ve worked out now for over a year and fail to see any results?” His response, “Look! The amount of time it took you to get fat and out of shape, is the amount of time you are going to need to get back into it.”

That reminded me of the statement of the salaf [Allah’s mercy and blessing be upon them all], “When we set out to seek knowledge we had very little sincerity. However, after thirteen years of study we gained it!”


In this first half of the line the Imam is saying, work hard until your soul reaches its legitimate excuse. Don’t accept anything else but that and…..

The Imam Wrote:

وكن في اقتباس العلم طلاّع أنجُد

“And be, in your acquisition of knowledge a climber of towering plateaus.”

The Student of knowledge should have lofty goals. However, as the scholars have stated, he/she must make sure these goals are attainable and measurable; in agreement with his/her reality and resources.

Remember to seek out a good teacher who can guide you towards making the right decisions regarding curriculum and don’t listen to those who are unfocused and guilty of word pollution. Avoid the negative ones like they have Ebola. Complaining is not from the way of the student.I like to advise students to crawl before they walk, and walk before they run.

Trust your teachers, listen to them and follow their advices. Seek the help of Allah in the night, beg Him for the wisdom and beseech Him to grant you the exoneration from your knowledge. Never forget, the goal is practice, the trial is fame and your ambitions could be your downfall.

Guard your intention and fear fame:

Be careful, while studying, of thinking what people back home are going to say about you. Their words are like knives and you are the clown placed in front of the knife thrower. One of my teachers told me, “The people who praise you have they studied?” I responded no. He said, “Then why would you let the words of those who don’t know affect you? Especially when what they are praising is your knowledge? Indeed, if you are intoxicated by the words of the ignorant, then what are you?”

Abdullah bin Mubarak said, “A man went to Hajj from Khorasan showing off for his people back home!” He was asked, “If the man was on Hajj how could he do that?” He responded, “While on Hajj the man thought, ‘This is what the people back home are going to say about me! The will say this and this and this.”

Imam Malik said, “There is no good in fame.”

If you want to be famous oh student of knowledge, then do so in the night. Stand before Allah, beg Him for His love and flee from your status; slaughtering your ego with the sharp knife of sincerity. It will hurt in the beginning, but its rewards cannot be fathomed.


In this last half of the first line the Imam is encouraging the student to aim high and have lofty goals.


About the author

Suhaib Webb

Suhaib Webb

Suhaib Webb is a contemporary American-Muslim educator, activist, and lecturer. His work bridges classical and contemporary Islamic thought, addressing issues of cultural, social and political relevance to Muslims in the West. After converting to Islam in 1992, Webb left his career in the music industry to pursue his passion in education. He earned a Bachelor’s in Education from the University of Central Oklahoma and received intensive private training in the Islamic Sciences under a renowned Muslim Scholar of Senegalese descent. Webb was hired as the Imam at the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City, where he gave khutbas (sermons), taught religious classes, and provided counselling to families and young people; he also served as an Imam and resident scholar in communities across the U.S.

From 2004-2010, Suhaib Webb studied at the world’s preeminent Islamic institution of learning, Al-Azhar University, in the College of Shari`ah. During this time, after several years of studying the Arabic Language and the Islamic legal tradition, he also served as the head of the English Translation Department at Dar al-Ifta al-Misriyyah.

Outside of his studies at Al-Azhar, Suhaib Webb completed the memorization of the Quran in the city of Makkah, Saudi Arabia. He has been granted numerous traditional teaching licenses (ijazat), adhering to centuries-old Islamic scholarly practice of ensuring the highest standards of scholarship. Webb was named one of the 500 Most Influential Muslims in the World by the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Center in 2010.

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  • Subhanallah… This was on another level. Jazakallahu khayr for translating it! This kind of advice is much needed,… it’s like the creatine for the qalb! Please post more pieces like this one.

  • BarakAllahufeek shaykhana

    In light of recently going through many classical works of Adaab of the student of knowledge, I found this to be an amazing beginning at something we, as students in ‘the west’ can truly use, with two distinguishing qualities concise and relatable.

    I ask Allah to grant you tawfiq in finishing it, perhaps publishing it, for it’s something I’d add right at the front section of my library on etiquette’s of knowledge, with a neat sign underneath – “Imam Suhaib’s Cliff Notes for a Successful Student of Knowledge.”


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