Book 10, Chapter 3
By, Ibn Juzayy al-Kalbii
(b. 693/1294 of Grenada, Spain)
Section 1: Concerning its Grades
Among knowledge is personally obligatory knowledge and communally obligatory
Personally obligatory knowledge is what every responsible person has to learn such as the
foundations of Islam [belief system (`aqida)] and its branches [detailed laws (Fiqh)]. When a
responsible person reaches puberty, he first has to learn about purification (tahara) and prayer
(salat). Then when he enters Ramadan, he has to learn about fasting (siyam). If he has money,
he also has to learn about zakat. If he engages in selling and buying, learning Islamic Trade
becomes obligatory for him. In such a way, the rest of the chapters of Fiqh are dealt with.
As for communally obligatory knowledge, it is in excess of what was just mentioned.
Busying oneself with this type of knowledge is better than [supererogatory] worship for three
reasons: (1) Texts from Hadith state the superiority of the scholar over the worshipper; (2) The
benefit of worship is exclusively for the performer of it while the benefit of knowledge is for the
one who engages in it and others; (3) The reward of worship ends with death while the reward for
knowledge stays around afterwards for whomever leaves behind knowledge that is used after
Section 2: Concerning its Conditions
Among knowledge’s conditions are the two which are shared by both teacher and student:
(1) intending it only for Allah Most High and (2) acting by it.
Another pair of conditions is for the teacher exclusively: (1) freely dispensing knowledge
to the student and the questioner with earnestness and sincerity and (2) not favoring rich students
over poor ones in teaching. [For example], the rich pupils of Sufyan al-Thawri used to wish that
they were poor.
The last pair of conditions is for the student exclusively: (1) beginning with the most
important then the successively important because knowledge is plenty and time is limited and
(2) respecting one’s teacher externally and internally. Some scholars have said, “The person who
says to his teacher [in an offensive manner], ‘Why?’ will not prosper.”
Section 3: Concerning the Various Areas of Knowledge
The areas of knowledge in short form fall into three categories: (1) knowledge of Sacred
Law, (2) knowledge that is a tool of Sacred Law, and (3) knowledge that is not concerned with
Sacred Law nor is a tool of Sacred Law.
As for the knowledge of Sacred Law, its foundation is the Qur’an and Sunnah. There are
two subjects concerned with the Qur’an: (1) knowledge of the various readings and (2) exegesis.
Likewise, there are two subjects concerned with the Sunnah: (1) knowledge of the statements of
the hadiths and (2) knowledge of the men who narrated hadiths.
In turn, two subjects are derived from the Qur’an and Sunnah: (1) the foundations of
Islam [`aqida] and (2) the branches of Fiqh. Internal Purification (Tasawwuf) enters into Fiqh
and is in reality the internal fiqh just as Fiqh itself is concerned with external laws.
As for the tools of Sacred Law, they are: (1) the foundations of Fiqh and (2) knowledge
of the Arabic Language. In detail, the Arabic language consists of grammar, lexicology,
literature, and rhetoric.
As for knowledge which is neither of Sacred Law nor of the tools of Sacred Law, it can be
divided into four categories.
The first is what benefits but does not harm, such as [natural] Medicine and Mathematics.
However, Mathematics is sometimes counted among the tools of Sacred Law since it is needed in
inheritance division and in other areas of Fiqh.
The second is what harms but does not benefit, such as [godless] philosophy and
knowledge of stars (I mean here horoscopes [and Astrology], not the science [of Astronomy] by
which timings and the direction of qibla are found.) As for horoscopes, whoever believes that
stars can effect in and by themselves [independent of Allah] has disbelieved and the person who
claims to be able to perceive unseen things with the use of stars has committed a blameworthy
innovation. The same is true for everyone who desires to gaze upon the unseen by whatever
means it may be [i.e. crystal balls, Ouija boards, Tarot cards, palm reading, etc.]
The third is what harms and benefits, such as logic. Logic benefits by rectifying
meanings [of statements] as grammar rectifies words. It harms because it is an entrance for
The fourth is what does not harm nor benefit, such as the knowledge of lineage except
what comprises respect [such as respect for the Prophet’s (May Allah bless him and give him
peace)], serves a leadership purpose [such as the requirement for the Caliph to be from Quraysh],
or helps to bond blood relationships1.
1 Translated by Abuqanit Hasani
(Courtesy of Guiding Helper Group)