(The Mutual rivalry for piling
up of worldly things diverts you.)
(Qur'an 102: 1)
Once, after having received
a handsome sum of money, I rushed to the bookstore with the intention of buying
a copy of every book I could get my hands on; the enthusiasm of the moment
overwhelmed me. I filled the shelves of my wall with books from many of the sciences.
The topics included Islamic jurisprudence, sociology, and books on general
knowledge. I wanted to begin to read, but I didn't know how to go about
choosing a starting point. I found that different books in the same science
tended to overlap each other. I found others to contain little of significance.
I consulted some eminent scholars and asked them how I should go about studying.
They guided me to a way that has proven to be successful. They suggested that I
read only the main reference books in each Islamic science and that I study them
in depth. All other books, they said, I should leave alone, except when
research on a specific issue calls for going to a number of books. I was very
pleased with the results; I felt more organized and comfortable in following
their simple yet sensible advice.
(The mutual rivalry for
piling up of worldly things diverts you, until you visit the graves [i.e. till
you die].) (Qur'an 102: 1-2)
There are some students who
go to the extreme of searching for rare manuscripts. They are always gathering
copies of rare books, yet you will find that most of them have not even
completely read the most important reference books in the Islamic sciences. One
person I know was sad that he couldn't get a copy of the commentary of Muqaatil
ibn Sulaiman, and yet he hadn't even completely read the explanation of Ibn
(And there are among them
[Jews] unlettered people, who know not the Book, but they trust upon false
desires and they but guess.)
(Qur'an 2: 78)
Never pursue minor issues
when more important ones should be dealt with first. Whoever does not know his
purpose will have a long and tiring journey that leads to nowhere.