‘Aaizullah bin Idrees Al-Khawlaani (rahimahullah) said: “I can very clearly picture that occasion and that scene. It was a Thursday when ‘Abdullah bin Mas‘ood (radhiyallahu ‘anhu) was standing on the staircase. He addressed the people and said:

يا أيها الناس عليكم بالعلم قبل أن يرفع فإن من رفعه أن يقبض أصحابه

O people! Acquire knowledge before it is taken away, as it is taken away by the passing away of the learned scholars of deen.”

In this advice we are shown the procedure of acquiring the knowledge of deen. It is to be acquired from the learned men of knowledge. The fear of ‘Abdullah bin Mas‘ood (radhiyallahu ‘anhu) was not the loss of books, as they will always remain. In fact, there is always an increase in the number of books and works that are being published. The actual fear he had was the loss of the men of knowledge and understanding, the loss of those men who can understand and explain to others the content matter that is found in books. Without them we will all fail to understand and acquire the true knowledge of deen. It can never be acquired by us going directly to books and adopting the self-study approach. We require the guidance and the understanding of the men of knowledge.

Thereafter, ‘Abdullah bin Mas‘ood (radhiyallahu ‘anhu) gave some pre-cautionary measures and some important advice regarding the acquisition of knowledge. He said:

وإياكم والتبدع والتنطع وعليكم بالعتيق

“Stay away from newly innovated methods and from delving too deep beyond your reach, and hold firm onto the old, orthodox, traditional methodology and school of thought.”