Humility: Mark Of A True Scholar
When an ear of corn is plentifully heavy with seed, it tilts and leans over. But if it is unfilled and light, it remains standing tall and proud. Such is the state of the believing slave; the more knowledge and faith in Allah that fills his heart, the more he will lower himself in humbleness and modesty towards the believers.
In times when we observe the evil effects of pride and arrogance affecting the Muslim communities around us, it can be uplifting to turn to a simple, yet powerful example of a teacher who did not let his high position among people develop a sense of self-righteousness or conceit inside him.
Once a student of this teacher sought permission to recite a poem. The teacher consulted and gave permission. The student began to recite his poetry that began by praising the spread of Islam and the rise of the truth regardless of the efforts of falsehood.
The student then reached a line that attributed the good he described to a condition: “…As long as there is in our midst the son of Saleh, the sheikh of our awakening, with the likes of him the support and triumph is expected.”
At this the teacher interrupted. He proclaimed clearly that he does not agree with this line. He explains that Truth should not be tied with certain individuals. For every person shall pass away, and if the people tied the Truth to a certain individual, they would lose hope.
But he does not leave the student there. Instead, he asks him to replace this line with, “As long as there is in our midst the Book of Allah and the Sunnah of His Messenger.”
Not only did this humble teacher correct the student, but he also led him to a better alternative, which did not put an end to the entire recitation.
The student obeyed. Indeed, when the teacher is humble, the students too are likely to be humble. Then the student continued with his poem: “Ibnul Uthaymeen, our Faqih…”
The teacher again interrupted. He now realized the entire poem was dedicated for him, so he firmly, yet very gently, objected to any further recitation of this poem. With the utmost regard for the feelings of the student, the teacher asks if there was anything else the student would like to share.
The teacher then continued in a very calm tone offering valuable advice – in three points – to his students.
First, men may go astray, he advised, so never associate the success and permanence of the Truth with men. He then quoted Ibn Mas’ud’s saying, “Whoever wants to take an example, take the example of someone who died, because the living one is not safe from Fitna.”
Second, all men will die and none shall remain forever. Allah says: “And We did not grant to any man before you eternity (on earth); so if you die – would they live forever?” (Qur’an, 21:34)
Finally, he said, the son of Adam is merely a man. He may feel proud when he is praised and begin to think highly of himself. He may assume that he is always correct, thereby leading to his own eternal loss. In a Hadith recorded by Al-Bukhari, the Prophet (peace be upon him) rebuked one who excessively praised another, saying: “You have destroyed (or cut) the back of the man.” The teacher thanked the student for his good thoughts.
Such was the example of a role model, a scholar – Sheikh Muhammad Bin Saleh Al-Uthaymeen (may Allah have mercy on him). Although he was one of the most knowledgeable scholars of his time and held the position of being the sheikh of many, many students, he did not permit the rise of the Truth to be linked to his name. He could have let it pass as merely a student expressing his love and respect for the sheikh. But he did not.
All praise is due to Allah that Sheikh Bin Uthaymeen corrected his student so beautifully because through this he left us with a valuable lesson. A lesson for every teacher, student and believer. We will also get a glimpse, through this moving example, of the humble and modest heart of this great scholar.
It was such beautiful characteristics that raised him and instilled his love in the hearts of many towards him. Until this day, we continue to see in the students of this sheikh – whether they are in the East or West – similar humbleness, regardless of their knowledge and efforts in da’wah.
It is only when the ear of corn becomes filled that a scholar rises to the level of a true scholar.
May Allah have mercy on the Sheikh and make us amongst the humble ones. Ameen.