Imām Abū Zakariyyā Yaḥyā ibn Sharaf an-Nawawī رَحِمَهُ ٱللَّٰهُ (d. 676/1277), known simply as Imām an-Nawawī, was a highly influential Muslim scholar from medieval Syria, a Shāfiʿī Faqīh, & a scholar of Ḥadīth. Within his remarkble book “al-Minhaj bī Sharḥ Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim“, he commentates on the whole of Imām Muslim’s Ṣaḥīḥ in a fashion that no other has been able to replicate after him. From this book, we’ll be looking into his Sharḥ of Ḥadīth #2282.
The Prophet ﷺ said: “The similitude of that guidance & knowledge with which Allāh, The Exalted & Glorious, has sent me is that of rain falling upon the earth. There is a good piece of land which receives the rainfall (eagerly) & as a result of it there is grown in it herbage & grass abundantly. Then there is a land hard & barren which retains water & the people derive benefit from it & they drink it & make the animals drink. Then there is another land which is barren. Neither water is retained in it, nor is the grass grown in it. And that is the similitude of the first one who develops the understanding of the religion of Allāh & it becomes a source of benefit to him with which Allāh sent me.
(The second one is that) who acquires the knowledge of religion & imparts it to others. (Then the other type is) one who does not pay attention to (the revealed knowledge) & thus does not accept guidance of Allāh with which I have been sent.“
Imām an-Nawawī’s رَحِمَهُ ٱللَّٰهُ commentary: “The meaning of this Ḥadīth & it’s objective is to liken the guidance brought (to us) by him (The Prophet ﷺ) with rain & means that the soil is of three kinds, & so are the people. The first kind of soil benefits from the rain & comes to life, having been dormant; vegetation grows benefiting man, beast, plants, & others. Similarly, the first kind of person receives the guidance & knowledge, learns it, & his heart comes to life, practicing it & teaching others. Therefore, benefitting himself & others.
The second kind of soil is that which does not benefit itself but has an advantage, that of holding the water for others thus benefitting man & beast. Similarly, the second kind of people have hearts that hold (knowledge) but do not have insight or judgement to extract the meanings or rules, nor do they practice obediences or act in accordance with what they have learnt (& memorized). When a needy student thirsty for the knowledge which they have is able to benefit himself & others acquire their knowledge & benefit from it, then this kind of people have benefited others from what has reached them.
The third kind of soil is barren & nothing grows in it. It neither benefits from the water, nor hold it so that others benefit from it. Similarly, the third kind of people are those who have neither hearts that hold knowledge nor intelligence. If they hear knowledge, they do not benefit from it, or learn it, to benefit others.
In this Ḥadīth there are several kinds of knowledge of which (are):
- Merit of knowledge & teaching others
- Vigorously urging others to acquire knowledge
- Censuring those who turn away from knowledge
And Allāh knows best.“
May Allāh have mercy upon Imām an-Nawawī & grant him the highest ranks of Jannah for his efforts & contributions to the religion of Islām.
All praise is due to Allāh, may His peace & blessings be upon our final Prophet Muḥammad, his family, his companions, & all those who follow him in guidance.
Ṣafīullāh Labīb ibn Salīm ʿAbd al-Malik
29th of Rabīʿ ath-Thānī 1443 – 4th of December 2021