The following are excerps from ‘Sincere Counsel to the Seekers of Sacred Knowledge’ by Imaam Ibn al-Jawzi (Rahimahullaahu Ta’aala), in which he is advising his son:
Observe, my son, the way you deal with the limits of Allaah and see how you can keep yourself within their bounds. Indeed, he who takes care of these limits is taken great care of, and he who doesn’t, is left to himself. I shall now mention some of my experience to you so that you may observe my striving and ask the Granter of success to bless me.
Truly, most of the blessings I have been given have not been earned by me but rather they are conferred as a result of the planning of The Gentle One alone.
I remember myself as a child: A highly motivated six-year old sitting in class with older boys. The intellect I had been given superseded of old men. I do not recall myself playing on the road with other kids or even laughing out loud.
When I was seven or so, I attended the gatherings in the Masjid. I would not sit in a circle of mere wordplay, but searching for a Hadeeth Scholar who would narrate about the Prophet’s (Sall-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa Sallam) life. I would memorize everything he said, then go back home and write it down.
I was blessed for being granted my teacher Abu al-Fadl ibn Nasir (Rahimahullaah) who would take me to different Scholars and let me hear the Musnad [of Imaam Ahmad] and other major works.
All this time I had no idea of why I was made to do these things. My teacher recorded all I had heard, and when I reached puberty he handed me this record. I accompanied him till his death, and through him I learned the science of Hadeeth and transmission.
The kids used to go down to Tigris River and play on the bridge, but when I was small I used to take a book and sit far from people by the shore studying Sacred Knowledge.
Then I was inspired to abandon the vanities of this world so I began constant fasting and reduced my food intake to very little. I trained myself to be patient, embarking on a continuous pursuit in order to do so and staying up at night.
I didn’t feel satisfied with studying just one science so I read jurisprudence, sermon delivery and Hadeeth and followed those who practiced Zuhd. After that I studied linguistics. There was not a narrating Scholar or a preacher where I lived who I didn’t sit with and whenever such a person would arrive from elsewhere I would go to him.
I used to choose of virtuous deeds what suited me and if I had to choose between two things I usually chose the right of al-Haqq (Allaah). He has planned my life and cultivated me in a beautiful fashion, guiding me towards what is best for me.
He has protected me from my enemies, the jealous, and those who might plot against me. He has made everything convenient for my studies of Sacred Knowledge and sent me books from unexpected places. He gave me good understanding, the ability to memorize and write quickly and a talent for authoring books.
I lacked nothing of this world. As a matter of fact, things were quite the opposite as Allaah gave me more than enough. He put a great deal of acceptance of me into peoples’ hearts and made the impact of my words leave them not questioning the authenticity of what I had to say.
Approximately 200 thimmis [i.e. people of the book who live in Muslim lands according to a truce contract] have become Muslim at my hands and over 100 000 sinners have repented in my gatherings. More than 20 000 men have announced their repentance from foolish ways during my exhortations.
I used to go around Hadeeth gatherings of different Scholars and run till I was out of breath so no-one would precede me. I would start my day having nothing to eat and finish it having nothing to eat. Never did Allaah degrade me to take from another person, instead He provided for me in order to protect my honour.
Truth is, mentioning all my experience would take quite a while. And here I am now and you can see what I have achieved. I will tell you the whole story in one single sentence, and that is Allaah’s saying:
وَاتَّقُواْ اللَّهَ وَيُعَلِّمُكُمُ اللَّهُ
”Fear Allaah, and Allaah will teach you.” [Surah al-Baqarah:282]
Note : The Book “‘Sincere Counsel to the Seekers of Sacred Knowledge’” was published by Dar us Sunnah publishers