What does a person who wants to seek knowledge do if he is not able to reach the people of knowledge? Do they suffice with taking knowledge from books, and what is the methodology of doing so in this case?
The Shaykh repeated the question and asked:
Is the person an Arabic speaker or a non Arabic speaker?
The questioner responds that he is as Arabic speaker.
The Shaykh answers:
As for seeking knowledge, the origin is that the Muslim travels to the scholars to gain knowledge from them if he does not have a scholar in his locality. What is befitting for him is to travel to the scholars if he is able. All praise is for Allah (Aza wa Jel), during our present time means of communicating with the scholars have become widespread. (It has become easy for us to communicate with) the scholars who are upon the straight methodology and safe aqeedah, but we will lay (mention) some easy affairs for the one seeking knowledge in our present time so that a person can seek knowledge while he is in the confines of his home.
This is done in the following ways:
1. If he is able to call a scholar (one upon the Sunnah) if he has the financial means, him and a group of his friends can attend a class with the scholar. This is a means of seeking knowledge.
2. Another way which is also easy it that an individual for example travels to Saudi Arabia for Hajj or Umrah and during his visit, he buys tapes of the people of knowledge that are well known for their correct beliefs and methodology. (A person) can also request someone else who is traveling to buy these tapes for them. Thereafter the individual listens to these audio recordings, he listens to the speech of the people of knowledge. It is, by the permission of Allah, as if he is in front of the scholar.
3. If an individual is able to be consistent with the classes on the radio, for example the classes of Shaykh Saleh al Fawzan or other than him (may Allah preserve him) from the scholars that are well known who’s classes are broadcasted on the Quraan radio station (KSA). It is upon the individual to be consistent with this program. This is very good, but at the same time, I warn of some stations that have lessons with individuals whose affairs are not known or those who are known to have deviated from the salafi methodology. Verily, one does not take knowledge from these stations for indeed those individuals that are unknown or have deviated from the correct path and the salafi methodology; one does not take knowledge from them. This is because knowledge is from the religion, so let everyone look to who he takes his knowledge from. (Unclear sentence) Verily if you seek knowledge from a person of innovation or a man that you do not know his religion, you do not know if is methodology is safe or unsafe. And the methodology (of an individual) is known by either being widespread or asking the salafi scholars. You say to them: We have an individual so and so, do you know this person? If they reply: We know him to have the correct methodology and belief. Then one can take from him, but if they say, we don’t know him then you should continue to ask until you find out about him.
4. By way of internet, for indeed there are (paltalk) rooms for Shaykh Zayd al Madkhali, Shaykh Ahmad an Najmee and Shaykh Rabee al Madkhali and other than them from the salafi scholars. There are also rooms for some salafi students of knowledge, classes that an individual can go on the internet and enter these rooms and schedule classes for himself. I also warn from intensive lessons from some directions that it is not known who is teaching. An individual says: I take the lesson and I just continue upon my way! I warn you of this. I warn you from taking lessons from rooms that either have individuals who are unknown or they are known for incorrect beliefs. Do not be deceived because an individual teaches in such and such university or such and such institute etc… verily these titles: (BA, MA, PhD) do not benefit and do not satisfy ones hunger. The respect of an individual is the praise of the salafi scholars for them, and their knowledge of them. A person merely being a doctor and the likes, an individual may in fact be a revolutionist. So be aware and do not be deceived by his degree (unclear words) I am informing you of sources for seeking knowledge but there might be some sort of danger in some of them, so I have to warn you from this danger.
Other means of seeking knowledge similar to what was mentioned by the questioner, such as reading books.
But in reading books there are also things one should be cautious of:
1. If a person does not have knowledge, he can misunderstand something
2. He may incorrectly pronounce words
3. He may read from whoever comes and goes and the affair becomes confusing to him. He reads from the people of Ahlus Sunnah and he, for example reads from the people of innovation, and he does not distinguish between the two. But on the other hand, if he knows the arabic language, he understands the speech and he has sat with the people of knowledge and he has some foundations for example; the foundations that by the permission of Allah, he is able to continue reading, writing and researching, then this is ok.
But he should be aware of the following matters:
1. He should refer to the speech of the scholars, not depend on his own understanding
2. He must be diligent and read the books of the people of sunnah, those known with the correct methodology and belief only!
3. When he is able to reach the Ulamaa, it is upon him to do so. To go to them, to refer back to them, to ask them.
4. His reading of books is done so out of need he does not make this his means of seeking legislated knowledge, rather, he takes if from the mouths of the scholars just as the salaf took it from the Prophet (sallahu alayhi wa salam) and his students and those who came after took it from the salaf. This is (the way) knowledge (should be sought). If a person merely takes it from books, and reads from those who are not known, then a person may deviate. Verily knowledge is obtained by seeking it and having a relationship (with the people of knowledge). The purpose of seeking knowledge is not merely to have abundant amounts of information; verily there are affairs that are related to knowledge, such as its manners and understanding. It is because of this, ignorance and mistakes have increased for the individual who has made reading books a habit instead of sitting with the scholars.
These are some means of seeking knowledge that I advise myself and the questioner with. Allah knows best, and may the peace and blessing of Allah be upon the Messenger Muhammad, his family and his companions.
Article taken from http://www.sahab.net/forums/showthread.php?t=336213
Translated by the Dai’ee, Br. Mustafa George hafidhahullah