Abū Masʿūd ʿAbd ar-Raḥmān said,
I heard ibn Ṭāhir say, “I urinated blood twice whilst seeking knowledge. Once in Baghdād and another time in Makkah. I used to walk bare-footed in the heat, as a result I was afflicted with that [urinating blood]; and I never rode an animal in pursuit of knowledge. I used to carry my books upon my head, and I never asked anyone for a thing whilst I was seeking knowledge. I used to live on whatever came to me.”1
Aḥmad ibn Ḥanbal said,
“Shuʿbah sought knowledge from al-Ḥākim ibn ʾUtaybāh for 18 months. He even sold the beams of the roof of his house [to get by].”2
ʿAbd ar-Raḥmān ibn Abī Ḥātim said,
“We were in Egypt for 7 months, and we did not [even] eat broth whilst we were there. Our day was apportioned for the scholars’ assemblies and at night we would write and revise [what we learnt]. Once, I and a companion came to a shaykh [to study], but they said ‘he is ill’. Then, on our way [back] we saw a fish that we liked, so we bought it. When we arrived home, it was time to attend a gathering, so we did not have time to prepare it. We left it and proceeded to the lesson. We remained [busy in seeking knowledge] until 3 days passed over it and it almost expired, so we ate it raw. We didn’t even have enough time give it to someone who would cook it [for us]. Then he said. ‘Knowledge is not attained with convenience.”3
The great scholar of Arabic grammar, Muḥammad ibn Aḥmad Abū Bakr al-Khayyat al-Baghdādī; Used to study all the time, even on the road. He would often fall into a hole or be trampled by an animal!4
Ibn ʿAqīl said,
“I try my very best to limit the time I spend eating, to such an extent that I choose dry biscuit and a sip of water over eating bread, because of the difference in chewing [time] between the two, so as to save my time for reading or writing down some useful ideas. The best thing for the wise man to save is time.”5
Dāwūd al-Tāʿī used to drink bread soup instead of eating bread. When that was mentioned to him he replied, “The difference between chewing bread and drinking bread soup is [enough time for] the reciting of 50 verses.”6
Ibn ʿUyyanāh said I heard Shuʿbah say;
“Whoever seeks knowledge will go bankrupt! I sold my mother’s washing basin for seven dinars.”7
ʿAbd ar-Raḥmān ibn Abī Ḥātim said, I heard my father say,
“I remained in Baṣrah in the year 214 AH for eight months, but I wanted to stay there for a year, however I had no more money [to suffice]. So [as a result] I started to sell the clothing on my back until my money finished again. At that time I used to attend lessons of scholars with my friend. I would seek knowledge from them until the night, my friend would leave and I would return back to my house with nothing. So I began to drink water due to hunger. Then, the next day, my friend came early in the morning and I went around with him listening to ḥadīth whilst I was severely hungry. Then he left [for home] and I would return hungry. The next day, he came early in the morning and said, ‘Come with us to the scholars.” So I replied, “I am too weak.” So he asked, “What has weakened you?” I said, “I will not hide from you my condition. It has been two days since I ate anything.” He said, “I have a dinār remaining, I will support you with it and use the other half for the rent.” So we left Baṣrah and I took from him half a dinār.”8
Jaʿfar ibn Durūstuyāh said,
“We used to go to the gathering of ʿAlī ibn al-Madanī at the time of al-ʿĀsr – today, for the gathering of tomorrow. We would sit all night in fear that our place would be taken whilst we used the toilet, and as a consequence we would not hear the lesson the next day. I saw an old man in the gathering urinating in his tūylasān (a type of garment worn on the head) whilst folding the tūylasān until he finished urinating, all because he feared losing his seat if he left to urinate.”9
Muḥammad ibn Ismāʿīl al-Sāigh said,
“In one of our journeys to Baghdād, Aḥmad ibn Ḥanbal passed by us whilst he was running with his shoes in his hands. So my father took hold of his thobe and said: “Abū ʿAbdullāh, have you no shame? Until when will you race with these youngsters?” He replied: “Until death.” Abū Hurayrāh said, “I have seen myself having a seizure between the minbār of the Prophet and ʿĀʾisha’s room, and the people were saying ‘He is insane.’ Yet I was not affected by insanity, nothing was wrong with me except hunger.”10
Ibn al-Kathīr said,
“al-Bukhārī would wake up at night from his sleep, light the lantern, and then write a beneficial thought that crossed his mind. He would then put out the lantern, and then wake up again and again, until the number of times he did that would be close to twenty times.”11
Abū Aḥmad Nāsr ibn Aḥmad al-ʿIyādh al-Samarqāndī said,
“No one can obtain this knowledge except one who closes down his shop, ruins his farm, abandons his brothers and who, when the closest of his family dies, does not attend his funeral.”12
Ibn al-Qāsim said,
“Seeking knowledge caused Mālik ibn Anas to demolish the roof of his house and sell its wood.”13
Yaḥyā ibn Saʿīd al-Qaṭṭān said whilst mentioning studying ḥadīth,
“I used to leave my house in the morning and not return until it was dark.”14
Ibn Shihāb az-Zūhrī said,
“I stayed for forty-five years going between al-Shām and al-Ḥijāz, and I did not find a ḥadīth which I considered rare! [I’ve never heard].”15
ʿUbayd bin Yaʿīsh said:
“I lived thirty years not eating with my hands – I mean at night my sister would feed me while I wrote”16
Al-Ḥāfiẓ ʿAbd al-Raḥmān ibn Yūsuf ibn Kirāsh said,
“I drank my urine in this affair [of seeing knowledge] five times. al-Khaṭīb al-Baghdādī said, “I presume he was compelled to do so during journeys due to the absence of water, and Allāh knows best.”17
ʿAlī ibn al-Ḥasan Shaqīq said,
“I was with ‘Abdullāh ibn al-Mubārak in the masjid one cold winter night. We stood to leave and when we were at the door, he narrated some ḥadīth to me or I narrated to him. He did not cease to narrate to me or I did not cease to narrate to him until the man who calls to prayer came and called to the Fajr prayer.”18
Khalaf ibn Hishām said,
“I found some parts of Arabic grammar difficult. So I spent 80,000 dinārs until I mastered it.”19
Farqad al-Subkhī said,
“I entered upon Sufyān al-Thawrī when he was in the state of illness that caused his death. So a man narrated a ḥadīth to him that surprised him. So he thrust his hand beneath his bed and withdrew some [writing] tablets of his and he wrote that ḥadīth. It was asked of him, ‘[Do you do such a thing] in the state you are in?’ to which he replied, ‘Indeed it is good and I have heard [something] good, and if I die, then indeed I have written goodness.”20
Muḥammad ibn Yūnus said,
“I wrote (ḥadīth) in Baṣrah from one thousand, one hundred and eighty-six men.”21
Ibn al-Mughīrah said,
“I walked a distance of seventy days because of the transcript of Mūfadhal Fudhālah, and if a baker offered me a loaf of bread [for exchange] it wouldn’t be accepted.”22
“I followed Saʿīd ibn al-Musayyib for three days in seeking knowledge.”23
“Ibn ʿAbbās used to fetter my leg and teach me the Qurʾān and Sunnah.”24
Abū ʿĀliyah said,
“We use to listen to the narrations of the companions of the Messenger of Allāh in Baṣra, but we were not satisfied until we travelled to Madīnah and heard them from their mouths.”25
Imam Ibn Abī Ḥātim al-Rāzī said whilst mentioning the travels of his father, the Imām Abū Ḥātim in the pursuit of ḥadīth,
“I heard my father say, ‘The first time I travelled to study ḥadīth, I spent seven years in which I counted the steps I walked, they exceeded a thousand leagues – a league is the distance of one hour and a half – and then I stopped counting. As for travelling from Kūfa to Baghdad, they were of countless times. From Makkah to Madīnah [I travelled] many times. I slipped out from the sea near Madīnah [all the way] to Egypt walking, then by foot from Egypt to Ramlāh. I then walked from Ramlāh to Bayt al-Maqdis and then from ar-Ramlāh to Asqalān. I then travelled from Ramlāh to Tiberius and from Tiberius to Damascus. Thereafter, I travelled from Damascus to Homs, from Homs to Antakya and then to Tarsus. I then returned from Tarsus and went back to Homs. I had some ḥadīth left to hear from Abī al-Yamānī, so I heard from him. I then left Homs to Bayt She’an and thereafter to Raqqah. I then rode from Raqqah to the Euphrates to Baghdād, before I departed for Shām. I went to Wāsit and then to the Nile. From the Nile I went to Kūfah. All of that was by foot on my first journey [in pursuit of knowledge] for seven years, whilst I was twenty years of age. I departed Rayy in the year 213 AH in the month of Ramaḍān, and returned in the year 221 AH.”26
Abū Dāwūd al-Sījistānī used to tailor one sleeve of his garment wider than the other. When he was asked about it he said, “The wider sleeve is for books and the other is not in need of it.’27
Ibn ʿAqīl said,
“I am not allowed to waste an hour of my life. Even when I am not delivering lessons or reading, my mind would still be occupied with some matters whilst I’m lying down, and I will not get up until I find something useful to write. I still find zeal in my search for knowledge whilst [I am] in my eighties more than when I were in my twenties.”28
Sulaym ibn Ayyūb used to give much importance to his time. He never wasted it without doing something beneficial. He wrote books, taught lessons or read.29
1 Al-Dhahābī, Siyār Aʿlām al-Nubalā (19/363).
2 al-Iʾlāl wa Mārifāt al-Rijāl (2/342).
3 Al-Dhahābī, Tathkirāt al-Hufādh (3/38).
4 Mashūq ill al-Qirāta Talāb al-Ilm (p. 62).
5 Ibn Abī Yaʿlā, Tabaqāt al-Hanābilah (1/145).
6 Al-Majālis wa al-Jawāhir al-Ilm (1/346).
7 Al-Dhahābī, Siyār Aʿlām al-Nubalā (10/578).
8 Muqaddimah al-Jārḥ wa all-Taʿdīl (p.363).
9 Al-Khaṭīb al-Baghdādī, al-Jāmīʿ li ʾAkhlāq al-Rāwī wa Ādāb al-Sāmī’ (2/38).
10 Abū Nuʿmān, Hilyāh al-‘Awliyyāh (3/362).
11 Ibn Kathīr, al-Bidāyāh (11/3).
12 Al-Khaṭīb al-Baghdādī, al-Jāmīʿ li Akhlāq al-Rāwī wa Ādāb al-Sāmī’ (2/174).
13 Al-Khaṭīb al-Baghdādī, Tarīkh al-Baghdād (2/13).
14 Al-Khaṭīb al-Baghdādī, al-Jāmīʿ li Akhlāq al-Rāwī wa Ādāb al-Sāmī’ (2/174).
15 Abū Nuʿmān, Hilyāh al-‘Awliyyāh (3/362).
16 Al-Khaṭīb al-Baghdādī, al-Jāmīʿ li Akhlāq al-Rāwī wa Ādāb al-Sāmī’ (2/174).
17 Al-Khatīb al-Baghdādī, Tarīkh al-Baghdād (10/280).
18 Al-Khatīb al-Baghdādī, al-Jāmīʿ li Akhlāq al-Rāwī wa Ādāb al-Sāmī’ (2/174).
19 Al-Dhahābī, Siyār Āʿlām al-Nubalā (10/578).
20 Abū Nuʿmān, Hilyāh al-Awliyyāh (7/64).
21 Al-Khaṭīb al-Baghdadi, al-Jāmīʿ li Akhlāq al-Rāwī wa Ādāb al-Sāmī’ (2/174).
22 Al-Dhahābī, Tathkirāt al-Hufādh (3/121).
23 Abū Nuʿmān, Hilyah al-Awliyyāh (3/362).
24 Abū Nuʿmān, Hilyāh al-Awliyyāh (3/362).
25 Al-Khaṭīb al-Baghdādī, al-Jāmīʿ li Akhlāq al-Rāwī wa Ādāb al-Sāmī’ (2/174).
26 Ibn Abī Ḥātim al-Rāzī, al-Jārḥ wal-Taʿdīl (1/359).
27 Al-Dhahābī, Siyār Āʿlām al-Nubalā (13/217).
28 Ibn al-Jawzī, al-Muntadham (9/214).
29 Al-Dhahābī, Siyār Āʿlām al-Nubalā (17/646).