Although centuries have passed, we have not forgotten the scholars of Ahl-al-Sunnah wa-al-Jamāʿah—such as al-Ḥasan al-Baṣrī, Yaḥyá ibn Ma‘īn, Abū Zurʿah al-Rāzī, Abū Ḥātim al-Rāzī, al-Awzāʿī, Sufiyān al-Thawrī, al-Fudayl ibn ʿĪyyāḍ, ‘Abdullāh ibn al-Mubārak, Mālik, al-Shāfiʿī, Aḥmad, al-Layth ibn Saʿd, al-Lālakāʾī, Ibn Baṭṭah, al-Baghawī, al-Barbahārī, Ibn Taymiyyah, Ibn al-Qayyim, and Muḥammad ibn ʿAbd al-Wahhāb (رحمهم الله)—because of their revival of the Messenger’s (ﷺ) Sunnah.1 As for the scholars of Ahl-al-Bidʿah—such as al-Jahm ibn Ṣafwān, Wāṣil ibn ‘Atāʿ, ʿAmr ibn ʿUbayd, Maʿbad al-Juhanī, al-Ḥārith al-Muḥāsibī, ʿAbd al-Raḥmān ibn Sabaʿ, al-Ḥasan ibn Ṣāliḥ, and al-Bishr al-Marīsī—then they have been long forgotten because of their hatred for the Messenger’s (ﷺ) Sunnah.
Those who [only] hoard wealth are dead, although they may be alive; however, the scholars remain alive as long as there is life on the earth.
Abū Bakr ibn ʿAyyāsh (رحمه الله) (d. AH 193) said:2
Although the people of the sunnah die, they are never forgotten, since they revive what the Messenger (ﷺ) came with. Consequently, they earn a portion of the virtue [i.e. the virtue of always being remembered] mentioned in His statement [about the Messenger (ﷺ)]:
وَرَفَعْنَا لَكَ ذِكْرَكَ “And We raised your remembrance high for you.”
However, when the people of innovation die, they are forgotten, since they hate what the Messenger (ﷺ) came with. Consequently, they earn a portion of the demerit [i.e. the demerit of always being forgotten] mentioned in His statement [about Quraysh and those who hated the Messenger (ﷺ)]:
إِنَّ شَانِئَكَ هُوَ الْأَبْتَرُ “Whoever angers you and is displeased with what you came with will be forgotten.”
The strong love people have for the scholars of the Sunnah, the intense desire they have to emulate them, the rich heritage and legacy the scholars of the Sunnah leave behind, and their revival of the Messenger’s Sunnah (ﷺ) ensure that they are never forgotten.
Speaking about the scholars, Shaykh al-Islām Ibn al-Qayyim (رحمه الله) (d. AH 751) said: “The people’s love for them, their emulation of them, and the benefits that they obtain from them ensure that they are always in plain sight and that the people’s hearts always turn in their direction. Therefore, the scholars are always present, although they may be physically absent.”3
As for the common folk—like those who favour seeking wealth over knowledge—then they will also be forgotten, just like the scholars of Ahl-al-Bidʿah. Allāh said:
يَحْسَبُ أَنَّ مَالَهُ أَخْلَدَهُ “He thinks that his wealth will make him immortal.”
Commenting on this verse, Shaykh Muḥammad ibn Ṣāliḥ al-ʿUthaymīn (رحمه الله) (d. AH 1421) said: “He thinks that his wealth will prolong his life and make his remembrance eternal, yet this is false as the wealthy are only remembered for their generosity. Therefore, if they are misers, then they will be discredited.”4
Furthermore, Shaykh al-Islām Ibn al-Qayyim (رحمه الله) said:5
When the wealthy die, they are forgotten, but when the scholars die, they are still remembered, as the leader of the believers [i.e ‘Ali ibn Abī Ṭālib (رضي الله عنه)] said: “Those who [only] hoard wealth are dead, although they may be alive; however, the scholars remain alive as long as there is life on the earth.” Therefore, the living who [only] hoard wealth are like the deceased; however, the deceased scholars are like the living.
Therefore, unlike the remainder of the people, which include the common folk and the scholars of Ahl-al-Bidʿah, the scholars of Ahl-al-Sunnah wa-al-Jamāʿah are never forgotten.
Written by: Musa Shaleem Mohammed. Mūsá Shalīm Muḥammad is currently a doctoral candidate in the Faculty of Sharīʿah at the Islamic University of al-Madīnah.