Haaroon Rasheed was an ‘Abbaasi Khaleefah who ruled over the Muslim empire from 170 A.H. until his demise in 193 A.H. at the age of forty-five.
On one occasion, when Haaroon Rasheed came to Madeenah Munawwarah, he sent a messenger to Imaam Maalik (rahimahullah) with the following message: “Come to me and bring the hadeeth kitaab (Al-Muwatta) which you have compiled so that I may hear the ahaadeeth from you.”
On receiving this message, Imaam Maalik (rahimahullah) was upset and disappointed. He said to the messenger, “Convey my salaam to him, and tell him that people should travel to the knowledge of Deen, the knowledge of Deen should not travel to people. People should come to obtain the knowledge of Deen, it should not have to come to them.”
When the reply of Imaam Maalik (rahimahullah) reached Haaroon Rasheed, he became angry. His messenger fuelled his anger further saying, “It will reach the people of Iraq that you summoned Imaam Maalik (rahimahullah), yet he defied you! Force him to come to you!”
In the interim, many students of Imaam Maalik (rahimahullah) suggested to him that he go to Haaroon Rasheed and explain to him the correct manner of acquiring the knowledge of Deen. Hence, Imaam Maalik (rahimahullah) came to Haaroon Rasheed and entered with salaam. However, he did not bring his kitaab of hadeeth with him. When Haaroon Rasheed asked him why he had come without the kitaab, Imaam Maalik (rahimahullah) replied:
“O Ameerul Mu-mineen! Allah Ta‘ala sent Nabi Muhammad (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) to us and commanded us to obey him, follow his blessed sunnah and show him utmost respect and honour, during and after his lifetime. Allah Ta‘ala has perhaps granted you the position of khaleefah on account of you having some knowledge of Deen. Hence, when you have been blessed with this knowledge, then you should not disrespect it and fail to honour it, as doing so will cause Allah Ta‘ala to strip you of your respect and honour. Fear Allah! Fear Allah! I have seen people who were not of your standing and lineage, some were freed slaves and there were others as well, yet they all showed the highest level of respect to the knowledge of Deen and honoured the ‘Ulama who bore this knowledge. When these people had shown respect to the knowledge of Deen, then surely you are more worthy of honouring the knowledge of Deen!”
Imaam Maalik (rahimahullah) continued to advise Haaroon Rasheed in this manner until he eventually began to weep. Imaam Maalik (rahimahullah) continued further until Haaroon Rasheed relented and said, “Let us proceed to your home.” On arriving, Imaam Maalik (rahimahullah) entered, performed ghusl, donned new clothing, applied ‘itr and burned some fragrant ‘oud (to honour the blessed ahaadeeth). Thereafter, as they sat, Imaam Maalik (rahimahullah) said to Haaroon Rasheed, “Commence reciting.” Haaroon Rasheed responded, “You should recite to me.” However, when Imaam Maalik (rahimahullah) excused himself from reciting, Haaroon Rasheed was left with no choice but to recite, and thus said, “Tell all the people to leave so that I can recite to you in privacy.” Imaam Maalik (rahimahullah) responded, “When the knowledge of Deen is withheld from the general people for the sake of influential people who wish to be exclusive, then these influential people will never benefit from the knowledge.”
Imaam Maalik (rahimahullah) then instructed one of his students to recite the ahaadeeth. When the student commenced reciting, Haaroon Rasheed was at the side of Imaam Maalik (rahimahullah) and was seated in a reclining position. Imaam Maalik (rahimahullah) said to him, “O Ameerul Mu-mineen! The one who lowers and humbles himself for Allah Ta‘ala, Allah Ta‘ala will elevate and honour him.” Haaroon Rasheed immediately awoke and sat before Imaam Maalik (rahimahullah), only returning to his side after the ahaadeeth were recited.
Sometime later, Haaroon Rasheed said to Imaam Maalik (rahimahullah), “We lowered ourselves and expressed humility before the knowledge of Deen which you possessed, and hence Allah Ta‘ala blessed us to benefit from the knowledge.”
(Tarteebul Madaarik vol. 2, pg. 21)
We all wish and desire to acquire the knowledge of Deen and benefit from the blessed ahaadeeth of Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam). However, there are many people who fail to show the knowledge of Deen due respect and honour. Instead of going to the ‘Ulama and expressing humility before the knowledge of Nubuwwah, they want to acquire knowledge on ‘their own terms’. Instead of sitting with respect, they lie on their beds and surf the net. Instead of dressing with respect and performing wudhu, they acquire the knowledge of Deen in a casual manner, dressed as they please, sometimes in an environment of free-intermingling between males and females! The outcome is that they acquire mere ‘information’, not the knowledge of Deen. The knowledge of Deen creates a noor (light) in the heart and guides a person to Allah Ta‘ala.