The Heirs of the Prophets
Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali
Introduction and Translation by Zaid Shakir
The Heirs of the Prophet is an extraordinary book representing one of the many streams of traditional Islamic scholarship. In addition to huge multi-volume compendiums, many scholars also composed shorter treatises that focused, for example, on one particular hadith.
This volume is such a work. Imam Ibn Rajab, who is considered one of the foremost authorities of Prophetic tradition (hadith) of his day, wrote this deeply inspiring and ever-relevant commentary on one hadith of the Prophet (God bless him and grant him peace) in which he said, "The scholars are the heirs of the Prophets."
Ibn Rajab was able to bring together the ethics, authentic stories, and penetrating insights that relate to the noble enterprise of true learning.
This book achieves two major triumphs that speak to the modern Muslim intellectual condition. First, it deeply inspires in the serious reader, like very few books of human origin, the love and desire to gain true knowledge.
It enlightens people as to what realm of knowledge holds firm sovereignty over all the rest and is most vital for a true Islamic renaissance. In the haze of unbounded access to information, it is especially important these days for people to be clear about what is beneficial knowledge as praised by Allah and His Messenger.
This knowledge refers mainly to that which leads men and women to the pleasure of Allah and salvation in the Hereafter. What worldly expertise can possibly compensate for the loss of knowledge concerning divine guidance to and along the straight path? What possible intellectual success can cover up for an ignorance that lures people into darkness and moral morass in this life and Hellfire in the next?
The Heirs of the Prophets is an eloquent and persuasive advocate of restoring our sense of priority when it comes to the acquisition of knowledge and, as a consequence, the conduct of our lives.
As for the second achievement, The Heirs of the Prophets unabashedly strips away any pretension as to what measures as true scholarship within the realm of Islamic learning itself. These pretensions have had uninterrupted breeding seasons over the years, to the point that it is difficult for most people today to distinguish between a preacher and a scholar, between technique and deep comprehension.
The great scholar Imam Ibn Rajab in this book composed in the eighth Islamic century has fired a silver bullet that slays the superficiality that stubbornly persists today. He says, "The uninformed person cannot conceptualize the essence of knowledge nor its sublimity. One who fails to conceptualize something, its significance will never become rooted in the heart."
The Heirs of the Prophets is a push-start to conceptualizing the utter importance of gaining beneficial knowledge so that it can be rooted in the heart of the Muslim body.