Etiquettes of the Teacher and the Student

By Ibn Qudamah al-Maqdisi

The student should start with purifying his own soul and steer clear of evil manners, for knowledge is the worship of the heart. He should dedicate his life for seeking knowledge. The early Muslims used to give precedence to knowledge over anything else. For example, Imam Ahmad did not marry except after the age of 40.

To the student, the teacher should be how a physician is to a patient. The student should serve his teacher. Ibn ‘Abd al-Barr, in his Jami’ Bayan al-‘Ilm wa Fadlih, states that Ibn ‘Abbas—may Allah be pleased with him—used to hold the reins of Zayd ibn Thabit’s mount and drive it. Zayd ibn Thabit—may Allah be pleased with him—would say to him, “Don’t, O cousin of the Prophetﷺ!” Ibn Abbas would then say, “This is how we were commanded to treat the learned ones among us.”

The student should be on his guard against feeling pride, for it is the flaw of the ignorant. He should evaluate all matters and give preference to his teacher’s opinion over his own. In Al-Jami’ li-Akhlaq al-Rawi wa Adab as-Sam’, al-Khatib al-Baghdadi reported that ‘Ali—may Allah be pleased with him—said, “It is the right of the scholar to greet the public in general and to be greeted in particular. You should sit before him and avoid overburdening him with questions. You should not divulge his secrets, nor backbite people in his presence, nor find his shortcomings…”

The student, at the beginning of seeking knowledge, is recommended not to occupy his mind with the differences of scholars in order not to perturb his mind.

As for the teacher, he should be patient and forbearing. He should dedicate his efforts in teaching knowledge for the sake of Allah and not to seek rewards or gratitude from people. Early Muslim scholars used to refuse gifts from students. The teacher should offer advice to his students and follow the best manners in this regard.

Furthermore, the teacher should teach his student what the latter can understand and comprehend. More importantly, the scholar should behave according to his knowledge. Allah, the Most High, says:

“How can you tell people to do what is right and forget to do it yourselves, even though you recite the Scripture? Have you no sense?” [Surah al-Baqarah 2, Verse 44]

[See Ibn Qudamah al-Maqdisi, Mukhtasar Minhaj al-Qasidin (Dar al-Manarah) pg 9-10]

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