Why Learn From a Teacher?
Answered by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
Question: What’s the significance of studying fiqh with scholars rather than just reading the text yourself, if it’s a reliable text. The texts have commentaries and are written by scholars, so you would still be getting your knowledge from scholars in a way. So what would you get from a sheikh that you wouldn’t find in texts?
In the Name of Allah, the Benevolent, the Merciful
The benefits of studying with a teacher include:
1. Sound understanding: the chance of erring without a teacher to guide one in one’s understanding and learning is far greater. Given how serious religious knowledge is, one cannot rely on someone whose knowledge is taken only from books. A teacher “tests” one’s understanding, and picks up on one’s errors; a student is able to ask questions and to verify where they have understood.
2. Correct understanding: books, even the best books, sometimes contain weak positions, errors, false arguments, missing details, unmentioned conditions or implications, special terminological usages… without a teacher explaining how texts are unpacked and interpreted, one can and almost certain will fall into gross errors.
3. Correct progress: if you don’t know, you are likely to have little knowledge or practical understanding of how to gain knowledge. A teacher directs one’s path of learning, and focuses one’s endeavors.
4. Understanding context, wisdom, and how to apply the theoretical knowledge. Not everything can be applied literally…
5. Learning adab and humility, by submitting one’s presumed understanding to the established understanding of an inheritor of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace).
6. Following the sunna of the Prophets, who didn’t just print a ‘book of guidance’ and distribute it: they taught, and their companions learned.
7. The baraka of this teacher-student relationship. There are great secrets in it. The Prophets themselves were ‘students’ of Jibril (peace and blessings be upon him).
8. Benefiting from the manners, character, and habits of one’s teacher.
And Allah alone gives success.