Imam Sufyaan had a sound belief in the principle that one has to both trust Allaah (subhaanahu wa ta’aalaa) and so what is physically necessary to achieve one’s goals. Earning a livelihood is no different; one cannot sit in the masjib 24 hours a day, seven days a week and say, “Allaah will provide for me.” One who does that does not understand the meaning of At-Tawakkul – to have complete trust in Allaah.
Nor should one work all the time for worldly gain and forget the reality that it is Allaah Who provides. The latter is the perennial mistake of worldly people; the former is the perennial mistake of those who are of an ascetic bent.
The principle that one has to work in order to achieve one’s goal is particularly applicable to a student of knowledge. To seek out knowledge properly, one has to dedicate most of one’s time to one’s studies; a student of knowledge has precious little time to work. He must therefore use his spare time effectively and work just enough to get by; such is the life of the seeker of knowledge, but it is a sweet life as long as one seeks knowledge sincerely and earn’s one livelihood instead of being dependent on others. Dependence upon others, Imam Sufyaan understood, breeds poor characteristics and can potentially lead to evil.
[Taken from: ‘The Biography of Sufyaan Ath-Thawree [may Allaah have mercy on him] Compiled by: Salaahud-Deen ibn ‘Alee ibn ‘Abdul-Maujood’]
Al-Mahdee Abu ‘Abdullaah reported that he once heard Sufyaan Ath-Thawree [rahimahullaah] say,
“The first stage of knowledge is silence;
the second is listening and memorizing;
the third is applying what one learned;
and the fourth is teaching and spreading the knowledge that one learned.”
[Taken from ‘The Biography of Sufyaan Ath-Thawree [may Allaah have mercy on him] Compiled by: Salaahud-Deen ibn ‘Alee ibn ‘Abdul-Maujood’]
Important advice for the student of knowledge from Imām Ibn al-‘Uthaymeen
Praise be to Allāh.
It is good if a person focuses on one shaykh and makes him his main source, especially if he is a young beginner, for if the young beginner seeks knowledge from a number of people he will be confused. For people are not all of one opinion, especially nowadays. In the past, here in the Kingdom (Saudi Arabia) people never deviated from [the books] al-Iqnā’ [Book of Hanbalī Fiqh by Al-Buhuti] and al-Muntahā [Book of Hanbalī fiqh by Mar`i bin Yusuf], so their fatāwā were all the same and the bases of their fatāwā were all the same; no one differed from another, except in his delivery and style. But now, everyone who has memorized a hadīth or two says, “I am the Imām to be followed. Imām Ahmad was a man and we are men.” So now there is chaos. Everyone is issuing fatāwā and sometimes you hear fatāwā from these people which make you weep and laugh at the same time. I was thinking of recording these fatāwā, but I was afraid that this might make me one of those who seek out their faults of their brothers, so I did not do it lest we transmit things that are as far from the truth as the earth is from the Pleiades.
I say: adhering to one scholar is very important when the seeker of knowledge is just starting out, so that he will not be confused. Hence our scholars forbade us to read al-Mughnī and Sharh al-Muhadhdhab and other books which contain numerous opinions when we were starting out. One of our scholars told us that Shaykh ‘AbdAllāh ibn ‘AbdRahmān Bābiteen (May Allāh have mercy on him), who was one of the great scholars of Najd, only read al-Rawd al-Murabba’ [Book of Hanbalī Fiqh by Al-Buhuti] and never read anything else. He read it repeatedly but he discussed it in great detail and in great depth.
If a person has gained a great deal of knowledge, then he should look at the views of the scholars so as to benefit from them in both academic and practical terms. But when one is just starting out, my advice is to focus on one particular scholar and not go to anyone else.
[From Fatāwā al-Shaykh Muhammad ibn Sālih al-‘Uthaymeen, Kitāb al-‘Ilm, page # 107]