It was reported that Sufyaan ibn al-'Uyainah said:
"The first (of gaining knowledge) is (الإنْصات al-Insaat, then الإستِماع al-Istimaa') then memorizing, then acting by it and then spreading it."
These affairs are related to obtaining knowledge and gradual progression in it. But there is also another statement similar to this, but more complete (in its meaning) mentioned by Abdullah Ibn al-Mubaarak (may Allah have mercy upon him), who said:
"The first of (gaining knowledge) is the intention, then attentively listening, then understanding, then memorizing, then acting by it and then spreading it."
So he said the first of knowledge is having a sincere intention whereas the person does not intend by that except the Face of Allah. This is why you find a number of the people of knowledge who begin their books related to knowledge with the hadeeth, "Indeed, action are based upon the intentions..." because the first thing which one should begin with is the correct intention and that he desires by his seeking knowledge the Face and pleasure of Allaah. He considers his seeking knowledge an action which draws him close to Allaah, such as the closeness he seeks with praying, fasting and making hajj. Likewise he seeks closeness to Allah by seeking knowledge. The sittings, memorizing and reviewing of knowledge are all actions which one seeks to get closer to Allah with and is worship.
The some of salaf said: "The most preferred thing which one should seek closeness to Allah with is seeking knowledge" because this is the foundation of all worship. Worship will not be correct except if its established upon correct knowledge. For this reason the Prophet used to say in his dua: "O Allaah I ask you for beneficial knowledge, good sustenance and acceptable deeds" so started his dua with beneficial knowledge, as this is the foundation with which one can distinguish between actions that are righteous from those which are not, and from sustenance which is good from that which is not. Without knowledge a person can not distinguish between these affairs.
Then الإستِماع al-Istimaa to the knowledge that is received from the scholars, therefore one sits and listens attentively to knowledge. Also there is a difference between hearing and attentively listening. Attentive listening includes having a present and observant heart. As Allaah says:
"Verily, therein is indeed a reminder for him who has a heart or gives ear while he is heedful." (50:37)
Some people the may attend gatherings of knowledge and listen, but does not give care and close attention with his hearing. Word unclear.
Then الفهم al-Fahm (understanding) so he understands if it was a hadeeth or an issue or a ruling, then he understands and the intent, meaning and what should be derived from it is clear. Then after this he moves to الحفظ al-Hifdh (memorizing) so that it remains with him, then after this العمل al-'Amal (acting) in accordance to what he has understood and memorized. Then النشر an-Nashr (propagating) the knowledge to others and these are the levels of obtaining knowledge. And as the Prophet said:
"May Allaah aluminate the one who hears my statement, memorizes it and conveys it as he heard it."
« أولُ العِلْم النِيّة، ثمّ الاستماع، ثم الفهم، ثم الحفظ، ثم العمل، ثم النشر » 📚 ⇦ منتقاة من شرح: «رَوضة العُقلاء ونُزهة الفُضلاء» 🎙 للشّيـخ :: عَبد الرزاق البَدر -حفظه اللّه- ⏰ 07:08 🔊
Translated and summarized by Abu Anas Atif Hasan