1. The man who knows and he knows that he knows: This is the Scholar, so follow him.
  2. The man who knows but he does not know that he knows: This is the Forgetful One, so wake him.
  3. The man who does not know, and he knows that he does not know: This is the Seeker, so guide him.
  4. The man who does not know, but he does not know that he does not know: This is the Ignoramus, so leave him.

One reason I enjoy my weekly Arabic classes is that points of grammar or vocabulary are illustrated by proverbs, hadith and verses of Quran. We learned the saying above a few weeks ago. It reminds me of an old essay by Shaykh GF Haddad on Jahl Murakkab, Compound Ignorance, the fourth condition in the saying.

[Update: Sidi Khalil Moore wrote to suggest the translation be improved by changing “what” to “that”. I appreciate someone of his caliber taking the time to review my amateur work, and have made the change in the text above.]

Published by bingregory

Official organ of an American Muslim in Malaysian Borneo, featuring plants, pantuns and pictures from the Malay archipelago. Oversharing since 2002.

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  1. Salam Bin Gregory,

    Where do you learn your Arabic? I am very interested. Just a little busy now with business and all.

    I am very jealous to those who can appreciate the Quran in it’s original Arabic form. Must be really beautiful. Plus, you can ‘see’ the hidden meanings of the Quran. Glorious!

    You are a Blessed servant.

    May Allah Bless you.

    binti Mustapha

  2. Sr. Meriza, thanks for the kind words, though I don’t deserve them. To give you an idea of my level of proficiency, our primary text for the class is a book used by the Indonesian government schools for primary three. I presume that means there are 10-year old indonesian boys with a greater command of Arabic than me! But at least I can say I know what I don’t know, and I thank God for that.

    Sr. Ida – Funny!

    Sidi Khalil – I’ll reply to you directly.

  3. Imam al_Haddad mentioned this saying in his Ithaf as-sail bi Masail, translated into English as Gift for the Seeker. Saying is attributed to al-Khalil ibn Ahmad, Arabian philologist and teacher to Sibawayh.

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