A Pen for a Deenar! The Importance of Taking Notes

By Abu Taymiyyah Shafiq Siddiq

The matter of taking notes is an issue which unfortunately many people today, even including some students of knowledge, tend to take lightly. Many don’t realise the amazing benefits of taking notes when attending gatherings of knowledge.

The Prophet (sallalahu alayhi wasallam) described gatherings of knowledge as being from the Meadows of Paradise. Ibn Umar reported that the Prophet said,

“When you pass by the Meadows of Paradise, avail yourselves of them.” The Companions asked, “What are the Meadows of Paradise, O Messenger of Allah?” He replied, “The circles of Dhikr (remembrance). There are roaming angels of Allah who go about looking for the circles of Dhikr and when they find them, they surround them closely.” [Tirmidhi & Ahmad]

The great scholar Imam Qurtubi (raheemaullah) described such gatherings as,

“Gatherings of Dhikr are the gatherings of knowledge and admonition. Those in which the Words of Allah, the Sunnah of His Messenger, accounts of our righteous predecessors and sayings of the righteous scholars are learned and practised, without any addition or innovation.”

Therefore when attending such gatherings of knowledge and remembrance, we should try to utilise and to gain as much benefit as we can by ascribing to seek spiritual nourishment of the soul and also intending to connect closer with Allah by learning His Deen. Not forgetting that the noble scribes of Allah also descend upon such gatherings. For these reasons, for one to truly attain benefit from such gatherings, we should try and capture the pearls of knowledge being taught by taking down notes.

Our blessed Prophet (sallalahu alayhi wasallam) himself commanded writing down knowledge in gatherings where knowledge is being taught. It is reported in an authentic hadith reported by Imam Khateeb al-Baghdadi (raheemaullah), that the Prophet (sallalahu alayhi wasallam) said,

“‘Trap knowledge.’” The Companions asked, ‘How Messenger of Allah?’ The Prophet replied, ‘By writing it down.’”

If we were to attend a gathering of knowledge simply with our minds, we may understand the knowledge which is being taught at that moment in time, however when the class ends and we walk out the door, it is unlikely we will retain everything we just heard.

Thus by taking good notes, we will Insha‘Allah be able to preserve the knowledge that we have learnt for the future. Taking notes also helps to stop the mind from wandering during lessons of knowledge. One of the major scholars of our time, Shaikh Bakr Abu Zayd (raheemaullah) said,

“Do your utmost to preserve the knowledge in written form, because binding knowledge by way of writing, is a safeguard from losing it.”

If we look into the lives of the Salaf, we find many examples of how they would busy themselves with writing and taking notes. Some of them while attending circles of knowledge would even go to the extent of writing down notes onto their sleeves if they ran out of paper. It has also been reported that if they ran out of space to write on their sleeves, they would then even go to the extent of writing on the top of their shoes! After the circle finished they would then walk home barefoot while holding their shoes in their hands. Upon reaching their home, they would then transfer the notes from their shoes onto paper. Imam Ash-Sha’bi (raheemaullah) said,

“If you hear anything (which brings you benefit), write it down, even on a wall.”

An amusing incident which highlights the importance of taking notes has been narrated by Muhammad Ibn Mubashshir al-Karmeeni (raheemaullah) who said,

“Once Muhammad Ibn Salaam al-Baikandi’s pen broke whilst in the gathering of a Shaikh, so he announced, “A pen for a Deenaar!” Whereby immediately pens began to fall upon him.” [Siyar A’laam an-Nubalaa, Vol 10, page 629]

Subhan‘Allah! So important was writing down knowledge to Muhammad Ibn Salaam al-Baikandi that he was willing to pay as much as a gold Deenaar for a pen during his time. Whereby he received so many offers from people hoping to secure the Deenaar, that pens started to rain down on him from all directions!

This is just another example of the strong zeal and eagerness that our Pious Predecessors had for taking notes. We should therefore try our utmost to bring some of this same zeal and eagerness into our lives also, so that we may also benefit further Insha’Allah, the next time we attend the Meadows of Paradise.