Pitfalls in the Quest for Knowledge
Bias for a Certain Scholar’s Views
This bias is usually to be found in a student with respect to the sheikh under whom he is studying.If the sheikh happens to be a hadîth specialist,the student will be biased towards his sheikh’s judgments about particular hadîth.If the sheikh is a jurist,then the student will be biased towards his legal rulings.The student will go out of his way to defend the sheikh’s opinions and popularize them.
Such bias is an old illness.It preys on ignorance.True scholars decry bias and warn others against it.When a person is well grounded in knowledge,he does not let bias overtake him.He sees it as a disservice to his sheikh that he agrees with and promotes his views when the evidence indicates something to the contrary.
A true student of knowledge never limits himself to a single sheikh,thinking that he is all the world.This is the root of bias.It is good to be conversant with the views of many. Each sheikh has his methods and his strong points.Students should get all the good they can from their sheikhs and not restrict themselves to just one.
What is most peculiar is to see a student who is severely biased to a living scholar but gets vexed when he hears about someone having a bias for a scholar of the past.He ridicules someone else for being a “biased Hanbalî”or a “bigoted Hanafî”while he is totally enamored of some living personality.
The truth is,if you must have a bias towards someone,it is better to be biased towards one of the scholars of old.Those scholars are people whose knowledge has been attested to.There is unanimous agreement that they were erudite and exceptional people of knowledge.Their opinions were generally sound and reliable.As for those who are living,they are still prone to temptation.
In any event,bias is something that we do not approve of.Blind following is also wrong, whether it be of the living or of the dead.A person should strive to follow the Qur’ân and Sunnah.He should take his knowledge from scholars who act upon those two sources. When he takes from them their legal rulings,he must also take from them the evidence for those rulings.