Sheikh Bakr Abu Zayd (May Allah have mercy on him) said, “The one who does not master the fundamentals shall never achieve,” “The who attempts to attain knowledge all at once, it shall depart from him all at once,” and it is also said, “The crowding together (of different subjects of) knowledge in one’s hearing leads one’s understanding astray.”
Therefore, it is necessary to lay the foundations in every subject that one studies by mastering a brief foundational text concerning the subject under the direction of a proficient teacher, not by himself. And he should acquire knowledge in stages.
Allah says, “And it is the Qur’an which we have divided (into parts), in order that you might recite it to men at intervals. And we have revealed it by stages.” (17:106)
Sheikh Bakr also states:
The ideal in seeking knowledge is that one who learns from instructions of teachers. Knowledge should be acquired from the mouths of men, not from scrolls or books. The first way constitutes building a connection through one who speaks, and this is the teacher. The second way is through the book, which is lifeless, so how can it give you a connection?
It has been said, “Anyone who enters knowledge alone shall depart alone.” This means that anyone who who begins to seeking knowledge without a teacher shall depart from it without knowledge. Knowledge is a craft, and every craft requires a craftsman. Therefore, it is necessary to learn it from an expert teacher.
For this reason, the scholars say, “Do not take knowledge from a Suhufi, nor from a Mushafi,” meaning: do not read the Qur’an to someone who only read from a mushaf, nor Ahaadeeth or anything else to someone who acquired knowledge of that from Suhuf (scrolls).
Al-Awza’i used to say, “This knowledge was noble, men would acquire it from one another. However, when it entered the books, those who were not qualified for it entered it.”
The one who studies the life of Imam Muslim will find that he had many teachers to who he travelled in order to learn from them. Adh-Dhahabi arranged them alphabetically and they reached two hundred and twenty teachers who he narrated from in his Sahih.
Extracted from The Biography of Imam Muslim bin Al-Hajjaj by Salahuddin Ali Abdul Mawjood - DARUSSALAM.