Scholars who started seeking knowledge at older age
Fatwa No: 324460

Question

Assalaamu alaykum. I would like to know which scholars, Companions, or Tabi'is (generation following the Companions) started to seek knowledge at an older age. I hope that you can provide me some examples and state the age when they started to seek knowledge. May Allaah reward you.

Answer

All perfect praise be to Allaah, The Lord of the worlds. I testify that there is none worthy of worship except Allaah and that Muhammad, sallallaahu ʻalayhi wa sallam, is His slave and Messenger. 

A great number of Companions and Taabi'is and leading scholars started seeking knowledge at an old age; they are too many to be listed.

The best example in this regard are the three rightly-guided Caliphs:

- Abu Bakr  may  Allaah  be  pleased  with  him embraced Islam at the age of thirty-eight, as he was two years younger than the Prophet, sallallaahu ʻalayhi wa sallam. He was the first man to embrace Islam.

- ʻUmar  may  Allaah  be  pleased  with  him embraced Islam at the age of twenty-six, as was stated by Al-Waaqidi.

- ʻUthmaan  may  Allaah  be  pleased  with  him embraced Islam at the age of thirty-four, as was stated by As-Sallaabi in his book about him.

These honorable Companions started the pursuit of knowledge at an older age. Indeed, they serve as the best examples in this regard.

Al-Bukhari  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  him said in the chapter in his book entitled “The wish to be like the one who has knowledge and wisdom:” ʻUmar  may  Allaah  be  pleased  with  him said, “Learn before you reach a position of prominence.Al-Bukhari commented on that saying, “And after you reach a position of prominence. The Companions of the Prophet, sallallaahu ʻalayhi wa sallam, acquired knowledge when they were older.

Amazingly, Al-Haakim  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  him mentioned that Saalih ibn Kaysaan, a leading Taabiʻi, started seeking knowledge at the age of seventy! Ath-Thahabi and Ibn Hajar, however, argued against what was said about the age of Saalih ibn Kaysaan when he started his pursuit of knowledge. In any case, it proves that he started seeking knowledge at an older age, even if the exact age specified by Al-Haakim was inaccurate.

There are many well-known scholars who started seeking knowledge when they grew older. For example, the famous Shaafiʻi scholar Al-Qaffaal started seeking knowledge at the age of thirty, as Ath-Thahabi stated.

Ibn Hazm Al-Andalusi is said to have started seeking knowledge at the age of twenty-six; however some contemporary scholars who are interested in the biography of Ibn Hazm argued against this opinion.

In addition, Al-Kisaa'i, Al-ʻIzz ibn ʻAbd As-Salaam, and many others started seeking knowledge at an old age.

Allaah knows best.

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