Kumail bin Ziyaad (rahimahullah) reports the following:
On one occasion, Hazrat Ali (radhiyallahu ‘anhu) held my hand and came with me to the outskirts of the city. As we came to the desert, Hazrat Ali (radhiyallahu ‘anhu) sat. He then sighed deeply and said the following:
“O Kumail bin Ziyaad! The hearts of people are like vessels, and the best of hearts are the hearts that retain and remember the best. Remember what I am going to say to you!
“There are three classes of people. The first class are the pious, rightly-guided Ulamaa whose hearts are attached to their Rabb. The second class are those who are on the path of piety and salvation, and are engaged in acquiring the knowledge of deen. The third class are those who are totally unconcerned and negligent regarding learning deen and fulfilling their deeni obligations. They conduct in an ignorant fashion by following every shout (of ignorant people) and by being swayed by every wind (i.e. they are not committed to the path of deen, but are affected by the whims of society and the tides of fitnah). The people of the third class are such that they have not acquired the illumination of the heart through the noor of deeni knowledge, nor have they sought refuge in a corner that is safe and secure (through attaching themselves to righteous Ulamaa).
“The knowledge of deen is better and superior to wealth. The knowledge of deen will protect you (from sin and problems), whereas you have to protect your wealth.
“The knowledge of deen increases more and more when you practice upon it, whereas your wealth decreases when you spend it. Expressing love for an aalim is an act of deen and ibaadah through which one will receive reward from Allah Ta‘ala.
“The knowledge of deen causes an aalim to be respected and obeyed by people during his lifetime, and after his death, it causes people to speak beautiful words in his remembrance. Conversely, the benefits of wealth come to an end when the wealth is lost. Hence, those who hoard and safeguard wealth are already dead even though they are alive in this world (as their wealth neither wins the hearts of people during their lifetime, nor does it cause people to praise them after their demise – unless they use their wealth for deen), while the Ulamaa will remain until the end of time (through the legacy of deen which they leave behind). The Ulamaa themselves may no longer be among the people, but the examples they left will live on in the hearts of people.”
Hazrat Ali (radhiyallahu ‘anhu) then sighed deeply, after which he gestured towards his heart and said, “Indeed here, in this heart of mine, there is such knowledge, that how I wish I could find people capable of taking it and acquiring it from me!
(Hazrat Ali (radhiyallahu ‘anhu) then mentioned four classes of people who will not benefit completely from the knowledge of deen. Regarding the first class of people,) he said, “Certainly, I have found certain people who despite being intelligent, they are such that they cannot be entrusted with this knowledge. They only use the knowledge of deen as a means of earning the dunya, and they try to use the proofs of Allah Ta‘ala against the Kitaab of Allah Ta‘ala (i.e. they try to use the proofs of deen to make haraam into halaal). They use the bounties of Allah Ta‘ala against the servants of Allah Ta‘ala.
(Regarding the second class of people, he said,) “I have found the one who follows the Ahl-e-Haq (the people who are on the path of the truth). However, he does not possess any insight of his own regarding unclear matters. Hence, at the first encounter with something unclear, his heart is filled with doubts in deen, so he stands neither here nor there.
(Regarding the third class of people, he said,) “I have found the one who is obsessed with carnal pleasures and enslaved by his carnal desires.
(Regarding the fourth class of people, he said,) “I have found the one who passionately hoards and amasses wealth. These last two classes of people are not from those who invite to the deen of Allah Ta‘ala at all, and the most accurate comparison that can be made to them is that of animals which graze freely (i.e. they are ignorant like animals and want to remain free, following their desires like animals). In this manner, the knowledge of deen will perish through the demise of those who are the true carriers of this knowledge.
“O Allah (save us from this)! Certainly, there will always be those Ulamaa in the world who will continue to uphold the deen of Allah Ta‘ala with sound proofs so that the proofs of Allah’s deen and the clear signs of Allah will not be lost. These Ulamaa are very few in number, but their value and position in the sight of Allah Ta‘ala is very great.
“It is through these people that Allah Ta‘ala defends the proofs of His deen, until they are able to pass this knowledge on to those who are like them and sow the seeds of this knowledge in their hearts. The knowledge of deen has made them comprehend the true reality of issues, hence they are able to easily understand that which others, who are immersed in the comforts of the dunya, find difficult to understand, and they are well acquainted and familiar with those intricate issues which the ignorant people are not acquainted with.
“These true Ulamaa are such that their bodies are in the world, but their souls are focused towards the Aakhirah. They are the true representatives of Allah Ta‘ala in the world and the true callers to His deen. Oh! How I wish that I could meet them!”
Hazrat Ali (radhiyallahu ‘anhu) then concluded saying, “O Kumail! I seek the forgiveness of Allah Ta‘ala for me and for you as well.”
(Hilyatul Awliyaa 1/79, Hayaat-us-Sahaabah 3/230-232)