I was looking through the recently published E-book by Shaykh Musa Furber called The Ultimate Conspectus a translation of an introductory text for Shafi’i fiqh and there were some passages that didn’t make sense and so I asked Shaykh Musa about them. I can’t recall which passages they were, but I remember thinking that a person reading this book is not going to be able to make sense of them. His response was simple:
“Books don’t teach themselves” and suddenly the reality and wisdom of this statement dawned on me. It is one of those things that you intuitively already know and when someone reminds you of it it totally drives home the point.
Many people fail to realise this. A book can be read for personal edification but in order to truly understand the text, its context, nuances and the intent of the author one has to learn the book from a teacher who him/herself has an authorisation to teach it. Many people read but do not truly understand what they have read especially texts of religious and spiritual significance. Any book has the potential to misguide as well as guide, the danger to misguide is far more pronounced and amplified when one studies a text without a qualified teacher. There are too many DIY “scholars” around misguiding less well informed people, they read [faulty] translations of various texts, delude themselves into thinking that they have learned the texts and that which disagrees with what they have “learned” must be wrong and must be rejected, when in fact they have a faulty undestanding of the issues.