Allah Ta’ala mentions in Surah Kahf (18:66) in the story of Musa (‘alayhi ‘s-Salam) when he was instructed by Allah to go and learn from Khadir (‘alayhi ‘s-Salam)
قَالَ لَهُ مُوسَىٰ هَلْ أَتَّبِعُكَ عَلَىٰ أَن تُعَلِّمَنِ مِمَّا عُلِّمْتَ رُشْدًا
Musa (‘alayhi ‘s-Salam) said to him (Khadir), “May I be your follower so that you can teach me a part of what you have been taught for (my) guidance?”
In this verse, Musa (‘alayhi ‘s-Salam) observes a multitude of etiquettes when seeking knowledge from Khadir (‘alayhi ‘s-Salam)
1) He immediately establishes himself to be the follower.
2) He even sought permission to become the follower, further showing his humility.
3) He further confirms his role by admitting he is ignorant and that his teacher is knowledgeable when he says “so that you can teach me”.
4) He used the Arabic word “min” when asking to be taught knowledge, which is used for “tab’id”, i.e. In the meaning of “some” knowledge. This further shows his humility as though he is saying, “I don’t ask you to make me your equal, but to only give me a portion of your knowledge”, just as an impoverished asks the rich for a part of their wealth.
5) By saying “from what you have been taught”, he affirms that in the end, it is Allah Ta’ala that taught Khadir (‘alayhi’ s-Salam) too.
6) He sought the knowledge “for guidance” to remove himself from error and misguidance.
7) When he asked Khadir (‘alayhi ‘s-Salam) to teach him “what you have been taught”, he alludes to how he will see the teaching with a similar appreciation that Khadir (‘alayhi ‘s-Salam) has for what he is taught (and thus feel he is indebted to him like a slave as Khadir (‘alayhi ‘s-Salam) feels towards Allah). This idea resembles the famous motto of those studying ilm: I’m the slave of the one who has taught me even one letter.
8) The idea of following means imitating the actions of another only because they are doing it. For example, we do not say “There is no God besides Allah” in imitation of the adherents of Judaism that had said it before. Thus, we wouldn’t be classed as their followers in this regard since we aren’t saying these words out of imitation. However, we do perform the five daily prayers in accordance to the practice of the Messenger of Allah (Salla’Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam). Since we are only performing these prayers because he did so, we are his followers. Thus, Musa (‘alayhi ‘s-Salam) saying “May I be your follower” indicates that he wished to do what his teacher would do merely because his teacher was doing it. This shows that the student should in the initial stages of his learning yield to his teacher and avoid contradicting him and raising objections against him.
9) Saying “May I be your follower” without specifying in which way shows an absolute adherence in all matters without restricting to some and not others.
10) It can been found in narrations that first Khadir (‘alayhi’ s-Salam) first found out about Musa (‘alayhi’ s-Salam) that he was the prophet of the Banu Isra’il, that he is the man to whom the Torah was revealed, that he is the one to whom Allah Ta’ala spoke without any intermediaries, and he is the one who was chosen for indisputable miracles. Despite these magnificent privileges and this elevated and noble rank, Musa (‘alayhi’ s-Salam) still showed all of the aforementioned displays of humility. This shows the immense attention he gave to etiquettes of studying knowledge. This is nothing but befitting for him as whosoever has such a large amount of knowledge, he will be able to see the greatness and splendour of that knowledge more than others too, thus his desire to gain it will be multiplied and his respect for those who possess it will be manifold and complete.
11) Saying “May I be your follower so that you can teach me” shows that first he became a follower and thereafter sought knowledge. This shows that first a student should be of service to his teacher and seek knowledge from him afterwards.
12) Saying “May I be your follower so that you can teach me” shows that he did not seek anything else along with knowledge, neither worldly gain, nor attention—just knowledge itself.[Al-Tafsir al-Kabir, Imam Fakhruddin al-Razi]
May Allah Ta’ala give us the ability to implement the above and become of service to our teachers and the best of students. Ameen.
– Translated by Abdullah (SiblingsOfIlm)