On the Statement “Acquire Knowledge from the Cradle to the Grave”
By Shaykh ʿAbd al-Fattāḥ Abū Ghuddah
[Translator’s note: The purpose of translating this short excerpt is not only to highlight the status of the report in question. Shaykh ʿAbd al-Fattāḥ’s treatment of this report can be extended to other reports that may have a sound meaning but are not correctly transmitted from the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him).]
The phrase “The acquisition of knowledge is from the cradle to the grave” also quoted as “Seek knowledge from the cradle to the grave” is not a Prophetic ḥadīth. It is, therefore, not permissible to attribute it to the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) as many people are accustomed to doing. Only the action, statement, or tacit approval of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) may be attributed to him as a ḥadīth.
That the meaning of the quoted phrase is correct and its message is true does not legitimize its attribution to the Prophet. Ḥāfiẓ Abū al-Ḥajjāj al-Mizzī (d. 742 AH) said, “A person is not allowed to falsely attribute to the Prophet a single letter from a phrase he finds beautiful even if its meaning is sound; although everything the Prophet said is sound, he did not say everything that is sound (kull mā qālahū al-rasūl ḥaqq wa laysa kull ḥaqq qālahū al-rasūl).” See Ḥāfiẓ al-Suyūṭī, Dhayl al-Mawḍūʿāt, p.202.
The fabricated ḥadīth “Acquire knowledge from the cradle to the grave” is widespread. Strangely enough, books on widespread ḥadīths have not mentioned this report.
[ʿAbd al-Fattāḥ Abū Ghuddah, Qīmat al-Zaman ʿind al-ʿUlamā, p.30]