Charging a Fee for teaching Islamic knowledge

بسم اللــــه الرحمـــــــــن الرحيم

◾Charging a Fee for teaching Islamic knowledge◾

📩 Question:

What is the correct reconciliation between the following two Hadiths:

  1. The Prophet ‎ﷺ said: ‘That which you most deserve to take payment for is the Book of Allah’ [Hadith of ibn ‘Abbas, reported by Bukhari]
  2. The Prophet ‎ﷺ said: ‘Whoever takes a bow (as a reward) for teaching the Qur’an, then Allah will make for him a bow from fire on the Day of Judgement.’ [Hadith of ‘Ubada ibn Saamit, reported by Abu Dawud and others]

📝 The Answer:

The authenticity of the second Hadith is questionable. In fact, some of the scholars have graded it to be weak. And even if it was authentic, then it would apply to those who conceal knowledge and distribute it only for a worldly gain – and this is something reprehensible, as Allah The Most High states:

إِنَّ ٱلَّذِينَ يَكْتُمُونَ مَآ أَنزَلْنَا مِنَ ٱلْبَيِّنَٰتِ وَٱلْهُدَىٰ مِنۢ بَعْدِ مَا بَيَّنَّٰهُ لِلنَّاسِ فِى ٱلْكِتَٰبِۙ أُو۟لَٰٓئِكَ يَلْعَنُهُمُ ٱللَّهُ وَيَلْعَنُهُمُ ٱللَّٰعِنُونَ

“Indeed, those who conceal what We sent down of clear proofs and guidance after We made it clear for the people in the Scripture – those are cursed by Allah and cursed by those who curse.”
[Al-Baqarah 2:159]

He ﷻ also said:

وَإِذْ أَخَذَ ٱللَّهُ مِيثَٰقَ ٱلَّذِينَ أُوتُوا۟ ٱلْكِتَٰبَ لَتُبَيِّنُنَّهُۥ لِلنَّاسِ وَلَا تَكْتُمُونَهُۥ فَنَبَذُوهُ وَرَآءَ ظُهُورِهِمْ وَٱشْتَرَوْا۟ بِهِۦ ثَمَنًا قَلِيلًاۖ فَبِئْسَ مَا يَشْتَرُونَ

“And [mention, O Muhammad], when Allah took a covenant from those who were given the Scripture, [saying], “You must make it clear to the people and not conceal it.” But they threw it away behind their backs and exchanged it for a small price. And wretched is that which they purchased.”
[Aal-e-Imran 3:187]

Thus, whoever conceals knowledge, dislikes for it to be spread and deprives people of an education by charging a fee out of greed and not necessity, enters into this warning.

As for whoever takes a fee because he is dedicated to teaching full-time and unable to work simultaneously and does not intend to conceal knowledge by charging, rather, he is preoccupied from earning a living by his teaching. If this individual stipulates a reasonable fee to cover his basic needs upon those who can afford it and does not prevent those who cannot afford it from acquiring knowledge, then he does not fall into this warning.

And although the context of the (first) Hadith of Ibn Abbas relates to taking payment in exchange for ‘ruqyaa’, the generality of its wording indicates that whoever charges a fee in exchange for his time and effort teaching the book of Allah – then we hope that it is is okay. But he mustn’t set this as a condition; whereby he only teaches for a fee (preventing those who cannot afford from acquiring knowledge).

Translated by:
Abu Sufyaan Saami Al-Ghani

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Original Fatwa: