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There's a hadith saying:

  • "The Messenger of Allah said: 'Whoever conceals knowledge which Allah has made beneficial for mankind's affairs of religion, Allah will bridle him with reins of fire on the Day of Resurrection."
    (Sunan ibn Majah -qualified as da'if by Darussalam)
  • The Prophet said: "There is no man who memorizes knowledge then conceals it, but he will be brought forth on the Day of Resurrection bridled with reins of fire." (Hasan) Another chain with similar wording. (Sunan ibn Majah)
  • Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said: "Whoever is asked about some knowledge that he knows, then he conceals it, he will be bridled with bridle of fire."
    (Jami' at-Tirmidhi qualified as Hassan by Darussalam)

How can we interpret this hadith?

Is it sinful to keep knowledge for oneself and hide it, if so under what circumstances or knowledge of what kind one shouldn't hide?

  • Yes, it is hard not to see the challenge it poses to the so-called "intellectual property" rights. Knowledge in Islam it appears must be a public commodity except perhaps when knowledge can be used for unIslamic ends. – infatuated Mar 22 '18 at 16:06
  • That’s clearly circumstantial. Not all the time is the right time to reveal knowledge. A person must develop a certain intelligence to know when to reveal and when not to. It’s a type of ijtihad on the person. If you’re not going to tell (for example) your patient the right medicine or conceal his sickness (for no reason but spite, laziness, etc) then that’s obviously a sin of concealing knowledge. As far as religious knowledge goes, you have to deal with people. And that’s a complex one, since you deal with temperaments, etc. Simply put: do the right thing. Whether that’s hiding or revealing. – Shadi Apr 9 '18 at 17:40
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"Is it sinful" - Yes, refer to the hadith you posted :/

Allah (ﷻ) doesn't like those who conceal knowledge He revealed for humanity's benefit as He said:

إن الذين يكتمون ما أنزلنا من البينات والهدى من بعد ما بيناه للناس في الكتاب أولئك يلعنهم الله ويلعنهم اللاعنون (...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) - Qur'an 2:159.

The main kind of knowledge referred to in the hadith is that which is needed by the people, which is usually for guidance on religious matters.

  • People "needed" to know the punishment for adultery to fulfill the obligation of punishing those guilty of Zina but the Jews tried to conceal that it was stoning and were condemned.
  • People "needed" to know the prophecy/characteristics of the next coming Prophet mentioned in the Torah who they are obligated to believe in (Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ)) but the Jews concealed this and were condemned. [Tafsir explanation for verses 2:159, 2:174, 3:187].
  • People "needed" to know about how to achieve forgiveness of sins so Uthman felt compelled to tell people what he knew, which he admitted he otherwise would not have were it not for the verse on not concealing.

On the other hand, not all knowledge is needed.

  • Abu Huraira conveyed what was "needed" and kept secret what was not needed and may have put him into fitnah (life in danger). He said: "I have memorized two kinds of knowledge from Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) . I have propagated one of them to you and if I propagated the second, then my pharynx (throat) would be cut (i.e. killed)" - Bukhari (120).

It generally doesn't apply to worldly/secular knowledge.

  • It would be benefical if you could give examples of knowledge which must be shared and knowledge which can be kept hidden, And explain the conditions on the person who may hide or share. – Medi1Saif Apr 11 '18 at 18:55

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