Knowledge can be taken from two sources:
– people; and
Ibn Khaldun rahimahullah warned against the dangers of accepting knowledge from books for which no key is provided by teachers: naqlu’l-‘ilmi min al-kutubi min ghayri miftahi’l-mu’allimin.
What do you do if there are no teachers around? You read the books but the problem is the book will not be completely opened to you because you have no entry key. People nowadays think they can read books without teachers and after reading some they think they have an understanding of islam. I used to be one of those people and this is a reminder for everyone. Books have certain levels, not everyone is able to read certain books; we have to be honest with ourselves and acknowledge our shortcomings. Coming from an academic background I thought I could just read any book and have an understanding but w’Allahi there are some, if not most, books out there on islam that you just can’t read on your own. For example, a while ago I bought a book called Difference of Opinion in Fiqh, a small translation of a book by Shah Wali Allah al-Dihlawi (al-Insaf) and I was fooled by its size, very compact and not a lot of pages but this book was very, if not extremely, difficult to read. I have seldom come across such a difficult book. Without any understanding of fiqh and usul al-fiqh one can not read this book on your own, you need a teacher, I need a teacher. Not only to read this book but also other books.
The best way to study this din is to take knowledge from people, that is how it traditionally worked and still works, you sit with the ‘ulama. Alhamdulillah, nowadays we have internet and in that way you can study online with pre-recorded and live lessons. Not completely the traditional way but it is an outcome for all those people who lack contact with ‘ulama like myself.