ibn ábd al-Barr (d.463AH) in his jāmiy bayān al-ílm wa fađlih [p.191, chapter: when knowledge has gone to transgressors, sinners and scoundrels / bab: ĥāl al-ílm idhā kāna índa'l fussāq wa'l arādhil]

narrated to us aĥmed ibn qāsim and saýīd ibn naşr; and both said: narrated to us qāsim ibn aşbagh and he said: narrated to us muĥammad ibn ismāýīl at-tirmidhī and he said: narrated to us nuáym and he said: narrated to us ibn al-mubārak and he said: ibn luhay-áh reported to us from bakr ibn sawādah from abu umayyah al-jumaĥīyy1 that RasūlAllāh şallAllāhu álayhi wa sallam said: among the signs of final hour are three; and one from these is knowledge will be sought from the small.2

nuáym said: ibn mubārak was asked who the ‘small ones’ were; and he replied: "those who speak according to their own opinions [in matters of religious ílm]; and as for the younger folk who [faithfully] narrate from elders, they are not counted as small."

 

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1. in ibn athīr’s usd al-ghābah: #5694: abu umayyah al-jumaĥiyy; ibn mandah and abu nuáym say that he is abu umayyah al-lukhamiyy; it is also said that he is al-juhaniyy. the hadith as narrated here is: “among the signs of the hour is that knowledge will be sought from the small”.

2. saghīr/asāghir means young, small, little. i have chosen small because as the explanation follows, it is not necessarily about age. however, young can be chosen in the context of centuries. for example, tabiyin would thirteen hundred years old, whereas people in our time would be merely hundred or so thus being relatively young. small also conveys the meaning of smallness in perspective, smallness in stature, smallness of character and so forth which is not adequately conveyed by 'young'.