By Shaykh Rabee’ bin Haadee al-Madkhalee
Taken from Mudhakkirah al-Hadeeth an-Nabawee
Abu Moosaa al-Ash’aree (radee Allaahu `anhu) reported that the Prophet (sall-Allaahu `alayhi wa sallam) said: “The example of the guidance and knowledge that Allaah sent me with is like the example of abundant rain that fell upon the earth, some of which was fertile soil that absorbed the water and brought forth vegetation and grass in abundance; and some of which was hard earth that held the water, and Allaah benefited the people through it. So they drank from it, let their animals drink from it and used it for cultivation. And some of the rain fell upon another portion of the land that was barren and it neither held the water nor brought forth vegetation. The first is the example of the person that comprehends Allaah’s Religion and benefits (from the knowledge) that Allaah sent me with, so he learns and then teaches others. The last example is that of a person who does not care for it and does not accept the guidance of Allaah that I was sent with.” (Reported by Al-Bukhaaree , Muslim  and Ahmad )
Narrator of the Hadeeth: He is Abu Moosaa al-Ash’aree, `Abdullaah bin Qais bin Saleem bin Hidaar, the well-known Companion. He migrated to Makkah, then to Abyssinia, then to Madeenah. The Messenger of Allaah put him in charge of one district of Yemen. He was courageous, a scholar and a doer of good deeds. `Umar bin Al-Khattaab appointed him as governor over Koofah and Basrah. He conquered Ahwaaz, Asbahaan and a number of other lands. He died in 50H.
Vocabulary in the Hadeeth:
Mathal: (Example) what is meant by it here is an amazing resemblance not a proverbial statement.
Hudaa: (Guidance) means that which leads one to what is being sought Ghaith Katheer: abundant rain
Naqiyyah: (fertile) means pure and fresh as occurs in another narration of the hadeeth
Kala’: (vegetation) is applicable to both wet and dry vegetation
`ushb: (grass) refers to fresh produce
Ajaadib: (hard earth) is the plural of jadab and it means the land that is solid and which doesn’t absorb water
Qi’aan: (barren land) is the plural of qaa’, which means a straight and smooth plain (land) that doesn’t produce vegetation.
An Explanation of this Parable:
The Prophet (sall-Allaahu `alayhi wa sallam) put forth an example likening what he came with from the Religion to the common rain, which comes to the people in the circumstance when they need it. Such was the circumstance with the people before the Prophet’s advent. So just as Allaah brings life to the dead earth through rain water, then such is the case with Allaah’s revelation, with which He brings life to the dead hearts.
Allaah says: “Is he who was dead and We gave him life and set for him a light whereby he can walk amongst men – like he who is in the darkness from which he can never come out?” [Soorah Al-An’aam: 122]
The light here refers to the light of revelation and the darkness refers to the darkness of ignorance, disbelief and misguidance. Then the Prophet (sall-Allaahu `alayhi wa sallam) likened those who hear what (guidance) he came with to the various type of earth, which rain falls upon.
1. So from among them is the scholar and doer of deeds, who teaches others. He bears the status of fresh earth that intakes the water and benefits itself with it and then produces vegetation thereby benefiting others.
2. And from among them is the one who gathers knowledge and strives to attain it, but doesn’t act upon its requirements or he doesn’t understand what he has gathered. However, he passes it on to others. So he bears the status of the earth upon which water settles, and which the people benefit from by using. This type of person was indicated by the Prophet (sall-Allaahu `alayhi wa sallam) in his saying: “May Allaah brighten (the face) of a man that hears a statement from me, retains it in memory and then passes it on just as he heard it.” 
3. And from among them is he who hears the knowledge but doesn’t preserve it or act upon it or pass it along to others. So it bears the status of the smooth barren land that neither intakes water nor passes it onto others.
He (sall-Allaahu `alayhi wa sallam) only joined the first two praiseworthy groups in this parable due to their sharing in giving off benefit. And he singled out the third condemned group due to there being no benefit in it.
So take hold of the prophetic knowledge my brother and act upon it, Allaah will raise you due to it. Allaah says: “Allaah will raise those who believe amongst you and those who have been given knowledge many levels.” [Soorah Al-Mujaadilah: 11]
And Allaah says: “Say: Are those who have knowledge equal to those who do not have knowledge?” [Soorah Az-Zumar: 9]
And stick to acting upon it and calling to it, as Allaah says: “And who is better in speech than the one who calls to Allaah and does righteous deeds and says: Indeed I am among the Muslims.” [Soorah Fussilat: 33]
And yearn to be from the first category, from those who accept this light (knowledge) that the Prophet Muhammad (sall-Allaahu `alayhi wa sallam) brought, for Allaah will put light into your heart due to it and bring life to it. The correct and good livelihood cannot come to be except with it (i.e. this knowledge).
And beware of being from the third category, from those who do not accept the guidance of Allaah nor have any concern for it.
Benefits from the Hadeeth:
1. The magnificence of the guidance and knowledge that the Prophet (sall-Allaahu `alayhi wa sallam) came with, which is the Qur’aan and the Sunnah and their effect in the lives of people.
2. People are in various levels with respect to their willingness to either accept or reject what the Messenger came with. People have different natures.
3. The virtue of knowledge, teaching and spreading good to the people.
4. The danger of turning away from what the Messenger of Allaah (sall-Allaahu `alayhi wa sallam) came with from the Book and the Sunnah from one aspect. This turning away (from knowledge) indicates the malicious natures of these opposers and their low status in the sight of Allaah.
 Book of Knowledge: Chapter on the Virtue of the one who learns and teaches (no. 79)
 Book of Virtues: (no. 15), (2282)
 Sunan Ibn Maajah (1/230)