Claiming the later scholars are wiser and the Salaf are more knowledgeable

Q 1: A professor once stated in an Islamic lecture that the Khalaf (later scholars) are wiser, whereas the Salaf (righteous predecessors) are more knowledgeable. Is this correct? What is meant by "more knowledgeable" and "wiser"?

A: This is a false statement meant to disparage the Salaf of this Ummah (nation), accuse them of lack of knowledge and wisdom, and glorify the scholars of Kalam (a discipline that searches for answers to creedal issues using logic) for their knowledge and wisdom. Theologians were the first to make this statement, arguing that successive generations are better and more knowledgeable than preceding righteous generations. The Shaykh of Islam Ibn Taymiyyah said: "It is known to those who reflect upon the Qur'an, the Sunnah (whatever is reported from the Prophet), and the consensus opinions of Ahl-ul-Sunnah wal-Jama`ah (adherents to the Sunnah and the Muslim mainstream) that the best generation of this nation in terms of actions, sayings, beliefs, and all virtues is the first generation, then those that followed them, and then those that followed them. (Part No. 2; Page No. 31) This was reported in a number of authentic Hadiths from the Prophet (peace be upon him) in this regard. They are better than later generations in every respect, whether knowledge, practice, faith, understanding, commitment, eloquence, or worship. Thus, they are the most worthy of explaining anything difficult. None can argue this except those who deny the well-established and known Islamic facts; and Allah, knowing that they know the truth, left them in error." `Abdullah ibn Mas`ud (may Allah be pleased with him) said: "Whoever wants to follow an example, let them follow the example of those who have passed away, for those who are living are not safe from Fitnah (temptation). They were the Sahabah (Companions) of Muhammad. They were the best of this Ummah, the purest in heart, the deepest in knowledge, and the farthest from false display of piety. They were the people whom Allah chose to be the Companions of His Prophet and to convey His Religion. So, acknowledge their superiority and imitate their way and behavior, for they were following the straight path." Another scholar said: "Hold fast to the traditions of the Salaf, for they brought forth what is sufficient and curative. There was not any hidden good that they did not know."The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: No time will come but the following time will be worse than it (Part No. 2; Page No. 32) until you meet your Lord. How can there be a time that matches the importance and superiority of the time that witnessed the revelation of the best of knowledge, that is, the knowledge of Allah. This shall never happen.How excellent are the words of Al-Shafi`y (may Allah be merciful to him), who wrote in his book Al-Risalah: "They (the Sahabah) are superior to us in all knowledge, intelligence, faith, virtue, and every means through which knowledge or guidance is attained. Indeed, their opinion is more beneficial to us than our own is to us." (Al-Fatawa; vol. 4, pp. 157-158)