Ibn Al-Qayyim said:
“If we compare our understanding to theirs (the companions), there is no doubt that they were more sincere at heart, had deeper knowledge, were more straightforward and were more likely to understand the text correctly than we can do, because Allaah (swt) blessed them with smarter minds, more eloquence, deeper knowledge, a more straightforward approach to the text, proper and quick understanding, little or no impact from other influences, good intentions and fear of the Lord.
The Arabic language came naturally to them, and the correct meanings and concepts were instilled in their hearts and minds. They had no need to examine the chains of narrations and background of the narrators to see if there were any faults in the hadeeth or to assess the quality of the narrators or to examine the fundamentals of the branches of knowledge and the different views of the experts on the principles of Islamic law. They had no need of all of that. For them there were only two steps to follow: (a) Allaah (swt) said such and such, and His Messenger said such and such. (b) What it means is such and such.
They were the most capable of people to go through these two steps easily, and they were the most qualified because all of their energy, knowledge and quality was focused on these two things only.
In comparison, the energies and focus of the later scholars were scattered. Studying the Arabic language and matters connected to it took up a great deal of their intellectual efforts. Understanding the fundamentals of different branches of knowledge took up further efforts, and knowledge of the chains of narration and the backgrounds of the narrators took up even more, as did their focus on examining the books of the shaykhs from whom they were learning, of whom there were many, and what the meant (in their books and in what they said), and so on.
When they reached the point, after all this effort, of seeing to understand the texts with hearts and minds that were exhausted from examining everything that came before they were in a position to examine the text, and after that they had expended their energy in studying things other than the text, then they would understand the text and what it meant with whatever was left of their energy.”
[I’laam Al-Muwaqqi’een, 4/149]