Evidence-based knowledge of Islam

Adapted from: www.alifta.org
 

 Evidence-based knowledge of Islam
Q 3: What does the author of Hashiatul-Usul Al-Thalathah mean by his statement: “Knowledge of Islam has to be substantiated by evidence”? In the same book, the author says: “Allah sent us a Messenger. Whoever obeys him will enter Paradise and whoever disobeys him will enter Hellfire.” What is meant by obeying the Messenger (peace be upon him)?

 

A: By the statement: “Knowledge of Islam has to be substantiated by evidence”, the author means that it is obligatory on a Mukallaf (person meeting the conditions to be held legally accountable for their actions) to know Islam and its pillars from its principal sources, namely, the Qur’an and Sunnah. Thus, a Muslim has to learn Tawhid (belief in the Oneness of Allah/monotheism) and whatever may detract from its perfection or contradict it. A Muslim also has to learn Salah (Prayer), its fundamentals, obligatory and recommendable acts, from the Qur’an as well as from the sayings, actions and approvals of the Prophet (peace be upon him). The same applies to other pillars and rituals of Islam.

 

By his statement: “Allah sent us a Messenger. Whoever obeys him will enter Paradise and whoever disobeys him will enter Hellfire”, the author means that Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He) sent Muhammad (peace be upon him) with Tawhid and the rest of the laws of Islam. Whoever responds to him, embraces Allah’s Religion, obeys Allah’s Commands, and avoids His Prohibitions will enter Paradise. On the other hand, whoever rejects faith, disobeys the Messenger (peace be upon him) and refuses to embrace Allah’s Religion will enter Hellfire.Allah (Exalted be He) says: He who obeys the Messenger (Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم), has indeed obeyed Allâh, but he who turns away, then we have not sent you (O Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم) as a watcher over them. Moreover, the Prophet (peace be upon him) is authentically reported to have said: ‘My entire Ummah (nation based on one creed) will enter Paradise except those who refuse.’ They said, ‘O Messenger of Allah, who will refuse?’ He (peace be upon him) said, ‘Anyone who obeys me will enter Paradise, and anyone who disobeys me has refused.’

May Allah grant us success. May peace and blessings be upon our Prophet Muhammad, his family and Companions.

Permanent Committee for Scholarly Research and Ifta’

 

 

Member Deputy Chairman Chairman
`Abdullah ibn Ghudayyan `Abdul-Razzaq `Afify `Abdul-`Aziz ibn `Abdullah ibn Baz

 

“Follow the path of those who came before you.”

Hudhayfah ibn al-Yamaan (رضي الله عنه) said:

“Do not perform any act of worship that was not practised by the Companions of the Messenger of Allah, for the earlier generation did not leave any room for the latter to add anything (to the religion). Fear Allah, O’ readers, seekers of knowledge, and follow the path of those who came before you.”

[Narrated by Ibn Battah in Al-Ibaanah]

Our stance towards the differences amongst the Scholars

As I mentioned at the beginning, due to the many forms of media: audio, visual and written material and due to the differences amongst scholars of those who speak across this media, the general masses have become doubtful, and started asking: “Who do we follow?”

“The gazelles have gathered in great numbers around Khirash to the extent that Khirash no longer knows which to hunt.” [1]

I say therefore, our stance towards this differing, and I mean the differing between the Scholars, who are well trusted for their knowledge and religion, not those who have been classified as being upon knowledge but are not in fact from the People of Knowledge. As we do not regard the likes of such as Scholars, nor do we hold that their statements are to be known and recorded like the statements of the People of Knowledge. But who we mean, are the Scholars who are well known for their sincere advice to the Ummah, for their Islaam and ‘Ilm; our stance towards them is from two angles.

The first: How did the Scholars go against the book of Allaah and the Sunnah of His Messenger (:pbuh:)? The answer to this question can be known in part by what has preceded of its causes for differing and also by the other many causes not mentioned which the student of knowledge will come across and come to realize even if he is not very knowledgeable. [2]

The second: What is our stance towards following them? Whom do we follow from amongst these Scholars? Does one follow a particular Imaam and never leave his sayings? Even if the correct opinion is with another Scholar, as is the norm with the blind followers of the madhaahib. Or does one follow the opinion he sees to be the most accurate, even if it is against the opinion of the madhab he attributes himself to?

The correct opinion is the second, as it is compulsory upon the one that is aware of the evidence to follow it, even if it goes against whomsoever of the Scholars, so long as it does not go against a consensus of the Ummah. Whoever believes that it is obligatory to follow the sayings of someone other than the Messenger of Allaah (:pbuh:) acting by what he orders and refraining from what he prohibits, at all times and places, has indeed affirmed for this person qualities unique and solely for the bearer of the Message, because no one’s statement can posses this unequivocal right except that of the Messenger of Allaah (:pbuh:). Everyone’s opinion is either accepted or rejected, except that of the Messenger of Allaah (:pbuh:).

But the issue still remains unsolved, because we still question: “Who has the capability to extract the rulings from the texts?” Herein, lies a problem, because everyone is stating: “I am able to do that!” This, in reality is neither correct nor befitting. Indeed, in terms of the objective and basis, it is a good thing for one’s guiding principle to be the Book of Allaah and the Sunnah of his Messenger (:pbuh:); but to open the door for anyone who can mention the evidence, even if he does not understand its meaning or implication, and to say: “You are a Mujtahid, say what you desire”; this will cause the ruin of the Sharee’ah, people, and society.

In this respect, people are placed in one of three categories:

i. The Scholar whom Allaah has given knowledge and understanding.

ii. The student of knowledge who has some knowledge, but has not yet reached the level of a Scholar.

iii. The layman who does not know anything.

As for the first, then he has the right to perform ijtihaad and to give his opinion. In fact, it is compulsory for him to express that which he believes the texts indicate regardless of whom he opposes, because he has been ordered to do so. Allaah says,

“Those amongst them who have the ability to extract its rulings would have understood it directly from them” – An Nisaa’ (4):83

The person in this category is from those who are able to extract rulings, who know the intended meaning behind the speech of Allaah and His Messenger (:pbuh:).

As for the second, whom Allaah has given knowledge but has not yet reached the level of the first. Then there is no harm on him to act by the general evidences, their apparent meanings and by that which he becomes aware of.[3] However, he must be very careful in this and he should never fall short in asking those more knowledgeable than him from amongst the People of Knowledge. As he can fall into error and his knowledge may not embody a particular evidence which makes specific what seems to be a general text, or which restricts what seems to be an unrestricted text, or which abrogates a text that he regards to be valid.

As for the third, he is the one who does not have any knowledge; it is compulsory upon him to ask the people of knowledge as Allaah says,

“So ask the people of the Reminder if you do not know.” – Al-Anbiyah (21):7

And in another verse He says,

“So ask of those who know the Scripture, if you know not. With clear signs and Books (We sent the Messengers).” – An Nahl (16):43-44

So his duty is to ask, but who does he ask? In the land are many Scholars and everyone says, So and so is a Scholar” or it is said about everyone: “He is a Scholar” Whom does he ask?

Do we say: “It is obligatory on this person to search and investigate in order to find the one closest to the correct opinion, so that he asks him and acts by his ruling.” Or do we say: “He is to ask anyone whom he believes to be from the People of Knowledge, since, the Scholar who is less knowledgeable may arrive to a correct decision in a specific issue and the Scholar who is better and more knowledgeable than the former may not” The scholars differed on this:

A group of the scholars are of the opinion that it is compulsory for the layman to ask the one whom he believes to be the most competent in his knowledge from amongst the Scholars in his country; because, just as the person who is sick looks for the most competent person in the field of medicine, then the same applies here, as knowledge is the remedy for the hearts. Accordingly, you must choose the most competent in knowledge, as there is no difference.

Other scholars hold the view that it is not compulsory because the one who is the most knowledgeable may not be so in every single issue and this opinion is supported by the fact that at the time of the Companions, people would ask one who was less knowledgeable than others who were also present.

My view is that he should ask the one whom he believes to be the most competent in his religion and knowledge. Not because it is compulsory, due to the possibility of this Scholar making an error in a specific issue and the possibility of the one who is less knowledgeable to be correct, but because it is preferable and should be the person’s first choice.

Finally, I sincerely advise, myself first, and my Muslim brothers, especially the students of knowledge not to make haste and be quick when a new issue befalls a person until he verifies the situation, gains knowledge and then speaks, so that he does not speak about Allaah without knowledge.

As the person who gives judgement is an emissary between the people and Allaah; he conveys the Sharee’ah of Allaah as has been reported from the Messenger of Allaah (:pbuh:):

“The scholars are the inheritors of the Prophets.” [4]

And the Prophet (:pbuh:) has also said:

“The judges are three (only) one of the judges being in Paradise and he is the one who knew the truth and judged according to it.” [5]

Also of importance, when a new issue befalls you, draw your heart towards Allaah and feel in need of Him so that He causes you to understand and imparts knowledge to you; especially in grave and important matters, where many people remain in ignorance.

Some of my teachers mentioned to me that it is befitting for the person who has been questioned on an issue, to seek forgiveness from Allaah even more; deducing that from Allaah’s statement:

“Surely, We have sent down to you (O Muhammad (:pbuh:)) the Book (this Qur’aan) in truth that you might judge between men by that which Allaah has shown you, so be not a pleader for the treacherous. And seek the forgiveness of Allaah, certainly, Allaah is Ever Oft­Forgiving, Most Merciful.” – An-Nisaa’ (4):105-106

An increase in seeking forgiveness necessitates the wiping away of repercussions from sins, which is one of the causes of forgetting knowledge and becoming ignorant, as Allaah says:

“So because of their breach of their covenant, We cursed them, and made their hearts grow hard. They change the words from their (right) places and have abandoned a good part of the Message that was sent to them.” – Al-Maa’idah (5):13

Imaam ash-Shaafi’ee once said:

I complained to Wakee’ [6] about my poor memory. So he advised me to abandon sins. And he said:

“Know that knowledge is light. And the light of Allaah is not bestowed upon the (one who is) disobedient.”

So it is certainly possible that seeking forgiveness causes Allaah to give a person enlightenment.

I ask Allaah to grant me success, make me upright, that He keeps us firm with the Firm Word (Shahaadah) in this life and the Hereafter; and that He does not cause our hearts to deviate after having guided us and grant us mercy from Himself. Indeed, He is the Benevolent.

All praise is for Allaah alone, and may He praise, send peace and blessings upon our Prophet Muhammad and his Companions.


[1] An Arabic proverb applied to a person overcome by too many affairs, each one of equal priority and this, he is unsure which to begin with and which to defer. The origin of this proverb traces back to a hunter of gazelles known as Khirash. On one particular day, they gathered around him in great numbers whereby he became confused on how to confront the situation and which gazelle to hunt; upon that he uttered these words portraying the situation. Its relevance here is due to the presence of a number of opinions on one single issue causing confusion for the layman in need of judgement.

[2] Shaykh Ibraheem ar-Ruhaylee, a lecturer at the Islamic University in Madeenah, states the following words referring to the ten causes of differences mentioned by Shaykhul-Islaam Ibn Taymiyyah: “Within these causes is found an excellent and agreeable explanation for the mistakes committed by the scholars as a result of their ijtihaad. It is also a way of seeking excuses for them in such a manner by which, we hope that Allaah rewards Shaykhul-Islaam with the highest reward.

“If only the person, who comes across a statement of a scholar which is found to be in opposition to the texts (of the Sharee’ah), was to subject it to these ten causes which Shaykhul-Islaam mentions, then he would surely find and pinpoint one of these causes as a reason for the scholar’s opposition. In turn, we would deliver ourselves from the vilification and bad suspicion of the scholars which so many people in our time have fallen into. [taken from Mawfiq Ahlus-Sunnah wal Jamaa’ah min Ahlil Ahwaa wal Bida’ by by Shaykh Ibraaheem ar-Ruhaylee (1/70), published by Maktabah al-Ghurabaa al-Athariyyah, Madeenah, Saudi Arabia.]

The application of these words is of crucial importance in helping to nurture and cultivate the Muslims, the youths especially, towards a balanced middle path. Since, as history has repeatedly shown, whenever the value and respect for scholars disappear from the hearts and minds of the people, then they are no longer lead by knowledge, wisdom and experience, but rather, by immaturity, rashness and enthusiasm based on ignorance.

[3] Scholars past and present have warned against the pitfalls, which the student of knowledge who has not yet established himself sufficiently in the basic sciences of the Sharee’ah, can fall into. The Shaykh has mentioned some of the important guidelines, which the person, who is eligible to be classified in this category, must adhere to; such as being deliberate, not hasty, questioning the people of knowledge and referring back to them.

[4] Ahmad (5/196), Abu Dawud, at-Tirmidhee and others.

[5] Related by Abu Dawood with the following wording: “The judges are three; one of the judges is in Paradise and two are in the Fire. With regards to the one in Paradise then he is the man who knew the truth and judged according to it. The man who knew the truth and was unjust in his ruling is in the Fire, and the man who judged between the people out of ignorance is in the Fire.”

[6] Wakee’ Ibn al-Jarraah was a famous scholar from the Salaf and one of the teachers of Imaam ash-Shaafi’ee. He died in the year 196H.