Friday, August 07, 2009

Answering questions without knowledge

How often do we put ourselves forward in answering Islamic questions even though we may have little or no knowledge about it. What we hear we relate without taking any effort to check if it’s true. By doing this we spread misinformation about Islam and increase the prevailing ignorance of the religion among Muslims.

When we look back in history, we see extremely careful scholars, who despite being capable of answering, would refrain from doing so for the fear of speaking about Allah’s religion without knowledge.

Excerpts from Gems and Jewels by Darussalam:
Imam Sha’bi was asked about an issue and he replied, “I do not know.” It was said to him, “Are you not ashamed of stating that you do not know, while being the Islamic jurist of Iraq?”

He replied, “But the angels were not ashamed when they said that they have no knowledge except what Allah taught them.”

“We have no knowledge except what You have taught us.” (Qur’an, 2:32)

Uqbah Bin Muslim said he was a companion of Ibn Umar for nearly 3 years and he was often asked questions regarding Islamic issues to which he would say, “I do not know.”

Sa’eed Bin Musayyib in giving a Fatwa (Islamic ruling) would almost always follow up his Islamic ruling with the utterance: “O Allah, keep me safe and keep others safe from me (referring to any errors that might have resulted from his ruling).”

Imam Shafi’i was asked about an Islamic issue and he remained silent. It was said to him, “Will you not reply?” He answered, “Not until I know whether virtue is in my silence or in my giving a reply.”

Ibn Abi Layla said that he met 120 from the Ansar. When a question was put forth to one of them, he would refer it to another (from the Ansar) who would in turn refer it to another until finally the question returned to the first of them. This illustrates the humility and reluctance they felt in issuing a ruling for fear of not having complete knowledge. Also, if anyone of them were to relate a Hadith or issue a ruling or respond to a question, he would always prefer that it was his brother making it instead of him.

Abul-Husain Al-Azdi said of people that gave rulings that if a similar issue was presented to Umar Bin Al-Khattab during the time of the Companions, he would have gathered the participants of the Battle of Badr and sought counsel from them.

In contrast to these times, such was the weight and importance given to issuing rulings or replying to Islamic issues in the past.

Qasim Bin Muhammad was asked about a certain issue and he replied, “Indeed I am not too familiar concerning this matter.” And the one who questioned said, “Indeed, I have come to you and I do not know anyone other than you.”

Qasim replied, “Do not look at the length of my beard or the vast number of people that surround me. By Allah, I am not learned in this issue.”
He continued, “By Allah, it is more beloved to me that Allah cuts my tongue than for me to speak concerning that of which I have no knowledge thereof.”

Salman Al-Farsi once wrote to Abu Ad-Darda stating: “I’ve heard that you have taken it upon yourself to serve others as a doctor.

Beware of being from those who claim to have a skill, but in actuality end up harming others with their lack of knowledge or understanding.”