Ramadan 2012 Prep Tip #1: Seek Knowledge… – Part 4
بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
Some of the problems with the way knowledge is sought today
[The difference between the previous section (in Part 3) and this one is that the former discussed those who were NOT seeking knowledge, whereas the latter will discuss those who are already seeking knowledge.]
1) Seeking knowledge as a “fashion”
[One of my friends asked me to mention this on my blog. I told her that I was already planning to!]
What do I mean by this? Well, it seems that these days it’s all the trend to be a “student of knowledge”.
People attend a one week crash course on Islam and after that, they appoint themselves muftis of their area…
[It seems that everyone is trying to win the “How many fatwas can I pass in an hour” award.]
Subhan Allah, is this what knowledge is sought for? So that we can show everyone how “knowledgeable” and “pious” we are? Sadly, it seems that for some people, this is indeed the case.
Brothers and sisters, Islamic knowledge is not sought to increase us in the coolness factor, but rather to increase in the khashya (fear of Allah) factor:
إِنَّمَا يَخْشَى اللَّـهَ مِنْ عِبَادِهِ الْعُلَمَاءُ
“It is only those who have knowledge among his slaves that fear Allah.” [Surah Faatir (35) : 28]
So, as I mentioned in the last part, we need to keep our intentions in check. We shouldn’t be doing this to get entrance into celebrity shaikhdom.
2) Having bad thoughts about Allah
Many people today have very low ambitions with regards to seeking knowledge.
Instead of doing dua (supplication) to Allah, relying upon Him and having good thoughts about Him (i.e. that He would fulfill your duas and make it easy for you to get knowledge), many people just give up because they think they can’t do any better. They think seeking knowledge is very difficult.
What happens after this? Well, seeking knowledge does indeed become very difficult for them and they barely get to the low standard that they set for themselves.
They assume that they were right all along, when in reality, this difficulty arose as a punishment for them due to their bad thoughts about Allah.
يقول الله تعالى : أنا عند ظن عبدي بي ، وأنا معه إذا ذكرني ، فإن ذكرني في نفسه ذكرته في نفسي ، وإن ذكرني في ملأ ذكرته في ملأ خير منهم ، وإن تقرب إلي شبرا تقربت إليه ذراعا ، وإن تقرب إلي ذراعا تقربت إليه باعا ، وإن أتاني يمشي أتيته هرولة
مَا قَدَرُوا اللَّـهَ حَقَّ قَدْرِهِ ۗ إِنَّ اللَّـهَ لَقَوِيٌّ عَزِيزٌ
“They have not appraised Allah with true appraisal. Indeed, Allah is Powerful and Exalted in Might.” [Surah Al-Hajj (22) : 74]
This story (make sure to read until the end) will help you understand what I mean.
So, please Brothers and Sisters, have good thoughts about Allah and have high ambitions with regards to seeking knowledge.
3) Seeking knowledge from the wrong sources
This knowledge was sent down by Allah, the Most High, so we need to make sure we get it from the right sources.
What are the main sources? Well, the Quran and the Sunnah obviously. This is what Allah has ordered us to refer to.
[The Sunnah is the way of the Prophet Muhammad (sallallahi alaihi wasallam). The Sunnah has been transmitted to us via the authentic ahadeeth (plural of hadeeth).]
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا أَطِيعُوا اللَّـهَ وَأَطِيعُوا الرَّسُولَ وَأُولِي الْأَمْرِ مِنكُمْ ۖ فَإِن تَنَازَعْتُمْ فِي شَيْءٍ فَرُدُّوهُ إِلَى اللَّـهِ وَالرَّسُولِ إِن كُنتُمْ تُؤْمِنُونَ بِاللَّـهِ وَالْيَوْمِ الْآخِرِ ۚ ذَٰلِكَ خَيْرٌ وَأَحْسَنُ تَأْوِيلًا
“O you who believe! Obey Allah and obey the Messenger (Muhammad), and those of you (Muslims) who are in authority. (And) if you differ in anything amongst yourselves, refer it to Allah and His Messenger, if you believe in Allah and in the Last Day. That is better and more suitable for final determination.” [Surah An-Nisaa (4) : 59]
[Note: “Those who are in authority” refers to the rulers and the scholars.]
Some people have been misled to believe that the Prophet (sallallahu alaihi wasallam) only came with the Quran. They don’t believe in following the Sunnah.
If we are not required to follow the Sunnah, then why does Allah say:
مَا ضَلَّ صَاحِبُكُمْ وَمَا غَوَىٰ
وَمَا يَنطِقُ عَنِ الْهَوَىٰ
إِنْ هُوَ إِلَّا وَحْيٌ يُوحَىٰ
“Your companion (Muhammad) has neither gone astray nor has erred. Nor does he speak of (his own) desire. It is only an Inspiration that is inspired.” [Surah An-Najm (53) : 2-4]
And why does He say:
لَّقَدْ كَانَ لَكُمْ فِي رَسُولِ اللَّـهِ أُسْوَةٌ حَسَنَةٌ لِّمَن كَانَ يَرْجُو اللَّـهَ وَالْيَوْمَ الْآخِرَ وَذَكَرَ اللَّـهَ كَثِيرًا
“Indeed in the Messenger of Allah you have a good example to follow for him who hopes in (the Meeting with) Allah and the Last Day and remembers Allah much.” [Surah Al-Ahzab (33) : 21]
Unfortunately, some of these individuals (they call themselves “Quraniyoon” although they are far from being the people of the Quran!) will still reject all the ahadeeth (which is very dangerous because rejecting the Sunnah in its totality is major disbelief that expels a person from the fold of Islam).
Subhan Allah, the Prophet (sallallahu alaihi wasallan) warned us about such people!
ألا إني أوتيت الكتاب ومثله معه ، ألا يوشك رجل شبعان على أريكته يقول : عليكم بهذا القرآن ، فما وجدتم فيه من حلال فأحلوه ، وما وجدتم فيه من حرام فحرموه ، ألا لا يحل لكم لحم الحمار الأهلي ، ولا كل ذي ناب من السبع ، ولا لقطة معاهد ، إلا أن يستغني عنها صاحبها ، ومن نزل بقوم فعليهم أن يقروه ، فإن لم يقروه فله أن يغصبهم بمثل قراه
It was narrated from Al-Miqdam ibn Madi Yakrib (radiallahu anhu) that the Messenger of Allah (sallallahu alaihi wasallam) said: “Verily, I have been given the Book and something like it with it, but soon a satiated man will be on his couch and he will say: ‘You should adhere to this Quran. Whatever you find permitted in it, take it as permissible, and whatever you find forbidden in it, take it as forbidden.’
But Lo! The domesticated donkey is not permissible for you (to eat), nor every predator that has fangs, not the lost property of a muahid (non-Muslim with whom there is a covenant) unless its owner has given it up.
Whoever stops among a people, they are obliged to entertain him, and if they do not entertain him, then he has the right to take from them an amount equivalent to that which they should have entertained him.” [Sunan Abee Dawood, Hadeeth No. 4604. Graded ‘sahih’ by Al-Albani, Sahih Sunan Abee Dawood, Hadeeth No. 4604.]
لا ألفين أحدكم متكئا على أريكته يأتيه الأمر من أمري مما أمرت به أو نهيت عنه فيقول : لا ندري ما وجدنا في كتاب الله اتبعناه
It was narrated from Ubaidullah ibn Abee Rafi from his father that the Prophet (sallallahu alaihi wasallam) said: “Let me not find one of you reclining on his couch, and when he hears of a command that I have enjoined or a prohibition that I have issued, he says: ‘We do not know; what we find in the Book of Allah, we follow.'” [Sunan Abee Dawood, Hadeeth No. 4605. Graded ‘sahih’ by Al-Albani, Sahih Sunan Abee Dawood, Hadeeth No. 4605.]
Of course, these people are unmoved by the above narrations because they don’t believe in them!
من أطاعني فقد أطاع الله ، ومن عصاني فقد عصى الله
The Prophet (sallallahu alaihi wasallam) said: “He who obeys me, obeys Allah, and he who disobeys me, disobeys Allah.” [Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume No. 4, Hadeeth No. 204]
So, it makes no difference whether the order or prohibition is mentioned in the Quran or the Sunnah, as they both have the same legal weight (i.e. nobody can use “It’s not in the Quran, it’s only in the Sunnah” as an excuse).
Note: The ahadeeth have been gathered in many books by the early scholars. Some of these books like Sahih Al-Bukhari and Sahih Muslim contain only authentic ahadeeth. However, the others contain both authentic and inauthentic (weak) ahadeeth, so one needs to check the scholars’ gradings of each hadeeth to determine its authenticity.
For example, if they say that it is “sahih” or “hasan” then that means that it is authentic. If they say “daeef” or “mawdoo” then this hadeeth is not accepted as it is not authentic. Of course, there are times when there is disagreement over the authenticity of a hadeeth.
To know more about this issue, one would need to study a subject called “Usool Al-Hadeeth”. I’ll discuss this in more detail in Part 6, insha-Allah.
Okay, so we’re all agreed that we need to follow the Quran and Sunnah. How do we interpret them though?
Do we use our own logic and desires? Or do we follow someone?
The answer is that we follow the the Quran and Sunnah according to the understanding of the Sahaabah (the Companions of the Prophet (sallallahu alaihi wasallam).
Why, you ask? Well, when Allah revealed the Quran and Sunnah (yes, this is also revelation), they were revealed with a particular understanding. Who better to ask than the generation that accompanied the Prophet (sallallahu alaihi wasallam) and lived the events that surrounded the revelation of the Quran?
We know that Allah is pleased with them so how can we put our own understanding over theirs, when we don’t even know our own status before Allah and whether or not He is pleased with us???
Also, Allah and His Messenger (sallallahu alaihi wasallam) have praised the Sahaabah and asked us to follow them:
خير الناس قرني ، ثم الذين يلونهم ، ثم الذين يلونهم ، ثم يجيء من بعدهم قوم : تسبق شهادتهم أيمانهم ، وأيمانهم شهادتهم
Narrated by Abdullah (radiallahu anhu): The Prophet (sallallahu alaihi wassalam) said, “The best people are those of my generation, and then those who will come after them (the next generation), and then those who will come after them (i.e. the next generation), and then after them, there will come people whose witness will precede their oaths, and whose oaths will precede their witness.” [Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume No. 8, Hadeeth No. 437]
[Note: The first three generations are called the Sahaabah (the Companions), the Tabieen (the followers i.e. those that accompanied the Sahaabah) and the Atbaa At-Tabieen (the followers of the followers i.e. those that accompanied the Tabieen). These three generations are often referred to as the “Salaf” (i.e. the predecessors). So, we understand Islam according to the understanding of the Salaf due to the fact that they were singled out by the Prophet (sallallalahu alaihi wasallam).
When we say “Salaf”, we mean the whole group, not just one person. Hence, if they all agreed on a matter, we follow their opinion. End of discussion.]
[Note #2: It seems that today some people have become so brave that they think nothing of saying bad things about the Sahaabah. If we truly believe in Allah and the Last day, then we need to keep our mouths shut with regards to the Prophets (alaihissalam) and the Sahaabah (radiallahu anhum). These are the people that are the most beloved to Allah so we should never even dream of saying anything negative about any of them.]
وَالسَّابِقُونَ الْأَوَّلُونَ مِنَ الْمُهَاجِرِينَ وَالْأَنصَارِ وَالَّذِينَ اتَّبَعُوهُم بِإِحْسَانٍ رَّضِيَ اللَّـهُ عَنْهُمْ وَرَضُوا عَنْهُ وَأَعَدَّ لَهُمْ جَنَّاتٍ تَجْرِي تَحْتَهَا الْأَنْهَارُ خَالِدِينَ فِيهَا أَبَدًا ۚ ذَٰلِكَ الْفَوْزُ الْعَظِيمُ
“And the first to embrace Islam of the Muhajiroon (those who migrated from Makkah to Al-Madinah) and the Ansar (the citizens of Al-Madinah who helped and gave aid to the Muhajiroon) and also those who followed them exactly (in Faith). Allah is well-pleased with them as they are well-pleased with Him. He has prepared for them Gardens under which rivers flow (Paradise), to dwell therein forever. That is the supreme success.” [Surah At-Tawbah (9) :100]
أتينا العرباض بن سارية ، وهو ممن نزل فيه ولا على الذين إذا ما أتوك لتحملهم قلت لا أجد ما أحملكم عليه فسلمنا ، وقلنا : أتيناك ؛ زائرين ، وعائدين ، ومقتبسين . فقال العرباض : صلى بنا رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم ذات يوم ، ثم أقبل علينا ، فوعظنا موعظة بليغة ، ذرفت منها العيون ، ووجلت منها القلوب . فقال قائل : يا رسول الله ! كأن هذه موعظة مودع ، فماذا تعهد إلينا ؟ فقال : أوصيكم بتقوى الله والسمع والطاعة وإن عبدا حبشيا ، فإنه من يعش منكم بعدي فسيرى اختلافا كثيرا ، فعليكم بسنتي وسنة الخلفاء المهديين الراشدين تمسكوا بها ، وعضوا عليها بالنواجذ ، وإياكم ومحدثات الأمور فإن كل محدثة بدعة ، وكل بدعة ضلالة
Abdur Rahman ibn Amr As-Sulami and Hujr ibn Hujr said: “We came to Al-Irbaad ibn Saariyah who was one of those concerning whom the ayah (verse)
وَلَا عَلَى الَّذِينَ إِذَا مَا أَتَوْكَ لِتَحْمِلَهُمْ قُلْتَ لَا أَجِدُ مَا أَحْمِلُكُمْ عَلَيْهِ
“Nor (is there blame) on those who came to you to be provided with mounts, and when you said: ‘I can find no mounts for you,’…” [Surah At-Tawbah (9): 92]
was revealed. We greeted him and said: ‘We have come to you, to visit you, and benefit from you.’ Al-Irbaad said: ‘The Messenger of Allah (sallallahu alaihi wasallam) led us in prayer one day, then he turned to face us, and he exhorted us in an eloquent speech upon which our eyes filled with tears, and our hearts filled with fear. Someone said: ‘O Messenger of Allah, it is as if this is a farewell address. What do you enjoin upon us?’ He said: ‘I enjoin you to fear Allah, and to hear and obey, even if (the leader appointed over you) be an Ethiopian slave. Whoever among you lives after I am gone will see great disputes. You must adhere to my Sunnah and the way of the rightly guided khalifas. Hold on to it and cling fast to it. And beware of newly invented matters, for every newly invented matter is an innovation, and even innovation is a deviation.'” [Sunan Abee Dawood, Hadeeth No. 4607. Graded ‘sahih’ by Al-Albani in Sahih Sunan Abee Dawood, Hadeeth No. 4607.]
[The rightly guided khalifas are Abu Bakr As-Siddeeq, Umar ibn Al-Khattab, Uthman ibn Al-Affan and Ali ibn Abee Taalib (radiallahu anhum), the four best Companions. Other scholars also added Al-Hasan ibn Alee ibn Abee Taalib (radiallahu anhu) as one of the rightly guided khalifas as some ahadeeth point to the rightly guided caliphate as totaling 30 years and the first four khalifas only total 29.5 years in their rule so they added the 6 months of Al-Hasan’s rule to that.]
This isn’t the only hadeeth where the Prophet (sallallahu alaihi wasallam) foretold the fitnah (trials and tribulations). The following hadeeth is something that should really stun us into action:
ليأتين على أمتي ما أتى على بني إسرائيل حذو النعل بالنعل حتى إن كان منهم من أتى أمه علانية لكان في أمتي من يصنع ذلك . وإن بني إسرائيل تفرقت على ثنتين وسبعين ملة ، وتفترق أمتي على ثلاث وسبعين ملة كلهم في النار إلا ملة واحدة ، قال من هي يا رسول الله ؟ قال : ما أنا عليه وأصحابي
Abdullah ibn Amr (radiallahu anhu) narrated that the Messenger of Allah (sallallahu alaihi wasallam) said: “What befell Bani Israil will befall my Ummah (nation), step by step, such that if there was one who had intercourse with his mother in the open, there would be someone from my Ummah who would do that. Indeed, Bani Israil split into 72 sects and my Ummah will split into 73 sects. All of them in the Fire except one sect.” He (Abdullah ibn Amr) said: “And which is it, O Messenger of Allah?” He said: “What I and my Companions are upon.” [Sunan At-Tirmidhi, Hadeeth No. 2641. Graded ‘hasan’ by Al-Albani in Sahih Sunan At-Tirmidhi, Hadeeth No. 2641.]
والذي نفس محمد بيده لتفترقن أمتي على ثلاث وسبعين فرقة واحدة في الجنة وثنتان وسبعون في النار قيل يا رسول الله من هم قال الجماعة
The Prophet (sallallahu alaihi wasallam): “I swear by the One in Whose Hand is the soul of Muhammad, my Ummah will split into 73 sects, one in Paradise and 72 in the Fire.” It was said: “O Messenger of Allah, who are they?” He said: “Al-Jamaah (the main body)”. [Sunan Ibn Majah, Hadeeth No. 3992. Graded ‘sahih’ by Al-Albani in Sahih Sunan Ibn Majah, Hadeeth No. 3992.]
A few points about this hadeeth:
1) The saved sect is referred to as Ahlus Sunnah wal Jamaah (the people of the Sunnah) and the other sects are generally referred to as Ahlul Bidaa (the people of innovation). Of course, Ahlul Bidaa is composed of several sects like the Shia, the Sufis, etc. And of course, sects like the Shia and the Sufis are composed of even more sub-sects…
2) People should not assume that these 73 sects are all equal sized! It could be that some of them are large whilst others have a few followers.
Ahlus Sunnah, on the other hand, is quite large, because the Prophet (sallallahu alaihi wasallam) called them “Al-Jamaah”.
3) “In the fire” does not necessarily mean that all these sects and those who follow them are out of the fold of Islam. Some of them are but many of them are not. As the scholars pointed out, some of these will remain in the fire forever (i.e. as they exited the fold of Islam) but many of them will be there for a time and not for eternity as they were still Muslims.
4) For those who are always confused about all the different groups and who to follow, the answer is provided in this hadeeth: Follow the Sahaabah.
When the Sahaabah (radiallahu anhum) or the scholars after them agreed over a particular issue, we are obliged to follow that opinion because Allah says:
وَمَن يُشَاقِقِ الرَّسُولَ مِن بَعْدِ مَا تَبَيَّنَ لَهُ الْهُدَىٰ وَيَتَّبِعْ غَيْرَ سَبِيلِ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ نُوَلِّهِ مَا تَوَلَّىٰ وَنُصْلِهِ جَهَنَّمَ ۖ وَسَاءَتْ مَصِيرًا
“And whoever contradicts and opposes the Messenger (Muhammad) after the right path has been shown clearly to him, and follows other than the believers’ way. We shall keep him in the path he has chosen, and burn him in Hell – what an evil destination.” [Surah An-Nisaa (4) : 115]
So, we need to make sure that we follow the ijmaa (consensus) of the scholars.
What about if we have some questions? Who do we ask? After all, the Salaf aren’t around!
Well, we ask the people of knowledge:
فَاسْأَلُوا أَهْلَ الذِّكْرِ إِن كُنتُمْ لَا تَعْلَمُونَ
“So ask of those who know the Scripture if you know not.” [Surah An-Nahl (16) : 43]
Subhan Allah, we need to take advantage of the true scholars before they die, because this is how the knowledge is taken away – with their deaths:
سمعت رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم يقول : إن الله لا يقبض العلم انتزاعا ينتزعه من العباد ، ولكن يقبض العلم بقبض العلماء ، حتى إذا لم يبق عالما ، اتخذ الناس رؤوسا جهالا ، فسئلوا ، فأفتوا بغير علم ، فضلوا وأضلوا
Narrated Abdullah ibn Amr ibn Al-Aas (radiallahu anhuma): I heard Allah’s Messenger (sallallahu alaihi wasallam) saying, “Allah does not take away the knowledge, by taking it away from (the hearts of) the people, but takes it away by the death of the religious learned men till when none of the (religious learned men) remains, people will take as their leaders ignorant persons who when consulted will give their verdict without knowledge. So they will go astray and will lead the people astray.” [ٍSahih Al-Bukhari, Volume No. 1, Hadeeth No. 100]
And we should make sure to ask TRUSTWORTHY scholars not just anybody:
عَنْ مُحَمَّدِ بْنِ سِيرِينَ، قَالَ إِنَّ هَذَا الْعِلْمَ دِينٌ فَانْظُرُوا عَمَّنْ تَأْخُذُونَ دِينَكُمْ
Muhammad ibn Sireen said, ““Knowledge is religion so be careful from whom you take your religion” [Sahih Muslim, Hadeeth No. 26 of the Introduction]
This statement of Muhammad ibn Sireen is a rule that we should all live by. After all, who do we take our knowledge from? How did we judge whether they were upon the truth or not?
So, to all the readers, please apply this principle to every place where you get any sort of Islamic information – starting from this blog. [Yes, of course, you need to apply this principle to this blog as well. You thought I was going to exclude myself from the scrutiny?]
The scholars have a saying: The truth is not known by men. Men are known by the truth.
This means that you don’t take the person as being right and then follow him in everything. Rather you put the Quran and the Sunnah first, and then follow the person based on that.
After all, just because someone talks nicely and seems to be knowledgeable, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they are right.
أنه قدم رجلان من المشرق فخطبا ، فعجب الناس لبيانهما ، فقال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم : ( إن من البيان لسحرا ، أو : إن بعض البيان لسحر )
Narrated Abdullah ibn Umar (radialalhu anhuma): Two men came from the East and addressed the people who wondered at their eloquent speeches. On that Allah’s Messenger (sallallahu alaihi wasallam) said: “Some eloquent speech is as effective as magic.” [Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume No. 7, Hadeeth No. 662]
This hadeeth points to the dangers of those who are eloquent upon falsehood (it’s okay to be eloquent upon the truth), because these people will then mislead others due to their eloquence despite their lack of proofs from the Quran and the Sunnah. A very common occurrence these days!
The Prophet (sallallahu alaihi wasallam) warned us about these liars:
“ سَيَكُونُ فِي آخِرِ أُمَّتِي أُنَاسٌ يُحَدِّثُونَكُمْ مَا لَمْ تَسْمَعُوا أَنْتُمْ وَلاَ آبَاؤُكُمْ فَإِيَّاكُمْ وَإِيَّاهُمْ ”
The Messenger of Allah (sallallahu alaihi wassalam) said: “There will be in the latter part of my Ummah a people that will relate to you ahadeeth of which you and your fathers never heard previously. So let you and them beware.” [Sahih Muslim, Hadeeth No. 15 of the Introduction]
“ يَكُونُ فِي آخِرِ الزَّمَانِ دَجَّالُونَ كَذَّابُونَ يَأْتُونَكُمْ مِنَ الأَحَادِيثِ بِمَا لَمْ تَسْمَعُوا أَنْتُمْ وَلاَ آبَاؤُكُمْ فَإِيَّاكُمْ وَإِيَّاهُمْ لاَ يُضِلُّونَكُمْ وَلاَ يَفْتِنُونَكُمْ ”
The Messenger of Allah (sallallahu alaihi wassalam) said: “There will be in the last days liars and fabricators. They will come to you with ahadeeth of which you never heard, you or your fathers, so let you and them beware that they will not misguide you, and be a trial for you.” [Sahih Muslim, Hadeeth No. 16 of the Introduction]
So, we need to be cautious.
[Note: For those who would like to read more about this issue, a good place to start is the book where three of these ahadeeth are from: The Introduction to Sahih Muslim. This wasn’t been translated in the older versions of Sahih Muslim, but has been translated in the new Darussalam translation. However, you can read a separate translation of it here. You can read the ahadeeth in Arabic here.]
Now, someone might ask: How do we know which scholars to follow?
Insha-Allah, I’ll mention some tips (yes, tips not names) on how to do that in Part 6. However, the first way would be to do dua to Allah asking Him to guide you to the truth.
And Allah knows Better.
To be continued…