CENSURE OF IGNORANCE
By Shaykh Ahmed Fareed
It should be known that our saying “ignorance is an excuse” does not mean that we encourage and call to ignorance, nor that ignorance has any merits, nor that we are satisfied and pleased with it. Rather it is as one of the Salaf (Pious Predecessor) said: “Allaah has not been disobeyed with any sin worse than ignorance.”
Ignorance is the reason for sin and it incites sin and leads to it. Ibn al-Qayyim says, “Yoosuf the eminently truthful and upright said: “Unless you turn away their plot from me, I will feel inclined towards them and be one of the ignorant ones (jaahileen).” [Soorah Yoosuf (12) Aayah 33] (The word ‘Jaahil’ (ignorant) being used to mean): those who do that which you have forbidden.”
Allah says: “Allah accepts only the repentance of those who do evil in ignorance and foolishness and repent soon afterwards” [Sooratun-Nisa’ (4) Aayah 17]
Qataadah said: “The companions of the Messenger of Allaah (saws) agreed that everything by which Allaah is disobeyed is ignorance.”
Others said. “The companions agreed that anyone who disobeys Allaah is an ignorant one (Jaahil).”
‘Alee (raa) said, “It is enough honor for knowledge that he who is not able leaves it and one becomes happy if he is labeled with it, and it is enough of a censure for ignorance that its people disassociate themselves from it.” [See Madaarijus-Saalikeen (1/470) and Dhammul-Jahl of Ibn Rusulaan]
Someone said, “There is in ignorance a death for its people before death, and their bodies before burial are graves, and their souls are in grief on account of their bodies, and there is no resurrection for them (from death) until the Resurrection.”
The cure for ignorance is to question and to learn, as the Messenger (saws) said, “Indeed the cure for ignorance is to ask.” [Reported by Ahmed, Abu Daawood and Ibn Maajah. (Hasan)] So he made ignorance a disease and declared asking to be its cure. And Ibn al-Qayyim said in his Ash-Shaafiyatul-Kaafiyah, “Ignorance is a fatal malady and its cure is in two things in agreement: A text from the Qur`aan or from the Sunnah, and a physician possessing knowledge of the Deen.”
AL-JAHL – IGNORANCE
The Muslim Creed – Vol. 9 No. 9
Allah has said in the Noble Quran, what translated means, Say, “Are those who know equal to those who do not know?” [39:9].
When we read through the Quran, we will find that ignorance is one of the reasons why the previous nations before the Muslim Ummah defied their Messengers and rejected their Messages.. Allah said, what translated means, They said, “O Moses! Make for us a god as they have gods.” He said, “Verily, you are a people who know not.” [7:138].
Also, Allah said that Prophet Salih said to his people, “And I convey to you that wherewith I have been sent, but I see that you are a people given to ignorance!” [46:23],
and that Prophet Ibrahim said to his people, “Do you order me to worship other than Allah, O you ignorant people?” [39:64].
Allah Almighty has warned the Muslims against following the ways of the Jews, whom He is angry with, because they chose to disobey Him after He has sent down to them the knowledge and the true guidance. Allah has also commanded the Muslims to avoid the Christians’ ways, for they worship Allah without knowledge, and are thus lost in the darkness of misguidance. Allah has ordered the Muslims to ask Him for guidance to the Straight Path, which entails acquiring knowledge in the Truth and abiding by it. When one acquires knowledge in Islam and then implements it, he will, in fact, be renouncing all those who indulge in Bid’ah (innovation in the religion) and misguidance. One of our Salaf (righteous ancestors) once stated that, “Whoever worships Allah with ignorance, he will bring about more harm Ignorance is a major reason why many Muslims fall into all types of ‘Haram (the prohibitions) and Bid’ahs, as Imam Ibn Taymiyyah has stated, “What brings about the benefit of the son of Adam are Iman and working the good deeds. What nullifies those two are ignorance the opposite of knowledge which will misguide such people, and also following the desires and what the heart wants, thus making such people among the defiant rebels and the cursed persons.”
Nowadays, ignorance in the religion has become widespread. This is a sign of the Last Hour, as the Prophet has informed us. Anas narrated that the Messenger of Allah said, what translated means, “Raising up knowledge while ignorance remaining (on earth) is a Sign of the (Last) Hour.” [Al-Bukhari, Muslim & ibn Majah]. Also, Abu Hurayrah reported that the Messenger of Allah said, “Time will be shortened, the knowledge will be raised up, the Fitan (trials, calamities, etc.) will appear, stinginess will be widespread and Al-Haraj will appear in abundance.” He was asked, “And what is Al-Haraj?” He said, “Murder!” [Muslim & ibn Majah].
According to these Hadiths, knowledge of the religion will be raised up just before the Last Hour commences. Ibn ‘Hajar said in Fat’h Al-Bari, “This Hadith indicates that ignorance will be so widespread that its opposite knowledge will be scarce, as is evident by the Prophet’s saying that ‘knowledge will be raised up.’ Then, only ignorance will remain. Although a few scholars will also remain, they will be much fewer than the ignorant ones!” Also, Abu Waail said, “Once, I was sitting with Abdullah ibn Mas’ud and Abu Musa Al-Ash’ari who both said that the Messenger of Allah has said, ‘There will be days that will come just before the Hour, when knowledge will be raised up, ignorance will be sent down (and spread on earth) and when Al-Haraj and Al-Maraj (murder and violence) will be in abundance!’” [Al-Bukhari & Muslim].
The Messenger of Allah has stated that knowledge of the religion will be raised up in several other authentic Hadiths, such as, “Allah will not raise up knowledge by erasing it from the slaves’ (hearts), but He will raise up knowledge by bringing death to the scholars (when their appointed terms expire). When He has not left a scholar, people will then appoint ignorant leaders (or false scholars), and will ask them and they will give Fatwa (religious decrees) without knowledge, and will thus be misguided and also a source for misguidance.” [Al-Bukhari, Ahmad & ibn Majah].
Imam An-Nawawi said, “This Hadith explains what raising up the knowledge means in the previous Hadiths, that is, not by erasing it from people’s hearts, but by the death of the scholars who carry such knowledge. Then, people will seek some ignorant persons who will rule with their ignorance, thus becoming misguided themselves and will also misguide others.” Issuing Fatwas without knowledge is indeed a major sin and Bid’ah. Allah said, what translated means, Say (O Mohammad), “(But) the things that my Lord has forbidden are great evil sins whether committed openly or secretly, sins of all kinds, unrighteous oppression, joining partners in worship with Allah for which He has given no authority, and saying things about Allah of which you have no knowledge.” [7:33].
Imam ibn Al-Qayyim said, “The origin of Kufr and Shirk comes from saying about Allah without knowledge, which is one of the most prohibited acts in the Sight of Allah. It produces the most harmful effects, because it entails lying with regards to Allah and describing Him with what is not appropriate. This also entails changing and altering Allah’s religion, denying what He has approved while approving what He has denied, implementing what He has rejected while rejecting what He has commanded to be carried out, hating those who are His loyalists while taking His enemies as loyal friends, detesting what He loves while loving what He hates, and describing Him with what is not appropriate with regards to His Attributes, Speech and Actions.”
Allah has prohibited for His slaves to issue religious decrees that proclaim a matter as either prohibited or allowed in the religion without knowledge or proof from the Quran or Sunnah.. He said, what translated means, And say not concerning that which your tongues put forth falsely, “This is lawful and this is forbidden,” so as to invent lies against Allah. Verily, those who invent lies against Allah will never prosper. [16:116], and,
And verily, among them is a party who distort the Book with their tongues (while they read it), so that you may think it is from the Book, but it is not from the Book, and they say, “This is from Allah,” but it is not from Allah; and they speak a lie against Allah while they know it. [3:78].
Inventing a lie against Allah is a major sin and a dangerous path to take, and indeed an act of transgression against Allah that also misguides people, “Then who does more wrong than one who invents a lie against Allah, to lead mankind astray without knowledge. Certainly, Allah guides not the people who are wrongdoers.” [6:144]
This Ayah states that there is no greater evil than for one to prohibit what Allah has allowed or to allow what He has prohibited. This Ayah emphasizes the grave mistake and miscalculation of those who invent a Bid’ah and thus relate to Allah what He did not legislate. We have presented ample evidence from the Quran and Sunnah emphasizing the importance of avoiding issuing religious decrees or indulging in what one has no knowledge of. The religion and also sound minds agree that it is better for people to merely say, “I do not know,” about what they do not know. When people see that such persons fear Allah and are cautious with regards the religion, they will only respect and appreciate them more. The true Muslim never utters a saying without knowledge, taking the example of the best and most knowledgeable of all mankind, the Messenger of Allah, Salla Allahu Alayhi Wasallam, who used to say, “I do not have knowledge in this,” when asked about what Allah did not yet reveal to him. Also, the companions, especially the most knowledgeable among them, used to be cautious when asked about matters of the religion. Abu Bakr once said, “Which sky will cover me and which earth will carry me, if I say about the Book of Allah that which I have no knowledge!”
It is amazing that some Muslims in the present time discard this much needed caution, as they rush to give answers about various matters and aspects of the religion, without having the necessary knowledge, and often with arrogance and defiance, thus allowing what Allah has prohibited or prohibiting what Allah has permitted. Muslims are obliged to seek knowledge in Islam from its true resources, the Book of Allah and the Sunnah of His Messenger, according to the way the companions understood and implemented them. They are also obliged to seek matters of Ijmaa’, where the entire community of scholars agree on a matter of the religion. This is the True Path and the way of the Saved Group. Therefore, it is necessary to have fear from Allah, to seek knowledge in the religion and to know that he whom Allah wants his good, He will grant him knowledge in the religion. And when you seek the knowledge of Islam, seek it for the sake of Allah Alone and intend to implement it as soon as you learn it. But do not seek knowledge merely to gain access to fame, positions or winning arguments. And make all your deeds sincere for the sake of Allah, and pray that Allah accepts your deeds, for He is the One Who accepts the supplication from His slaves.