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SHOULD WE TAKE KNOWLEDGE OF ISLAM FROM JUST ANYONE?






By
Ibn 'Abdillah As-sudaisiy Al-Iloori

Imam Ibn Seereen (d. 110 AH) was one of the great scholars of Islam. Concerning the choice of people Muslims can learn the deen from, he says:

إن هذا العلم دين، فانظروا عمن تأخذون دينكم

“This knowledge (of religion) constitutes faith, so be wary of whom you acquire your knowledge from.” [Sahih Muslim, Dar al-Ahya al-Turath al-‘Arabi, Beirut, 2005 vol.1 p.14] 

Based on this statement of the noble Sheikh, it is important to know that scholars of great repute in Islamic history did not joke with the issue of tazkiyah (clarifying issues) in the deen. They were concerned with the issue of cleansing one's Islam from doubt and fitan that are widespread in our world. The scholars used to warn people on who to listen to and who to take their deen from. For instance, the salaf do not take knowledge from the innovators and people of desires no matter how knowledgeable they are. They do not advise us to take the good and leave the bad from every tom, dick and harry. 

In fact, one of the salaf say, he would not allow an innovator to recite the Qur'an or hadith to him because he fears he may mix the truth with falsehood [See pg 11, Sharh Usul Sunnah] So, we are warned to guard our deen by sticking to scholars who are consistent in their efforts. No one is above mistakes, but this does not mean we should take knowledge from just anyone without being sure of what he is upon. Imam Malik Bin Anas رحمه الله  said,

"Knowledge should not be taken from four people: an imbecile who publicly displays his imbecility even if he is the most prolific transmitter; an innovator who calls to his innovation; someone who lies in his relationship with his fellow human being even if I didn't suspect him to have lied in the hadith of the Prophet صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم; a righteous, religious and virtuous person who doesn't preserve what he narrates. Mastery of hadith is in two forms: Memorization by heart and documentation in the book" [Siyar A'laam an-Nubalaa, 8/67-68]

By the word salaf, what is meant is the best generation of Muslims and those who remain on their path till today. Those who remain on their path are very few in our present world. Even many of us who ascribe ourselves preciously to the way of the salaf are not there yet, we still have a long way to go. We are only praying Allah to include us among those who truly follow the salaf.

It is clear that scholars differ on many issues. But we have been taught how to deal with issues of ikhtilaaf among them. The best thing is to follow the one with the best evidence from the Qur'an and Sunnah. The fact that a scholar made a mistake in his ruling on a particular matter does not necessarily warrant hajr (staying clear) from him. More so, scholars don't disagree on fundamentals of Islamic law especially issues of 'aqeedah because they are well established by clear cut texts. They may differ on furuu' (forms or branches) and when their arguments are critically examined in this case, it would be seen that their controversy are not damaging, rather they are blessing. What leads to abandonment of certain people must be fundamental. A Muslim must not desert his fellow Muslims without sufficient justification. 

A lot of people who ascribe to salafiyyah are making the mistake of boycotting the ignorant followers of the innovators. The ignorant followers of the innovators are different from the innovators proper. People that are meant to be boycotted are those who call to innovations authoritatively. Therefore it is not justifiable for us to boycott friends, neighbors, parents, and family members who have rights over us and we have rights over them without reasonable justification. Many of these people are ignorant followers of innovators. There is need to keep explaining things to them. Boycotting these kinds of people in many cases serve no purpose because their problem is that they do not understand the deen properly.

In one of his golden pieces of advice to Muslims who are upon the Sunnah and manhaj of the Salaf as-saalih, Sheikh Rabee' Ibn Haadee al-Madkhalee حفظــه الله notes that the people we should boycott are propagators of innovated ideas who preside over the affairs bid'ah from one locality to another. They call to falsehood on Radio, Television, Newspapers, Magazines, books, cassettes, lectures, group chats/ forums and websites, including the social media. We are warned against their circles, their books and gatherings. But in the case of the blind followers of innovators, the Sheikh said,

"Indeed, the people of innovation in this time are numerous (and) they have filled the earth - and Allah’s refuge is sought. Thus, we do not boycott all of them; rather they are subject to our da’wah. We call them to Allah using wisdom and amicable admonishment. This speech is supported by the speech of many of the Imāms of the Sunnah and their actions. Indeed, they would call the common folk to Allah and they would not boycott them as they would boycott the wicked, evil and misguided Imāms. Understand this, so that some of you do not think that everyone who falls into innovation is boycotted, no conversation with him, no da’wah, nothing. No! Da’wah remains even to the kuffār, to the Jews and the Christians. Da'wah also exists to the people of innovation. [Sharḥ ‘Aqīdah as-Salaf Aṣḥāb al-Ḥadīth (pg. 522)]

If someone is known to be an innovator who is not ready to accept his mistakes and toe the line of humility, the scholars would usually warn people against his fitnah. Yes, the unity of Muslims is sacrosanct, yet it should not be at the expense of the fundamentals of the deen. The fundamentals of Islam must not be compromised in the name of unity. The only thing that can unite us as Muslim is what united our salaf (the prophet and his companions), and that is strict adherence to the teachings of the Qur'an and Sunnah. Nothing divides the Muslims more than collaboration upon shirk, bid'ah and tolerance for fasad on the surface of the earth. 

By this, the scholars do not mean that everything that an innovator or a person of desire says is wrong. Of course there are some things good in what they say or what they write. We do not dispute that. But what is meant here is that we should not take them as an authority or point of reference because you would never know when they would mix their desires with what Allah and His Rosul صلى الله عليه وسلم communicated to us. 

A lot of Muslims do not have the anti-virus to detect harmful speech of an innovator from his harmless speech. They use any hadith that comes their without verifying its status in circle of the muhaddithun. They follow their desires and anything that would bring worldly benefits to them without minding the consequences. According to Sheikh Rabee' Bin Haadee Al-madkhalee, the innovators are the people that Allah referred to in His words,

فأما الذين في قلوبهم زيغ، فيتبعون ما تشابه منه ٱبتغآء الفتنة

"As for those in whose hearts is deviation [from truth], they will follow that of it which is unspecific, seeking discord and seeking an interpretation [suitable to them]" [Suratu Aal Imraan, Q3: 7]

This statement of Sheikh Rabee' can be found in page 8 of his Sharh Usul Sunnah of Imam Ahmad Bin Hambali. So, the best thing is for us to leave an innovator with his affairs and face the trustworthy scholars with whom there is no fear of betrayal. 

In a hadith narrated by Hudhaifah bin Al-Yamaan رضي الله عنه: He said people used to ask Allah’s Messenger صلى الله عليه وسلم about good, but he used to ask him about evil for fear that he might fall into it. In that lengthy hadith, the Messenger of Allah صلى الله عليه وسلم advised the Prophet thus, 

“There will be some people who will lead (people) according to principles other than my tradition [In Saheeh Muslim it is: (That time will witness the rise of) the people who will adopt ways other than mine and seek guidance other than mine]. You will see their actions and disapprove of them.”....“Keep away from all those different sects, even if you had to bite the root of a tree, till you meet Allah while you are still in that state.” [Saheeh al-Bukhaaree (3606, 7084) and Saheeh Muslim (4553)]

The position expressed in this article is what the people of Sunnah agree upon. I am not just saying what crossed my mind. This is from the protection of deen against the dangerous activities of innovators. If you have the opportunity to read Sharhu Sunnah of Imam Al-Barbahaaree رحمه الله, reviewed by Sheikh Salih Fawzan حفظه الله, you would find it there with many quotes from many scholars. It is not permissible to take knowledge from deviant people and innovators. Sheikh Saalih ibn al-Fawzaan al-Fawzaan حفظه الله said:

“It is not permissible to take [knowledge] from an ignorant even if they are Muta’aalim. And it is not permissible to take [knowledge] from someone who has deviancy in ‘Aqeedah (creed) such as shirk (polytheism) or negating the names and attributes of Allaah. And it is not permissible to take [knowledge] from an innovator or deviant even if they are called scholars.”[Al-Ajwabah al-Mufeedah ‘an As’ilah al-Manaahij al-Jadeedah, page 254]

The problem with many of us today is that we do not read or learn the books of old scholars of this deen as we are expected to. We cling too much to celebrity speakers. This takes us far away from the real scholars and the views of the real scholars on matters of the deen become very strange to us. The old our references on matters of the deen, the better for us.

This article is meant to caution us on the kind of lectures we listen to. We should know the kinds of books we read. There are numerous virus carriers among those we call scholars in our contemporary world. It takes a Muslim with strong anti virus to identify viruses in the lectures of the people of bid'ah. To be on the safe side, it is even better not to listen to them at all because they can easily corrupt your memory.

The scholars of the deen are not difficult to identify. They stick to Qur'an and Sunnah in accordance with the methodology of the Salaf As-saalih. They do not utter from their desire nor do they rely on the opinions of people of ra'y (personal view). They do not request for money before they attend lectures. They have their own personal jobs to make ends meet. They don't beg to pray for people. They give lectures to please Allah Alone. They don't expect anyone to praise them. They are not arrogant. They respect the constituted authorities. They don't walk or talk with pride. They conclude their views with "Wallohu A'lam" (and Allah knows best). They don't think they know everything. They don't believe that they cannot make mistakes. They usually say if their opinion contravenes any clear shari'ah ruling, their opinion should be dropped.

The Quran says,

ۗإِنَّمَا يَخْشَى اللَّهَ مِنْ عِبَادِهِ الْعُلَمَاءُ

(the most conscious of Allah among His worshippers are the scholars) Q35:28

Anyone who claims "sheikhship" is a liar if there are no signs of consciousness of Allah in him. One of the best signs of Allah's consciousness is obedience to dictates of Allah and His Messenger, sollaLohu alaihi wasallam. A scholar would not differentiate between the Qur'an and authentic sunnah. A scholar would always practice what he preaches. 

A person who calls himself "an entertainer" cannot be a scholar. The Qur'an and Sunnah are not for entertainments. They are matters of serious business. The title "Sheikh" is not for comedians. A scholar must be upon proper taoheed, 'aqeedah and manhaj. A person whom everyone know is not upon the sunnah cannot claim scholarship in Islam. The matters of the ummah cannot be entrusted in them. In other words, no matter upon which fatwa is required can be directed to him for adjudication.

Wallahu A'lam

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