By Tabassum Mosleh |
When it comes to talking about Islamic issues, there are two extremes of people. One extreme says that we are not allowed to interpret the Quran and Sunnah in any way and should keep our mouths shut about everything. People in the other extreme speak about those issues about which they know nothing and speak in boastful ways, as if they were really knowledgeable.
Speaking about the Quran without knowledge
“Allah says . . . ”
“The Quran never said . . . ”
These kind of statements are heard among those who’ve never opened the Quran. It is a human weakness, and we need to be aware that we’re doing this. We’ll never speak about Allah and His religion without making absolutely sure it’s true, if only we remember the following ayat and hadith:
Speaking falsehood about the Quran:
Say, ‘My Lord has only forbidden immoralities . . . and that you say about Allah that which you do not know.’ [Quran, 7:33]
The Prophet (sa) said:
‘Opinion-based argument about the Quran is kufr.’ He repeated it three times, then said, ‘What you know of it, act upon; and what you are ignorant of, refer it to one who knows.’ [Ahmad, qtd. by Dr. Philips]
Speaking falsehood about the Sunnah:
Whoever lies upon me intentionally, then let him take his seat in the Fire. [Muslim]
You might be wondering, knowing about the above warnings in the Quran and Sunnah, how come so much knowledge has reached us? You would have thought that people would have been too scared of making mistakes to teach anything to anyone about the Quran and Sunnah. In fact, there are statements from them that show their fear of transmitting falsehood. The following was said by Abu Bakr (ra):
Which earth will hold me and which sky will shadow me if I speak about the Book of Allah without knowledge. [ibn Abi Shaybah, qtd. by ibn Taymiyyah]
There may be two reasons for the Companions and the later-generation scholars to transmit beneficial knowledge: Firstly, they were very cautious about transmitting only that which they were sure about to be true, especially the Companions. Secondly, they also knew the other side of the coin – the punishment for hiding beneficial knowledge intentionally from the people who ask you.
Hiding beneficial information
. . . there is no harm in speaking [about tafsir] if one possesses the relevant linguistic and religious knowledge. It is for this reason that there are a number of varying statements reported from these scholars. This does not imply contradiction, for they spoke about matters they had knowledge of, and remained silent on that which they had no knowledge of. This is what is obligatory upon everyone. [ibn Taymiyyah]
Allah (swt) tells us about one of the heinous crimes of the previous people:
And [mention, O Muhammad], when Allah took a covenant from those who were given the Scripture, [saying], “You must make it clear to the people and not conceal it.” But they threw it away behind their backs and exchanged it for a small price. And wretched is that which they purchased. [Quran, 3:187]
The Prophet (sa) said:
Whoever is asked about some knowledge that he knows, then he conceals it, he will be bridled with bridle of fire. [Tirmidhi]
How to strike a balance
How do we know when we’re hiding knowledge and when we’re speaking too much?
- Ask Allah (swt) for guidance. Only He can show us the right path, open our eyes to the truth, and rid our hearts of the coverings of sins and desires.
- Don’t quote any information, especially the Quran and hadith, without reference to the source where you found it. Even if you made a mistake, your reader/listener can at least go back to the source and verify it. In fact this is a habit that’ll come in useful even in secular, academic work. People will respect your words and take you seriously if they know you don’t speak without knowledge.
- If you’re unsure whether something is true or not, don’t teach it to others. If you have to, at least tell them you’re not sure.
- Learn, learn, and learn! And make sure to learn from authentic sources.
Dr Bilal Philips, Usool al-Tafsir
Ibn Taymiyyah, Muqadimmah fi Usul al-Tafsir English Translation by Sh. Uthaymeen.
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Tabassum Mosleh is a freelance writer and a student of al-Salam Institute. She likes animals and natural beauty, reading novels, and researching interesting topics. She shares her reflections at the blog sections of Understand Quran Academy, IIPH and Ibana. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org