Does having no knowledge about your religion free you from judgment?
Written by Ahmad Ali
It is an important question, which should be posed by every Muslim. The answer is simply ‛No.’ This question is very similar to another famous question, ‘Does having no knowledge about law free you from liability?’ The logical answer would always be ‛No.’
One usually becomes embarrassed and furious when a dispute arises between him and a neighbor or a relative, and may consult a lawyer, or even a legal advisor, to help him find a solution to his problem.
In terms of law, liability depends upon three points, as follows:
1- No punishment without a crime, that is to say, inflicting punishment requires committing a crime or violating rules and laws in the first place.
2- No crimination without a stipulation, that is to say, an article defines the nature of a crime and its juridical legislation applied by judges, carried by the police, and accepted by the whole society.
3- No stipulation without declaration; you cannot know articles without declaration through news, books, legal references, and lawyers.
Thus, liability takes place when laws and codes are violated. The same applies to religious issues.
In Islam, thanks to Allah, the Most Exalted, sources and references are available. We have the Word of Allah, i.e., the Glorious Qur’an, the Sunnah of the Prophet, the four Islamic schools of law, and the prominent Muslim scholars in almost all fields. Therefore, a Muslim should not feel shy to ask about religious issues and rulings.
However, we should not ask any person about religious rulings. Instead, we should consult a distinguished competent scholar, who has both knowledge of the Qur’an and
Sunnah and wisdom. This meaning is clearly articulated in the Glorious Qur’an. It reads:
[So ask the people of the Remembrance, in case you (i.e. the pagan Arabs) do not know. (Q16:43)]
While reflecting on this meaning, I remembered an anecdote. In an interview with Sheikh Muhammad Metwalli Ash-Sha’rawi, may Allah bless him, he became very angry when the interviewer asked him about the reasons that urged Imam Ash-Shafi’i alone to adopt the view that a fiancé is forbidden to marry his fiancée in case he falls in love with his would-be mother-in-law. Sheikh Ash-Sha’rawi angrily said: “It is not your business; only a prominent scholar, who is his equal in knowledge of Islamic law, may ask him.”
To explain, he gave him an example to clarify his opinion. He said that the person, who asks about the religious rulings, is similar to a patient, who visits a doctor to be examined. In such a case, a doctor prescribes a suitable medication according to the disease without being asked about the reasons beyond it.
To conclude, a Muslim should not ignore religious issues and rulings under the pretext of being preoccupied with the daily life troubles of earning his living, and taking care of his children. Instead, a Muslim should be preoccupied with pleasing Allah through observing the prescribed acts of worship and doing good deeds, bearing in mind that everything had been decreed by Allah and that he would only get what Allah had decreed for him. This fact was reiterated in both the Glorious Qur’an and the Prophet’s
Sunnah. Allah, the Most Exalted, says,
“O you who have believed, bow and prostrate and worship your Lord and do good- that you may succeed. And strive for Allah with the striving due to Him. He has chosen you and has not placed upon you in the religion any difficulty. [It is] the religion of your father, Abraham. He [i.e., Allah] named you “Muslims” before [in former scriptures] and in this [revelation] that the Messenger may be a witness over you and you may be witnesses over the people. So establish prayer and give Zakah and hold fast to Allah. He is your protector; and excellent is the protector, and excellent is the helper.” [Al-Hajj, 22:77-8]
Ibn ‘Abbas narrated that he was once riding behind the Prophet, who told him the following:
O young boy! I am teaching you some words. Be mindful of Allah, He keeps you; be mindful of Allah, you will find Him there with you (i.e. you will feel that he is helping you). If you ask for anything, ask Allah [for it], and if you seek help, seek it from Allah. You should also know that if the [whole] ummah joins efforts to benefit you with anything, never will it benefit you except with something which Allah decreed for you, and if it joins efforts to harm you with anything, never will it harm you with anything except with something which Allah decreed for you. Pens were lifted and scriptures became dry (i.e. everything was decreed by Allah).
Thus, a Muslim should not be given to worldly interests, but should rather exert himself in doing good deeds and preparing for the Hereafter, which is the way to success and Paradise.