[Friday Sermon] Speaking About Islam Without Knowledge

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By Imam Murtadha Gusau

In the Name of Allah, the Most Compassionate, the Most Merciful

All Praise is due to Allah, We praise Him and we seek help from Him. We ask forgiveness from Him. We repent to Him; and we seek refuge in Him from our own evils and our own bad deeds. Anyone who is guided by Allah, he is indeed guided; and anyone who has been left astray, will find no one to guide him. I bear witness that there is no god but Allah, the Only One without any partner; and I bear witness that Muhammad, peace and blessings on him, is His servant, and His messenger.

Dear brothers and sisters, today there is a worldwide Islamic epidemic. The one who might be a politician, a journalist, half-baked cleric, or a good writer, or a good talker or possibly even just grew a couple of days old beard and put on a jallabiyyah (long Muslim gown) or a turban, he goes to the Mosque or gives a talk or two and uploads it on Facebook, WhatsApp or YouTube and what happens? Now he becomes a Sheikh that can answer or give any kind of Islamic verdict or fatwa!

Also the man who has sacrificed his whole life in Medical School who knows snippets of Islamic knowledge or possibly one or two bits and pieces of Islamic knowledge, and the one who sacrificed his life in Law School or Engineering School or maybe a business man, or maybe he is a public commentator or a political analyst, well suddenly now he is a Sheikh! He is a Mufti! And he is Sheikh so and so. He begins to speak so boldly in matters of the destiny of this Ummah that even the Sahabah (Prophet’s companions) and the four Imams would have backed away from. He wouldn’t allow anybody to interfere with him in his field, but this man can put mouth, can interfere or even can challenge his eminence, the Sultan or an Islamic scholar in their field!

Sometimes it starts off innocently, that is the truth of the matter. He teaches, he knows some good Hadith, he gives a good lecture or a good Khutbah (sermon) and it starts off good. Maybe he goes to a non-Muslim community, conveys a lecture and invites them to Islam. That is good, but some do not know where to stop! Suddenly after he speaks in the local community and he begins to wear his jallabiyyah a lot and the few days old beard, or possibly sometimes one goes to ‘Hajj’ and comes back and he is now a Sheikh and a Mufti when coming back from ‘Hajj’! It may be that one goes to Madinah for ‘Umrah’ and comes back. What is his knowledge? Who is his Sheikh? Oh he went to Madinah. How long did he stay in Madinah? Three weeks. What did he get in three weeks? The problem is that people do not know their limits.

In this day and age you do not ask where the Sheikh is, you ask who is not the Sheikh. You just present an Islamic question in any field and in any surrounding and just see who will say Allahu a’lam, let us consult the Shuyukh (Islamic scholars). See how rare that is. Abdur-Rahman Ibn Abi Lailah said:

“I met one hundred and twenty (120) of the Ansar (the Sahabah of the Prophet Peace be upon him). Abdur-Rahman Ibn Abi Laila is a Tabi’i and he said: “If you asked each of them an issue they would refer it to the other person and the other person, until it comes back to the first person. It goes from a hundred and twenty people all the way back to the first person.”

Not a single one of them preaches a Hadith except that he wishes his brother would suffice him. Not a single one of them would give a fatwa except that he wishes his brother would suffice him.

Respected servants of Allah, can you imagine asking a hundred and twenty Muslims today about an Islamic matter? Oh wallahi I think this and that, but if you tell him my wristwatch broke or my computer broke then he is going to say: Take it to the computer engineer, take it to the wristwatch repairer or this place! But when it comes to ‘Islam’ everyone is a Sheikh today, and everyone can talk! Umar (RA) used to say:

“Fear Allah in giving your opinions over matters of this religion.”

When an issue used to arise, Umar and Ali were the best of the best in the best generation, and you would think they would jump to answer the question, but when a question or an issue would arise they would gather the companions. They would get together and ask what is the answer to this question? Maybe one of them heard a ‘Hadith’ the other one did not know of. When Umar and Ali did that, do you think they did not know? Honestly, do you think they did not know when they would gather the companions and ask them? They wanted to make one thousand percent sure that this is the right answer and that they did not miss out on anything.

Ata Ibn As-Sa’ib, a Tabi’i, said I met men, he means the companions, when one is asked about a fatwa his answer would be while his knees were trembling and shuddering. Why? He fears Allah, that he is going to be asked about this question.

Imams Ash-Sha’abi, Al-Hasan Al-Basri and Abu Husain, all Tabi’in, said:

“Some of you today give fatwas in matters that if they were presented to Umar Ibn al-Khattab, he would have gathered the people of Badr to consult with them.”

Now what do we say today Ash-Sha’abi?!

What do we say about today Al-Hasan Al-Basri?!

What do we say about the Ummah today if that is during your time, the first century. Wallahi people who cannot pronounce a single verse from the Qur’an have today become Muftin (those who will give Islamic verdicts, who can decide for Islam), whether they call themselves or others call them.

People so ignorant that they use matters abrogated in Islam as proof to substantiate their stance. Wallahi we heard those who cannot pronounce a single verse from the Qur’an correctly and clearly issue fatwas or use some kind of proof on matters that are abrogated as proof for free mixing and mingling. For example, Imam Malik said:

“Whoever wants to answer a fatwa or issue pertaining to Islamic matters, let him contemplate what is best for him before Allah. What is going to suffice him when he is before Allah? Let him remember Heaven and let him remember Hell, and after he contemplates and thinks of that then let him answer.”

A man asked Imam Malik and he did not answer. The man said Abu Abdillah (i.e Imam Malik) please answer me, Imam answer me. Imam Malik replied:

“Do you want me to be a justification to the action that you want to do? Do you want me to be the justification for the action before Allah and then I am the one who gets punished and you go scot-free?!”

Al-Haitham Ibn Jamil said:

“Imam Malik was once asked about forty eight matters. He answered thirty two and he said I do not know to the rest of them.”

Dear brothers and sisters, please roam around your town or around the world and ask the same number of questions Imam Malik was asked about and see how many answers you get. If you ask fifty, you are going to get fifty out of fifty! If you ask ten, you are going to get ten out of ten! It is a miserable situation of the Ummah. One man told Imam Malik:

“Abu Abdillah if you say I do not know then who knows, Imam Malik, you are the Mufti of your time? Then Imam Malik said: you do not know me more than I know myself.”

Here he is saying do I look special to you? I am an ordinary person and I know my limits! If Imam Malik knows his limits, should the people of today not know their limits?

He said:

“If Ibn Umar said he did not know then I can say I do not know.”

Being conceited and love of prestige and leadership is what destroys people today. These are the words of Imam Malik and that is why they say I do not know.

Here I have a comment to say about this. Umar Ibn al-Khattab would gather the companions to consult with them and Imam Malik says I do not know to several questions from people who are traveling for weeks just to ask him. When they did that, do you think they really did not know? I always think about this issue.

They told Imam ash-Shafi’i he was eligible to give fatwa when he was fifteen years old. His Shuyukh (his teachers) told him you are eligible to give fatwa when he was fifteen years old. His teacher Ibn Uyainah used to teach and ask Imam ash-Shafi’i who was still a kid: What do you think about this matter? What do you think about this Hadith? And his own teacher would refer people to ask ash-Shafi’i.

Imam Malik took the task of giving fatwa at the age of twenty one. After he went around to Shuyukh, he said: am I suitable now to give a fatwa or not? They told him: Imam Malik, if your Shuyukh would have told you no then would you have stopped? He said: certainly I would have.

Respected brothers and sisters, remember in the last sermon I mentioned two of the most prominent Shuyukh (teachers) of Imam Ibn al-Jawzi who would back away from giving fatwa that the kids in their halaqah (study circle) would give. Something that I always thought of is do you think they really did not know? Do you think these people really did not know? I am almost positive; we do not know the ghaib (unseen), that they did know the answer.

What I believe is that there were opinions or many Hadith on the matter and they were not at a level where they were one hundred percent sure. They were probably 99.9% sure that this is the right answer, but they were not a hundred percent sure so they backed away. That is my feeling and that is what I know of these Imams.

For example, if your boss gives you discretion to sign off on certain matters, you would think a million times before you proceed and you would ask around. I want to make my boss happy, he gave me a discretion to do this and that, so do you think I made the right decision?

If one was an advisor to a king or to a president or to a governor and they gave him discretion to do certain things or to make certain decisions, he would ask around all over and make sure that is the one hundred percent correct decision. One who is going to give a fatwa is not giving a fatwa in a matter pertaining to a king, a president a governor or a boss, but it is a matter pertaining to Allah, our creator that you are going to stand before Him and be asked about. Your boss, you can get over it. Your president, your governor and your king, you can get beyond that and you can pass that point, but Allah the Almighty??? Imam Ibn al-Qayyim rahimahullah said:

“Allah prohibited speaking about Him or His religion without knowledge and it is considered among the biggest of all prohibitions.”

Rather, Imam Ibn al-Qayyim considered it among the worst sins. He said:

“Allah gave levels in sins, He put levels in this verse in four sins. He started off with the fawahish (the major sins like adultery and fornication), then He went to the second level which is oppression, then He went to the third level which is shirk and then He went to the worst level which is speaking about Allah without knowledge.”

He started with the least and went to the worst, and the worst is speaking about Allah or His religion without knowledge. Allah the Almighty says:

“Say (O Muhammad): The things that my Lord has indeed forbidden are fawahish (great evil sins, and every kind of unlawful sexual intercourse, etc) whether committed openly or secretly, sins (of all kinds), unrighteous oppression, joining partners with Allah for which He has given no authority, and saying things about Allah of which you have no knowledge.” [Surah al-A’raf: 33]

And He the Most High says:

“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.” [Surah an-Nahl: 116]

Atiq Ibn Ya’qub and Ibn Wahhab said:

“They heard Imam Malik rahimahullah say: The Salaf (our predecessors) and those before them never used to say this is haram (this is prohibited) and this is halal (this is allowed). They used to say we dislike this and we like that, and you should do this and you should not do that. They would not use the term haram and halal because of the verse: “Say (O Muhammad to these polytheists): Tell me, what provision Allah has sent down to you! And you have made of it lawful and unlawful. Say (O Muhammad): Has Allah permitted you (to do so), or do you invent a lie against Allah?” [Surah Yunus: 59]

Dear brothers and sisters, many of the ignorant today when they go and learn from books, they read matters that Imam Ahmad Ibn Hanbal disliked, when in reality that matter is considered haram by Imam Ahmad Ibn Hanbal but they would not use the term haram. And I told you that is not the proper way of learning in itself and by itself, unless one has no teacher. Some of the Ulama’ (Islamic scholars) would not use the term haram and this brought a lot of confusion to a lot of the students. They would not use haram and halal, fearing Allah. They would say I dislike this and I like this, and I prefer this and I do not prefer that. Then Imam Malik brought many examples where the Salaf (predecessors) used to use makruh and he said this was a common trend used by them.

Abdullah Ibn Amr (RA) said, in Bukhari and Muslim:

“Verily Allah does not take away knowledge by snatching it from the hearts. He takes away knowledge by taking away the scholars (by their death) so that when the scholars leave and depart, then the people will be with the ignorant. They will ask the ignorant about Islamic verdicts and then those ignorant will tell them the answers. They are themselves astray and they lead the masses astray.”

And it was narrated from Abu Hurairah (RA) that the Messenger of Allah (Peace be upon him) prophesied that:

“There will come to the people years of endemic deception and treachery, when the liar will be regarded as honest, and the honest man will be regarded as a liar; the deceiver and traitor will be regarded as truthful and faithful, and the truthful man will be regarded as a deceiver and a traitor; and the Ruwaibidah will talk freely and decide matters” Who are the Ruwaibidah?’ His companions enquired. He replied ‘vile, insignificant and base persons (i.e. persons of little worth) who control the affairs of the people and be talking freely on public affairs.” [Reported by Imams Ahmad, Ibn Majah and Al-Hakim; also see Imam Albani’s Silsilatul-Ahadith As-Sahihah, Hadith no. 1887]

Respected brothers and sisters, know that, I didn’t stop anybody from doing Da’awah, No! That’s not my intention. Give Da’awah and I encourage you to do so, but know your limits. Make Da’awah in what you know in confidence and in matters that you do not know, say I do not know or give me time, let me ask or let me check or research. Simple and easy. Yes give Da’awah, do not stop Da’awah. Do not say I am ignorant, give Da’awah in matters that you know and back away from that which you do not know.

Imam Ash-Shawkani said:

“If you have nominated yourself for giving legal rulings to questioners and judging between two disputants, know that you are being tested and afflicted and others are being tested and afflicted through you; because blood is being spilled by your verdicts, wealth and rights are being removed from their rightful owners, what is unlawful is legalised and what is unlawful is prohibited. You are saying things which Allah Almighty never said, with no legal evidence from the book of Allah or the Sunnah of His Messenger. Rather, you are saying things that, through your own admission, you do not know whether they are true or false. So, what will be your answer when you stand in front of Allah Almighty? Indeed, Allah has ordered the leaders of the people to lead between them by what Allah Almighty has revealed, and you do not know what Allah has revealed because you do not know the way He revealed it. Allah Almighty ordered the Muslim leaders to lead by the truth and you do not know what the truth is. You just heard some people saying something so you said it too. Allah Almighty ordered the Muslim leaders to lead between the people with justice, and you do not know justice from oppression, because justice is what agrees with what Allah Almighty has prescribed, and oppression is what goes against that. Speaking about Islam do not include you, in fact the ones who are ordered to carry them out are others, namely scholars, so how have you performed a task which you were not ordered to do, nor designated as a substitute to carry out in the absence of someone else. How did you proceed to give a legal ruling based on principles other than what Allah Almighty has revealed? You became from amongst those about whom it was said: “And whosoever does not rule by what Allah Almighty has revealed, then they are the oppressors, and whosoever does not rule by what Allah Almighty has revealed are evildoers, and whosoever does not rule by what Allah Almighty has revealed are disbelievers.’” [See Al-Qaulul-Mufid fi Adillatil-Ijtihad wat-Taqlid, vol.1 page 97]

All praise is due to Allah, Lord of the worlds. May the peace, blessings and salutations of Allah be upon our noble Messenger, Muhammad, and upon his family, his Companions and his true and sincere followers.

Murtadha Muhammad Gusau is the Chief Imam of Nagazi-Uvete Jumu’ah and the late Alhaji Abdur-Rahman Okene’s Mosques, Okene, Kogi State, Nigeria. He can be reached via: [email protected] or +2348038289761.

This Jumu’ah Khutbah (Friday sermon) was prepared for delivery today, Friday, Muharram 29, 1442 AH (September 18, 2020).

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