Asking questions is key to knowledge
April 12 2019 01:47 AM
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The fact that Jibreel (’alaihis-salaam) asked questions to Allah’s Messenger (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) about Islam, eemaan and ihsaan, the Last Hour and its signs, contains proof that asking questions is the key to knowledge and this is stated in the Mighty Book:
Ask the people of the Reminder, if you do not know. Surah an-Nahl (16):43 and Surah al-Anbiyaa (21):7.
Also Allah’s Messenger (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) stated that it is a cure for ignorance, as occurs in the hadith of the man who had the head fracture, where he said, “Why didn’t they ask when they were ignorant? Indeed the cure for not knowing is to ask.” And since the matter is as I have explained, then asking questions in a good way will assist in that matter, because whoever asks a question in a good way will learn. Therefore the great scholar, Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyyah (may Allah have mercy on him) said in Miftaah Daaris-Sa’aadah:
“And knowledge has six levels. The first of them is asking questions in a good manner ...there are some people who are prevented from it (knowledge) because they do not ask questions in a good manner, either because they never ask questions, or because they ask a question about something when something else is more important than it. Like the person who asks about superfluous things ignorance of which will not harm him, but leaves those things which are essential for him to know. This is the condition of many of the foolish students.”
Mujaahid said: “Knowledge will not be learnt by one who is too shy, nor one who is too proud.”
Al-Khateeb al-Baghdaadee said in his book, Al-Faqeeh wal-Mutafaqqih (2/143): “And it is befitting that shyness should not prevent a person from asking questions about something that has happened to him. But if he does become too shy and embarrassed to ask a question to the scholar, then he should give his question to one he feels at home with or one he feels relaxed with for him to ask the scholar on his behalf and to inform him about its ruling.”
So in summary, whoever wishes to reach the levels of the scholars let him begin by asking questions. How fine is the saying Allah has caused the scholar Ibn al-’Arabee to say, “How close the things are to being attained when they are given their due worth, and how far from attainment when they are not given their due worth. So ask the scholar you will be a scholar like him. Whoever attains wide knowledge must spend the dowry for that. So carefully consider the knowledge which you give a ruling with, there is no good in knowledge without careful consideration. For a person may strive and still be falling short, and the efforts of a person may be frustrated, even though he doesn’t fall short. The men whose actions we take as an example have gone and those men who censure every evil action also. I am left within the later people who seek to adorn one another to hide each others shortcomings.”
Know that asking questions in a good manner will help the scholar to give the answer, as Maymoon ibn Mihraan said, “Asking questions in a good manner is half of knowledge.”
Therefore it is essential to explain the knowledge of how to ask questions, because being ignorant of that will lead to confusion. Maalik ibn Anas said, “Ibn ‘Ajlaan came to Zayd ibn Aslam to ask him about something but he became confused in it, so Zayd said to him, ‘Go away and learn how to ask questions and then come and ask.’”
(i) The question should be a question to find something out, it should not be asked to cause trouble, nor should it be to show someone’s ignorance, and it should not be made as a test for someone. Because this is the condition mentioned in the Book of Allah: Ask the people of the Reminder, if you do not know. Surah an-Nahl (16):43 and Surah al-Anbiyaa (21):7. So one who does not know then he asks in order that he may be taught. However,it is permissible for one who knows that he asks the scholar in order to teach those people who are sitting round about. Because this is what Jibreel (‘alaihis-salaam) did with Allah’s Messenger (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam), his questions were asked in order to teach the Companions (radhiallahu ‘anhum) who were sitting around the Prophet.
(ii) It is not allowed to ask questions about something which there is no need of, things whose answers will trouble the one who is asking the question. Anas (radhiallahu ‘anhu) said, “Allah’s Messenger (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) gave a khutbah and I have never heard the like of it. He (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) said, ‘If you knew what I know,then you would certainly laugh only a little,and you would weep a lot.”’ So the Companions (radhiallahu ‘anhum) covered up their faces and they were weeping, so a man said, ‘Who is my father?’ He said, ‘Your father is so and so.’ So this aayah was sent down: Do not ask about things, which, if they are made plain to you may cause trouble to you.
(iii) Likewise, it is not allowed to ask questions about things which may cause difficulty and cause hardship to the questioner or for other Muslims. Sa’d (radhiallahu ‘anhu) said that the Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) said, “The severest of the Muslims in sin with regard to the Muslims is one who asks about something that was not forbidden but it is made forbidden due to his asking the question.”
(iv) Therefore the Companions (radhiallahu ‘anhum) and the Taabi’een used to hate asking questions about things before they happened and they would not answer those questions. Since this is going to excess which is something Allah has forbidden and He has declared His Prophet free from it. He ordered His Prophet to say: Say, ‘I do not ask you for any reward for it and I am not one of the ones who goes beyond bounds.’ Surah Saad (38):86.
Ar-Rabee’ibn Khuthaim said, “O servant of Allah,whatever knowledge Allah has given to you in His Book, then give praise and give thanks to Allah for that. Whatever knowledge He has kept concealed from you,then leave it to the One who knows it and don’t go to excesses, because Allah, the Mighty and Majestic said to His Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam): I do not ask you for any reward for it and I am not one of the ones who goes to excesses. It is just a reminder for all of men and jinn. And you will certainly know the news of its truth after a short while (after death and the Resurrection). Surah Saad (38):86-88.
Ibn ‘Abdul-Barr said in his book, Jaami’Bayaanil-’Ilm wa Fadlihi (2/138-139) “A group of the people of knowledge said, ‘The opinion (Ra’y) that is blameworthy, criticised, abandoned and which it is not allowed to look into, nor to occupy oneself with, is innovated opinion and its like from the innovated types.’ But others say, and they are the majority of the people of knowledge, ‘Blameworthy opinion that is mentioned in these narrations by the Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) and from the Companions and the Taabi’een is speaking about the rulings of the Shari’ah based upon personal opinion of what is good, and based upon surmise, preoccupying oneself with intricate and difficult matters, and with thorny questions, referring details of happenings to each other and making analogy based upon that without referring them back to their origins and looking at their causes and taking that into consideration.’
Applying one’s opinion before things actually occur and then laying down details to follow on from this and resultant side issues before anything happens and speaking about this before these things occur. This is like pure speculation. They say: So preoccupying oneself and delving into these things is an abandonment of what occurs in the Sunnah.
It involves looking into things which the Sunnah is silent about, and it means abandonment of occupying oneself with that which is essential from the Sunnah and the Book of Allah, the Mighty and Majestic, and its meanings.” I say: and even if the excuse given for this hair-splitting, this laying down of details, this giving hypothetical answers, was that it is used just to train oneself upon the matters of fiqh, then it is still the same as is pointed out by Haafiz ibn Hajr al-Asqalaanee (may Allah have mercy on him) in his book, Fath al-Baaree.
(v) Al-Khateeb al-Baghdaadee (may Allah have mercy on him) in his book, Jaami’li-Akhlaaqir- Raawee wa Adaabis-Saami’, (1/211-214) brings a number of chapters in this regard and we will mention the most important of these headings due to their importance:
From correct manners is that when the scholar of hadith narrates a hadith and then something appears to the student while he is narrating and he wants to ask about that thing, he should not ask about it at that time. Rather he should have patience until the narrator has finished narrating his hadith and then he can ask about whatever he wants to ask about.
He should avoid asking the narrator of hadith when his heart is preoccupied.
It is not befitting that he should ask him when he is standing up, nor when he is walking, because there is a saying appropriate to each place, and there are places appropriate for the narrating of Hadith-and they exclude the streets and lowly places.
It is obligatory that the questioner should mention to the scholar of hadith those chains of the hadith which he wants to hear narrated from him, and if a hadith has many chains the questioner should specify the best of them and should specify the points of benefit he wishes to hear narrated by him. If the scholar of hadith responds and grants his request to narrate to him, then the student should be easy upon him and he should not trouble him.
(vi) It is permissible to ask a scholar about his proof. Al-Khateeb al-Baghdaadee said in his book, Al-Faqeeh wal-Mutafaqqih,(2/149), “And if the scholar gives him an answer to his question it is permissible for him to ask him about his answer, did he say it based upon a narration or did he say it based upon opinion.”
(vii) It is hated to keep repeating a question to the scholar in a troublesome manner. Al-Khateeb al-Baghdaadee said in his book, Al-Faqeeh wal-Mutafaqqih, (2/149), “And if he asks the scholar to explain and he explains it to him and then he repeats again and asks him to explain again, it is allowed for the scholar to add more. If he asks him again after that then it is allowed for the scholar to hold his tongue because frequent repetition will vex him. However it is recommendable for the scholar to be mild and treat with tolerance and make allowance for the people.”
(viii) It is allowed for him to ask about speech that is unclear to him. ‘Abdullah ibn Mas’ood (radhiallahu ‘anhu)said, “I prayed along with Allah’s Messenger (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) one night and he stood for a very long time until I thought about doing something bad.” A student said to him, “What did you think of doing?” He said, “I thought of sitting down and leaving him.”

Lessons from calamities

Have fear and consciousness of Allah, subhanahu wa ta’ala, and ponder over events that happen around you. Learn lessons from them and remember, for the intelligent one is he who remembers and takes admonition.
Earthquakes cause thousands of people to die, cause loss of wealth and properties, and force people to seek refuge outside of their dwellings, being without their home and their wealth, and without food and drink. They turn security into fear, richness into poverty, cause families to depart, and turn life into death. Without doubt, in it is a lesson for those who take lessons and a reminder for those who remember, so that they may return to their Lord and their Creator.
The Truthful, the Chosen one (as-Saadiq al-Mustafa), sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, has informed us that a multitude of earthquakes is a sign of the proximity of the Hour. He informed us that they would be many at the end of the time.
Ahmad relates in a hadith narrated by Abu Hurairah, radhiallahu ‘anhu, that the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, said: “The Hour will not happen until knowledge is taken out, time passes quickly, earthquakes increase in number, tribulations (fitan) appear, and al-Harj increases in number.” It was said, “What is al-Harj, O Rasoolullah?” He said, “Al Qatl, al Qatl (Killing)”.
A lot of what is mentioned in this hadith has already materialised.
Happenings of earthquakes and the like from other destructive and disastrous events are the greatest evidence of the astonishing power of Allah, subhanahu wa ta’ala. Earthquakes are from among the soldiers of Allah, subhanahu wa ta’ala, subjected to His order. He, subhanahu wa ta’ala, causes fear in the hearts of those whom He wills, teaches lessons whom He wills and punishes whom He wills.
“And none can know the Forces of your Lord, except He.” (74:31)
“For to Allah belong the Forces of the heavens and the earth.” (48:7)
If the Ummah leaves Allah’s Shari’ah, ignores the Deen of Allah and follows its enemies, Allah will subjugate it to His armies, which no one knows except He. From among these armies are the earthquakes.
“Such is the Seizure of your Lord when He seizes the towns while they are doing wrong. Verily, His Seizure is painful and severe.” (11:102)
“When We decide to destroy a town, We (first) send a definite order (to obey Allah and be righteous) to those among them who are given the good things of this life. Then, they transgress therein, and thus the word (of torment) is justified against (them). Then we destroy it with complete destruction.” (17:16)
Allah, subhanahu wa ta’ala, with this earthquake makes clear to His servants a plain reality, that the kingdom of the heavens and the earth is in His Hands, subhanahu wa ta’ala, and that He is the Irresistible and Dominant over His servants.
Everything is in Allah’s Hands, He has power over all things, and no one in the Heavens and the Earth can weaken Him, subhanahu wa ta’ala. Appearance of the earthquakes therefore points us to a different reality that may be absent in the minds of some people, those who are busy with this world and who are servants of materialism.
Earthquakes also remind us of the Day of Judgment. The Day when all of the Earth will shake, and not only one part of it. Allah, subhanahu wa ta’ala, says:
“O mankind! Fear your Lord and be dutiful to Him! Verily, the earthquake of the Hour is a terrible thing. The Day you shall see it, every nursing mother will forget her nursling, and every pregnant one shall drop her load, and you shall see mankind as in a drunken state. Yet they will not be drunken, but the Torment of Allah will be severe.” (22:1-2)
Look what is left after the earthquake from destroyed buildings and houses, deaths of thousands, and families seeking refuge outside of their homes. What state is that in which everyone is running away, caring about nothing? So what do you think of the Day of Judgment?
“That Day shall a man flee from his own brother, and from his mother and his father, and from his wife and his children.” (80:34-36)
“One the day (when the first blowing of the Trumpet is blown), the earth and the mountains will shake violently.” (79:6)
Allah warns His servants with this earthquake to learn a lesson and be admonished, and to be ready and prepare themselves for the Day of Sorting Out, the day of the great earthquake, that will shake all of the earth.
Allah has placed in this universe Sunan, fixed and manifest laws, neither do they change nor are they replaceable. He does not have any kinship with anyone, He is the sole Creator and Ruler, and He will question and hold accountable everyone, including prophets and messengers. “Then surely, We shall question those to whom it (the Book) was sent and We shall question the Messengers.” (7:6)

From among the established Sunan of Allah is that He does not send punishment except due to sin and He does not remove it except after repentance. Allah says, “Whatever misfortune befalls you, it is because of what your hands have earned.” (42:30)
Allah the Mighty and Majestic says: “Evil and mischief have appeared on land and sea because of what the hands of men have earned, that Allah may make them taste a part of that which they have done, in order that they may return (by repenting to Allah).” [30:41]
Every disaster and every calamity that befalls the servants is due to their sins and wrongdoing. So know, servants of Allah, what wrongdoing does to its doers.
What has taken Adam and Eve from the Jannah except wrongdoing, and what Has drowned all of the people on the earth at the time of Nuh, to the point that water reached the peak of mountains, except wrongdoing?
Who is it who sent the furious violent wind upon the people of ‘Aad, so that they were seen lying overthrown and destroyed, as if they were hollow trunks of palm-trees? Who is it who sent the awful cry upon the people of Thamud until it cut their hearts inside their bodies, and they all fell dead without exception? Who lifted the villages of the people of Lut till the angels heard barking of their dogs, then turned them upside down, and then rained upon them a rain of stones?
That is the immediate punishment for wrongdoing: drowning, fire, earthquakes, destruction, famine, raging wind... “And the torment of the hereafter is far more severe and more lasting.” (20:127)
Do we not take admonition and lesson? Allah, subhanahu wa ta’ala, says: “Did We not destroy the ancients? So shall We make the later generations to follow them. Thus do We deal with the Mujrimoon (criminals, disbelievers, sinners.). Woe that Day to the deniers (of the Day of Resurrection)!” [77:16-19]
Earthquakes are just a warning from Allah, subhanahu wa ta’ala – not only to the people of one particular quake-hit country alone, but rather to the people in general, in all lands – that they may return to their Lord and their Deen. Otherwise a punishment will come upon them. Allah says, “So We seized each of them for his sins.” (29:40)

Allah burdens not any soul beyond its scope
Our understanding of religious texts and rules of Islamic Law (Shari’ah) sometimes causes us to seek to free ourselves from necessary duties and responsibilities and lean toward neglect, abandonment, and seeking excuses for ourselves. When we read the words of the Most High: Allah burdens not any soul (person) beyond its scope [Surah Al-Baqarah 286], we attempt to interpret the aayah as a licence to refrain from being burdened with obligations so we use it when we are asked to perform any particular task.
We make the excuse that it is not within our ability or power while we forget that the aayah actually obligates us to the utmost of our human capacity. It is a proof upon the slave (al-’abd) for the necessity of expending maximum effort and capacity to perform all moral obligations. All who seek excuse from performing legal and moral obligations look at the relief in the aayah for those who are incapable, but they are blind to what it obligates up to one’s capacity.
Most remarkable is the (mis)understanding of al-war’a. This (al-war’a) has a precise meaning applicable in particular to those who are the most persevering, and forbearing in eemaan (faith) among the imaams and scholars who never fell short in the performance of obligatory duties or even recommended ones, nor did they neglect abandonment of that which is disliked or forbidden. They did so to the point that they left every superfluous deed that had neither benefit for the Hereafter or was unnecessary for this life.
This thin definition is applied by some to the degree that you will find those who apply abandonment of doing something for fear that it may possibly be detestable (makrooh) in Allah’s sight, harmful, or even leading to either. However they do not abandon not doing something for a particular reason! Meaning, that a person may be inclined to abandon things that may seem similar to what is detestable or forbidden but they will not lean toward acting upon something that may be similar to what is commendable (mustahabb) or obligatory (waajib).
There are many who avoid particular foods, drinks, clothing or deeds fearing that within them may be that which would detract from or mar their righteousness. This is well and good. However, you will not find anything which mars or detracts in doing da’wah or jihad, correction or ordering good and forbidding evil, giving charity in the way of Allah or rushing to perform acts of good and righteousness. One may associate this as a particular obligatory duty upon a person. You may find actions that are not actually commendable however they may associate them as such. Yet you don’t find anyone inclined toward doing what may be associated with an obligation or that which may be commendable. Why?
It is because we have come to prefer sitting and neglect and lightening burdens and responsibilities! It has become easier for us to not do something out of precaution of harming our deen but not easy to act as a means of al-war’a or precaution.
The true definition of al-war’a is doing that which is similar to and associated with the obligatory or the commendable, and abandoning what is similar to or associated with the forbidden or the detestable. In the hadith related by An-Nu’maan Ibn Basheer that is mutafaqun ‘alaihi (agreed upon as authentic by Al-Bukhari and Muslim), the Prophet of Allah (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) said: Verily the halal is clear and the haraam is clear, and between the two are doubtful matters about which not many people know.
Therefore, whoever fears and avoids doubtful matters clears his deen of fault and whoever falls into the doubtful matters falls into the haram as the shepherd who herds his flock near a sanctuary is feared to possibly stray into it... Therefore, whoever does what could be considered or associated with the detestable will indeed fall into it in actuality and consequently possibly into the forbidden. Whoever abandons doing what is similar to the commendable will also fall into that and will possibly not do what is truly commendable and as a consequence end up neglecting necessary obligations.
The true believer must hold strongly to the Qur’an and possess the readiness to act just as much as possessing the readiness to abandon. Yes, a part of giving obedience to Allah involves the slave of Allah (al-’abd) relinquishing his relaxation and comfort with the resulting effect of then exerting efforts in work seeking the pleasure and acceptance of Allah ta’alaa and getting closer to Him, even if this involves some hardship and toil.
Action and abandonment are a part of deen (Islam), and for this reason, ordering good (al-amr bil-ma’roof) and forbidding evil (an-nahy ‘anil-munkar) are at its root. Ordering the good is a call to action, while forbidding evil is a call to cessation and abandonment, and the former (ordering and forbidding) is the root of the latter (action and cessation). And Allah knows best.

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