How often do we encounter an ayah (verse) in the Qur’an that we do not understand or are puzzled at how to apply it? Though we have access to tafsir books in masjid libraries, Islamic bookstores, online, and oftentimes, in our own homes, how frequently do we research the question until we find the answer? Usually, that question is left to ferment in the back of our mind, until Shaytan figures out a way to use it to his advantage. In contrast, many of our predecessors traveled months to meet a scholar who could answer their question about a single verse. Ibn Rajab Al-Hanbali, in Heirs to the Prophets, cites various examples:
Ibn Mas`ud used to say:
I swear by Allah, besides whom there is no other diety, no chapter of the Qur’an has been revealed except that I know where it was revealed. No verse from the Book of Allah has been revealed except that I know why it was revealed. Yet if I knew of anyone more learned than me in the Book of Allah, I would make every effort to reach him.
… A man traveled from Kufa to Syria to ask Abu Darda’ about the validity of an oath he had taken. Also, Sa`id ibn Jubayr traveled from Kufa to Makkah to ask Ibn `Abbas about the explanation of a single verse in the Qur’an. Hasan Al-Basri traveled to Kufa to ask Ka`b ibn `Ujra about the atonement for al-adha [during the pilgrimage].1
No “Blind Faith”
Caring to find the answer is part of sincerity in the deen (religion). How often have we discussed “controversial” issues like al-hudud (punishments specified in Shari`ah), socio-economic systems in Islam, women’s rights and gender roles, and heard discontentment in one of our brothers’ or sisters’ tone? For various reasons, they still had questions as the issue was not clear or did not satisfy their sense of justice.
Unfortunately, many of the youth find themselves poorly equipped to face the attacks on Islam in the media and the world of Western academia. Much of the rhetoric and generalizations leave burning questions unanswered.
Or are they truly unanswered?
In the last two years, I have attended various conferences, lectures and workshops. In each, I was blessed to hear answers to all the burning questions I heard in prior discussions. Sadly, however, the individuals who needed to hear the answer most were nowhere to be found. They would often miss the program because they did not expect to learn anything new.
The early Muslim generations modeled deep faith and optimism during periods of doubt. They ensured that the doubt was only temporary as they actively sought the answers to put their hearts and minds at ease.
Alhamdulillah (praise be to Allah), the Muslim community is blessed with many scholars and da`iyahs, and in a time when communication was never easier, we have no excuses to leave unanswered questions that cast doubt in our hearts.
Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala – Glory be unto Him) rewards the determination to “invite to Allah’s way with baseerah [insight]” (12:108) by guiding us further and granting us taqwa.
“And those who are guided – He increases them in guidance and gives them their righteousness.” (47:17)
The determination to find answers reflects commitment to pleasing Allah (swt), learning the truth, believing in it fully and implementing it with baseerah. Out of Allah’s mercy, He guides the questioner to the answer and additional, beneficial knowledge and grants him/her the tool to ultimately win: taqwa.
And whoever obeys Allah and His Messenger and fears Allah and is conscious of Him – it is those who are the attainers. (24:52)
- Ibn Rajab Al-Hanbali. tr. Zaid Shakir. The Heirs of the Prophets. Chicago: The Starlatch Press, 2001. p. 4. ↩