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. ↩
The huddud aren’t a controversial issue: please amend your article appropriately.
The hudud are not a contorversial issue from the Islamic point of view. But for the West, some hudud are veiwed as being too harsh or unfair. Even though we don’t accept to compromise our faith regarding what Allah (s.w.) decreed as the appropriate punishment for certain violations of Islamic moral conduct, we should understand that this is how some people in the West view hudud and that this is how some Muslim youth in the West feel about them as well. The hudud as well as other Islamic decrees might seem controversial to some Muslim youth. The author, Asmaa, placed the word “controversial” between quotation marks to convey this particular meaning. Her use of quotation marks also makes it clear to the reader that the author does not agree necessarily to the idea that hudud are controversial but that this is how they are viewed by some. It is clear that the message the author is conveying here is that we should not and do not have blind faith. But the fact that many of the Muslim youth today do not care enough to assertain their faith and establish it on strong foundations, creates controversy in the minds of those youth regarding fixed and just Islamic legislation.
I dont think the sister meant that the huddud are controversial in nature–rather they are controversial in society. Without a doubt many people do not understand the huddud, and some Muslims even look down upon this because of their lack of understanding. As she said, many Muslims pull a blank and have no idea what to say when some one is attacking them based on certain aspects of the deen, and one of these aspects that I have seen before–is the huddud–and at this point and time–in the gathering that the person is in…this subject IS controversial.
This comment is a gem of sorts because it serves to illustrate the gist of your article. Its writer probably does not possess too much knowledge of hudud since it is subject to controversy not only in the west but its details are subject to significant disagreement in pre-modern classical Islamic scholarship (the number of hudud crimes, the nisab for sariqa, what constitutes hiraba, and the combination of punishments for zina etc – the list could go on).
The hudud are a controversial and there is no need for you to amend your article as the somewhat pretentious comment demands
with salam and best regards
Personally speaking I don’t think the article needs amending. The word “controversial” is written within speech marks which to me , as a reader, implies that such issues are controversial to some (eg those who don’t really believe) but not controversial to others (ie the true believer).
May Allah increase us in guidance and taqwa.
The author is correct in pointing out the ease with which information is accessible now yet the zeal is not as present as much as days gone by when people would travel..and travel with great difficulty to gain even one gem.
I think (and I hold up my hands as guilty too), we are quick to blow hot air but very few take action in sincerely searching, because knowledge has become a pre-packaged commodity which people want in an instant, rather like everything else in our lives.
People often don’t like to admit their doubts for fear of being seen as weak Muslims, or doubting Muslims. So jazak Allah khayr for addressing an issue that is often not spoken about.
I first began learning about Islam at the age of 14 and 15. I was a bright student and a voracious reader, and I read through the Quran, and all of Sahih Bukhari, Sahih Muslim, and many other books. This was not necessarily the best approach. Reading through these hadith collections with no Islamic background and nothing to put them in context can be confusing and can lead to many questions and doubts.
Alhamdulillah my faith was strong and when doubts arose, I put them on the “back burner” as I said to myself, and let them simmer there as I continued to learn. I found that in time, and with increased knowledge, my questions were answered one by one. But I can see how someone with too many pots simmering on those back burners might be vulnerable to doubting his faith, or might be open to arguments against Islam.
It’s important to reach out to such people. We should never say, “You shouldn’t question Islam. Allah says it, so accept it.” Instead we should be open to their questions and try to provide context and answers.
Subhan Allah, the beginning of this article struck me like crazy, barak Allahu fiki. My favorite line: “They ensured that the doubt was only temporary as they actively sought the answers to put their hearts and minds at ease.”
Jazaki Allahu kul khayr, great reminder ma sha’ Allah
Masha allah tha article is amaging
Excellent article Asmaa.
Whats worse is that some people choose not to do research or seek the answers. KNOWING that they will find it…some have even said to me “If i dont find out the truth , I wont get punished for it”.
Its so sad! May Allah guide us.
I can very much relate to this point: “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.”
Maullana Qadhi Abdur-Rasheed a learned scholar in Pakistan (head of Islamic Schools) often repeats in his jumma khutbas and talks… “So! the answer is out there and you tell me you have never read it and let me tell you its not in the book you read it is in the books you don’t read…” or he also says “many a people say oh! I have never heard that then I tell them it was not in the party you attended but the majlis you missed” (not verbatim, I am using my wording)