Seek Beneficial Knowledge and Refrain from Needless Questions
Al-Ḥāfiẓ Ibn Rajab al-Ḥanbalī
A discussion on seeking clarification from the Qurʾān and Sunnah when having doubts about certain aspects of the religion. The believers should busy themselves with utilising ayāt from Allāh’s book to cement and further their Islamic knowledge.
Narrated by Abū Hurayrah ʿAbd al-Raḥmān ibn Ṣakhr (may Allāh be pleased with him) who said:1
I heard the Messenger of Allāh (ﷺ) say: ‘Whatever I have forbidden you from, refrain from it completely. Whatever I have ordered you with, carry out to the very best of your ability. For the nations, before you were only destroyed because of their copious amount of questions, and their disagreements with their prophets.’
Al-Ḥāfiẓ Ibn Rajab [d. 795 AH] said:
The meaning of this is that everything that a Muslim could conceivably need relating to his dīn, without a doubt, must be clarified in the Book of the Exalted in Might, and must have been delivered from Him (ʿAzza wa Jal) by His Messenger (ﷺ). So there should be no need for anyone after this to ask questions [about what is not already in the Qurʾān or Sunnah]. For truly, Allāh is more acquainted with the requirements and needs of His slaves than they themselves could ever be. So, whatsoever contains any sort of guidance or would benefit them in any way, there can be no doubt that He has already clarified it for them at its beginning, without the requirement for them to even ask concerning it.
يُبَيِّنُ اللَّهُ لَكُمْ أَن تَضِلُّوا ۗ
“Allāh makes clear to you [His law], lest you go astray”
Thus, there should be no need to ask about anything, particularly that which has yet to occur and the need for the query has yet to arise. Rather, the most important need is only to gain an understanding of what has been related by Allāh and His Messenger (ﷺ), then to follow it and act according to it.
The Prophet (ﷺ) was asked about certain issues and he would order the inquirer to return to āyāt from the Qurʾān. For example, when he was asked by ʿUmar [may Allāh be pleased with him] about kalālah [one having neither descendants nor ascendants as heirs], he replied that the verse of summer2 [al-Nisāʾ, 4:176] is enough for you [in this issue]. The Messenger of Allāh (ﷺ) highlights in the ḥadīth that in one busying himself with enacting his orders and refraining from that which he forbade, is enough to keep oneself from being busy with other issues [that have not occurred]. As he says: ‘Whatever I have forbidden you from, refrain from it completely. Whatever I have ordered you with, carry out to the very best of your ability.’ Therefore, the obligation of a Muslim is to pay due care and attention into researching that which has come from Allāh and His Messenger (ﷺ), then striving to gain an acquaintance with its meanings and fully understand [each interpretation].
Then, he should busy himself with attesting to its truthfulness if it pertains to the belief [creed] only. If it is from among the matters pertaining to one’s actions, he should utilise everything at his disposal in striving to execute whatever he is able to carry out from the orders and refrain completely from that which is forbidden. To the point where his attention is wholly and completely directed towards that goal, and nothing other than it.
This was the path taken by the companions of the Prophet (ﷺ) and the ones who followed them in goodness in their pursuit of beneficial knowledge from the Book [of Allāh] and the Sunnah.
1. Jāmiʿ al-ʿUlūm: 271 2. Verse of summer: so-called because its revelation took place in the season of summer.