Every Muslim Should Know about their Deen
By Habib Ahmad
(saws) said: "Seeking Knowledge is obligatory upon every Muslim."
(Related by Ibn 'Adiyy, Al-Bayhaqi & Al-Tabarani)
Though this Hadith
is known and memorised by most Muslims, the essence, the amount,
and the kind of knowledge referred to in this Hadith remains misunderstood
If it is true that
the knowledge incumbent upon every Muslim pertains to religious
knowledge, or al-'Ilm al-Shar'i, how deeply does one have
to pursue his quest of this knowledge to fulfil his duties and discharge
the learning obligations placed upon him? In other words, what are
the minimum teachings that every Muslim - male or female - is required
to know about his Deen?
TYPES OF KNOWLEDGE
Muslim scholars classify
knowledge into two categories:
This refers to knowledge
of the fundamentals of Islamic beliefs which every Muslim must know
Seeking this knowledge is an obligatory duty upon every Muslim.
All obligatory knowledge deal exclusively with al-'Ilm al-Shari'i,
that is, knowledge pertaining to Islamic faith, acts of worship,
and the necessary transaction in the daily dealing of a Muslim.
This is not a duty
required of every individual, but rather it falls upon the community
as a whole. Hence, if a group of individuals in the community undertake
to acquire this kind of knowledge, all other individuals will be
exempted from this duty, and the whole community will be free from
responsibility or negligence to acquire this kind of knowledge.
Examples of such knowledge include studying Islamic law and other
basic sciences, industries and professions which are vital for the
welfare of the society.
knowledge, optional knowledge covers part of Islamic knowledge and
all worldly knowledge. The former is called al-'Ilm al-Shar'i
al Kifa'i (optional Islamic knowledge), while the latter is
called al-Ilm al-dunyawi (worldly knowledge).
These cover all branches of Islamic Shariah, such as: tafsir
(Qur'anic exegeses), fiqh, hadith sciences (known as mustalah
al-hadith or 'Ilm usul al-hadith), seerah (the
Prophet's biography), Islamic political science, (As-siyasah
al-shar'iyah), Islamic history, etc.
Each of these sciences
may require knowledge of other sciences to fully and comprehensively
cover the substance of the matter studied. For example: tafsir
needs Arabic grammar, Arabic literature, and other linguistic skills;
Hadith sciences need the science of criticism (which looks at the
narrators' credibility, trustworthiness, power of memorisation,
etc.), called 'Ilm al-jarh wat-ta'deel.
The natural and applied
sciences: These are all the basic sciences, industries and professions
which are of vital necessity for the welfare of the community. Examples
of such fields include: engineering; agriculture, fisheries, food
Leaders of every
Muslim community should always do their best to procure the necessary
number of scholars, professionals and qualified men and women in
all fields of optional knowledge needed by the community. For example,
Muslims in America must train sufficient number of Shariah
scholars to answer questions raised by members of the community.
They must also prepare enough educators administrators, teachers
and counsellors to fill the growing needs of Islamic schools in
this country. Both male and female Muslim doctors are needed in
every city to care for male and female Muslim patients, respectively.
From the above discussion,
we can fully understand the responsibility that lies upon the shoulders
of Muslims in this continent. Any community which does not take
the necessary steps to satisfy its own needs in all fields of optional
knowledge becomes subject to the punishment of Allah. Consequently,
all its members will share the blame and the sins for their shortcomings.
FOR ISLAMIC SCIENCES
First, the understanding
fundamentals of Iman: This is also called 'Ilm Usul ud-Deen
(Fundamentals of Deen), or 'Ilm al-Tawheed (the Oneness of
Allah), or simply 'Aqeedah (Islamic faith). Every Muslim
must have a general knowledge of all matters pertaining to his faith.
He should have a clear understanding of the Lord he worships, the
Prophet he follows and the Deen to which he committed himself.
Needless to say, one should exert the best of one's effort to acquire
these fundamentals. Second, understanding Islamic rules and conduct
(fiqh al-ahkam): This is also called fiqh al-'Ibadat
(understanding of acts of worship). This field covers all aspects
of the Islamic acts of worship that are necessary for the correct
practice of one's Salat, Zakat, Sawm, and Hajj.
It also covers all aspects of family issues, such as marriage, divorce,
children's education, as well as rules and regulations for one's
business transactions such as, buying, selling, borrowing and lending,
A Muslim is obligated
to learn from fiqh al-ahkam only matters that are related
to Ibadah (worship) he needs to perform; and rules of a particular
transaction he wants to undertake. For example, if a Muslim has
not reached the age for prayer or fasting, he does not have to learn
about them though the may be encouraged to do so. Also, if one does
not have the necessary means to perform Hajj, one does not need
to learn its rituals until one becomes able to undertake the Hajj
By learning those
two branches, a Muslim will know His Lord by all His beautiful names
and Most High attributes. He will renounce all imperfections that
ignorant and deviant people attributed to Allah. He will know the
status, function and rights of the Prophets and, thus, will not
elevate them to a divine status, nor will he degrade them to a status
that does not befit their prophethood as many heretics had done.
He will follow a similar course when dealing with other required
beliefs, such as the belief in the Angels, the Books, the Predetermined
Decree, the Last Day, the punishment in the grave, etc. On the other
hand, before performing any act of worship, a Muslim should know
the requirements, the conditions and the desirable actions pertaining
to that act. Hence, He will never practice any act of worship or
undertake any transaction not sanctioned by the Qur'an or Sunnah.
Just by contemplating
the Islamic knowledge of Muslims today, the reader will realise
how much those two disciplines, which are required of every Muslim,
have been neglected, if not totally ignored. Unfortunately, there
are many Muslim professors, doctors, and engineers, who hold the
most advanced academic or professional positions in their respective
institutions, yet do not possess the minimum knowledge of the Islamic
sciences. Ironically, while it takes only a few weeks or even a
few days to acquire the obligatory Islamic knowledge, it may take
at least two years to obtain a basic degree in any worldly field.
Though these brothers and sisters are to be thanked and encouraged
for their worldly endeavour, they are undoubtedly sinful due to
their shortcomings in learning the required Islamic knowledge.
Every Muslim should
know that once he has corrected his beliefs, and Ibadah, through
knowledge, and cleansed his devotions from any type of Shirk (i.e.
Showing off, pleasing others besides/other than Allah, etc.), he
can aspire and hope for his reward from Allah (Most Exalted is He).
Indeed, it is through knowledge and sincerity that one can enter
paradise. This is how we can understand the Hadith of our beloved
Prophet : "Whoever adopts the path of seeking knowledge, Allah
eases for him the way to Paradise." (Related by Ahamad,
Tirmithi, Abu Dawud, Ibn Majah, and al-Darami)
TEACH WHAT THEY LEARN
A Muslim who has
learned the requirements of his individual duties is responsible
for disseminating the knowledge he has acquired to his family members
first; then to his friends, co-workers, neighbours, etc. Allah (Most
Exalted is He) says:
"O you who believe! Ward off from yourselves and your families
a Fire (Hell) whose fuel is men and stones
(Qur'an, Al-Tahrim 66:6)
The only way to save
one's family members from Hell is to teach them the Islamic obligations
and instruct them to observe them consistently.
The Messenger of
Allah also emphasised this responsibility. He said: "Every
one of you is a steward and is accountable for that which is committed
to his charge. The ruler is a steward and is accountable for his
charge, a man is a steward and is accountable for his charge, a
man is a steward in respect of his household, a woman is a steward
in respect of her husband's house and his children. Thus, everyone
of your is accountable for that which is committed to his charge."
(Related by Bukhari and Muslim)
The following Hadith
is a strong reminder for anyone of us whom Allah has blessed with
some Islamic knowledge: "Whoever is asked about a knowledge
that he knows about and then hides it and keeps it away, he will
be bridled on the day of judgement with a bridle of fire."
(Related by Ahmad, Abu Dawud and Al-Tirmidhi)
CHOICES TO STUDY
Whether one who has
acquired the requisite knowledge and committed himself to spreading
it, will further his study or be content with that level is left
to his decision. One should realise, however, that not all people
possess the aptitude and diligence to enter the depths of Islamic
knowledge, for this is a favour that Allah gives to whomever He
should keep in mind the virtues and merits of disseminating the
knowledge of Islam. The Prophet said: "Allah and His angels
and the creatures of Heavens and earth, even the ant in its dwelling
and the fish in the sea, do send Salat to the one who teaches people
(good) beneficial knowledge." (Related by Al-Tirmidhi)
The Salat of Allah
is His mercy that he bestows on His slaves; the Salat of the angels
and other creatures is to ask Allah to forgive these servants.