Fiqh of Knowledge
The Fiqh of Knowledge is one of the aspects of the Civilized Fiqh. It means the Fiqh that is based on the knowledge of noble values, and deep-rooted principles which Islam brought so as to stress the importance of Knowledge, or in other words, of Learning, for it is the popular Islamic term. In this concern Learning was often mentioned in the Glorious Qur'an and the Sunnah. Its importance was emphasized as the learned people were highly praised. Moreover, these texts urged people to learn as much as they could regardless of how long it took. The verses of the Glorious Qur'an and the Prophet's (Peace be upon him) Hadiths raised learning, education, instructors and discipline to a high Status.
Hence, a whole chapter is dedicated to Learning in all books of Hadith which are classified according to chapters and subjects. Moreover, the second chapter of Sahih Al Bukhari is devoted to Learning whereas the first one is devoted to Faith (Iman). Al-Bukhari gave precedence to Learning over the chapters on purification, Prayer, Zakah and the rest of the pillars of Islam. All in all, Learning comes first in importance before work. Both Imam Ibn Majah and Al-Darimi supported this view in their Sunan. Some Imams compiled a separated volume for Learning like Imam Al-Hafiz Al-Faqih Abu `Umar Ibn `Abd Al-Barr in his book "Jami' Bayan Al-'ilm wa Fadilah", "A Compilation of evidences on the Importance and Virtue of Knowledge".
I have already mentioned the Fiqh of Knowledge in the light of Prophetic Sunnah in my book "The Prophet and Knowledge" [Note: Published many times by Al-Risalah Institution (Beirut) and Dar Al Sahwah (Cairo)] which I had compiled so as to participate in the Third International Conference on the Prophetic Biography and Sunnah which held in Qatar at the ceremonial celebration of the advent of the 15th century of Immigration (Hijrah).
It will be useful to summarize this Fiqh in light of what has just been mentioned and new glimpses of Prophetic Sunnah.
A. seeking Useful Knowledge:
The First prerequisite of the Fiqh of Knowledge is the urge to pursue every useful branch of Knowledge whether related to religion or worldly life in general. It was narrated in the hadith that the Prophet (Peace be upon him) said: "The pursuit of knowledge is an enjoined obligation upon every Muslim." [Note: Reported by lbn Majah, Ibn`Abd Al-Barr, and others on the authority of Anas] By Muslim he means every Muslim human being whether male or female. Hence, the famous version of this hadith runs as follows: "Upon every Muslim male and female." The word "female" was not mentioned in the authentic hadith, but its meaning is included in this hadith by consensus.
Scholars differed among themselves on the nature of the knowledge that man is ordered to pursue, particularly, as the branches of knowledge are innumerable, its fields are diverse and its scope is vast, indeed, it is limitless.
Individual and Communal Duties in Seeking Knowledge:
Of seeking Knowledge, there are Individual and Communal Duties. Individual Duty means that a Muslim is obliged to perform it whether it is related to his religion or daily life. Consequently, since it is of the utmost importance nowadays that a man should have a minimum share of Knowledge, namely, to master reading and writing of his native language, or what is called "the elimination of illiteracy" ,then it is considered a religious Individual Duty. Ignoring this Duty is a sin on which he will be punished in the Hereafter and in this present life he is to undergo some penalty minor to the Legal Punishment (Hadd).
Moreover, the nation in which illiteracy prevails, nowadays, can not possibly compete with other nations in the race towards learning and urbanization. It will be doomed to backwardness, ruin and defeat by its own sons who will not be able to cope with the strong educated sons of other nations. Hence the necessity of eliminating illiteracy arises as an Individual Duty upon every Muslim male and female.
The first to attempt the elimination of illiteracy in his society, was the Prophet (peace be upon him) in the end year of Hijrah (Immigration) to Medina, notwithstanding scarce potentialities, he took the advantage of the presence of the educated Quraishi prisoners of Badr Battle and offered every one of them the chance to ransom himself by teaching ten Muslims how to write. It was as if he entrusted each one of them with the education of a ten-student class. They were expected to learn how to read, write and calculate. The Prophet (Peace be upon him) explained illiteracy in the hadith as the ignorance of how to write and calculate saying: "We are an illiterate nation in which people do not know how to write nor calculate."
The basic mundane necessities for a Muslim differ according to place and time. For instance, nowadays it is considered a necessity that a pupil, in the primary governmental schools, should learn the fundamentals of computer which has become a basic priority in life.
First and foremost, the Muslim should know the basics of his religion; in other words, he should, as it were, know the principles of his creed so as to set right the fundamentals of his worship, stand firm and straight in his conduct, and keep the limits ordained by Allah both in what He ordered or forbade, in his Halal (lawful) and Haram (unlawful) and in his public or personal life.
For instance, if he is a merchant, he must know sufficiently the basic laws of trade in terms of profit, Zakah, sale on credit, exchange, and all laws that pertain to this issue. `Umar (May Allah be pleased with him) said concerning this matter: "No one should step into our market except he who knows the Fiqh of Transaction" or what we, today, might call "Fiqh of Trade."
By the same token, if he is a doctor, he is obliged to know what is Halal (lawful) and Haram (unlawful) for a Muslim doctor. This is known as "Medical Fiqh."
All in all, each and every Muslim must, as much as he can, have sufficient knowledge about faith, worship, the lawful and the unlawful.
As for the Communal Duty concerning knowledge, it represents the needs of the society in particular and the Nation in general of sciences and the different fields of knowledge necessary for its survival and development in religion and in life. Consequently it should have a sufficient number of highly-qualified experts and specialists in all areas of knowledge.
This means that the sch!ars of the Nation should at tempt juristic reasoning (ijtihad) in religion and achieve creativity in secular sciences.
B. Rejection of Blind Imitation:
Another prerequisite of Fiqh of Knowledge is the rejection of blind imitation of others to the extent that a man thinks in the same way that his father, forefathers, leaders and influential people used to think.
The Qur'an reproached the blind imitators of their fathers and leaders saying:
Those blind imitators will say on the Day of Judgment. "Our Lord! We obeyed our chiefs and our great ones, and they misled us as to the (right) path. Our Lord! Give them double chastisement and curse them with a very great curse!" (33:67,68) The Sunnah also emphasized this meaning. For instance, in the hadith narrated by Al-Tirmizi, the Prophet (Peace be upon him) said: "Do not adopt the attitude of those who follow blindly in the footsteps of others who say, "we will do good only if people do, and do injustice only if they do! But discipline yourselves, if people do good, do the same, but if they do injustice, shun it." [Note: Reported by Al-Tirmidhi in the books of Birr and Silah on the authority of Huzaifah (No.2008)]
The yes-man is the one who follows blindly in the foot steps of every Tom, Dick, and Harry and has no personal opinion or independent character. He is satisfied with blindly imitating others even though he is not convinced with their views and even though his conscience is not at ease. Shawqi, the laureate poet, was the mouthpiece of one of those puppets saying: At heart, I love Al-Hussein, Notwithstanding, I speak against him, while my heart is for him,
If affliction swept the country, And there was no way out but to follow blindly in the footsteps of others, then you might as well do so.
C. The Pursuit of a Matter Which One Has Knowledge of:
Another prerequisite of the Fiqh of Knowledge is that one should pursue a matter which he has knowledge of. He should not pretend to know what he is ignorant of, for the Almighty Allah ordered in the Qur'an:
He should not be embarrassed to answer: "I do not know". For even the favored angels, when they were asked by Allah about the Names, of which they have no knowledge, they said:
When the Prophet (Peace be upon him) was asked about the time the Hour is to be established in the famous hadith of Gabriel, he answered:
"The questioned has no better knowledge than the questioner" [Note: Reported by Muslim]
The Almighty Allah addressed him saying: "Men ask thee concerning the Hour: say, "The knowledge thereof is with Allah (alone)." (33:63)
When the Prophet was asked about the `spirit', his knowledge of it was to refer to Allah's Knowledge. Concerning this matter Allah says:
Quite often, the Prophet (Peace be upon him) would not answer a question until he asked Gabriel the Trustee of Revelation (Peace be upon both of them). Other times, he wold simply say that he did not know. For instance, the Prophet (Peace be upon him) said:
D. Reference to Specialists and Experts in Every Branch of Knowledge:
Another prerequisite of the Fiqh of Knowledge is referring to the people and experts in every field of knowledge, whether science, art, or in any work one does.
This is Allah's Order in the Qur'an when says:
In the hadith reported by Jabir on the authority of Abi Dawud and Al-Darqutni that:
Imam Al-Knatabi said that the wisdom of this hadith is that the Prophet reproached them for issuing Fatwa (legal opinions) without knowledge, called upon Allah against them and considered them as sinful for causing his death.
E. Argument With Opponents:
One of the aspects of the Fiqh of Knowledge or Civilized Fiqh is allowing different opinions, accepting dialogue with opponents, and even calling upon them to hold conversation and exchange opinions whether those opponents were in the fields of politics, thought, or religion.
The wisdom that lies behind this is that difference is one of the ordinances of the universe in which Allah created all things. For instance, Allah says: "Of various colors" (35:27)
If Allah had pleased, He would have created all people alike, yet Allah has bestowed on man the potential intellect and will, hence, people have diverse beliefs, thoughts, and tendencies.
Since this difference among people is a necessity, it follows that each human being owes his fellow-man the right of mutual argument and the right of listening to him as long as this argument is exchanged in an appropriate manner. This condition was emphasized when Allah says: "And argue with them in ways that are best"
It is noticeable that this verse states the outline of the fundamentals of calling mankind to the Way of Allah and holding argument with them, for Allah says: "Invite (all) to the Way of thy Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching; and argue with them in ways that are best." (16:125)
It stipulates that this preaching should be "beautiful" and that argument should be "in ways that are best". For preaching is usually given to one who agrees with the speaker, whereas, argument is usually resorted to with one who differs with the speaker. It suffices that the speaker should use a "beautiful preaching" in his talk with someone who agrees with him. Whereas he must be more than patient and more than tolerant with someone who differs with him. Moreover, he must pick and choose the best ways to appeal to his mind and heart. So, it is highly recommended, if there are two available ways of argument, to adopt the best and more eloquent one as commanded by above mentioned verse.
The Glorious Qur'an provides us with many examples of arguments with opponents, in different times and places to quote and judge our own arguments in the light of them. Among these arguments is that of the prophet Noah with his people, `as detailed in many Surahs of the Glorious Qur'an, particularly in that of Hud in which the Glorious Qur'an states:
There are other instances of these arguments such as that of Ibrahim with his people as stated in Surat Al-An' am (The Cattle) verses number: 75-83 and with his father, Surat Maryam (Mary) verses number: 41-48. There is also Shu'aib's argument with his people (Madyan people) as narrated in many Szirahs, particularly in Surat Hud where Allah says:
In addition to this, there is Moses and Pharaoh's argument, particularly in Surat Al-Shu'ara' (The Poets) verses number 16-31.
One of the extraordinary arguments in the Qur'an, was the one held between Almighty Allah and His angels in Surat Al-Baqara (The Cow) verses number 30-33 concerning issues such as the creations of Adam, his vicegerency in the earth, telling His angels about it, their immediate disapproval of granting vicegerency to such a double-natured creature, and Allah's practical Answer which refuted their claims.
Yet the most extraordinary argument in the Glorious Qur'an is that which occurred between Allah and the Cursed Iblis in Surat Al-'A raf (The Heights), Al- Hijr, and Sadd.
I will mention the argument that occurred in Surat Sadd, where Almighty Allah says: "Behold, thy Lord said to the angels. I am about to create man from clay." (71:85) Among the marvels of the Qur'an which, those who reflect upon it would detect, is the wise Directions of Allah to His Prophet in his arguments with the disbelievers. This wise guidance is represented in dictating concise and eloquent words to His Prophet so as to refute their claims. The words used in the argument with his opponents were extremely gentle, well, polite and patient. The verses of Surat Saba' (Sheba) are significant here when Allah addressed His Prophet (Peace be upon him) saying:
"Say' "Who gives you sustenance, from the heavens and the earth?" Say: It is Allah; and certain it is that either we or ye are on right guidance or in manifest error!" (34:24)
It is quite impressive that the Prophet (Peace be upon him) did not accuse them of manifest error, notwithstanding his firm belief that he is the one who is on right guidance and that they are immersed in manifest error. The art of polite and well-mannered dialouge required this appropriate way of speech. Then Allah says: "You shall not be questioned as to our sins, nor shall we be questioned as to what ye do" (34:25)
By analogy, he could have said' "We shall not be questioned as to your sins" yet he, giving the example of polite dialouge choose not to stigmatize them with sin, whereas, he attributed it to himself and his Companions when Allah says: "You shall not be questioned as to our sins".
This represents the apex of politeness and forbearance with opponents.
If Allah's Book is ripe with such dialouge between the prophets and their people, as well as between Almighty Allah and a number of His creations, both those who obey and disobey Him. So, it is not surprise that the Sunnah of the Prophet allows the expression of different opinions. It even goes so far as holding conversation with opponents.
After Almighty Allah had narrated the narratives of His prophets to His Prophet Muhammad and said: "Those were the (prophets) who received Allah's Guidance. Follow the guidance they received" (6:90)
The Prophet (Peace be upon him) seems to have encompassed the excelling qualities of all the prophets as the closest person to the Prophet, the Mother of Believers (Umm Al Mu'menin) `Aishah (may Allah be pleased with her) said: "The Prophet followed the Qur'an to the letter in his conduct. " [Note: Reported by Muslim in the Book of "Travelers Prayer", No.746]
F. Doing Justice to Opponents
Doing justice to opponents is one of the values of knowledge in our civilized Fiqh. The meaning of "doing justice" is to give those who disagree with our opinion, a fair chance to express themselves and defend their viewpoint as long as it is the outcome of deep thinking and perseverance, and it represents a worth while viewpoint regardless of its stance against our viewpoint. Although others 's viewpoints might disagree with ours or with the majority, or might, seem incongruous with the familiar or inherited, or call for demolishing the old and celebrating the new, we must not suppress the expression of opposing viewpoints.
It is true that Islam disciplined us with its doctrine, values and laws, yet it gave us free reins for juristic reasoning in matters that are not dealt with either in the Quran or Sunna; namely, the "forgiveness zone, or in matters that are based on collective rules and general principles and finally in matters that are dealt with according to partial rules whether based on scientific or textual conjecture or both. Thus, there is considerable freedom for juristic reasoning and different concepts and interpretations. Moreover, new effects impose change of attitude, hence, different interpretation.
No one should claim infallibility or perfection. Each one of us can be right or wrong in his views except for the infallible Prophet (Peace be upon him). Any Mujtahid who practices juristic reasoning is liable to be right or wrong. A Mujtahid can not say about his juristic reasoning more than Imam Al-Shafi'i said:
The encouragement of juristic reasoning, exerting one's utmost in pursuit of the truth, as well as rewarding the wrong mujtahid are among the unique privileges of Islam. For instance, the famous hadith says:
A group of the interpreters of Hadith believe in the improbability of rewarding a wrong Mujtahid and commented that he is excused rather than rewarded. This is a flagrant misinterpretation of the hadith for it states quite clearly that he is rewarded once whereas the correct Mujtahid is to be re warded twice. This reward is not granted for the mistaken person, but rather for the juristic reasoning and the exertion of the utmost effort in this process.
Since Allah is never unjust even by the weight of an atom for bodily effort, He is also never unjust even by the weight of an atom to mental effort.
Doing justice to opponents, also means that one should uphold this viewpoint if proved authentic without feeling ashamed or embarrassed. The Companions and the first Muslim generation believed that the truth must be followed and that no one has perfect knowledge. The Prophet (Peace be upon him) was never irritated or embarrassed to change his mind after he was convinced to his Companions' opinion.
Imam Muslim reported in his Sahih that: "The Prophet (Peace be upon him) once sent Abu Hurairah to give the glad tidings of Paradise to whomever he meets - who firmly bears witness that there is no god but Allah faithfully out of his heart. In order to make them be certain that he was sent by the Prophet, he gave Abu Hurairah his slippers. Yet. when `Umar met him he objected to what he was doing and beat him hardly that Abu Hurairah fell down. Abu Hurairah went back to the Prophet (Peace be upon him) and complained of what `Umar had done. `Umar went to the Prophet (Peace be upon him) and said:
"O Prophet of Allah! You are dearer to me than my own father and mother. Have you sent Abu Hurairah, giving him your slippers as a proof, to give the glad tidings of Paradise to whomever he meets - who firmly bears witness that there is no god but Allah faithfully out of his heart?! The Prophet (Peace be upon him) replied: "Yes, I have done". `Umar argued: "O Messenger of Allah! Urge him not to do so, for I fear that people may abandon worship depending solely on this - their witnessing that there is no god but Allah. -Therefore let them endeavor hard so as to win Paradise." Thereupon, Allah's Prophet (Peace be upon him) said: "You are right, let them endeavor hard." [Note: Reported by Muslim in the Book of Iman, No.52]
Thus, the Prophet (Peace be upon him) abrogated his first decision on realizing the wisdom of `Umar's opinion that people might depend solely on their witnessing that there is no god but Allah and neglect exerting effort to win Paradise. Therefore, he acted upon `Umar's advice saying: "let them endeavor hard."
Thus, the Prophet (Peace be upon him) set the example of appreciating the counter opinion as soon as it is proved applicable and useful.
In Jami' Ibn `Abdel-Barr, there is a useful chapter on (Doing Justice in Learning), in which he mentioned valuable information concerning the values of knowledge in our civilization. I shalt quote apart of what he said to catch the benefit thereof.
Abu `Umar said: "one of the blessings and ethics of learning is doing justice to it, and whoever doesn't adhere to thisprerequisite, neither understand nor try so."
Some scholars further insist:"The only knowledge we have, is our admission that we have no knowledge.
The poet, Mahmud Al-Waraq said:The most perfect man is one who perceives his shortcoming, And repress his lust and covetousness.
`Abdullah Ibn Mus'ab reported that `Umar Ibn Al Khattab said: "Do not exceed in dowry to more than 40 Oka of gold even the woman is the daughter of Dhul-' Usbbah i.e., Yazid Ibn Al Husain Al-Harithi - and if one exceeds that limit, I would put the increase in Bait Al-Mal (Treasury of the State). Simultaneously, a long snub-nosed woman stood arguing: "O `Umar you have no right to do so". `Umar questioned: `How?' She answered: "Because Almighty Allah says: "Even if ye had given the latter a whole treasure for dower, take not the least bit of it back." (4:20) Instantly, `Umar said: "O people, `Umar is wrong and the woman is right."
Muhammad ibn Ka'b Al-Qarzi reported that:
"A man questioned `Ali Ibn Abi Talib about an issue. Yet no sooner had Ali expressed his viewpoint, then the man exclaimed: "O Commander of Believers! This is not right but so and so!" `Ali (May Allah be pleased with him) commented: "You are right and I made a mistake, then he recited: "Over all endowed with knowledge is the One, the All-Knowing!" (12:76)
Sufyan Ibn `Uyainah reported that Ibn Abu Hussain narrated that:
Ibn `Abbas argued with Zaid concerning the time that a menstruating woman should leave Mecca, while performing Hajj. Zaid said: Circumambulation around the Ka'bah (Tawaf) must be the last thing she does before she returns home. Ibn`Abbas urged Zaid to ask his women -Umm Sulaiman and her female friends. Zaid went to ask them, then came back smiling and said: "You was right."
Ibn `Abd Al-Barr reported that:`Imam Malik Ibn Anas said:
When Abu Ja' far Al-Mansur was performing Hajj, he called for me. We made conversation and I answered his questions. Then he said: "I intend to make copies of your books namely, Al-Muwatta', and send a copy to every Muslim Country. I will further order them to stick themselves to their precepts and discard other books of modern knowledge for I believe that the source of this knowledge is the reports and knowledge of the people of Medina. I said: "O Commander of the Believers! Do not do so, for the people heard different sayings, hadiths, and reports from the Companions of the Prophet (Peace be upon him) and others, acted upon them and adapted their lives to them. It will be too difficult to change these deep-rooted precepts, so let them carry on with their lives and respect their choices". He said: "By Allah, if he had agreed to what I suggested, I would have ordered it."
Ibn`Abd Al-Barr commented: It is a highly justice for those who are perceptive.
Al-Hussain Ibn Abi Sa'id mentioned in his book "Al Mu'rib `An Al-Maghrib) that `Abdullah Ibn Sa'id Ibn Muhammd Al-Hadar reported that his father said:
"I heard Sahnun say that he heard `Abdel-Rahman Ibn Al-Qasim say to Malik: "I know no one knows the rules of sales better than the people of Egypt." Malik wondered "Through whom they have been instructed the knowledge of sales!". He replied: "Through you". Malik said: "What a wonder, I have no profound knowledge of sales, so how do they took their knowledge from me?"
He also said :"I have reported from Al-Shua 'bi his saying that: `I have not seen anyone like me for when ever I wish to see someone who has more knowledge than me, I, simultaneously, behold some one." Another scholar, moreover, have said: "We have a knowledge of certain things, yet we are ignorant of others. We should not spoil the goodness of our knowledge by pretending to know what we are ignorant of."
Hammad Ibn Zaid said:
"Ayub was questioned about a certain matter but he said: `Actually, I have no knowledge thereof." When they requested him to give his opinion, he replied: "I am not qualified enough to give an opinion in such a matter."
`Abdel Rahman Ibn Mahdi reported that:
"I disputed with the judge `Ubaidullah Ibn Al-Hussain, who was a judge at that time, concerning a Prophetic hadith, yet he insisted on his viewpoint. I went, therefore, to him and found that he had visitors who were set in rows. As soon as he saw me, he said you are right and I was wrong about the hadith." [Note: He is `Ubaidullah Ibn Al-Husain Al-'Anbari who renounced a statement given by him and said: "It is better for me to be a tail among the people of truth than being a leader among the people of falsehood!" See his biography in "Tahdhib Al-Kamal", No.3627, vol.19. p.2823] Al-Khalil lbn Ahmad said: "There are four days which are worthwhile for me. The first day is the day in which I meet someone who is more knowledgeable than me, so I consider it the day of my profit, for I will learn from him. The secand day is the day in which I meet some one whom I am more knowledgeable than him, so I consider it the day of my reward, for I will teach him. The third day is the day in which I meet someone who is equal to me in knowledge, I discuss with him concerning some matters of knowledge, so I consider this day the day of my lessons i.e., acquiring new lessons. The fourth day is the day in which I meet someone who is less knowledgeable than me yet he thinks that he knows better, so I will consider this day a holiday and I will not trouble myself with talking to him." [Note: Jami' Baiyan Al- ilm wafadlih by lbn Abd Al-Barr vol.1, p. 131, Matba't Munir]