Answered by Shaykh Yusuf Weltch
A friend of mine keeps name-dropping scholars, books, fiqh, and theology, which I’m sure he misunderstood.
How can I counsel him to approach knowledge more humbly and be more careful/truthful?
In the Name of Allah, the Most Merciful and Compassionate
The Qur’an, the Prophetic narrations ( Hadith), and the entire corpus of Sacred knowledge have been preserved from the time of the Prophet (may Allah bless him and give him peace) till today in writing and understanding.
One may learn a passage and be able to recall it by memory, but this is not called knowledge.
Knowledge is to perceive something as it is in reality. If one perceives some aspect of the religion contrary to its actual existence, that is ignorance. If they believe themselves to be correct, it is compound ignorance.
Tools of Interpretation
The Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “Whoever speaks about the Quran by mere opinion (or without knowledge), let them take their place in Hell.” [Tirmidhi]
Even when interpretation is needed, the understanding system is not according to personal whim. Scholars have laid down principles as tools for interpreting.
Amongst those principles is that texts are understood literally unless a need arises to interpret them metaphorically. [Babarti, al-‘Inaya Sharh al-Hidaya]
For this reason, things like Heaven and Hell, the Scales, the reckoning, etc…… are understood by the consensus of the scholars of Ahlu Sunna wa a-l Jama’a to be literal and actual tangible physical realities of the Hereafter.
The same applies to the Night Journey (Isra’), the Ascension (Mi’raj), and all the Prophets.
Many charismatic, famous Muslim orators and even teachers are not qualified, scholars. This is not a matter of blame as long as they speak according to their level of authentic knowledge.
If they begin to interpret the Quran or the hadith or give legal verdicts (fatwa) without the authorization and consent of their teachers, they will go astray and lead many astray with them.
The Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “Allah will not snatch knowledge away from creation all at once. Rather, He will take it away by taking the scholars. When no scholar remains, people will take the ignorant as their leaders; they will be asked and give legal rulings without true knowledge. They will go astray and make others go astray as well.” [Bukhari; Muslim]
Acquisition of Sacred Knowledge
Knowledge of religion cannot be taken from YouTube videos or by reading books. We would not accept a Doctor’s opinion if they merely watched a YouTube video – doing so may lead to the body’s death.
Worse than this is following the religious teachings of a non-scholar, for in it is the death of the soul and the loss of one’s Hereafter.
The summary of all that has preceded can be found in the following statements:
The Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “It is sufficient for a person to be sinful that they narrate all that they hear.” [Nasai]
Abu Bakr al-Siddiq (Allah be pleased with him) said, “What land can shelter me and what sky can shade me if I say about Allah what I have no knowledge of.” [Bayhaqi, Sharh al-Sunna]
Abdullah bin Mubarak, “The chain of transmission is part and parcel of the religion. If it were not for this chain of transmission, whoever wished could say what they wished.” [Ibid.]
Hope this helps
Allah knows best
[Shaykh] Yusuf Weltch
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
Shaykh Yusuf Weltch is a teacher of Arabic, Islamic law, and spirituality. After accepting Islam in 2008, he then completed four years at the Darul Uloom seminary in New York where he studied Arabic and the traditional sciences. He then traveled to Tarim, Yemen, where he stayed for three years studying in Dar Al-Mustafa under some of the greatest scholars of our time, including Habib Umar Bin Hafiz, Habib Kadhim al-Saqqaf, and Shaykh Umar al-Khatib. In Tarim, Shaykh Yusuf completed the memorization of the Qur’an and studied beliefs, legal methodology, hadith methodology, Qur’anic exegesis, Islamic history, and a number of texts on spirituality. He joined the SeekersGuidance faculty in the summer of 2019.