In the name of Allah, Most Beneficent, Most Merciful.
Taqwa is the concern within one to refrain from what is displeasing to Allah and preserve what is pleasing to Him. It manifests itself upon our limbs, but it begins from the heart. This article series is based upon Shaykh Faraz Rabbani’s course “The Path of Muhammad: Birgivi’s Manual of Taqwa Explained” provides an overview of what Muslims must concern themselves with when seeking the attainment of taqwa. This article is the eighth of the series, and will focus on non-belief (kufr), the first of sixty diseases of the heart.
Ignorance: The First Cause of Disbelief
Kufr, non-belief, is an all-encompassing category that includes disbelief, the active rejection of belief, and the enmity and opposition to belief.
Learning about its details allows us to guard ourselves against that which leads us to the disbelief of any kind. It also protects us against the sins that make their way into our lives through the gateways of disbelief, and it helps us identify what brings about the erosion of faith.
There are three causes of disbelief:
- Rejection and Refusal
- Legal Disbelief
Ignorance is when a person doesn’t have knowledge despite having the capacity to know. It is caused by not paying attention to, turning towards, or reflecting on the signs of divine Oneness. These include both the existential signs (the universe and everything it contains) and revealed signs (the Quran) of Allah. Although ignorance is a cause of non-belief (the first blameworthy trait), it is the second of the blameworthy characteristics of the heart.
To avoid falling into ignorance, we must identify what we are responsible for knowing. As Muslims, we must understand the obligations of our:
(1) beliefs, (2) worship, (3) character, (4) material responsibility, (5) social responsibility, and (6) the general limits Allah has placed.
If there is a deficiency in knowledge of your obligations in these categories, then it is obligatory upon you to seek it and free yourself of the darkness of ignorance. As you may have guessed, this article furthers the knowledge of your obligations concerning your character and state of heart. Thus reading this is a fulfillment of one of your obligations.
Ignorance is of two types:
- Simple Ignorance
- Compound Ignorance
Simple ignorance is when a person simply does not know. They do not know the rights of God upon them and thus cannot fulfill their life’s purpose. In this respect, they lack what distinguishes human beings from animals; knowledge. Even the cattle fulfill their purpose in life given the capacities they possess. Such is the lowliness of an ignorant person; who doesn’t know despite having the ability to do so.
To treat simple ignorance, one must be aware of the harms of ignorance and the benefits of knowledge. This will behoove the seeker to seek knowledge and rid themself of the darkness of ignorance. An excellent place to start is to read the chapter on the merits of knowledge and the harms of ignorance in Riyad al-Salihin.
There are times when one might be in ignorance due to mere confusion. For example, one may encounter conflicting rational arguments. In these situations, it is an obligation upon one to seek clarity and ask clarifying questions. The only cure for confusion is to ask.
Complex ignorance, on the other hand, is more difficult to stamp out. It is when one believes something contrary to what is correct. So not only do they not know the truth, but they also believe a falsehood on top of that.
Complex ignorance is why so many people, when hit with the truth, cannot accept it. Simply reasoning with someone with complex ignorance is not practical because their emotional attachment to a particular point of view will bar them from analyzing conflicting perspectives without bias. Rational arguments tend to be useless against emotional defenses.
Someone with this ignorance fallaciously believes that their ignorance is knowledge. Because of this, they are not seeking to remove or treat it unless they become aware of its incorrectness in a drastic, sudden manner.
Think of the number of people who left the Catholic Church due to the surfacing of priest scandals. The information was so jarring that it managed to tear down their emotional defenses and expose their complex ignorance, allowing them to see through their dogma.
Unlike the many other faiths, the Islamic tradition is built upon a sound rational judgement, allowing for the clear discernment between truth and falsehood. All praise and thanks are for Allah, Who guided us to the Truth and provided us with the best of guides (Allah bless him and give him Peace).
[Shaykh] Faraz Rabbani
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The Path of Muhammad: Birgivi’s Manual of Taqwa Explained
Shaykh Faraz Rabbani spent ten years studying with some of the leading scholars of recent times, first in Damascus, and then in Amman, Jordan. His teachers include the foremost theologian of recent times in Damascus, the late Shaykh Adib al-Kallas (may Allah have mercy on him), as well as his student Shaykh Hassan al-Hindi, one of the leading Hanafi fuqaha of the present age. He returned to Canada in 2007, where he founded SeekersGuidance in order to meet the urgent need to spread Islamic knowledge–both online and on the ground–in a reliable, relevant, inspiring, and accessible manner. He is the author of: Absolute Essentials of Islam: Faith, Prayer, and the Path of Salvation According to the Hanafi School (White Thread Press, 2004.) Since 2011, Shaykh Faraz has been named one of the 500 most influential Muslims by the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Center.