How many times have you witnessed or heard about situations, where two friends, family members or strangers were trying to correct the practice of the other person? Many new Muslims have stopped going to the masjid because of some unfortunate Muslim who felt the need to correct their worship and conduct with harshness. Many friends have ended their relationship because at some instance they found their friend deviant. And also many strangers have lost the opportunity of gaining a new friend because they have assumed malpractice of the other person.
No matter how little knowledge we have, we always seem to think that we know everything and that our knowledge is accurate and sound. It does not matter, if we just learned how to pray or whether we have taken a few courses on Islam or have a BA in Islamic studies. We oftentimes think that we saw the ocean of knowledge and drank it all. We consider ourselves “scholars” in our own world. And there is no one who could be more correct than we are and no opinion more accurate than the one we hold.
Just as wealth is not given to everyone, neither is wisdom.
The problem comes when another person, who considers himself a “scholar” also, tries to impose on us his own correct opinion. This scenario might seem a bit exaggerated, but unfortunately many Muslims have taken this path and perhaps, we might be one of them, without even realizing it. Because in the end, aren’t we always right?
Many problems in Muslim communities could be solved if people actually realized the fact that no matter how much knowledge they have, they don’t have it all and never will.
Imam Ash-Shafi’ee said,
“Whenever I set myself to the task of learning, I realize how little I know and the more I learn, the more I realize how ignorant I am.”
This realization should humble a person and not make him arrogant towards other people.
It is mentioned in the Qur’an,
“Verily! Those who were given knowledge before it, when it is recited to them, fall down on their faces in humble prostration. And they say: “Glory be to our Lord! Truly, the promise of our Lord must be fulfilled”. And they fall down on their faces weeping and it adds to their humility.” (17:107-9)
Here, knowledge is directly linked to humility, and humility is an important fruit from the tree of knowledge.
Knowledge also brings something special with it and if that something special is not found within us, knowledge has not yet entered our hearts, and we have not yet reaped the fruits of our knowledge. You ask what that something special is? It is a tolerance and respect.
Acknowledging that there could be more opinions on a particular issue within the correct Shari’a borders, makes us more tolerant towards different evidence based points of view. Imposing our opinion or the opinion of our scholar on someone is a sign of ignorance and intolerance. It is the opposite of knowledge, and if we find ourselves imposing our opinion on others, we should stop and think and perhaps do some research to see if, on that particular issue, there are legitimate differences.
Seeking knowledge is an obligation. It can become worship, if it is done for the sake of our Creator. However, every kind of worship has its guidelines and therefore, so does seeking knowledge and spreading it. Sharing our knowledge with others should be based on wisdom for even the most beautiful and expensive gift wrapped in a soiled paper will be repulsive. Wisdom does not have to go hand in hand with knowledge.
Even the most knowledgeable scholar can chase people away with the presentation of his knowledge, and a person who just learned how to pray can make those who neglect their prayers to join him by wrapping his limited knowledge in the beauty of wisdom.
Acknowledging that there could be more opinions on a particular issue within the correct Shari’a borders, makes us more tolerant towards different evidence based points of view.
Our beloved Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said,
“There is no envy except in two instances: a person whom Allah has endowed with wealth and he spends it righteously, and a person whom Allah has given hikmah (wisdom) and he judges by it and teaches it to others.” (Collected by Al-Bukhari, Muslim, An-Nasa’i, Ibn Majah)
Just as wealth is not given to everyone, neither is wisdom. It is something we should be asking for in our prayers. And if granted, by the mercy and love of our Lord, will beautify our knowledge just as the stars beautify the night sky.
So next time, we encounter a situation where opinions clash, let us stop, think and perhaps research before joining in. And let our words be an expression of humility and wisdom.
May Allah increase our knowledge and grant us wisdom. Aameen.