14 نوفمبر, 2018 - 6 Rabi' al-Awwal 1440

Conditions to understanding sacred scripture

Conditions to understanding sacred scripture

With the widespread availability of information, it has become easier for people to become confused and under the delusion of scholarship. Though there exist a corpus of authentic, seasoned, and beneficial knowledge that has been transcribed on paper and taught on the tongues of scholars over generations, today people are satisfied with short videos that attempt to condense it all in mere minutes. As a result, many Muslims have misunderstandings, fears, and concerns that deal with the religion; issues with Islam that historically were never problematic until now. In this short article three conditions will be highlighted to assist the believer in understanding the sacred words of God (Glory be to Him), and the inspired words of the Prophet Muhammad (God’s peace and blessings upon him).

The first condition is that of ensuring the text is authentic. Scholars of the past spent a significant amount of time ensuring that various narrations of the Prophet Muhammad (God’s peace and blessings upon him) were graded in a way to secure the listener/reader from becoming misguided. A note should be made here that the highest grade of accepted text is entitled Mutawatir, or what one scholar called diffused congruence. In short, diffused congruence is used as proof as to text being authentic. It points to a group of varying individuals that all relay the same information, despite some having met each other or not. The mere fact that the information is similar, or exactly the same points to a single source. The Quran is preserved via this diffused congruence as well as many Prophetic Narrations which are accepted without doubt. There is of course much more to be mentioned on this subject, but this short definition will suffice for our point. When looking at any text, one should ensure that that it is accepted. All texts may not belong to this dignified chain or mutawatir, however, they may be accepted for other reasons. For example, a group of people may have passed down a narration, until it arrived at a person such as Imam Bukhari, who then preserved it in his own book of narrations. If within this oral chain -or sometimes textual- there is reason enough to believe that the narrators are all people of truth (conditions exist among scholars of hadith), then these narrations are also to be understood as accepted. The science of hadith is a vast one, and it would be a disservice to attempt to summarize its many branches in so short an article. However, for brevity one must understand that if a narration is authentic, there are still yet other conditions that must be spoken about when attempting to understand the Divine guidance.

It was said by Ibn Wahb, a contemporary of Imam Malik (God be pleased with them both), “Had I not met Imam Layth and Imam Malik, I would have gone astray in that I would have thought every authentic hadith should be acted upon.” This statement was not made by any man within the ranks of laity, but rather a contemporary of the great scholars he lists. This second condition is of the utmost importance, it is to understand the text as it was understood by the Prophet Muhammad (May God’s peace and blessings be upon him) the companions, and those who came after (May God be pleased with them). Why this is important cannot be understated. Many a people have gotten lost in their religion due to a belief that any and every narration that is authentic must be acted upon. They neglect understanding the context and become rash, extreme, and unforgiving to not only those around them, but even to themselves. In Imam Nawawi’s 40 hadith, a narration exists in which the Prophet (May God’s peace and blessings be upon him) states, “I was ordered to fight the people until they say ‘There is no god other than God and Muhammad is His messenger…’” For the one who sees that this narration is authentic, they may take it upon themselves to act upon it. However, I believe it would be clear to most that if one acts upon this narration at face-value, then there would be quite a number of issues. Issues including contradictions with the Quran itself which call for people to have the ability to choose the faith that they follow, in addition to contradictions that we would then find in the lives of the companions who became leaders of the Muslims, who allowed people of other faiths to live within the holy and divinely protected boundaries of the Muslims. In reference to this narration we find discussions that this order is not given to all Muslims, in fact, if a Muslim were to act upon this narration at face-value they would incur the wrath of God as there is nothing that makes it permissible for them to engage in this battle. The point to be made here is in the misunderstanding that some Muslims have of acting upon any and everything that has been preserved authentically. That which is preserved does not necessitate action, and it may be that their action is the reason for sin.

The last condition is one that is not tangible, but an internal state. The heart and intellect must be sound. It is a sad state of the Muslim community today that some misconstrue the words of the Prophet (May God’s peace and blessings be upon him) in which he advises us to seek guidance from our hearts, but at the same time neglect to properly assess the state of that heart that they wish to seek guidance from. How can a blind heart give guidance? They overlook the condition of the heart and if it has been inflicted by the plethora of spiritual diseases that are rampant today? If anger is in the heart, can a person read the narrations on forgiveness through the same lens? If a person is greedy, will they truly understand the mandates and punishments properly? The answer is no. One needs to cultivate their heart, else prohibitions and admonishments will do very little. The miraculous ayat of the Noble Quran and Prophetic Narrations that call towards good and justice will be used for nefarious means, means that will create strife, and fuel the lust for power. The heart is the single most important part of the spiritual components of the human being, as the Prophet (May God’s peace and blessings be upon him) tells us, “There is a morsel of flesh in the body, if it is ruined then the entire body is ruined. If it is preserved then the entire body is preserved, that is the heart.” If the heart is in a state of ruin then it matters very little whether the hadith is authentic or not, or how the companions and the Prophet (May God’s peace and blessings be upon him) understood the hadith or ayat, all that matters is what the ruined heart wants.

Islam came as a complete way of life, and it informs every aspect of our lives. It is of the utmost imperative that we take our religion with seriousness; that we are not lackadaisical in understanding it; and in acting upon it, that we suppress the desires of greed, hatred, and lust that aim to blind us from the truth; that we do not become extreme in our understandings whether conservatively or liberally. These base conditions are there to assist us all on the path to preserving our faith and in passing it down to the later generations. Each condition is important, but one without the others can also lead a person down the incorrect path. Like a nation that must work together to survive, these conditions also must be placed together for the Muslims to actualize the truth of what Islam requires of them. May God give us success.