Knowledge in Islam has a big value and therefore the first message of verse revealed to the prophet Mohammed was to “ read! In the Name of your Lord, Who has created (all that exists)” (al- ‘Alaq: 96:1).
But the question that we must ask in a time where there are many sources of knowledge, can Islamic knowledge be dire or fatal? With humility, yes it can. One of the many things that I have learned from our awesome scholar, Sheikh Hamood Al Sawafi, may Allah protect him, was the types of ignorance are simple and compound as stated by Sheikh Noor Aldeen Al Salmi in his Anwar Aluqool (Lights of minds). This is a rough translation for the verses about types of ignorance mentioned by Sheikh AlSalmi:
|1. Ignorance are two types: the former is simple where there is no consequence for doing it
2. and the latter is compound where its doer bears the consequences for doing it
|1. والجهل قسمان بسيط سلما
صاحبه والثاني فهو ما انتمى
2. إلى مركب وليس يسلـــــم صاحـــــــــــبه يفعله بل يأثم
Although knowledge is a very vital part in Islam, it could be a dangerous thing too if it its ultimate and foremost purpose is misunderstood. In my humble opinion, it is a new type of ignorance. From my simple observation among some negatively enthusiastic young people who wish to serve Islam but their enthusiasm might lead to harming the religion. They are so concerned with the surface level of knowledge. Putting it differently, they may memorize all the religious scripts and books but does this much knowledge positively impact their behavior and the way they treat people? I believe that we need to have people who have ” practiced knowledge” not people with memorized and impactless knowledge.
So, who are they?
The Islamic nation has recently been tried and tested with people, who are not serving the religion but they are spoiling the image of religion with their behaviors and actions. What adds fuel to the fire is their ignorance making them believe they are right and representing religion and others are wrong. However, they are a burden on the religion with their no-Islamic behavior and actions. In this piece, the term “sick” would be used to define them because they are sick and they need help and support.
Note: My intention is not to criticize but to address this dangerous phenomenon and see if we can find ways to solve the situations.
Why it is dangerous to have such people in the society?
They used to be small but now they are a lot because there are many means and ways to spread their poisonous thoughts and ideologies. Having such people in the society has become a serious problem especially they are wearing the mask of piety with their appearances. Unfortunately, these people who wear the mask of religion have a lot of followers. In fact, they conduct regular meetings where they spread their ideas and way of thinking among young people who are misled with these “sick” people as far as I am concerned. Having knowledge that does not affect our behaviors and the way we treat people is not Islamic. The prophet Muhammed said, religion is. The companions of the prophets used not to move to another verse unless they live the first verse and practice it in their lives.
Causes of their sickness
We live a time of discrepancies and intellectual clashes which may lead to misunderstanding the God honest messages of Islam which is seeking Allah’s satisfaction and His fear. So why do we have such people in our Islamic societies? These are some of the reasons why there are such sick people. It is important to state that these characteristics are not necessarily found together in one person. In other words, one might not have all but some.
- Lack of sincerity and wrong intention
Allah states in His Holy book, “And they have been commanded no more than this: To worship Allah, offering Him sincere devotion, being true (in faith); to establish regular prayer; and to practice regular charity; and that is the Religion Right and Straight. (Quran: 98:5.). The verse is self-explanatory and emphasizes the importance of sincerity and good intentions in our deeds. From personal experience, I have come across people who used to kill themselves gaining knowledge so they get praised by people or to seem more knowledgeable than people. In some occasions, I have heard these “sick” wishing bad things to happen to some hard working and sincere people. There are some people become Islamically knowledgeable because their intentions are to show off and seek people’s praise. They miss the main point that without sincerity, worship of any kind and knowledge including religious one have no spiritual benefit. Any act of religious devotion should have sincere intention and away from showing off. These sick people seek worldly benefits not Allah’s satisfaction. Finally, I would like to echo what Ima Luqman said about this. ” Disingenuousness and insincerity is a sure recipe for spiritual bankruptcy” (Ahmed, 2012, par.1). With this bad intention, these people are spiritually bankrupted for sure. They need to purify their intention to gain Allah’s rewards.
- Missing the main goal of calling for Allah
In the Quran, Allah commands His prophet Muhammed (PBUH) to use wisdom in inviting people to this beautiful religion by saying, ” Invite to the way of your Lord with wisdom and good instruction, and argue with them in a way that is best. Indeed, your Lord is most knowing of who has strayed from His way, and He is most knowing of who is [rightly] guided.” (Quran: 16:126). From personal observation to these “sick” people, they tend to miss the ultimate and main goal for da’wa -calling to Allah- by using their acquired knowledge for the wrong purpose. They tend to use this knowledge to challenge others and to make them look stupid by having debates that aim at making fun and degrading those who have different views than theirs. This knowledge must be used to show the truth not to degrade others and show others that they are wrong. I was talking to one of those whose main concern is to let those with different views or from different sects down. He was telling me that I called one of the scholars in his channels and made sure to prove that scholar wrong while being watched by many people. I asked him, is this your goal? Is your goal to use this knowledge to make others look stupid in front of others. I reminded him with what the prophet used to do and feel when a disbeliever died without seeing the truth. I told him the prophet used to cry for that person not being able to see the truth. However, these sick people’s main target is to challenge others not to show others the truth. Back to the idea of sincerity and good intentions, there is no benefit of knowledge that does not influence people to see the right path. As callers to Allah, we must be so concerned to show people the right path so they can be guided not to mock them. I have noticed that these sick people follow religion selectively especially when it comes to the way they treat others. They might not show respect and might use bad words to make their points forgetting the famous statement that states, ” religion is in the treatment of others”. With the negative use of social media and other means, it has become fashionable to see Muslims who claimed to be religious to exchange insults day and night. Having such sick people in the society to represent the religion of Islam is perilous and scary because it sends a negative message about religious people. The bottom line is that calling to Allah requires understanding and realizing the main goal of the call to Allah is saving someone from the hellfire not to mock and humiliate those who have different views.
I am not talking about lack of knowledge because these people are very knowledgeable. They have memorized a lot but I am referring to the ignorance of practicing the Islamic principles and teachings in their lives. These sick people are ignorant to have the impact of Islamic knowledge on the way they talk , behave and treat others. This always reminds me the famous quote by Donald Rumsfeld where he said, ” There are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns — the ones we don’t know we don’t know. “. But Professor Omar Khan phrased it a bit differently by saying that knowledge is about knowing
- the things that we know that we know
- the things that we know that we do not know
- the things that we do not know that we know
- the things that we don’t know that we do not know
if everyone knows that what he is missing, we would not have problems. We need to learn the art of humility and admitting that we are limited because we are human beings. I have met this guy who claimed to be religious but he is full of hatred and fanaticism when it comes to social norms. He is willing to justify wrong behaviors by manipulating religious scripts.
- Psychological Sickness
These people are sick psychologically and emotionally. I think these people need to be seen by psychiatrics because there is something wrong with them. The way they behave shows that they are sick and need to be helped. I have seen some who degenerate in their religious commitment. In other words, they live a life of retrogression between right and wrong. I am saying this because I am not here to blame anyone. This aims at helping each other as the prophet Muhmmed clearly points out in the famous Hadith reported by An-Nu’man ibn Basheer “The parable of the believers in their affection, mercy, and compassion for each other is that of a body. When any limb aches, the whole body reacts with sleeplessness and fever.” (Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī 5665, Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim 2586).
What to be done?
As it is mentioned earlier, this piece is not meant to degrade anyone. We all have shortcomings and drawbacks that need to be fixed. It is everyone’s responsibility to help these brothers to overcome this disease. Here are some suggestions to help these sick siblings.
- The role of family
Families must play a role in bringing up good and pious kids. There are a lot of these sick people who had a bad experience in the way they were brought up. Some parents either do not value Islamic bringing up so these people grew up confused and can be easily brainwashed by those who have already adopted this mentality and ideologies especially in a time where knowledge is easily accessible. A lot of these sick people did not find religion appreciated at their household. Parents need to stop thinking that this is the school’s responsibility. It is everyone’s mission and parents have to play a key role in helping in bringing a rightly knowledgeable generation about religion. Parents have to stop thinking religion is the way to backwardness and extremism. Ignorance and wrong education lead to backwardness and extremism
- The role of scholars
Scholars are doing a lot but they need to carefully discover such students with these negative potentials to harm the reputation of religion. Some scholars need to find these sick people to help them see the truth and the right path. It makes me sad and to see these sick siblings to be some scholars’ students. Although the scholars do not promote these wrong ideas, they must help those who have the potentials to adopt such ideologies because they can spread wrong ideas about religion which is not the essential role of call to Allah. Scholars should emphasize morality and sincerity in calling to Allah and reinforcing the fact knowledge is sacred and aims at helping people to see the right path. The scholars should teach their students that seek Allah’s rewards and satisfaction from this noble work. They should train their students to truth agents to help people be saved from hellfire not to challenge others to make them look stupid. I remember meeting these sick siblings during religiois visit to Mecca to perform Umrah. They tend to prepare everyone in the vechile to be ready fight those who have different views. I do not have a problem with being aware of the truth and how to answer questions but not with the intention to degrade others or win the battle against them. In fact, I used to hear them talking about how they defeated those who have different views. They were very proud that they won the battle and made others get humiliated in front of others.
- Role of religious institutions
I believe schools and colleges that offer religious studies must spread the sense of tolerance and acceptance for different views. Those who are in charge must discover those who have aggressive approaches in the call to Allah. These students have to be identified and helped to understand the right approach in calling to Allah. Teachers in these institutions must emphasize and integrate concepts like sincerity, pure intention and morals in their teaching. There should be more emphasis on practiced knowledge where students follow the model of the prophet’s companions in making sure in not moving to the next verse or concept until they apply the first one. Using this approach guarantee a tolerant culture is propagated in religious institutions which is based on love, care with the intention of saving everyone from hellfire.
As it is mentioned earlier, there are some who are psychologically sick and do not have any bad intentions. There should be helped medically and psychologically. But they should be willing to be helped from this fatal disease. They should understand seeing a specialist help them get cured from those wrong ideas and this energy within these young people has to be positively channeled to serve Islam not to harm its image. It is very important that the society do not look down at those who might need to go through this. In fact, these people must be supported after they finish the treatment.
- The role of Government
This might sound a bit harsh but I think it is very important for those who refuse to listen to advice of scholars and the community and wish to pursue this wrong path, I suggest the intervention of the government to stop those from spreading this dangerous culture of hatred and extremism which is not line with the Islamic principles and teachings. Sometime, people learn the hard way. Of course, this should be the last resort.
To conclude, we need to work like a team in combating and getting rid of this fatal disease. There is a need to create a more positively productive religious society whose goal or concern is to help each other to see the truth so everyone can be in Paradise. As it said previously, this piece is not meant to negatively criticize but to address and find ways to overcome this new and dangerous phenomenon.
By/Ahmed M. Al-Mata’ni