05 يوليه, 2022 - 7 Dhu-al-Hijjah 1443

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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 exists a corpus of authentic, seasoned, and beneficial knowledge that has been transcribed on paper and taught by scholars across generations, today people are satisfied with short videos that attempt to condense religious information in mere minutes. As a result, many Muslims have misconceptions, fears, concerns and issues with Islam that was historically unknown until present. This short article highlights three conditions to assist the believer in understanding the sacred words of God Almighty and the inspired words of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him).

Firstly, it is important to ensure that the text is authentic. Scholars of the past spared no effort or time to ensure that the transmitted hadiths of the Prophet Muhammad (God’s peace and blessings upon him) were graded in a way to protect the listener/reader from misguidance. It is worthy to note at this point that the highest grade of an accepted text is entitled ‘mutawatir’ i.e. it qualifies as being positively confirmed and authentic. A mutawatir text is transmitted by groups of individuals from other groups in multiple conterminous channels of transmissions. The mere fact that the relayed information is similar or identical attests to a single source. The Quran and numerous Prophetic hadiths were relayed through mutawatir transmission and are therefore incontestable. 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. Though not all texts are belong to the category of mutawatir, they may be accepted for other reasons. For instance, a group of people may have passed down a hadith until it arrived at a person such as Imam Bukhari, who then recorded it in his own book of narrations. If within this chain, oral or sometimes textual, there is reason to believe that the narrators are all trustworthy, then these narrations are also accepted. The science of hadith is vast and it would be a disservice to it to attempt to summarize its many branches in so short an article. However, for brevity one must understand that if a hadith is authentic, there are still yet other conditions that must be considered when attempting to understand the Divine guidance.

Ibn Wahb, a contemporary of Imam Malik (God be pleased with them both), said, “Had I not met Imam Layth and Imam Malik, I would have gone astray because I would have thought every authentic hadith should be acted upon.” This statement was not made by any man, but by a contemporary of the great scholars he lists. This second condition is that the text must be understood as it was understood by the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him), the Companions, and their successors. The importance of this condition cannot be understated. Many people wrongly believe that every narration that is authentic must be acted upon and fail to understand the context. The result is that they become rash, extreme, and unforgiving not only to those around them but even to themselves. A case in point is the hadith in Imam Nawawi’s 40 hadiths that says, “I was ordered to fight the people until they say ‘There is no god other than God and Muhammad is His messenger…’”. A person who acts upon the hadith merely at face-value and only on the basis of its authenticity, will inevitably contradict the teachings of the Quran and the example of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and his Companions. The Quran explicitly states that religion is a matter of free choice while the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) did not force anyone to convert to Islam against their will. The Companions who ruled the Islamic state extended the same rights to all non-Muslims under their rule. In spite of its wording, the hadith in question does not instruct Muslims to engage in battle to convert non-Muslims. In fact, if a Muslim were to act upon it at face value, they would incur the wrath of God. The point to be made here concerns the misunderstanding that some Muslims have of acting upon all and any text has been preserved authentically.
The last condition is one that is not tangible, but an internal state. The heart and intellect must be sound. Sadly, some Muslims today misconstrue the words of the Prophet (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 whether it has been inflicted by the numerous spiritual diseases that are rampant today. If anger is in heart, is it possible to read any texts such as, for instance, those on forgiveness through the same lens? The heart needs to be cultivated or else prohibitions and admonishments will do very little and the miraculous verses of the Noble Quran and Prophetic hadiths that advocate good and justice will be used nefariously to create strife and fuel lust for power. The heart is the single most important part of the spiritual components of the human being, as the Prophet (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 or not the hadith is authentic, or how the Prophet’s Companions understood the hadiths or verses, all that matters is what the ruined heart wants.
Islam is a complete way of life and it informs every aspect of our lives. It is imperative that we take our religion seriously, that we are not lackadaisical in understanding it and in acting upon it. It is imperative that we suppress the desires of greed, hatred, and lust that blind us from the truth. It is imperative that we avoid both ends of extremism in our understanding and acting upon religious texts. These 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 cannot operate in isolation of the other to successfully lead people to the straight path. Like a nation that must work in unison to succeed, these conditions also must be utilized in harmony to actualize the truth of what Islam requires of Muslims. May God give us success.