In The Name of Allaah, The Most Merciful, The Bestower of Mercy.
The Importance of Detailing Good In Most Cases, Warning Against Evil In General Sometimes And In Detail at Other Times
Shaikhul Islaam Ibn Taymiyyah [rahimahullaah] said, “There’s no good thing except that he [i.e. the Messenger (sallal laahu alayhi wasallam) has urged the person towards it and there is no evil except that he warned the Ummah against it”.
Imaam Muhammad Ibn Saaleh Al-Uthaymeen [rahimahullaah] commented on the above statement, saying: “This is correct, because indeed good is something one seeks to do, therefore he clarified it specifically and urged a person towards it. And regarding evil, we say, ‘There is no evil except that he warned against it’ and he [Shaikhul Islaam] did not say, ‘There’s no evil except he (i.e. the Messenger) has clarified it [i.e. in detail]’, because there are evil affairs which he clarified (in detail) and warned against, and there are evil affairs which he did not clarify (in detail), rather he warned against it in general. For example, fornication, killing a person (i.e. without a justified reason based on the sharee’ah) and what is similar to these deeds are manifest evils; and Bidah is a manifest evil, but did he mention every Bidah specifically by its description in a text or rather mentioned in general? Answer: They are mentioned in general and warned against. The distinction between (evil) and good is that good is something one seeks to do, therefore it is in need of being clarified specifically – clarify every affair so that we do it, unlike evil because it is something to be abandoned, therefore sometimes it is mentioned in detail and sometimes in general. [Ref 1]
The Categories of People And Their Knowledge of Good and Evil
Imaam Ibnul Qayyim [reahimahullaah] said:
Allaah [The Most High] said:[ وَكَذَٲلِكَ نُفَصِّلُ ٱلۡأَيَـٰتِ وَلِتَسۡتَبِينَ سَبِيلُ ٱلۡمُجۡرِمِينَ – And thus do We explain the Ayat (proofs, evidences, verses, lessons, signs, revelations, etc.) in detail, so that the way of the Mujrimun (criminals, polytheists, sinners) become manifest. [Surah Al-An’aam. Aayah 55]
Those who know Allaah, His Book and His Religion are acquainted with the path of the believers and that of the criminals in detail- the two paths are clearly visible to them, just as a path leading to its destination and the path leading to destruction are made clearly visible. They are the most knowledgeable amongst the creation- the ones who benefit [the people] the most, the ones with the most useful advice and they are an evidence of right guidance. This is why the Sahaabah have excelled all those to come after them until the Day of Judgment, for indeed they were brought up upon the path of misguidance, shirk and paths leading to destruction, and they knew them in detail; then the Messenger [sallal-laahu-alayhi-wasallam] came to them and took them out from darkness [an entered them] into complete light- from shirk into Tawheed; from ignorance into knowledge; from misguidance into guidance; from injustice into justice; from confusion and blindness into guidance and clear-sightedness. They knew the worth of that which they received and were triumphant by way of it. [They knew the worth] of that which was contained in what they [received], since what is in opposition to the [truth and right guidance] reveals the goodness of what it opposes, because [upright] affairs are made clear by way of their opposites. So they increased in desire and love of that which they embraced, disliked and hated that which they had turned away from. And of all the people, they had the most love for Tawheed, Imaan and Islaam, and had the most hatred for that which was in opposition to it. They were the most knowledgeable of the path in detail.
As for those who came after the Sahaabah, amongst them is that one who was brought up in Islaam but knows not what is in opposition to it. Therefore, some of the details of the path of the believers and that of the criminals became confusing to him, for indeed confusion occurs due to the weakness of one’s knowledge regarding both paths or one of them, as Umar Ibnul Khattaab [radiyallaahu-anhu] said: “The bonds of Islaam will be undone one after the other when a people who grew up in Islaam know not what Jaahiliyyah [Pre-Islamic Ignorance] is.’’ This [statement shows an aspect of] Umar’s perfect knowledge [of Islaam].
And there is that one who is neither acquainted with the path of the criminals nor has it been made clear to him, or he has doubts and thus thinks that some of their ways are from the ways of the believers. This has occurred in this Ummah in many affairs of Aqeedah, Knowledge and Action regarding the path of the criminals, the disbelievers and the enemies of the Messengers, [which] was brought into the path of the believers by the one who does not know the [detailed distinction between] the path of believers and the path of the criminals, so he called to [this path], excommunicate the one in opposition and declares lawful that which Allaah and His Messenger made unlawful, just as what has occurred with many of the people of bidah, such as the Jahmiyyah, the Qadariyyah, the Khawaarij, the Rawaafid and their ilk- among those who initiated an innovation, called to it and excommunicated those who opposed it.
The people are four categories in this subject matter [i.e. the obligation of having knowledge of the path of the believers and that of the criminals in detail].
The First Group: They are those who know the path of the believers and that of the criminals in detail-in both knowledge and action. They are the most knowledgeable amongst the creation.
The Second Group: They are those who are blind to both paths- those resembling animals. The path of the criminals comes [to them] and they follow it.
The Third Group: It is that one who concerns himself with (seeking) knowledge of the path of the believers and not its opposite. He only knows (the path of the criminals) by way of its opposition to the (path of the believers) and in a general way, and [holds] that all that is in opposition to the path of the believers is falsehood, even though that is not illustrated to him in detail. Rather, when he hears some of that which contradicts the path of the believers, he turns away and does not preoccupy himself in understanding and knowing its falsity. This person is in a state (similar) to one who is safeguarded from following desires- whose heart is neither put at risk nor is he called to (such desires), as opposed to those who are aware of (such desires) and their souls are inclined towards them, but they strive against it for the Sake of Allaah. A letter was written to Umar Ibnul Khattaab (radiyallaahu-anhu) and he was asked about this affair, as to which of the two men is the better- a man who is not put at risk by way of desires and does not go through its difficulties, or a man who is pushed towards it but abandons it for the Sake of Allaah? Umar (radiyallaahu-anhu) wrote back saying: The one who is desirous of sin but abandons it for the Sake of Allaah is from ‘those whose hearts Allaah has tested for piety. For them there is forgiveness and a great reward.’ [Surah Hujuraat. Ayah: 3]
The Fourth Group: This group knows the path of evil, bidah and kufr in detail and the path of the believers in general. This is the situation of many of those who concern themselves with the beliefs of the previous nations and that of the people of bidah. They are acquainted with (these affairs) in detail, but not with what the Messenger (sallal-laahu-alayhi-wasallam) came with; rather they are acquainted with it in general even though they may know some of its affairs in detail. Whoever examines their books will see that. Likewise, those who know the paths of evil, oppression and corruption in detail and are followers of it; if they repent, abandon these (affairs) and return to the path of the pious believers, then their knowledge of it will only be general. They will not be acquainted with it in that detailed manner known to those who spend their lives (studying) its regulations and ways.
The Objective: Indeed, Allaah (Glorified be He) loves that one should know the path of His enemies in order to avoid and hate it, just as the path of the His awliyaa (close friends) is known and followed. [Ref 2]
Some Circumstances In Which Giving Detail And Distinction Becomes Mandatory
The Messenger (sallal-laahu-alayhi-wasallam) said:
فإنه من يعش منكم فسيرى اختلافا، فعليكم بسنتي
Indeed the one who lives long amongst you will see differences; so upon you is to (adhere) to my Sunnah.’’
Imaam Abu Haatim (rahimahullaah) said: This is clear evidence that the Messenger (sallal-laahu-alayhi-sallam) commanded his Ummah to know the Du’afaa amongst them and (distinguish) them from the Thiqaat. That is because the Sunnah cannot be adhered to alongside the lies and falsehood mixed with it, except by way of knowing the Du’afaa and (distinguishing them) from the Thiqaat. [Ref 3]
Shaikh Rabee [may Allaah preserve him] stated, “It is obligated on the people of truth to exercise patience and increase in adhering to this religion of truth. Whenever the desires become abundant, it becomes necessary to increase in acquainting (oneself) with the truth and adhering to it, as the Messenger (alayhis salaatu was-salaam) said: ‘The one who lives long amongst you will see a lot of differences, so upon you is that you follow my Sunnah and the Sunnah of the rightly guided khulafaa. Bite onto it with your molar teeth (i.e. hold onto it firmly) and beware of newly invented matters (in the religion), for every newly invented matter (in the religion) is a bidah and every bidah is misguidance’”. [Ref 4]
Hudhaifah Bin al Yamaan [radiyallaahu anhu] said: ‘’People used to ask the Messenger of Allaah [sallal-laahu-alayhi-wasallam] about the good times, but I used to ask him about bad times fearing lest they overtake me. I said, ‘O Messenger of Allaah! We were in a state of pre-Islamic ignorance and evil, and then Allaah brought us this good [time through Islam], is there any evil time after this good one?’ He said, ‘Yes.’ I asked, ‘Will there be a good time again after that evil?’ He said, ‘Yes, but therein will be a hidden evil.’ I asked, ‘What will be the evil hidden therein?’ He said, ‘[That time will witness the rise of] the people who will follow ways other than mine and seek guidance other than mine. You will know [their] good points as well as [their] bad points.’ I asked, ‘Will there be an evil time after this good one?’ He said, ‘Yes. [A time will come] when there will be people standing and inviting at the gates of Hell. Whosoever responds to their call they will throw them into the fire.’ I said, ‘O Messenger of Allaah! Describe them for us.’ He said, ‘They will be a people having the same complexion as ours and speaking our language.’ I said, ‘O Messenger of Allaah! What do you suggest if I happen to live in that time?’ He said, ‘You should stick to the main body of the Muslims and their leader.’ I said, ‘If they have no [such thing as the] main body and have no leader?’ He said, ‘Separate yourself from all these factions, though you may have to eat the roots of trees [in a jungle] until death comes to you and you are in this state.’’’ [Bukhari and Muslim…. The wording of the above is that of Imaam Muslim]
Shaikh Saaleh Al-Fawzaan [hafidhahullaah] stated:
They used to ask him [sallal-laahu-alayhi-wasallam] about the good related to righteous actions, affairs of the correct Islamic creed and dealings, but Hudhaifah used to ask him [sallal-laahu-alayhi-wasallam] about the evil times fearing lest they overcome him. Therefore, in this is evidence that it is not enough to only learn about the good; rather one must know about the evil in order to avoid it. If you do not know about the evil, you will come close to falling into it, as the poet said: ”I acquaint myself with the evil not for the sake of evil, but to be safeguarded from it. The one who does not know [the distinction between] evil and good will fall into evil.
A person must learn about the truth-its proofs and evidences. He must learn and know what falsehood is and the doubts associated with it, in order that he can be saved from falsehood and warn people against it. How can he avoid and warn people against it if he is unaware of it? And with regards to this, the Qur’aan has clarified truth and falsehood; it has clarified Eemaan and Kufr, Tawheed and Shirk, and Halaal and Haraam. It has not only clarified Tawheed, Halaal and truth; rather it clarified that which is in opposition to them, so that the Muslim can avoid them.
Likewise, the Prophet [sallal-laahu-alayhi-wasallam]- in his Sunnah- clarified good and evil, truth and falsehood in all affairs of the religion. The scholars [may Allaah have mercy upon them] clarified – in their written works- what Tawheed, Shirk, disbelief and hypocrisy are. They have clarified the belief of Ahlus Sunnah wal Jamaa-ah and the beliefs of the deviated sects, such as the Jahmiyyah, the Mutazilah, the Ashaa-irah…..and other than that.
They have clarified the correct and forbidden [deeds related] to mutual dealings. They have clarified the correct [Islamic] marriage, the false and corrupt marriage and the women forbidden [for one to marry]. They have clarified the [good manners legislated in the sharee’ah] and the evil manners that are in opposition to it. All of this gives the Muslim an insight into his affairs, so that he knows the truth by its evidences, knows what falsehood is and the doubts associated with it, in order that he can avoid falsehood and tell the people avoid it.
This is why you find in the books of belief: clarification of the belief in Tawheed and the belief of Ahlus Sunnah Wal Jamaa-ah, clarification of the beliefs [that are tantamount] to misguidance, the doubts associated with it and refutation against it, in order that the Muslim is not misled by beliefs [that are tantamount to] deviation, false beliefs and deviated schools of thought; and in order that the Muslims can be upon a correct understanding with regards to the affairs of their religion and that which is in opposition to it.
Some of the people at present- the majority of them ignorant ones and amongst them misguided ones- say, “Do not learn about the false beliefs; suffice yourselves with learning the correct belief only and do not involve yourself in seeking to know the beliefs of the people of misguidance and the refutations against their doubts. Leave this and teach the children of the Muslims the correct belief only. Do not inform them about the statements that are in opposition [to the truth], the doubts and refutation against them.” This one [i.e. the one who makes these statements] is either one of the ignorant people who knows nothing about knowledge or he is one of those motivated by personal desires-those who want to spread the false schools of thought and their doubts; rather it may be that they say, ‘’It is sufficient for a person to say, ‘I am a Muslim; I am a believer….. a general Islaam suffices, do not say, ‘Ahlus Sunnah wal Jamaa-ah, [do not say], ‘the people of misguidance, splitting and differing; do not say this, because it will cause division between the Muslims.’’’
These [statements are tantamount to] misguidance because Allaah [The Mighty and Majestic] has clarified the truth in opposition to falsehood, guidance in opposition to misguidance and Tawheed in opposition to shirk. Allaah [The Mighty and Majestic] has clarified all the affairs of the Religion- a detailed clarification of the affairs related to worship, mutual dealings and manners. Therefore, this must be clarified in order that it is made clear to the people, [and in order] that they can be upon clarity, and so that the true Muslim is distinguished from the so-called Muslim and no deviation and forgery enters into Islaam. We must make a distinction between this and that one, in order that truth is not confounded with falsehood, and [in order] to distinguish between truth and falsehood, and [between] good and wickedness. We do not suffice ourselves with a general Islaam because this is misleading, and it is deception. We warn against this propaganda. The truth must be clarified and distinguished from falsehood, and guidance must be distinguished from misguidance. Hudhaifah [radiyallaahu-anhu] used to ask the Prophet [sallal-laahu-alayhi-wasallam] about the evil and did not suffice himself by only asking the Prophet about the good. The Prophet affirmed that for him and did not say to him: ”Suffice yourself with knowing what good is’’ rather he [sallal-laahu-alayhi-wasallam] affirmed and clarified- for him- the evil that was to occur, in order that he may beware and warn others. This is the Sunnah; this is the path of the Qur’aan and that of the Messenger [sallal-laahu-alayhi-wasallam]. [Ref 5]
The Danger of Confounding Truth With Falsehood, Refraining From Giving Detail, Utilising Ambiguities and Generalities When Detail And Distinction Is Required
Allaah [The Most High] said:
وَلَا تَلْبِسُوا الْحَقَّ بِالْبَاطِلِ وَتَكْتُمُوا الْحَقَّ وَأَنتُمْ تَعْلَمُونَ
And mix not truth with falsehood, nor conceal the truth while you know (the truth). [2:42]
Imaam Ibnul Qayyim (rahimahullaah) said: Allaah forbade us from mixing truth with falsehood, and thus leading to concealment of the truth. Mixing truth with false is by mixing the two until one of them is confused for the other. This is forgery and deceit by way of which what is made apparent is the opposite of what it is in reality. Likewise, when truth is confounded with falsehood, the culprit manifests falsehood in the image of truth and speaks with a statement that carries two meanings- a correct meaning and false meaning, so the listener is under the illusion that the speaker intends the correct meaning, whilst he intends the corrupt meaning. [Ref A]
Imaam Ibnul Qayyim [rahimahullaah] said: The basis of Banee Aadam’s misguidance is as a result of ‘General Terms’ and ‘Ambiguous Meanings’ [i.e. terms & meanings which can either be utilised for truth or falsehood when not explained in detail and distinguished], especially if they come in contact with a confused mind, then how about when [evil] desires and misguided enthusiasm is added to that? Therefore, ask the One Who keeps the hearts steadfast [i.e. Allaah] to keep your heart firm upon His Religion and not allow you to fall into this darkness. [Ref 6]
The basis of a person’s Islaam is to testify that there is no deity worthy of worship except Allaah and that Muhammad [sallal-laahu-alayhi- wasallam] is the Messenger of Allaah, to believe in Allaah, declare that Allaah is One without partner, obey Allaah’s commands, keep away from what Allaah has forbidden and single out Allaah in worship. And safeguarding this path [necessitates] the prohibition of every expression [term or word] that contains Shirk Billaah [i.e. ascribing partners to Allaah] or Kufr, or will lead to one of the two. [Ref 7] In the Qur’aan, there are many words that are utilised to rebut the words [or terms] that are in opposition to the call of the Messengers, the revelation that was revealed to them and the truth they brought. [Ref 8]
One of the general fundamental principles [in Islaam] is to know that words [or terms] are two types: Words that are mentioned in the Qur’aan and [authentic] Sunnah, therefore, it is obligated on every believer to affirm them – affirm what Allaah and His Messenger have affirmed, and negate what Allaah and His Messenger have negated. The words [or terms] affirmed by Allaah is truth and the ones Allaah negated are [negated] in truth, for indeed Allaah speaks the truth and guides to the straight path. The words [or terms] of the Sharee’ah are sanctified, and it is from perfection in knowledge that one seeks after the [sound meanings] which the Messenger [sallal laahu alayhi wasalam] intended by them, in order to affirm what he affirmed and negate the meanings he negated; for indeed it is obligated on us to believe and bear witness to everything he has stated and follow him in everything he has commanded.
As for the words [or terms] that are neither found in the Qur’am and [authentic] Sunnah, nor did the Salaf hold a consensus regarding whether they are negated or affirmed, then it is not incumbent on anyone to agree with the one who negates them or affirms them until its intended meaning is explained. So, if its intended meaning agrees with the [revelation, commands, prohibitions etc] conveyed by the Messenger, it is affirmed; but if its intended meaning is in opposition to the [revelation, commands, prohibitions etc] conveyed by the Messenger, it is rejected. [Ref 9]
Imaam Ibnul Qayyim [rahimahullaah] said: “It is obligated on you to give detail and make a distinction, because unrestricted and general [statements] without clarification has indeed corrupted this existence [i.e. the world], and misguided the intellects and views [of the people] in every era”.
Shaikh Saaleh Al-Fawzaan [may Allaah preserve him] said: There has to be detail explanation. The one who is not proficient in giving detail should keep quiet, because benefit is not acquired from his speech. And every time error occurs, its cause is due to an absence of detail explanation regarding truth and falsehood. There has to be detail explanation and distinction and not to mix up [affairs]. Indeed, it may be that there is something of truth and falsehood in an opponent’s statement, so all of it is neither deemed to be false nor truth; rather there has to be a distinction between its truth and falsehood. All of it is neither rejected nor accepted; rather a distinction is made regarding the truth and what is correct and the falsehood and error in it. And if you are not proficient in giving detail, then you should not enter into this field. [Ref 10]
Allaah [The Most High] said:
وَكَذَٲلِكَ جَعَلۡنَا لِكُلِّ نَبِىٍّ عَدُوًّ۬ا شَيَـٰطِينَ ٱلۡإِنسِ وَٱلۡجِنِّ يُوحِى بَعۡضُهُمۡ إِلَىٰ بَعۡضٍ۬ زُخۡرُفَ ٱلۡقَوۡلِ غُرُورً۬اۚ وَلَوۡ شَآءَ رَبُّكَ مَا فَعَلُوهُۖ فَذَرۡهُمۡ وَمَا يَفۡتَرُونَ
And so We have appointed for every Prophet enemies – Shayaateen (devils) among mankind and jinns, inspiring one another with adorned speech as a delusion (or by way of deception). If your Lord had so willed, they would not have done it, so leave them alone with their fabrications.” [Soorah Al-An’aam: Ayah 112]
Allaah [Glorified Be He] stated that they aid one another in opposing the command of the Prophets with what some of them inspire others of adorned speech, so that the gullible and feeble minded people are misled by it. He [The Most High] stated the reason behind a perpetrator’s [adorned speech] and the reason why it is accepted by the people; then He [The Most High] mentioned [in ayah 113 Al-An’aam] the effects it has on those ignorant souls. When those souls incline towards such adorned speech and become pleased with it, they carry out what it calls them to do -in speech and action. Therefore, ponder upon these verses and the sublime meanings they convey, for they clarify the roots of false principles and alert a person against them. And if you ponder upon the statements of the people of falsehood, you will indeed find them clothed with expressions and presented in a good light with sophisticated terms, which are quickly accepted by those deprived of sound discernment-to the extent that the wicked sinners would give [good] names to the greatest types of wicked deeds. [Ref 11]
[Ref 1: An Excerpt from ‘Ad-Duratu Al-Uthaymeeniyyah Bi-Sharhi Fat’hi Rabbil Bariyyati Bi-Talkhees Al-Hamawiyya. Page 34. Slightly paraphrased]
[Ref 2: An Excerpt from ‘Al-Fawaa’d pages 167-180’. slightly paraphrased]
[Ref 3: Source: Muqaddimah Kitaab Al-Majrooheem Minal Muhadditheen of Imaam Ibn Hibbaan (rahimahullaah) Page: 66]
[Ref 4: Majmoo 14/294 (3rd paragraph)]
[Ref A: An Excerpt from Badaa’i At-Tafseer Al-Jaami Limaa Fassarahu Al-Imaam Ibnul Qayyim’ Vol 1, page 124. slightly paraphrased]
[Ref 6: An Excerpt from ‘As-Sawaa’iq Al-Mursalah Alal Jahmiyyah Wal Mu’attilah’ – Vol 3. page 927. slightly paraphrased]
[Ref 7: Excerpt from ‘Mu’jam Al-Manaahee Lil Laf’dhiyyah’ page 34. slightly paraphrased. Publisher: Daar Al-Aasimah. 3rd edition 1996]
[Ref 8: Excerpt from Mu’jam Al-Manaahee Lil Lafdhiyyah’ page 10. slightly paraphrased. Publisher: Daar Al-Aasimah. 3rd edition 1996]
[Ref 9: Excerpt from ‘Al-Haqeeqatus Shar’iyyah Fee Tafseeril Qur’aan Al-A’dheem Was-Sunnatin Nabawiyyah’ page 17. slightly paraphrased]
[Ref 10: Source: An Excerpt from At-Ta-leeqaat Al-Mukhtasar Alaa Al-Qaseedah an-Nooniyyah: Vol: 1 page: 216. By Shaikh Saaleh Al-Fawzaan (hafidhahullaah). Slightly paraphrased
[Ref 11: An Excerpt from As-Sawaa-iq al-Mursalah of Imaam Ibnul Qayyim: 2/438). Slightly paraphrased]