In The Name of Allaah, The Most Merciful, The Bestower of Mercy.
Allaah [The Exalted] stated:
سَيَقُولُونَ ثَلَـٰثَةٌ۬ رَّابِعُهُمۡ كَلۡبُهُمۡ وَيَقُولُونَ خَمۡسَةٌ۬ سَادِسُہُمۡ كَلۡبُہُمۡ رَجۡمَۢا بِٱلۡغَيۡبِۖ وَيَقُولُونَ سَبۡعَةٌ۬ وَثَامِنُہُمۡ ڪَلۡبُہُمۡۚ قُل رَّبِّىٓ أَعۡلَمُ بِعِدَّتِہِم مَّا يَعۡلَمُهُمۡ إِلَّا قَلِيلٌ۬ۗ فَلَا تُمَارِ فِيہِمۡ إِلَّا مِرَآءً۬ ظَـٰهِرً۬ا وَلَا تَسۡتَفۡتِ فِيهِم مِّنۡهُمۡ أَحَدً۬ا
[Some] say they were three, the dog being the fourth among them; (others) say they were five, the dog being the sixth, guessing at the unseen; (yet others) say they were seven, the dog being the eighth. Say (O Muhammad): “My Lord knows best their number; none knows them but a few.” So debate not (about their number, etc.) except with the clear proof (which We have revealed to you). And consult not any of them (people of the Scripture) about (the affair of) the people of the Cave. [Surah Al-Kahf. Verse 22]
Imaam As-Sadi [may Allaah have mercy upon him] said: Allaah informed us of the differing between the people of the scripture regarding the number of the people of the cave- a differing that [occurred] out of guessing at the unseen, forging statements and speaking about that which they have no knowledge. Some of them said that the people of the cave were three in number and their dog was the fourth, and others said that the people of the cave were five in number and their dog was the sixth. Allaah said that these two statements are tantamount to guessing at the unseen, so this indicates that they are false. And amongst them were those who said that the people of the cave were seven in number and their dog was the eighth. This statement-and Allaah knows best- is what is correct because Allaah declared the first two statements false but did not declare this third one to be false, so this indicates that it is correct. This differing is one that neither carries any benefit nor are the people benefited by knowing the number of the people of the cave. It contains neither a benefit related to religion nor the worldly affairs and that is why Allaah stated: [قُل رَّبِّىٓ أَعۡلَمُ بِعِدَّتِہِم مَّا يَعۡلَمُهُمۡ إِلَّا قَلِيلٌ – Say (O Muhammad): My Lord knows best their number; none knows them but a few]; and they are those who know what is correct and known for being upon what is correct.
[فَلَا تُمَارِ فِيہِمۡ إِلَّا مِرَآءً۬ ظَـٰهِرً۬ا – So debate not (about their number, etc.) except with the clear proof (which We have revealed to you)]- Meaning, based upon knowledge, certainty and about that which contains benefit. As for debating based on ignorance and guessing at the unseen or about that which has no benefit- either the debater being obstinate or the affair being debated having no benefit- neither any religious nor [praiseworthy] worldly benefit, such as the number of the people of the cave and what is similar to it- then too much debate about it and continuous research regarding it is a waste of time, and it makes the hearts have a strong love for that which has no benefit.
[وَلَا تَسۡتَفۡتِ فِيهِم مِّنۡهُمۡ أَحَدً۬ا – And consult not any of them (people of the Scripture, Jews and Christians) about (the affair of) the people of the Cave] because their speech regarding it is based on guessing at the unseen and conjecture can be of no avail against the truth. This proves that it is not permissible for a person to issue a verdict when he is not worthy of it- either due to his inability to issue a verdict in that affair or due to fact that he does not care what he says about the affair because he does not possess that fear of Allaah that will stop him from speaking about affairs that are unclear to him, which may harm him in the afterlife. So when it is the case that he has been forbidden from giving verdicts in the likes of this affair, then prohibiting him from giving verdicts [in general] is of a greater prohibition. Also this ayah proves that a person maybe prohibited from giving a verdict in some affair but not in other affairs, so he gives a verdict in that which he is worthy of giving a verdict and not in other affairs because Allaah has not prohibited him from giving a verdict completely; rather they were prohibited from giving a verdict regarding the affair of the people of the cave and what is similar to it. (1)
Al-Allaamah Rabee [may Allaah preserve him] stated, “The final affair of Ahlul Kalaam [the proponents of theological rhetoric] are a state of doubt and confusion, and the final affair of Ahlut Tasawwuf [the people of the Sofee paths] are a state of wild irrational behaviour and false claims. Shaikhul Islaam Ibn Taymiyyah said, “And because of this, the innovators of Ahlul Kalaam [proponents of theological rhetoric] have something of resemblance to the Jews and the innovators in acts of worship have something of resemblance to the Christians (i.e. those Jews and Christians who deviated after the departure of their Prophets). These ones [i.e. ahlul kalam] are like the darkness in a vast deep sea, overwhelmed with a great wave topped by a great wave, topped by dark clouds, darkness, one above another; and those ones [i.e. innovators in acts of worship] are like a mirage in a desert, the thirsty one thinks it to be water, until he comes up to it and finds it to be nothing”. (2)
Al-Allaamah Rabee Bin Haadi Al-Mad’khali [may Allaah preserve him] stated that Shaikhul Islaam Ibn Taymiyyah [may Allaah have mercy upon him] said: “The people in their pursuit of knowledge and religion have two innovated paths and a path legislated in the Sharee’ah. The path of the Islamic legislation is to look at what the Messenger [peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him] brought, utilise it as evidence and act upon what it necessitates. This path is built upon the sound intellectual proofs and the sound proofs that are based on absolute certainty (in conformity with the revelation), because indeed the Messenger clarified the sound intellectual proofs whose limits are determined by the (infallible) divine texts, just as Allaah put forth – in the Qur’an – every kind of similitude. This is the straight path which Allaah commanded His servants to ask Him to guide them to. As for the two innovated paths, one of them is the path of the people of innovated theological speech, and there is much falsehood in this. Many of the people upon this path are negligent in (performing) deeds commanded by Allaah and His Messenger, so they remain upon corruption in knowledge and deeds, and stray towards false Judaism.
The second innovated path is that of the people who follow ways of strengthening the soul, the people who follow the Soofi paths and innovated acts of worship. These ones stray towards false Christianity, because they say that if a person purifies his soul in manner in which they have stated, then the sciences of the religion will come to him in abundance without learning. The acts of worship of many amongst these people are innovated; rather they are in opposition to that which the Messenger brought and thus they remain upon corruption in their deeds and corruption due to deficiency in knowledge, since they do not know what the Messenger came with. These people often malign one another and every group speaks ill against the other, whilst each of them claim to follow the Messenger; but what the Messenger brought is neither in agreement with what these ones say and what those ones say. “Ibrahim (Abraham) was neither a Jew nor a Christian, but he was a true Muslim Hanifa (Islamic Monotheism – to worship none but Allah Alone) and he was not one who associated partners to Allaah in worship”. [Surah Aal Imraan. Verse 67]
Neither the Messenger of Allaah nor his companions were upon the path of the proponents of religions innovations- the proponents of “Theological Rhetoric and (mere) Opinions”, nor upon the path of the proponents of innovated worship and Soofiyyah; rather he was upon that which Allaah sent him with based on the Qur’aan and Sunnah. (3)
To be continued…InShaaAllaah
[Ref 1: An Excerpt from Tafseer As-Sadi. slightly paraphrased]
[Ref 2: Al-Mukhtaaraat Al-Bahiyyah Min Kutub Shaikhil Islaam Ibn Taymiyyah. Page 281. By Al-Allaamah Rabee and compiled by Shaikh Khaalid Adh-Dhufayree]
[Ref3: Al-Mukhtaaraat Al-Bahiyyah Min Kutub Shaikhil Islaam Ibn Taymiyyah. 290-291. By Al-Allaamah Rabee Bin Haadi and compiled by Shaikh Khaalid Adh-dhufayree]