A friend sent me this note: Reading and Reflecting on at least one Ayah from the Quran every day is easily possible when we make it a part of our social lives. Starting from self (& parents), then spouse, then children and then friends. Let us try it out.
And quoted this Ayah in support of his statement:
إِنَّ اللَّهَ لَا يَسْتَحْيِي أَن يَضْرِبَ مَثَلًا مَّا بَعُوضَةً فَمَا فَوْقَهَا فَأَمَّا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا فَيَعْلَمُونَ أَنَّهُ الْحَقُّ مِن رَّبِّهِمْ وَأَمَّا الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا فَيَقُولُونَ مَاذَا أَرَادَ اللَّهُ بِهَٰذَا مَثَلًا يُضِلُّ بِهِ كَثِيرًا وَيَهْدِي بِهِ كَثِيرًا وَمَا يُضِلُّ بِهِ إِلَّا الْفَاسِقِينَ
Baqara 2: 26 Verily, Allah is not ashamed to set forth a parable even of a mosquito or so much more when it is bigger (or less when it is smaller) than it. And as for those who believe, they know that it is the Truth from their Lord, but as for those who disbelieve, they say: “What did Allah intend by this parable?” By it He misleads many, and many He guides thereby. And He misleads thereby only those who are Al-Fasiqun (the rebellious, disobedient to Allah).
His intention is entirely honorable as he intends for people to spend their free time in doing something that is potentially beneficial instead of wasting it in the usual pointless or harmful pursuits that have become part of our social lives.
However, as they say, ‘The road to hell is paved with good intentions.’ That is why it is necessary to reflect carefully before suggesting anything to do with the Qur’an and Sunnah. Let me explain the dangers in this apparently harmless, even beneficial suggestion. I am not discouraging you from studying the Qur’an but emphasizing that it is a serious business and not something to be called ‘social life’. It is something that comes bound by principles and safety procedures which if not followed can lead to disaster. Ironically the Daleel against free thinking and speculating in the Qur’an (what passes in the name of ‘reflection’ by people who are not trained in the Usool of the Qur’an) is the very Ayah quoted above in its favor which warns against doing it.
Let me explain the dangers as well as draw your attention to the way of Rasoolullahﷺ and his Sahaba who are the best source of guidance for us.
Allahﷻ said about the coming of Rasoolullahﷺ:
لَقَدْ مَنَّ اللّهُ عَلَى الْمُؤمِنِينَ إِذْ بَعَثَ فِيهِمْ رَسُولاً مِّنْ أَنفُسِهِمْ يَتْلُو عَلَيْهِمْ آيَاتِهِ وَيُزَكِّيهِمْ وَيُعَلِّمُهُمُ الْكِتَابَ وَالْحِكْمَةَ وَإِن كَانُواْ مِن قَبْلُ لَفِي ضَلالٍ مُّبِينٍ
A’al Imraan 3: 164. Indeed Allah conferred a great favour on the believers when He sent among them a Messenger (Muhammadﷺ) from among themselves, reciting unto them His Verses (the Qur’an), and purifying them (from sins by their following him), and instructing them (in) the Book (the Qur’an) and Al-Hikmah [the wisdom and the Sunnah of Rasoolullahﷺ] while before that they had been in manifest error.
Allahﷻ called the sending of His Messengerﷺ, a great favor on the Believers. He didn’t call His Kalaam a great favor. Instead He called the coming of the teacher of that Kalaam, a great favor. He did not say that the fact that the Kalaam is in the language of the people, a great honor on them, but he said that the fact that the Messengerﷺ is from them, is a great honor for them. Allahﷻ didn’t send His Book, in the language of the people which they could read and understand far better than any of us can do today and say to them, “Reflect on this on your own and draw your own conclusions.”
He sent a teacher with the Kitab (Book) and told him to do four things in this sequence:
1. Recite for them the Ayaat
2. Purify them and prepare them to learn
3. Teach them the Ayaat (meaning, spirit, Ahkaam)
4. Teach them the wisdom behind these Ayaat (His Sunnah i.e. teach them to implement the Kalaam in their lives)
We are not looking at a social activity here, but at a very serious study curriculum.
We understand therefore that reflection must be done in the light of an accepted and recognized Tafsir, by people who have first learnt the Usool of Tafsir. Otherwise Shaytaan can mislead a person and raise doubts and questions in the mind that can lead to Kufr. There is a tendency in some people today to say, ‘This is what my heart tells me.’ Or they say, ‘This is what makes sense to me.’ Allahﷻ warned us against speaking without knowledge and called it the worst of all sins because it is the foundation of all evil, Shirk, Bida’at and Haraam i.e. to speak without knowledge.
قُلْ إِنَّمَا حَرَّمَ رَبِّيَ الْفَوَاحِشَ مَا ظَهَرَ مِنْهَا وَمَا بَطَنَ وَالإِثْمَ وَالْبَغْيَ بِغَيْرِ الْحَقِّ وَأَن تُشْرِكُواْ بِاللّهِ مَا لَمْ يُنَزِّلْ بِهِ سُلْطَانًا وَأَن تَقُولُواْ عَلَى اللّهِ مَا لاَ تَعْلَمُونَ
A’araf 7: 33. Say (O Muhammadﷺ): “(But) the things that my Rabb has indeed forbidden are Al-Fawahish (great evil sins) whether committed openly or secretly, sins (of all kinds), unrighteous oppression, joining partners with Allah for which He has given no authority, and saying things about Allah of which you have no knowledge.”
The biggest danger of free thinking and speculation is to say things about Allahﷻ and His Kalaam that are purely out of our own limited understanding. There’s no evidence in Islam from the Sahaba onwards of free thinking and reflection on the Kalaam of Allahﷻ without the guidance of an Ustaadh. The Ayah quoted above is a warning against such free thinking. It doesn’t promote free thinking as a part of social life but warns against it. By all means, one must reflect on the Qur’an. But it must be done only after first understanding the Usool that guide such reflection. That means serious study. Not social life or conversation.
There’s a wisdom in being serious about the study of Qur’an and Sunnah and why it was not opened to all and sundry as a part of social life. We need to reflect on that wisdom and respect it.
On the other hand, there’s severe prohibition of free thinking and reflection.
For example when Allahﷻ revealed in Sura Abasa: Wa fakihatan wa abba: Sayyidina Omar ibn Al Khattab (R) asked, “We know what is Habba. But what is Abba?”
Then he reprimanded himself and said, “Woe to you Omar, that you speculate about something that Allahﷻ decided not to explain.”
A man went to Abu Bakr (R) and asked about the same Ayah. He replied, “Which earth will hide me and which sky will shade me if I say about the Book of Allahﷻ that which I don’t know (i.e. If I speculate).”
If there was any generation which could justifiably use the term, ‘My heart tells me’, it was the Sahaba who took the Qur’an directly from Rasoolullahﷺ and who hearts had undergone Tazkiyya under his guidance. But they never did. Instead, their Tazkiyya made them more careful about Allahﷻ and more fearful of His punishment, not less. This fearlessness about Allahﷻ and His boundaries that we see today is a sign of the misguidance of Shaytaan and not of enhanced religiousness.
Consider this; Allahﷻ revealed in Sura Isra:
وَيَسْأَلُونَكَ عَنِ الرُّوحِ قُلِ الرُّوحُ مِنْ أَمْرِ رَبِّي وَمَا أُوتِيتُم مِّن الْعِلْمِ إِلاَّ قَلِيلاً
Isra 17:85 And they ask you (O Muhammadﷺ) concerning the Ruh (the Spirit); Say: “The Ruh (the Spirit): it is one of the things, the knowledge of which is only with my Rabb. And of knowledge, you (mankind) have been given only a little.”
Now what can anyone reflecting on this Ayah know about the nature of the Ruh? If you learn under a guide, he’ll tell you to reflect on your own attitude about knowledge and check if you are among those who think they know a great deal while they’re in fact, ignorant.
The opposite of knowledge is not ignorance. The opposite of knowledge is the illusion of knowledge. And that is lethal because it shuts the door of guidance.
That’s why in Islam there has always been an emphasis on learning under a guide. And a prohibition from free thinking and speculation under the garb of reflection.
Frankly how many people even know the difference between speculation and reflection and are self-aware enough to catch themselves speculating when they may have thought they were reflecting? That’s why our tradition from Rasoolullahﷺ is to learn from an Ustaadh.
When people came to Rasoolullahﷺ to learn, he sent them to the Ashaab-us-Suffah to learn from them. He didn’t give them the Qur’an and say, “Read and reflect on your own.” These people knew Arabic. They were not going there to know the meaning. But to learn the Usool of the Qur’an.
Reflection is useful if you reflect on your own following of the Qur’an and ask yourself, “How much am I following what Allahﷻ ordered me to do?”
But reflection which is really speculation and free thinking without any boundaries always leads to all kinds of evil, eventually culminating in Kufr and exit from Islam.
Remember that it was only by thinking in a particular way that we entered Islam. And it is by changing that thinking that we can exit Islam equally easily.
I suggest that we remember what Rasoolullahﷺ told us about starting something; that we would benefit from what anyone did thereafter, following what we started.
Therefore, don’t start something that has the scope for people to mislead themselves and others because the punishment for that will come to the one who started that practice as long as that practice continues.
May Allahﷻ guide us to that which pleases Him.