On Harshness | 10 | Thousands of Companions, and only two hundred scholars? And today? ‘I performed ijtihaad and came to the conclusion that …’
And I also see [it appropriate] that I mention that today we have been afflicted with the opposite of what we were put to test with in past generations. In the past we were afflicted with the rigidity of the scholars, let alone the students of knowledge, let alone the general masses, we were tested with the blind following of the madhhabs. And the Muslims continued in this rigidity for many a long generation.
Now there is a return, there is a blessed awakening to go back to the Book and the Sunnah, and there is no doubt that it has produced its ripe fruit—but now it’s the opposite of that [initial] affair that we complain about. We used to complain about rigidity but now we [must] complain about uninhibitedness [i.e., dashing ahead].
Everyone who hears a statement from the Book or the Sunnah … not understanding anything from the Book and the Sunnah except a few phrases and words which he hears from some of the callers [daa’ees]–words which may be true and some of which may be incorrect … because of that [i.e., the few phrases he may have picked up, some of which are correct and some of which are not] he sees himself as having become a scholar, it being permissible [now] for him to say, ‘I think that … my opinion is that … I think that this statement is incorrect …’ and he interferes in every major and minor issue—all the while not being able to read a hadith correctly.
This [situation] has its dangers. And if the affair, and this is my personal opinion, if the affair hinges between following one of the four madhhabs and being rigid on it and between every Muslim becoming a claimant to knowledge and to ijtihaad, then there is no doubt that remaining upon what the forefathers were upon in following the madhhabs and discarding the opinions of the ignorant ones who have not studied any knowledge, is better. And this is by way of choosing the lesser of two evils.
A wise person or an author from Iraq made a very beautiful statement …, he said, “That I make ijtihaad and err is more beloved to me than for me to perform taqleed and be correct,” he said, “I only said, ‘… more beloved to me …’ and not that it is better because a mistake is not better than a correct answer.”
For this reason, we have to advise our brothers who share with us in the da’wah and in adopting the Book and the Sunnah not to be deceived by themselves or by some of the pieces of information that they have learnt from others and which were not [acquired] through their own personal study.
For in relation to others this opens up a door [leading to criticism] concerning us which we will have no way of answering; for they raise an objection saying that we permit those who, as they say here in Syria, ‘… cannot differentiate between a long stick and the [Arabic] letter alif [even though both are straight] …’
Without doubt, this is a fault attributed to the Salafi da’wah but there is [also] no doubt that the Salafi da’wah does not approve of the adoption of personal opinions emanating from people who are not students of knowledge, and who, even if they are, have not yet matured or become fully developed in knowledge.
For this reason, I recommend that these people do not become conceited by their own opinions and that they seek the assistance of the people of knowledge, for the Quraan, as you know, divided the people into two categories: a scholar and a non-scholar.
And the situation was like this in all of the past generations, especially the first, the most illuminated generation, that of the Prophet عليه السلام. So the people used to be of two categories [like we said], the scholar and the layman, and this is what Allaah the Mighty and Majestic referred to in His Saying, “So ask the people of the message if you do not know.” Nahl 16:43
Ibn al-Qayyim and others say that from amongst the Companions the scholars who would issue religious verdicts [fatwas] barely reached two hundred in number, two hundred scholars—they were not like the millions, maa shaa Allaah, of Muslims today where each one has an opinion to give, [saying], ‘I have an opinion that …’—[no,] the thousands upon thousands of other Companions would not have each one putting forward his opinion, but they would, rather, implement His Saying, the Most High, “So ask the people of the message if you do not know.”
And so based upon this aayah, it is obligatory to spread this reality among our Salafi youth and to cause them to live by it, such that they always and forever have before their eyes the fact that [if you are a scholar then] you perform ijtihaad and understand the Book and the Sunnah, and if you are not a scholar then it is not your obligation to say: ‘I think such and such …,’ ‘I performed ijtihaad and came to the conclusion that …,’ whether that be in declaring hadith to be authentic when you are not from the people [scholars] of Hadith, or whether it is in deriving a ruling and you are not from the faqeehs.