In the name of Allah the Most Gracious the Most Merciful
The obligation of saying “I don’t know”
By Shaykh Saalih bin Fawzaan al-Fawzaan may Allah preserve him
The shaykh mentions this benefit in his explanation of “al-‘Aqeedah al-Tahawiyah” compiled by Abu Ja’far al-Waraaq at-Tahawi, may Allah have mercy on him. Shaykh Fawzaan’s comments on the 165th point:
“And we say ‘Allah knows best’ regarding things of knowledge which is unclear to us.”
This is a tremendous issue as it relates to knowledge. Mankind should not speak about anything which he has no knowledge of. If he knows something then let him speak about it, however if he is ignorant then he should say nothing. He should not speak about the affairs of the religion or acts of worship, and he should not enter these affairs without having knowledge. Rather, he should stop and say Allaah knows best.
A man came to Imaam Maalik [Imaam of Dar ul Hijrah] and asked him about 40 issues. He only answered four of them, and he said regarding the rest of issues “I do not know”. The man said, “I came to you from such and such place upon my riding beast and you say you do not know?”
So Imaam Maalik responded “Get onto your riding beast and return to the town from which you came and say: I asked Maalik and he said ‘I don’t know’”.
When the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, was asked about something that was not revealed to him from Allah he would wait for revelation to descend. Likewise, the Companions, when the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, asked them something they did not know of they would respond, “Allah and His Messenger knows best.”
This chapter is tremendous and important. Allah made speaking about Him without knowledge a level higher than committing shirk.
قُلۡ إِنَّمَا حَرَّمَ رَبِّىَ ٱلۡفَوَٲحِشَ مَا ظَهَرَ مِنۡہَا وَمَا بَطَنَ وَٱلۡإِثۡمَ وَٱلۡبَغۡىَ بِغَيۡرِ ٱلۡحَقِّ وَأَن تُشۡرِكُواْ بِٱللَّهِ مَا لَمۡ يُنَزِّلۡ بِهِۦ سُلۡطَـٰنً۬ا وَأَن تَقُولُواْ عَلَى ٱللَّهِ مَا لَا تَعۡلَمُونَ
“Say [O Muhammad]: ‘[But] the things that my Lord has indeed forbidden are Al-Fawâhish [great evil sins, every kind of unlawful sexual intercourse,] whether committed openly or secretly, sins [of all kinds], unrighteous oppression, joining partners [in worship] with Allah for which He has given no authority, and saying things about Allah of which you have no knowledge.’” (al-’Araaf: 33)
وَلَا تَقۡفُ مَا لَيۡسَ لَكَ بِهِۦ عِلۡمٌۚ إِنَّ ٱلسَّمۡعَ وَٱلۡبَصَرَ وَٱلۡفُؤَادَ كُلُّ أُوْلَـٰٓٮِٕكَ كَانَ عَنۡهُ مَسۡـُٔولاً۬
“And follow not [say not, or do not or witness not] that of which you have no knowledge. Verily! The hearing, and the sight, and the heart, of each of those one will be questioned [by Allah].” (al-Israa: 36)
O my brother, make it a point to say, “I do not know” and whoever says, “I do not know” has given an answer. Do not fabricate lies and engage in the rulings of the legislation without having clear insight [baseerah].
And saying, “I do not know” in affairs you do not have knowledge does not mean that you are deficient. Rather, it is the opposite. It is perfection/having integrity because saying “I don’t know” is piety and having fear of Allah, and the people will praise you for that.
Many people who ascribe themselves to knowledge, especially in these later times which there are few fuqaha [scholars of understanding] and many speakers, give verdicts [fatwas], rulings, and sermons without having clear insight [baseerah] about religious rulings. And it is from the bounty of Allah that He has revealed and exposed their ignorance to the people. If only they covered themselves and refrained from speaking about what they had no knowledge of that would have been more complete and dignified for them with Allah and with the people. So let us take lessons from this.
Translated by: Abu Awzaa’ee AbdusSalaam
الفقير الى الله