Friday, 29 December 2006

Ilmu Fardhu 'Ain (Personally Obligatory Knowledge)

Personally Obligatory Knowledge (Fardhu A'in) refers to knowledge of which learning it is the individual responsibility of every Muslim; of which if ignored - the obligatory he / she must perform cannot be accomplished.

Examples of such knowledge include - how to perform wudhu (ablution), and how solat (prayer) is performed and so forth.

The obligatory nature of the Ilmu of Fardhu 'Ain is stressed by the following hadith of Rasulullah SAW:

"Seeking knowledge is an obligation upon every Muslim."


As for the basic obligation of Islam, and what relates to tenets of faith, it is adequate for one to believe in everything brought by the Messenger of Allah SAW with absolute conviction free of any doubt.

Whoever does this is not obliged to learn the evidences of the scholastic, which is the resposibility of the Ulama.

The Prophet Muhammad SAW did not require from common people more than what is mentioned above, nor did the first four caliphs RA, the other prophetic Companions RA, nor others of the early Muslim community who came after them.

Rather, what befits the common people and vast majority of those learning or possessing Sacred Knowledge is to refrain from discussing the subtleties of scholastic theology, as this may cause corruption to find its way into their basic religious convictions, which is difficult to eliminate.
Instead, it is fitter for them to confine themselves to contentment with the above-mentioned absolute certainly.

Imam Shafi'i RA further warned that - engaging in scholastic theology is forbidden. This was prevalent in his (RA) time and was done by people who put rationalistic theories ahead of the Qur'an and Sunnah, as opposed to the common science of Muslim theology (Ilm al-Tauhid) which details the correct tenets of faith of Islam.

Imam Shafi'i RA also explained and insistently emphasised its unlawfulness, the severity of the punishment awaiting those who engage in it, the disgrace of doing it, and the enormity of the sin.

Imam Shafi'i RA advised:

"For a servant to meet Allah with any other sin than idolatry (shirk) is BETTER, than to meet Him guilty of anything of scholastic theology."

At the samen token, if someone has doubts about any of the tenets of faith in which belief is obligatory (Na'udzubillah), and his doubt CANNOT be eliminated except by learning one of the theologians' proofs, then it is obligatory for him to learn it in order to remove the doubt and acquire the belief in question.



A person is not obliged to learn how to perform ablution, the solat and so forth, until the act itself is obligatory for him / her.

As for trade, marriage, and so forth, of things not in themselves obligatory by root principle - the Ulama explain that the knowledge with regards to the above will become personally obligatory for anyone who wants to do them.

It has also been said that one should not call this knowledge "personally obligatory," but rather say, "It is unlawful to undertake them until one knows the conditions for their legal validity." And this expression is more accurate.


It is obligatory for one to know what is permissible and what is unlawful of food, drink, clothing, and so forth, of things one is unlikely to be able to do without. And likewise for the rulings on treatment of women if one has a wife.


Imam Shafi'i RA and the Ulama of his contemporary RA say that fathers and mothers must teach their children what will be obligatory for them after puberty. The guardian must teach the child about purification, prayer, fasting, and so forth; and that fornication, sodomy, theft, drinking, lying, slander, and the like are unlawful; and that he acquires moral responsibility at puberty and what this entails.

The above education is obligatory, as the plain content of its scriptural basis mentioned below shows.

Allah Almighty says in the Qur'an:

"O you who believe, protect yourselves and families from a fire." (Surah 66: Ayat 6)

Saiyidina Ali RA, Mujahid RA, and Qatadah RA say it means:

"Teach them that with which they can save themselves from Hell."

Thus, as per above - just as it is mandatory for a guardian to wisely manage his daily responsibilities and property, teaching as explained above is even more important.
In addition, the merely recommended is what exceeds this, such as teaching the child the Qur'an, Sacred Law, Muslim Etiquettes, and teaching him what he needs to earn a living.


As for knowledge o the heart, meaning familiarity with the illness of the heart such as envy, pride, and the like, Imam Ghazali RA has said that knowledge of their definitions, causes, remedy, and treatment is personally obligatory.

Here, it is not meant that taking a tariqat (way) and bai'ah (allegiance) with a sheikh are obligatory, but rather the companionship of even a single non-scholar sincere Muslim brother (for a male, and sister for female) as means of eliminating unlawful inner traits, which are diseases of the heart and thus spiritual well-being.

Other pious Ulama RA hold that if an individual is endowed with a heart free of all these unlawful spiritual diseases, then he / she is not obliged to learn what will cure them.
But if a person is not safe from these diseases (AS IS USUALLY THE CASE IN THIS DAY AND AGE) then the person must reflect and decide as follows:

(i) If he /she can purify his / her heart from these evils without the need of instruction, then he /she MUST purify it, just as how any Muslim must shun fornication and the like without learning the evidence proving he must.

(ii) But if a person cannot remove these unlawful traits from his / her heart except through learning the above mentioned knowledge, then he /she is personally obliged to learn from the scholars of Islam who specialise in Tasawwuf.

No comments: