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Importance of Saying: “I Don’t Know”

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As-salaamu alaykum,

I was once invited to a faraway place to an Islamic event as a keynote speaker. At the end of the event someone came up to me and asked a religion based question. I cheerfully replied to them and said: “That is a really good question, ma shaa Allah. But my apologies as I do not know the answer. I would like to know the answer too. I would recommend that you ask your local scholar.”

At that point I could tell the person was  shocked by their facial expressions and then they verbalized their shock by saying: “You seriously don’t know the answer to this question! You traveled all the way here and you end up saying I do not know!” (I believe the person thought I was a scholar) So I smiled back and said: “I am sorry. But I really do not know the answer. You are better off having me say “I do not know” than giving you an incorrect answer and ruining things for you and me.”

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Generally speaking, being put in such situation and not knowing an answer to a question which people expect you to know may be a bit embarrassing to the one being asked. It has happened, countless times, where people guessed answers just so they can avoid such “embarrassment”.

With that being said, I couldn’t help but remember the following amazing hadith classified as authentic in Sefat Al-Fatwa. Please pay close attention to it as this may really have a long lasting effect on you. A man asked Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him): “What is the most disliked/evil place (i.e to Allah)?” Can you guess what was the response of the prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him)? Can you guess what was the response of the man who receives direct revelation from God, the one whom the whole ummah views as the most knowledgeable person about Islam on Earth! The prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said: “I do not know

 

Allahu akbar people!

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By Allah, this raises his status in our eyes even more! There was NO hesitation! NO “but umm… but I think….” It was a simple plain “I do not know”.

3 – فقال : يا رسولَ اللهِ أيُّ البلدانِ شرٌّ ؟ قال : فقال : لا أدري ، فلما أتاه جبريلُ عليه السلامُ قال : يا جبريلُ : أيُّ البلدانِ شرٌّ ؟ قال : لا أدري حتى أسألَ ربي عزَّ وجلَّ ، فانطلق جبريلُ عليه السلامُ ثم مكث ما شاء اللهُ أن يمكثَ ثم جاء فقال : يا محمدُ إنك سألْتَنِي أيُّ البلدانِ شرٌّ فقلتُ : لا أدري ، وإني سألتُ ربي عزَّ وجلَّ : أيُّ البلدانِ أشرُّ ؟ فقال : أسواقُها

الراوي : جبير بن مطعم | المحدث : الألباني | المصدر : صفة الفتوى

The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) then sought to ask Angel Jibreel 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) the question and said: “O Jibreel what is the most disliked/evil place/location?” Can you guess what was the response of the angel closest to Allah! Can you guess what was the answer of the angel who was responsible to reveal Allah’s commands to all prophets. He, Jibreel, said: “I do not know”. Allahu akbar! This is mind-boggling!

Then Jibreel 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) left for some time and then came back to the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) and said: “O Muhammad, you asked me what is the most disliked/evil place/location to Allah? And I responded saying: “I do not know”. So I asked my Lord subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He): “What is the most disliked/evil place/location?” and He told me the …..”

Now surely, Allah, Al-Aleem (The All-Knowledgeable) knew the answer. But my intention for writing this article isn’t for you to focus on the response since it is a lengthy topic that requires another article to explain. The point that I wanted to share is the fact that Prophet Muhammad and Angel Jibreel (May Allah’s peace and blessings be upon them) didn’t hesitate to say: “I do not know”. They knew really well the severe punishment that falls on those who speak without knowledge and the honor brought forth to those who know their limits and remain humble.

Read carefully, please, Ch 7 V 33: “Say (O Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him)): “(But) the things that my Lord has indeed forbidden are Al-Fawahish (great evil sins, every kind of unlawful sexual intercourse, etc.) 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.”

And the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said: “Whoever tells lies about me deliberately, let him take his place in Hell.” – Sahih Muslim

So when you are asked a question and don’t know the answer ESPECIALLY if it was a religious matter then don’t hesitate to say: “I do not know” and follow it with another statement if you wish such as “I will ask for you” as long as you will actually do it though.

Brothers and sisters, we are better off being embarrassed in front of people for not knowing an answer to their question than being embarrassed in front of Allah for giving them an answer without knowledge.

May Allah bless you and increase you in beneficial knowledge. 

Wassalaamu alaykum,

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Majed completed a Bachelor’s in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Windsor, a Bachelor’s in Islamic Studies in Islamic Jurisprudence and Legal Theory from Al-Madinah International University, and a Master’s in Business Administration from Wayne State University. As he travels worldwide lecturing about different aspects of Islam, Majed works full-time as a mechanical engineer and teaches with Al-Maghrib Institute. He currently lives in Michigan with his wife and children.

18 Comments

18 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Marin

    October 23, 2015 at 11:31 PM

    Really enjoyed this.

    • Avatar

      Shahnaz

      October 30, 2015 at 1:54 PM

      Ma shaa Allah… Worth reading…. Now it will be easier to us to say I don’t know Alhamdulillah..JazakAllahu khairan brother.. May Allah Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala bless you.

  2. Avatar

    Umulkhair

    October 24, 2015 at 4:51 AM

    Maansha Allah! this surely is something that I won’t ever forget to say when ever i am in such situation!!

  3. Avatar

    Aafia

    October 25, 2015 at 1:49 AM

    Shaitan induces false pride in People which make them feel low .Masha Allah We have so many reminders from Rasul-allah which help us in all aspect of lives.

  4. Avatar

    Laura

    October 26, 2015 at 2:38 AM

    Very interesting.

    What does it mean, “joining partners (in worship) with Allah for which…”?

    Thank you.

    • Avatar

      Amatullah

      October 26, 2015 at 6:08 AM

      Joining partners in worship is taking someone else for worship ‘IN THE PLACE OF’ Allah or ‘ALONG WITH’ Allah. That’s joining partners with Allah. In short, not worhsipping Allah Alone.

      • Avatar

        Laura

        October 26, 2015 at 10:35 AM

        Thank you very much, I appreciate it!

  5. Avatar

    Amatullah

    October 26, 2015 at 6:22 AM

    Bro Majed, I need the reference to the hadith you mentioned. The half knowledge is making me SO curious. Also, I’ve observed bro Majed Mahmoud doesn’t reply to the questions in his comments.
    Team MM, we expect answers to our questions please. Even if its an “I do not know”.

    • Avatar

      Majed

      October 26, 2015 at 8:11 AM

      As-salaamu alaykum Sister Amatullah,
      May Allah bless you. I believe there are two ahadith in this article in which I gave the reference of them already. Let me know if you are referring to something else. Jazakumullahu khairun.

      • Avatar

        Amatullah

        October 29, 2015 at 4:18 AM

        Walekum Assalam bro Majed. I appreciate your reply. It was the hadith classified as authentic in Sefat Al-Fatwa that I was asking about. I want the whole hadith. Could you kindly give me a more detailed reference?

      • Avatar

        Amatullah

        October 29, 2015 at 4:19 AM

        I was trying to say the same thing as sis Rabia in the comment below

    • Avatar

      Majed

      October 30, 2015 at 4:13 PM

      The hadith can be found in Musnad Al-Imam Ahmad and it was also narrated by Al-Hakem. The book Sefat Al-Fatwa is by Shaykh Al-Albani may Allah have mercy on him. You will find this hadith mentioned in page 9. The book is in Arabic and can be found here http://islamhouse.com/ar/books/722947/
      The last statement which I did not type in the hadith above is “the market place”. That is the most disliked location.
      If you are able to read Arabic then the following link has a nice explanation about the concept of the most liked vs disliked location to Allah. http://islamqa.info/ar/135771
      And Allah knows best. May Allah bless you.

      • Avatar

        Amatullah

        November 9, 2015 at 5:46 AM

        JazakhAllah khayraan kaseeran wa kaseera for the information bro!! May Allah bless you Immensely for forwarding such beneficial information

  6. Avatar

    Rabia

    October 26, 2015 at 8:54 AM

    AsA wrwb, this article was very interesting, alhamdulilah. Brother Majed, I also would like to know more about the hadith that explains what is the most hated place by Allah swt. I can’t find this hadith online when I searched it on google. You referenced the hadith as being in “Sefat Al-Fatwa.” However, I don’t even know what “Sefat Al-Fatwa” means nor do I know where I can go to locate this hadith. Is there a link, website, and/or other hadith book you can reference for those of us who would like to know more about this hadith! JazakAllah

  7. Avatar

    Ladan

    October 26, 2015 at 8:21 PM

    Wow what an amazing article on an interesting issue. The hadith had my mind blown… I really have to go search for it to see what it was. But subhanallah, all of the points you have mentioned are spot on. Really appreciate the reminder, may Allah reward you!

  8. Avatar

    Maslam

    October 30, 2015 at 7:59 PM

    Ustadh, thank you for sharing.

  9. Avatar

    Basic Quran reading

    November 4, 2015 at 9:04 PM

    A.A good to go through this topic…Thanks,hope for better.

  10. Avatar

    Muhammad Biplob

    November 18, 2015 at 12:56 PM

    May Allah bless you, Really it’s a nice article. it can help us. jajhakallhu khairan brother

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