The author, (Imām al-Barbahārī) may Allāh have mercy upon him said; “Examine! May Allāh ﷻ have mercy upon you, the speech of every person that you hear, practically in your day and age. Do not act in haste and do not enter into anything from it until you ask and see – Did any of the companions of the Prophet ﷺ speak concerning it or any of the scholars? For if you find a narration from them concerning it then hold tightly onto it and do not exchange it for anything nor give anything precedence over it and consequently fall into the Hell-Fire.”

The Explanation:

Do not be hasty in (holding to be correct) that which you hear from the people, particularly in recent times as there are many of those who speak, legislate Islamic rulings, stand to lecture and pass on religious knowledge, especially now with the expansion of media [technology]. It has reached the point that everyone talks foolishly and speaks in the name of knowledge and religion. It has even come to the point that the people of misguidance and deviated groups speak in the name of the religion on cable and satellite channels, therefore the dangers are extremely great.

It is an obligation upon you O’ Muslim and especially upon you O’ Student of Knowledge that you confirm and verify (the affairs) and you are not hasty in everything you hear. It is obligatory upon you to verify and know the one who uttered this (speech), and (to ask) from where did this ideology generate from, to know it’s source, it’s proof from the Qurʾān and sunnah, where does (this lecturer) study and from whom did he take knowledge? Therefore these matters are in need of verification – particularly in this time. We do not accept (the speech of) anyone even if he be a person who is articulate in speaking, well expressed, has the ability to manipulate words and capture the ears of the people. Do not be deceived by it until you see the depth of knowledge and understanding of the religion he has. For it could be possible that a person’s speech be little, yet he is an expert of Islamic jurisprudence or it could be possible that a person’s speech is abundant, yet he is ignorant and has no understanding of the religion. Rather he has captivating speech, deceiving the people (with it) and appearing to them as though he is a scholar, and someone who has understanding (of the religion), someone who is intellectual and other than that, doing so until he deceives the people and misguides them from the truth.

The statement of the author, “Examine! May Allāh ﷻ have mercy upon you, the speech of every person that you hear, practically in your day and age. Do not act in haste and do not enter into anything from it…” This (was said) at the time of the author and he was almost present during the time of Imām Aḥmad (ibn Ḥanbal) since he was from the students of his students. He mentions not to hasten in (accepting and following) the speech of the people in your time until you have verified it, so where is this compared to our time now!? A time of desires and ignorance, and a time where the parts of the world mix together, to the point that waves of tribulations (fitan), evils and ideologies have occurred. The enemy now desires to turn the religion upside down. He desires us to be dependant on him, to obligate upon us his ideology and obligate upon us his political beliefs.

So it is upon us to verify and authenticate this affair and withhold (from speaking and entering into) many of the affairs. It is upon us to understand the speech of Allāh ﷻ (the Qurʾān) and the speech of his Messenger ﷺ (the sunnah) and to gain comprehension of the religion of Allāh. Having understanding (of the religion) includes within it a protection from tribulations, and fiqh refers to the understanding of the religion.

It could be that a person has memorised a great amount, however he doesn’t have understanding (of that which he has memorised). It may even be that (even though he has memorised much) he is just like a layman, rather it may even be the case that the layman is better than him due to withholding (from speaking and entering into affairs) since he acknowledges and is aware of his ignorance, whereas the latter does not acknowledge his is ignorant. Thus the issue (of concern) is not about memorising a great deal or speaking abundantly; rather the issue is a matter of understanding and comprehending, and for this reason the Prophet ﷺ said “Perhaps one who has it conveyed to him will understand it better than the one who heard it.”1 Meaning there could be that an individual who memorises, reports and narrates, yet there could be a person other than him who understands it better than him. The Prophet ﷺ said, “Perhaps the one who conveys knowledge does not understand it himself.”2 He could memorise it and narrate it yet he doesn’t understand it. Therefore the understanding of the religion is a bounty from Allāh, and he gives it to whomever he wills from his servants, if he takes advantage of it and develops it then he would benefit from it but if he neglects it then it will be lost.

The statement of the author, “Do not act in haste and do not enter into anything from it until you ask and see; did any of the companions of the Prophet speak concerning it…” this is great advice regarding speech that amazes you in relation to the religion, but as for speech which is related to the worldly affairs, then it isn’t a matter of seeking it’s authenticity. However if you are impressed with some speech regarding the religion then do not be hasty (in accepting it) until you have looked and examined it; “Is this speech founded upon the truth and evidence or is it from intellect and philosophy?” if so, then it is nothing but scum of the sea, so keep away from it. As for speech that is built and founded upon the Qurʾān and sunnah then this is the truth. So beware and do not rush into accepting speech upon false value even if you are impressed and carried away by his eloquent speech, ability to manipulate words and lectures, do not hasten to it until you have looked into it and examined it against the Qurʾān and sunnah. Look to see who said (this speech), is he a person of understanding or not? Ask the people of knowledge about him and examine to see if any of the salaf had preceded him in his speech. I have warned against this on many occasions, do not introduce opinions, views, statements that have not been mentioned before (from any of the salaf).

Take from the examples of the salaf and the statements of the salaf and if you come with something, which has no salaf for it then it could be a deviation and the danger in this would be more than the benefit. The speech of the Companions is (used as) the scale (to examine these affairs) because they were the students of the Messenger of Allāh, their statements are looked to with regards to the verses of the Qurʾān and how they explained it and with regards to the ḥadīth. So take from their statements and their explanation because they are the closest to the truth from those who came after them. They were the students of the Messenger ﷺ; they heard the interpretation and the explanation (of the Qurʾān and aḥādīth) from the Messenger ﷺ, and they took this from him, they are the closest from the people to the truth. No attention is paid to those who speak with statements such as “The companions are not given any special attention. They were men who had their views and we are men and we have our views. The time has changed.” The religion will remain upright until the establishment of the Hour and it does not change with the changing of time, rather the religion is included in every time and place. That which changes is human jurisprudence which may sometimes be correct and sometimes incorrect, but as for the religion in itself then it does not change since it is safe-guarded in every era and every place since it has been revealed by the All-Wise and worthy of All-Praise. It is for this reason that they (the salaf used to) advise and say, “Upon you is the book of Allāh ﷻ and the sunnah of the Messenger upon the understanding of the Salaf al-Ṣāliḥ” So do not narrate from yourself or from others.

The statement of the author, “or any of the scholars?..” meaning; was it said by any one of the prominent scholars who traversed upon the methodology of the Companions of the Messenger ﷺ since they narrated from the Companions and the Companions narrated from the Messenger.

The statement of the author, “For if you find a narration from them concerning it then hold tightly onto it..” if you find it in agreement to the methodology of the companions then hold onto it. The statement of the author, “and do not exchange it for anything..” and do not exchange the statements of the salaf for the statements of so and so from those who came after them.

The statement of the author, “nor give anything precedence over it and consequently fall into the Hell-Fire.” and do not give precedence over anything which came from the salaf with that which came after, consequently falling into the Hell-Fire because you would have opposed the path leading to paradise, and the path leading to paradise is that which is upon it, Allāh said;

۞ الَّذِينَ أَنْعَمَ اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِم مِّنَ النَّبِيِّينَ وَالصِّدِّيقِينَ وَالشُّهَدَاءِ وَالصَّالِحِي وَحَسُنَ أُولَـٰئِكَ رَفِيقًا

“..those on whom Allāh has bestowed His Grace, of the Prophets, the Siddiqūn (those followers of the Prophets who were first and foremost to believe in them, like Abū Bakr As-Siddiq), the martyrs, and the righteous and how excellent these companions are!” (Q 4:69)

This is the path to paradise and whatever opposes this then it is the path to the hellfire and Allāh, The Most High said:

And He ﷻ said;

۞ وَأَنَّ هَـٰذَا صِرَاطِي مُسْتَقِيمًا فَاتَّبِعُوهُ ۖ وَلَا تَتَّبِعُوا السُّبُلَ فَتَفَرَّقَ بِكُمْ عَن سَبِيلِهِ ۚ ذَ‌ٰلِكُمْ وَصَّاكُم بِهِ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَتَّقُونَ

And verily, this is my Straight Path, so follow it, and follow not (other) paths, for they will separate you away from His Path. This He has ordained for you that you may become Al-Muttaqūn” (Q 6:153)

The path of Allāh ﷻ is one path, as for other than it then there are many paths and every devil has for itself a path and it is a path from the devil from mankind and Jinn. So there are many paths that lead to confusion, however the straight path is one, it does not contain any disagreements and you will never become lost if you embark upon it.

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1 See al-Bukhārī (2/1654).

2 See Abū Dāwūd (1679)