Question: Some people read many intellectual and cultural books and think that they have become a scholar or a Da’y (caller to Islam), although they may have poor knowledge in Fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) and have not read any books about Shari`ah (Islamic law). What is Your Eminence’s opinion in this regard?
Answer: Knowledge of Shari’ah is derived from what Allah and His Messenger (peace be upon him) have said, and not from someone else’s words. The first source of Islamic knowledge is the Word of Allah and His Messenger, then the views of Muslim scholars who explain and interpret them for people. These scholars are Allah’s successors on earth after the messengers.
Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He) says: Allah bears witness that La ilaha illa Huwa (none has the right to be worshipped but He), and the angels, and those having knowledge (also give this witness) (Surah Al-‘Imran, 3: 18). Here, knowledge refers to knowing Allah and His Religion.
Allah (Exalted be He) says: It is only those who have knowledge among His slaves that fear Allah (Surah Fatir, 35: 28). They are the messengers and their insightful followers, who follow this truthful religion and abide by the Qur’an and Sunnah (whatever is reported from the Prophet). Muslim scholars are the heirs of Messengers, since they explain the religion and guide others to Allah.
Moreover, a true knowledge seeker studies and reflects on the Qur’an and Sunnah and learns from Muslim scholars. This is the way of acquiring knowledge of Shari`ah which involves doing acts of obedience, meditating and benefiting from others. A knowledge seeker should read a lot, with the aim of attaining as much knowledge as possible. They should reflect on knowledge and look for answers to unclear matters in trustworthy books of Tafsir (exegesis of the meanings of the Qur’an) such as Tafsir by Ibn Kathir, Al-Baghawy and others, in addition to paying great attention to books of Hadith. Furthermore, knowledge of Shari’ah should be taken from knowledgeable scholars among Ahl-ul-Sunnah wal-Jama’ah (those adhering to the Sunnah and the Muslim main body) and not scholars of ‘Ilm-ul-Kalam (a discipline that searches for answers to creedal issues using logic), innovators in religion or ignorant people.
Anything that is not included in the Qur’an and Sunnah cannot be considered Islamic knowledge, even if it is useful in worldly affairs. Here, we are concerned about knowledge that is useful in the Hereafter, which eliminates ignorance, clarifies the religion and shows people what Allah has made lawful and unlawful to them. Indeed, this is the true knowledge of Shari’ah.
Fatwas of Ibn Baz