وكان عبد الرحمن بن مهدي يقول: [كنا عند مالك بن أنس فجاءه رجل فقال: يا أبا عبد الله جئتك من مسيرة ستة أشهر حملني أهل بلدي مسألة أسألك عنها قال: فسل فسأله الرجل عن مسألة قال: لا أحسنها قال فبهت الرجل كأنه قد جاء إلى من يعلم كل شيء قال فقال: فأي شيء أقول لأهل بلدتي إذا رجعت لهم؟ قال: تقول لهم قال مالك: لا أحسن].
الحافظ ابن عبد البر في كتابه جامع بيان العلم وفضله
‘Abduraḥmān bin Mahdī narrated:
We were in the gathering of [al-Imām] Mālik bin Anas [Allāh’s mercy be upon him] when a man arrived and said to him, “O Father of ‘Abdullāh! I have come to you after a journey of six months. The people of my land have deputed me to ask you a question.”
[Mālik] said, “Ask.”
The man asked the question and [Mālik] replied, “I am not well versed in that.”
The man was stunned. [His expression being] as if he was in the presence of one who was supposed to know everything. He exclaimed, “Then what shall I say to the people of my land when I return to them?”
[Mālik] replied, “Say to them that Mālik says, ‘I am not well versed in that.’”
[Ibn ‘Abdil Barr – Jāmi‘ Bayānil ‘Ilm wa Faḍlihi]
Whilst the above incident is usually quoted as a straight forward issue of a pious and humble scholar not venturing a reply in a matter he does not know, it has been commented that the Imām did not explicitly say, “I do not know.” It is highly probable that the Imām would now the general ruling, but refrained from commenting on the specific circumstances of a foreign land he had little understanding of. That the community sent a delegate that far, indicates that there was some special situation they needed resolution on. The Imām first allowed the question on the possibility of it being something general he could assist with. On hearing the specifics, he felt it wise not to comment.
In the light of the above, it was with great disappointment that I read a “decree,” in the guise of advice, from a scholar 7200 km away, that South African Muslims must vote for the ruling party in the May 2014 elections.
I hope I do not have the same patronising attitude
Pride is a great disease that may accompany learning. It may be that I too have unintentionally adopted the attitude that I know what is best for every person whom Allāh has created. I believe I address general issues on known facts in the light of Islāmic teaching. Thus for example I may not have visited Crimea, but I have commented on matters which do not require me to have an intimate knowledge or physical presence in Crimea. If I have failed in this, it would be good of readers to point out my failing in a kind, well-wishing manner.
For the record, I shall quote from correspondence in which I hope I am following the example of al-Imām Mālik – Allāh’s mercy be upon him:
I was hoping that someone of your capabilities would be able to write an article on the importance of having a Shaikh. In Leicester UK we have a lot of mashaaikh, but unfortunately the mureeds seem to become extremist followers, and at times they become like our barelvi brothers. The way they do peer mooridi.
May Allah make your good thoughts about me a reality. I however feel that I cannot write on a specific situation on a country that I have never visited.
Afrikaans – speaking without knowing the people
I had attended a talk by the same scholar who had decreed an ANC vote. What follows is not to harp on the faults of a particular individual, but to demonstrate the fallacy of feeling qualified to decree under any circumstance.
The speaker advised that South Africans should learn the 9 native languages of the land. I agree. Who can dispute the wisdom thereof? He then made a statement which I cannot believe to be wise or considered. He said, “And forget about Afrikaans. It is a dead language.”
Muslims and Afrikaans
Islām in South Africa originated in the Western Cape. To this day the overwhelming majority of South African Muslims reside in that province. Most of them speak Afrikaans as a first language, which they have in common with neighbours to the north and east. You may even research the debate that the first Afrikaans books were written by Muslims in Arabic script, not Calvinists in Latin script. If the majority of Muslims are not Afrikaans speaking, then at the very least, they form a massive percentage of the total. Hundreds of thousands have first been taught about Allāh via Afrikaans. Their mothers taught them of His Beloved Prophet صلى الله عليه و سلمin Afrikaans. The talks they heard in the Masjid are in Afrikaans.
The demographic reality is that in general, the Afrikaans-speaking Muslim forms a less affluent sector and many live in dire poverty. Whilst certainly not a complete picture, this certainly adds to the net result that foreign Muslim dignitaries will be meeting an English / Urdu speaking host. Yet how can the dignitary arrogate the right to decree what language Muslims should speak simply based on the limited circle he is acquainted with?
Yes, it is our duty to let our neighbours know of the blessings of Islām. Practically, four-fifths are African and the pragmatic focus would be there. Yet what excuse is there in utterly ignoring the Afrikaners who compose 5% of the population? That they are the former oppressors? Well, wasn’t Mūsā عليه السلام [Moses] deputed to Pharaoh? Are they not entitled to hear the message of Islām?
Experience shows that an Afrikaner becomes more accepting of a Muslim when addressed in Afrikaans. For some years to come, English Muslims will still have some command of Afrikaans. Even if there were no Afrikaans Muslims, why should a foreigner dictate that this potential tool of transmitting Islām to millions more must be buried? It all boils down several diseases gripping us at large…
The Muslim body is sick. May Allāh save us from:
- · Lack of respect for different opinions.
- · Arrogant desire to impose my opinion on others.
- · Lack of respect for other cultures.
- · Speaking without investigating all the facts.
- · Passing decrees without knowledge.