To Know or Not to Know: It Is Not a Question

There is a truism in every field and every domain: Those who know very little believe they know quite a bit, and those who know more recognize how little they know. In the junior high school classrooms teachers smile patiently at the loud and angry voices that are certain that, were they in charge, they would Know how to Solve the political and social problems of their time. By the time those same students are in high school they have begun to recognize that many issues and problems are nuanced, complicated and multi-layered. They have learned to ask more questions and make fewer loud platitudes. University and graduate school can be overwhelming as we learn how little we actually know. Throughout the learning process the danger of falling back into junior high school attitudes remains. Not perhaps towards the theories and hypotheses of that which is related to this dunyā, but rather towards that which is related to God, religion and faith.

The plane of religion lies at an entirely different level than the plane of other knowledge. One’s religious experience cannot be quantified, nor can a personal relationship with God be appropriately described. Indeed one criticism of the great scholar Ibn ʿArabī is that he tried to describe the indescribable, thereby opening the door to people of ignorance becoming confused.

We are at all times ignorant when it comes to Islam. No matter how much we know, we do not Know. Studying every book of Islam does not a Knower make. Scholars do not Know.

The arrogance of Junior High does not belong on the prayer mat. Theological discussions need light, and light comes from worship. Worship opens a door to understandings that are elevated and clean. Shayṭān has many tricks to stealing us from the Beloved and one of them is making us believe that we are qualified to speak of the sacred, when our worship habits are limited and irregular.

Every social problem that we experience today has its roots outside of the Quran and the prophetic way. To blame religion for the shortcomings of humanity is to arrogantly claim that you know better than God. You do not.

Muslims are not Islam, but Islam devoutly practiced improves Muslims. We have chauvinists, and we have men who respect and support women. We have oppressed women, and we have empowered women. We have racists, and we have people who truly respect and love all of humanity. We have murderers, and we have those who give their lives, time and money to help humanity. Our community runs the gamut from those who carry only the name ‘Muslim’ to those who truly follow in the footsteps of our beloved Messenger ﷺ.

We are responsible for our own goodness. That goodness begins with a humble approach. If you are angry, the solution is with God. Arrogance and anger are not characteristics of maturity. It is time to bring our adult selves to Allah ﷻ, and to commit ourselves to a life of light, and a life of using that light gained in worship to identify and solve the problems of today. It is time to stand forth in humbleness and wisdom and shed the qualities of our immaturity.

{It is with the truth that We have sent it down and it is with the truth that it has come down. We have not sent you but as a bearer of glad tidings and a warner. • And it is a Quran that We set forth in parts with clarity so that you may recite and convey it to people with deliberation, and We send it down in successive revelations. • Say: “Believe in it or do not believe.” Surely those who were endowed before it with knowledge fall down on their faces in prostration when the Quran is recited to them. • They say: “All Glorified is our Lord. Surely the promise of our Lord is ever bound to be fulfilled.” • And they fall down on their faces, weeping, and it increases them in humility and the feeling of awe.”} (al-Isrāʾ, 105-110)

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