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Knowledge, Its Importance & Acquisition
  Imaam ash-Shafi'ee on Legal Knowledge
Author: Imaam ash-Shafi'ee
Source: Ar-Risaalah
Article ID : SCL020005  [16329]  
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29. Someone asked me: What is [legal] knowledge and how much should men know of it?

30. Shaafi'ee replied: Legal knowledge is of two kinds: one is for the general public, and no sober and mature person should be ignorant of it.

31. He asked: For example?

32. [Shaafi'ee] replied: For example, that the daily prayers are five, that men owe it to God to fast the month of Ramadan, to make the pilgrimage to the [Sacred] House whenever they are able, and to [pay] the legal alms in their estate; that He [God] has prohibited usury, adultery, homicide, theft, [the drinking of] wine, and [everything] of that sort which He has obligated men to comprehend, to perform, to pay in their property, and to abstain from [because] He has forbidden it to them.

This kind of knowledge may be found textually in the Book of God, or may be found generally among the people of Islam. The public relates it from the preceding public and ascribes it to the Apostle of God,.nobody ever questioning its ascrip-tion or its binding force upon them. It is the kind of knowledge which admits of error neither in its narrative nor in its interpretation; it is not permissible to question it.

33. He asked: What is the second kind?

34. Shaafi'ee replied: It consists of the detailed duties and rules obligatory on men, concerning which there exists neither a text in the Book of God, nor regarding most of them, a sunna. Whenever a sunna exists [in this case], it is of the kind related by few authorities, not by the public, and is subject to different interpretations arrived at by analogy.

35. He asked: Is [legal knowledge of] this kind as obliga-tory as the other, or is it not obligatory so that he who acquires such knowledge performs a supererogatory act, and he who neglects it falls not into error? Or, is there a third kind, derived from a narrative (khabar) or analogy?

36. [Shaafi'ee] replied: There is a third kind [of knowledge].

37. He asked: Will you explain it, give its source, and state what [portion] of it is obligatory, and on whom it is binding and on whom it is not binding?

38. [Shaafi'ee] replied: The public is incapable of knowing this kind of knowledge, nor can all specialists obtain it. But those who do obtain it should not all neglect it. If some can obtain it, the others are relieved of the duty [of obtaining it]; but those who do obtain it will be rewarded.

39. He asked: Will you cite a liarrative or any other rele-vant information as a basis for [using] analogy?

40. [Shaafi'ee] replied: God has imposed the [duty oq jihild as laid down in His Book and uttered by His Prophet's tongue. He stressed the calling [of men to fulfil] the jihad [duty] as follows:

God has bought from the believers their selves and their posses-sions against [the gift of] Paradise. They fight in the way of God; they kill, and are killed; that is a promise binding upon God in the Torah and Gospel and the Qur'an; and who fulfils his cove-nant better than God? So rejoice in the bargain you have made with Him. That is the mighty triumph [Q. IX, 112].

And He said:

Fight the polytheists totally as they fight you totally; and know that God is with the godfearing [Q. IX, 36].

And He said:

Slay the polytheists wherever you find them, and take them, and confine them, and lie in ambush for them everywhere. But if they repent and perform the prayer and pay the zakat, then let them free. God is All-forgiving, All.compassionate [Q. IX, 5].

And He said:

Fight those who do not believe in God nor in the Last Day, who do not forbid what God and His Apostle have made forbidden, and who do not practice the religion of truth, of those who have been given the Book, until they pay the jizya out of hand and have been humbled [Q. IX, 29].

41. 'Abd al-'Aziz b. Muhammad al-Darawardi' told us from Muhammad b. 'Amr b. 'Alqama from Abu Salama [b. 'Abd al-Raliman] from Abit Hurayra, who said that the Apostle of God said:

I shall continue to fight the unbelievers until they say: 'There is no god but God,' if they make this pronouncement they shall be secured their blood and property, unless taken for its price, and their reward shall be given by God.

And God, glorified be His praise, said:

O believers, what is the matter with you, that when it is said to you: 'Go forth in the way of God,' you sink down to the ground? Are you so content with this present life as to neglect the Here-after? The enjoyment of this life is little in comparison with the Hereafter. If you do not go forth, He will inflict upon you a painful punishment, and instead of you He will substitute another people; and you will not hurt Him at all, for God is powerful over everything [Q. IX, 38-39].

And He said:

Go forth, light and heavy! Struggle in God's way with your possessions and yourselves! That is better for you, did you but know [Q. IX, 41].

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