A Warning Against Innovating and Giving Rulings Without Knowledge: ibn Kathir & al-Shawkaani

In surah al-Nahl, Allah lists a number of foods which He has forbidden, and then follows that up by saying:

وَلَا تَقُولُوا لِمَا تَصِفُ أَلْسِنَتُكُمُ الْكَذِبَ هَـٰذَا حَلَالٌ وَهَـٰذَا حَرَامٌ لِّتَفْتَرُوا عَلَى اللَّـهِ الْكَذِبَ ۚ إِنَّ الَّذِينَ يَفْتَرُونَ عَلَى اللَّـهِ الْكَذِبَ لَا يُفْلِحُونَ

And do not say that which your tongues falsely put forth, that this is halaal and this is haraam. Then you would falsely attribute untruth to Allah. Those who attribute untruth to Allah will not succeed. [16:116]

Commenting on this in part of his tafsir, al-haafidh Ismaa’eel ibn Kathir wrote:

ثم نهى تعالى عن سلوك سبيل المشركين ، الذين حللوا وحرموا بمجرد ما وضعوه واصطلحوا عليه من الأسماء بآرائهم ، من البحيرة والسائبة والوصيلة والحام ، وغير ذلك مما كان شرعا لهم ابتدعوه في جاهليتهم ، فقال : ( ولا تقولوا لما تصف ألسنتكم الكذب هذا حلال وهذا حرام لتفتروا على الله الكذب ) ويدخل في هذا كل من ابتدع بدعة ليس [ له ] فيها مستند شرعي ، أو حلل شيئا مما حرم الله ، أو حرم شيئا مما أباح الله بمجرد رأيه وتشهيه . ـ

Then Allah prohibits following the way of the Mushrikoon who used to declare things to be permissible or impermissible based on nothing more than some specialized terms to name and classify different types of creatures – specialized terms that they contrived based on their own whims. For example, they had various names they came up with for camels and other things according to their religious beliefs in the period of Pre-Islamic Ignorance. So Allah said:

وَلَا تَقُولُوا لِمَا تَصِفُ أَلْسِنَتُكُمُ الْكَذِبَ هَـٰذَا حَلَالٌ وَهَـٰذَا حَرَامٌ لِّتَفْتَرُوا عَلَى اللَّـهِ الْكَذِبَ

And do not say that which your tongues falsely put forth, that this is halaal and this is haraam. Then you would falsely attribute untruth to Allah.

And this ayah also includes anyone who creates a bid’ah – a religious innovation – which does not have a basis in the Sharee’ah. Likewise, this ayah also applies to anyone who permits something which Allah has forbidden or prohibits something which Allah has allowed based on nothing other than his own personal opinions and desires.

[Tafsir ibn Kathir 4/609]

And Imam Muhammad al-Shawkaani also mentioned a similar point in his tafsir of this ayah:

وأخرج ابن أبي حاتم عن أبي نضرة قال : قرأت هذه الآية في سورة النحل ولا تقولوا لما تصف ألسنتكم الكذب هذا حلال وهذا حرام إلى آخر الآية ، فلم أزل أخاف الفتيا إلى يومي هذا . ـ

Ibn Abi Haatim reported that Abu Nadhrah said: I recited this ayah in surah al-Nahl:

وَلَا تَقُولُوا لِمَا تَصِفُ أَلْسِنَتُكُمُ الْكَذِبَ هَـٰذَا حَلَالٌ وَهَـٰذَا حَرَامٌ لِّتَفْتَرُوا عَلَى اللَّـهِ الْكَذِبَ ۚ إِنَّ الَّذِينَ يَفْتَرُونَ عَلَى اللَّـهِ الْكَذِبَ لَا يُفْلِحُونَ

And do not say that which your tongues falsely put forth, that this is halaal and this is haraam. Then you would falsely attribute untruth to Allah. Those who attribute untruth to Allah will not succeed. [16:116]

and until this day I have not ceased to be afraid of giving a fatwaa.

قلت : صدق رحمه الله ، فإن هذه الآية تتناول بعموم لفظها فتيا من أفتى بخلاف ما في كتاب الله أو في سنة رسوله – صلى الله عليه وسلم – كما يقع كثيرا من المؤثرين للرأي المقدمين له على الرواية ، أو الجاهلين لعلم الكتاب والسنة كالمقلدة ، وإنهم لحقيقون بأن يحال بينهم وبين فتاويهم ويمنعوا من جهالتهم ، فإنهم أفتوا بغير علم من الله ولا هدى ولا كتاب منير فضلوا وأضلوا ، فهم ومن يستفتيهم كما قال القائل : كبهيمة عمياء قاد زمامها أعمى على عوج الطريق الجائر

I [Imam al-Shawkaani] say: He has spoken rightly, may Allah have mercy on him, for the general nature of the wording in this ayah applies to anyone who puts forward a ruling which goes against what is found in the Book of Allah or the Sunnah of His Messenger, as often happens with those who give precedence to mere opinions over the transmitted sources of the religion, or as often happens with those who are not versed in the knowledge of the Qur’an and Sunnah such as the blind-followers. These people ought to be stopped from giving their fatwaas and spreading their ignorance, for they offer up rulings and respond to questions without any knowledge from Allah, without any guidance, and without any clarifying source. As a result, they are misguided and they misguide others. So they and those who ask them for rulings are like this line of poetry:

كبهيمة عمياء قاد زمامها أعمى على عوج الطريق الجائر

Like a blind ox whose reins are in the hands of a blind man
traveling down a crooked and treacherous path

وأخرج الطبراني عن ابن مسعود قال : عسى رجل أن يقول : إن الله أمر بكذا أو نهى عن كذا ، فيقول الله عز وجل له : كذبت ، أو يقول : إن الله حرم كذا أو أحل كذا ، فيقول الله [ ص: 807 ] له : كذبت . ـ

And al-Tabaraani reported that ibn Mas’ood said: A person might say, “Allah definitely commanded such-and-such” or “He definitely forbade such-and-such”, but then Allah would say to him, “You have lied!” Or a person might say, “Allah has definitely prohibited such-and-such” or “He has certainly permitted such-and-such”, but then Allah would say to him, “You have lied!”

[Fath al-Qadeer 806-807]

See also: A Comprehensive Statement regarding Bid’ah: Imam al-Sa’di

See also: Speaking About Allah Without Knowledge is the Foundation of All Shrik, Kufr, & Innovation: Ibn al-Qayyim

See also: Why Speaking about Allah without Knowledge is more serious than Shrik: Ibn ‘Uthaymeen

See also: Six Categories of Wrong-Doings: Sheikh al-Raajihi

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2 thoughts on “A Warning Against Innovating and Giving Rulings Without Knowledge: ibn Kathir & al-Shawkaani

  1. Pingback: The Forbidden Foods in Surah al-Nahl: Tafsir al-Sa’di | Tulayhah

  2. Pingback: Speaking About Allah Without Knowledge is the Foundation of All Shrik, Kufr, & Innovation: Ibn al-Qayyim | Tulayhah

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