“We left ignorance (jahilliya), but now we have returned to it.” stated a prominent Muslim scholar.
His words resonate an undeniable truth that cannot be denied when we consider that in our times many people’s hair grows white in Islam, without them having even learned the basics of wudu. It is true that we do not all have to become scholars. However, certain knowledge is obligatory for every Muslim, male and female, who is sane and post-pubescent. This knowledge is known as fard ‘ayn or obligatory personal knowledge.
In our times, the people who are aware of their fard ‘ayn knowledge, are sadly and strangely in the minority. The scholars say the importance of knowing a particular knowledge is known by the detriment in not knowing it. Simply not knowing fard ‘ayn knowledge renders one in a state of sin. Additionally one will inevitably fall into sin without knowing it. It is important to know that ignorance itself is not a valid excuse. Ignorance is only an excuse in Islam when there is no possibility for learning, such as due to being a very new Muslim, or through living far from scholars. Given our online access to notable scholars, such excuse is highly questionable for us.
The danger of this is that it means that our ummah has fallen into a widespread state of sin. Muslims move from their day-to-day activities, obliviously falling into countless acts of disobedience all without apprehension enough to move them to change their negligent state. Furthermore, from the fact that fard ‘ayn knowledge is for the most part unknown, we can ascertain that it is highly likely that most communities are also deficient in fulfilling the fard kifaya (communally obligatory) knowledge. If a fard kifaya knowledge is not met, the sin falls upon everyone in the community. Consequently, we find ourselves not only carrying our personal sin but also the sin of the failings of the whole community. It is no wonder that the ummah is in the sorry state of affairs it is in!
But before you throw your hands in the air and scream, “We’re all doomed!” Know that the point of this article is not to cause any sense of distress or despair. Rather, it is hoped that it will act to raise awareness to our ignorance so that we can surge a change and turn our situation around. And who better to do this and more in need of it than homeschoolers! As the primary teacher of our children, if we don’t know our deen, how can we ever teach our children? If we don’t take it upon ourselves to ensure our children are learned in the Deen, who will? And if we don’t take such matters seriously, can we expect other than for our children to have a lax attitude towards the deen?
Let me share some simple steps for rectification:
1. Assess Yourself Honestly
Do you know what is obligatory for you to know? Does your child? If you cannot confidently (and without guessing) give reasonably detailed information, according to your followed madhab, to any of the following – you do not know your fard ‘ayn:
- A numbered list of wudu invalidates
- The integrals of wudu
- The conditions, integrals, and Sunnah of the prayer
- A numbered list of the conditions that enable one to combine prayers
- The details of what specifically breaks your fast
- The legal excuses for not fasting and for whom expiation is due
- The minimum and maximum length of menstruation
- The nisab of zakat
- The rights of your spouse
- The signs of puberty
2. Find a teacher
If after honestly assessing yourself you decided you didn’t know your fard ‘ayn, then your next step is to seek out qualified, knowledgeable teachers in your area that are learned in your madhab. If none exist, then opt for online study, offered free or affordably at one of the following:
Stay Focused! Don’t be distracted by the vast variety of exciting courses available. Studying tafsir, seerah and the like are Sunnah. You will receive a reward for studying them, but it is not sinful if you don’t. You must explore the fiqh of your worship and anything else you are involved in before considering anything else.
3. Begin your study
What excuse can stand given the consequences of not knowing this knowledge? Learning your fard ‘ayn does not take long, yet this knowledge will be a guide for you daily. Furthermore, its benefit is without exaggeration – eternal! Online learning is particularly flexible and can be arranged to suit your schedule.
4. Practice what you learn
We know from the famous hadith that among the first to be thrown into the Fire will be an insincere scholar. Knowledge is not in itself beneficial, but it is the sincere practice of it that is beneficial. It will testify for you or against you, depending what you do with it.
5. Teach it to your children
In traditional Islamic societies, children are taught their fard ayn when they are still young. They carry it through their life, like a light which prevents them from falling into pitfalls and doubt. They then have the additional benefit of not having to go through the struggles that many of us have to go through trying to learn in our older years.
Parents should be aware, whether they are homeschoolers or not, that it is obligatory to teach their children what they need to know of purification, prayer, fasting, as well as that which they may encounter of the haram. While a person is not accountable before puberty for knowing or practicing this knowledge, the parents/guardians are responsible for teaching it. The mistakes made by a child due to the negligence of this teaching will bear on the parents account as well as their grown child.
6. Review, Review, Review
Be sure to review what you have learned at least once every six months, to ensure that you do not forget or fail to implement any part of the attained knowledge.
7. Feel the peace
You will feel great peace-of-mind knowing that you have fulfilled your obligation to Allah SWT (Most High), met the rights of your children in this respect, and have responded to the verse:
“O you who have believed, protect yourselves and your families from a Fire whose fuel is people and stones, over which are [appointed] angels, harsh and severe; they do not disobey Allah in what He commands them but do what they are commanded.’ (Qur’an 66:6)
You will also find that:
- Doubt and confusion have left you
- You know exactly how to perform your worship in the way Allah SWT has ordained
- You cannot be confused by people telling you different things, or by reading information seemingly contradictory
- You will no longer have to worry about whether a certain something breaks your fast, or whether or not you could combine your prayers in a given situation
Instead, you will have confidence and certainty in your worship. This will leave you to focus on perfecting the inward dimensions of your worship, which are necessary for its acceptance and reward.