Tafsir of 9:122

This article will outline the understanding of a very important verse of the Holy Quran.

 

The Quran is a book of Wisdom, however in order to appreciate the wisdom we have to read and understand the message that is being put across.

The verse in Question is : 

 

۞ وَمَا كَانَ الْمُؤْمِنُونَ لِيَنفِرُوا كَافَّةً ۚ فَلَوْلَا نَفَرَ مِن كُلِّ فِرْقَةٍ مِّنْهُمْ طَائِفَةٌ لِّيَتَفَقَّهُوا فِي الدِّينِ وَلِيُنذِرُوا قَوْمَهُمْ إِذَا رَجَعُوا إِلَيْهِمْ لَعَلَّهُمْ يَحْذَرُونَ

9|122|

“It is not advisable for the believers to march out altogether. Of every division that marches out, let a group remain behind, to gain understanding of the religion, and to notify their people when they have returned to them, that they may beware.”

 

Understanding based on the text itself

The wording suggests that the Muslims were in a state of war or challenge. The advice is that some people should go off and study, learn about the religion and then advise the others.

The principle being outlined here is that knowledge is important. So some people should make it their business to gain knowledge. That knowledge should then be used to benefit the whole society.

It’s important to note that if some people are advised to go off and learn and then inform the others. The others must therefore have a responsibility to listen and follow the advice given. 

The verse specifically mentions understanding of the Deen, or religion. Therefore this is not simply a matter of studying general topics or sciences, although the principle established would would apply to those things. 

 

Narrations 

H 40, Ch. 1, h6

Ali ibn Muhammad ibn ‘Abd Allah has narrated from Ahmad ibn Muhammad

ibn Khalid from ‘Uthman ibn ‘Isa from Ali ibn abu Hamza who has said the following:

“I heard Imam abu ‘Abd Allah, recipient of divine supreme covenant, saying, ‘Acquire a good understanding of religion; those of you who do not have good understanding in religion are like the Bedouins. Allah has said in His book, “Why do not certain people from each group of believers seek to become specialists in religious learning and, after completing their studies, guide their group so that they will have fear of Allah.’” (9:122)

 

By “Bedouins”, it is meant the simple people who do not progress intellectually. 

 

H 546, Ch. 20, h9

Ahmad ibn Muhammad has narrated from Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn abu Nasr who has said the following:

“Once I wrote a letter to Imam al-Rida, recipient of divine supreme covenant.. The issues for which I requested explanation in the letter, one was about the words of Allah, the Most Holy, the Most High, ‘Ask the people of Dhikr (people who remind of Allah) if you do not know.’ The other question was about the words of Allah, the Most Holy, the Most High, ‘Not all believers have to become specialists in religious learning. Why do not certain persons from each group of believers seek to become specialists in religious learning and, after completing their studies, guide their group so that they will have fear of Allah?’ (9:122) The above passages say that it is made obligatory upon them to ask but it is not made obligatory upon you to answer.’ “The Imam, recipient of divine supreme covenant, answered, ‘Allah the Most Holy, the Most High, has said, “If they do not do what you ask them, know that they are only following their (evil) desires. Who strays more than one who follows his desires without guidance from Allah? . . .’” (28:50)

The narration is implying that once someone has received information which explains the law to them, and it is known that the information is correct, they are obliged to follow it.

 

H 976, Ch. 89, h 1 Muhammad ibn Yahya has narrated from Muhammad ibn al-Husayn from Safwan from Ya‘qub ibn Shu‘ayb who has said the following: “Once I asked abu ‘Abd Allah, recipient of divine supreme covenant, ‘If something may happen to the Imam what should the people do?’ The Imam asked, ‘Where do the words of Allah, the Most Majestic, the Most Gracious, apply: “Not all believers have to become specialists in religious learning. Why do not certain people from each group of believers seek to become specialists in religious learning, and after completing their studies, guide their group so that they will have fear of Allah.” (9:122) The Imam then said, ‘They will have good reason to be excused as long as they are searching and learning. So also are those who wait for them until they complete their religious education and return back to them.’”

This narration suggests in the time when the Imam is not available, those who have studied the religion should be relied upon. 

 

H 977, Ch. 89, h 2 Ali ibn Ibrahim has narrated from Muhammad ibn ‘Isa from Yunus ibn ‘Abd alRahman who has said that narrated to us Hammad from ‘Abd al-A‘la’ who has said the following: “Once I asked abu ‘Abd Allah, recipient of divine supreme covenant, about the statement of Sunni Muslims, al-‘Amma, that says the Messenger of Allah has said, ‘If a person dies without recognizing who his Imam is, his death is as if he has died the death of ignorance (pre-Islamic age of darkness).’ “The Imam said, ‘That is very true, by Allah.’ I then asked, ‘What if the Imam passes away and a person is in Khurasan and does not know who the executor of the will of the Imam is? Is this a good excuse for him?’ He (the Imam) said, ‘No, that is not a good reason and an excuse. When the Imam leaves this world the authority of the executor of his will applies to those who live in the area. Also the obligation of searching to learn about one’s duties applies to those who are not in the area but who have learned about the passing away of the Imam. Allah, the Most Majestic, the Most Gracious, has said, “Not all believers have to become specialists in religious learning. Why do not some people from each group of believers seek to become specialists in religious learning, and after completing their studies, guide their group so that they will have fear of Allah?”’ (9:122)

“I then asked, ‘What if they did go to find out but certain ones from them died before they could find out?’ He said, ‘Allah, the Most Majestic, the Most Gracious, has said, “. . . and one who dies, after having abandoned his home to get near to Allah and His Messenger, will receive his reward from Allah. . . .” (4:100) I asked, ‘What if certain ones from them may reach your town but find out that you have closed your door and the curtains are drawn closed?’ You would not call them to yourself and there might be no one to guide them to you. How then will they know about you?’ He said, ‘They can learn about me from the book that Allah has revealed.

“I then asked, ‘How has Allah, the Most Majestic, the Most Gracious, said it?’ He said, ‘I know that you have spoken to me about it before this day also.’ I said, ‘That is correct.’ He then said, ‘Recall what Allah has said about Ali, recipient of divine supreme covenant, and what the Messenger of Allah said to him about al-Hassan and al-Husayn, what Allah has specially said about Ali, recipient of divine supreme covenant, and what the Messenger of Allah has said about him about his will to him, appointing him, about their suffering and the acknowledgements of al-Hassan and al-Husayn, recipients of divine supreme covenant, of such facts. Recall the will of al-Hassan, recipient of divine supreme covenant, and his delivering it to al-Husayn, recipient of divine supreme covenant. Allah has said, “The Prophet has more authority over the believers than they themselves do. His wives are their mothers. The relatives are closer to each other, according to the Book of Allah. . . .”’ (33:6) “I then said, ‘People speak about abu Ja‘far, recipient of divine supreme covenant, and ask, ‘How is it that Imamat (Leadership with Divine Authority) has stepped out for him from among all the sons of his father, even though certain ones among them were closer to the Imam and older than him. The ones younger than he did not receive it just because they were younger? “He said, ‘The one who possesses this matter (Leadership with Divine Authority) can be recognized through three pieces of evidence that are not found with other people. He must have greater proximity to the preceding Imam and that must be the executor of the will of the preceding Imam. With him there must be the Armaments of the Messenger of Allah and the document of his will. This document is with me and no one disputes it.’ I then asked, ‘Is that kept secret and hidden for fear from the rulers?’ He said, ‘There is nothing secret and hidden but there is clear evidence for its existence and that it is available. What is there is what my father entrusted me with. When he was about to leave this world he asked me to call people to bear testimony for him. I then called four people from Quraysh among whom was Nafi‘, slave of ‘Abd Allah ibn ‘Umar. My father said, ‘Write down, this is how the will of Jacob to his children reads, “Allah has chosen this religion for you. You must not leave this world unless you are a Muslim (submitted to the will of the Lord of the Universe).” (2:132) Muhammad ibn Ali made the same kind of will to his son, Ja‘far ibn Muhammad and commanded him to shroud him in his own gown, which he would use during his Friday prayers. That his own turban must be used for him, that the surface of his grave should be given a square shape, raised by four fingers (three inches) from the ground and thereafter leave it that much only. Thereafter he wrapped up the document of the will and asked the witnesses to leave saying, “May Allah grant you blessings.”’ When they left I asked, ‘What was in it O father, that you asked them to bear testimony to?’ He said, ‘I do not like that you will be defeated and people will say, “He left this world without a will.” I wanted it to be a supporting authority for you. This is the fact that helps one who comes to the town and asks, “To whom did so and so make a will?” And he is answered, ‘The will was made to so and so.’’ I then asked, ‘What if he (Imam) would be a partner in the will?’ He said, ‘You must ask him. He will explain it to you.’”

The point raised in this narration is that it is a duty for the Muslim to learn and seek out knowledge. To find the best source of the knowledge, not just make do with what is near and easy. 

 

H 978, Ch. 89, h 3 Muhammad ibn Yahya has narrated from Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn ‘Isa from Muhammad ibn Khalid from Nadr ibn Suwayd from Yahya al-Halabi from  Burayd ibn Mu‘awiya from Muhammad ibn Muslim who has said the following: “Once I said to abu ‘Abd Allah, recipient of divine supreme covenant, ‘May Allah grant you good health, we heard that you were not feeling well and it caused us great anxiety. Would that you had informed or taught us about who would be the succeeding Imam.’ “The Imam said, ‘Ali, recipient of divine supreme covenant, was the scholar and knowledge is inherited. No scholar dies except that he leaves behind a scholar whose knowledge is of the same level or whatever Allah wills.’

“I then asked, ‘Will people be excused for not recognizing the succeeding Imam after the death of the preceding Imam?’ He then said, ‘The people of this area (Madina) will not be excused. People of other areas will be dealt with according to their abilities. Allah has said, “Not all believers have to become specialists in religious learning. Why do not certain people from each group of believers seek to become specialists in religious learning, and after completing their studies, guide their group so that they will have fear of Allah?’” (9:122)  “I (the narrator) then asked the Imam, ‘What if certain ones of them would die before completing their education and search?’ He said, ‘Such people will be of the ones mentioned in the words of Allah herein below. “. . . And one who dies, after having abandoned his home to get near to Allah and His Messenger, will receive his reward from Allah. . . .’” (4:100) “I then asked the Imam, ‘If people come to the Imam then by what means can they recognize him?’ He said, ‘The Imam is granted serenity, dignity and an awesome presence.’”

 

Al Kulayni wrote in the introduction to Al Kafi :

 

People of wisdom do not consider ignorance of his existence a permissible attitude, as is the case of denying His religion. Allah, the Most Majestic, the Most Gracious, said:  “Did they not make a covenant (with Allah) in the Book not to speak any thing other than the Truth about Allah and to study its contents well?  (7:169) They call a lie something that is beyond the limit of their knowledge . . .”  (10:39) People are bound to obey the commands of Allah and His prohibitions. It is not permissible for them to follow ignorance (ignorant people). It is obligatory for them to ask if they do not already know and to acquire proper understanding of religion. Allah, the Most Majestic, the Most Gracious, has said, “Not all believers have to become specialists in religious learning. Why do not certain people from each group of believers seek to become specialists in religious learning and, after completing their studies, guide their group so that they will have fear of Allah.” (9:122) If people who are physically and mentally safe and sound were permitted to stay ignorant, Allah would not have asked them to ask and learn. He did not need to send any messengers, books and guidance. In such case, they would have lived like animals or like people physically and mentally defective and if so they did not remain in existence even for a blinking of an eye. In fact, it is not permissible for them to live without discipline and education. Thus, it became necessary for those physically and mentally sound to find instructors to educate and discipline them and provide answer to their questions. The best and most important education for people of reason, the education worthwhile for one to study assiduously is the religious education.  The education that teaches one about the Creator, His Oneness and how to worship Him, is the most important one.  It is important to be educated in the issues of Shari’ah, His laws of guidance, His commandments, prohibitions, warnings and discipline. This is necessary because there is solid evidence to support the need for such education, that responsibility is real, life is short, indifference and procrastination is not acceptable. 

 

From all of the above it is clear that there is a religious authority structure, and it is based on knowledge, not family structure or wealth etc. The religious authority is a hierarchy of knowledge. As Muslims we should seek the most knowledgeable to warn us of the laws so that we can have a safe and fruitful life.

Ahmed Hilmi

Ahmed Hilmi

Ahmed is a contributor for Medina minds. He has also written the book Shield of the Believer

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