"The people who were before you were ruined because they asked their prophets a lot of questions and did not act in accordance with the answers they received." Is it haram to ask questions according to the hadith above?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

According to what is reported from Abu Hurayra, the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said,  

"Leave me as I leave you, for the people who were before you were ruined because of their questions and their differences over their prophets. So, if I forbid you to do something, then keep away from it. And if I order you to do something, then do of it as much as you can." (Bukhari, I'tisam 2; Muslim, Hajj 412, Fadail 130-131)

Just like the reasons for the revelation of some chapters and verses of the Quran, there are also reasons for the Prophet’s saying some hadiths. It is possible to understand the reason why the Prophet (pbuh) uttered this hadith from the following narration by Abu Hurayra:  

The Prophet (pbuh) addressed us and said,

"O Muslims! Allah has made hajj obligatory for you; so, perform hajj." Somebody said,

“O Messenger of Allah! Every year?”

The Prophet kept silent. The man repeated his question three times. Thereupon, the Prophet (pbuh) said,

"If I were to say ‘Yes,’ it would become obligatory (for you to perform it every year) and you would not be able to do it."  (Muslim, Hajj 412).

Then, he uttered the hadith above.

The Companion that asked the Prophet (pbuh) that question was Aqra Ibn Habis. He knew that prayer (salah), zakah and fasting were repeated; he asked the question by comparing hajj to them. He did not think about the difficulty and even the impossibility of repeating hajj every year for everybody.  

The Prophet (pbuh) did not keep silent about an issue that needed to be explained to the ummah and about an issue that people needed. If the question that was asked originated from such a need, he would definitely answer it clearly. However, we see that he did not evaluate Aqra's question like that; on the contrary, we see that he did not answer his question though he asked it repeatedly. However, when he saw that his silence was not regarded as an answer, he answered that question clearly too. It is understood from the style of the answer of the Messenger of Allah that he did not like the person who asked the question very much. For, Aqra Ibn Habis might have asked that question before the Prophet (pbuh) finished his words and the relevant explanations. In fact, Allah had informed the believers about the manners regarding the issue as follows:  

"O Ye who believe! Put not yourselves forward before Allah and His Messenger; but fear Allah: for Allah is He Who hears and knows all things." (al-Hujurat, 49/1)

The Prophet advised his Companions to regard what he told them as enough related to the issues of creed, fard deeds and halal and haram, which are determined by revelation, not to scrutinize them and to avoid asking unnecessary questions. That is why he said,

"Leave me as I leave you related to those issues."

He explained why it was necessary to act like that by showing the destruction of the previous nations, Jews and Christians as an example because they asked their prophets many irrelevant questions.

Moreover, instead of accepting the answer of the prophets, some of the previous nations discussed it among themselves, fell into conflict and they did not obey the orders and prohibitions. That caused their destruction.

This characteristic, that is, asking many irrelevant questions and falling into many conflicts by discussing the answers caused their destruction. For, conflict leads to separations and divisions. As a result, the unity and solidarity of the society is eliminated. The nations and tribes that cannot ensure unity and solidarity are dragged into destruction.

All this shows that it is forbidden to ask questions without any necessity and to disagree on the issues whose decrees were specified by Allah and His Messenger. For, if the end of something is destruction, it is obvious that it is forbidden or a major sin. Conflicts, in particular, lead to separation of the hearts and weakening of the religion. Since they are haram, the things that cause them are haram too.

Ibn Abdil-Barr says if a person asks questions in order to understand a subject that must be known religiously with the desire to know and to eliminate his ignorance, there is no harm in it because the cure of ignorance is to ask questions. If a person asks questions in order to cause a conflict and without the intention of learning or increasing his knowledge, it is not permissible to ask such questions.

 “…Ask not questions about things which, if made plain to you, may cause you trouble. But if ye ask about things when the Qur´an is being revealed, they will be made plain to you..." (al-Maida, 5/101)

Besides, as it is explained in the verse above, if questions are asked while the Quran is being sent down, that is, during revelation, and if they are answered, it may cause trouble.

It is understood that some of these questions are related to hidden secrets that can disgrace their owners if revealed, to the news that are irrelevant, useless and meaningless and that are regarded as bad manners to ask or to things that have not been heard before and that can introduce some hard duties that are difficult to fulfil if they are deepened. (Elmalılı, Hak Dini, the interpretation verse 101 of al-Maida)

It is necessary to avoid and keep away from the things that the religion forbids. There is no tolerance in this regard. Excuses such as "I cannot do it" or "I cannot quit because I am used to it" are not valid. Doubtlessly, obligations are always an exception. It is an issue that varies according to time, place and individuals and that requires detailed explanations. A person's religiousness and piety are evaluated by his avoidance of prohibitions rather than his worship because keeping away from prohibitions cannot be related to pretension, show-off and pleasing others. In worship, they can exist to some extent.

It is necessary to avoid prohibitions definitely; on the other hand, the orders of the religion have to be obeyed by everyone based on their power and means because there are various conditions and reasons for doing something. These terms and conditions might be present in the same degree in everybody or might not be present at all.

Then everyone is responsible for what they can do because Allah does not place anyone a burden greater than they can bear. (al-Baqarah, 2/286) Some people may be able to do a certain thing while others cannot. Responsibility is based on a person’s power. God Almighty states the following in the Quran:

"So fear Allah as much as ye can; listen and obey and spend in charity for the benefit of your own soul..." (at-Taghabun, 64/16)

Everyone has the same obligation related to performing fard deeds of worship. Nafilah deeds of worship are limited to the power of the individual and are optional. This rule applies not only to our deeds of worship but also to all religious orders.

That the Prophet did not answer though the question "do we have to perform hajj every year?" was repeated three times in the hadith narration in question rules that hajj has to be performed once in one’s life.

Scholars have argued due to this hadith that whether the order given absolutely needs repetition or not and they have concluded as a great majority that it does not need repetition. According to Hanafis, since the Kaaba, which is the cause of hajj, does not repeat, visiting the Kaaba once in your life will fulfill the absolute command related to hajj.

Accordingly;

- It is haram to ask questions that will raise problems, arouse doubts, and increase controversies and disputes.

- Some serious controversies and disputes cause the destruction of the individuals and societies.

- To keep absolutely away from the things definitely forbidden by the religion are among the fards that need to be obeyed.

- Tolerance and laxity are not permissible in religious prohibitions.

- Religious orders are fulfilled based on the power of the individual.

- It is not appropriate to argue over the Sunnah of the Prophet. (see Riyadus-Salihin, Imam Nawawi, “Peygamberimizden Hayat Ölçüleri” h. No: 158, 1275)

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