Does Islam allow questioning of its beliefs?


Someone from the USA wrote to Hazrat Amirul Momineen, Khalifatul Masih Vaa and asked to what extent one was allowed to raise questions about Islam, the Holy Quran and the Jamaat. […] Moreover, the individual mentioned Huzooraa had said, while answering a question during a mulaqat with Lajna Imaillah, that “there is no place for ‘why’ and ‘for what reason’ in matters of faith”. The person requested Huzooraa for further guidance in this regard.

Huzoor-e-Anwaraa, in his letter dated 26 November 2021, provided the following guidance:

“Islam has allowed one to ask questions to increase one’s knowledge, as Allah states:

فَسۡـَٔلُوۡۤا اَھۡلَ الذِّکۡرِ اِنۡ کُنۡتُمۡ لَا تَعۡلَمُوۡنَ

“‘So, ask those who possess the Reminder, if you know not.’ (Surah an-Nahl, 16:44)

“However, Allah the Exalted prohibits asking absurd, irrational and impolite questions, put forward just for the sake of debate. Hence, He states:

يٰۤاَيُّہَا الَّذِيۡنَ اٰمَنُوۡا لَا تَسۡـَٔلُوۡا عَنۡ اَشۡيَآءَ اِنۡ تُبۡدَ لَکُمۡ تَسُؤۡکُمۡ

“‘O ye who believe! ask not about things which, if revealed to you, would cause you trouble.’ (Surah al-Ma’idah, Ch.5: V.102)

“Likewise, He states:

اَمۡ تُرِيۡدُوۡنَ اَنۡ تَسۡـَٔلُوۡا رَسُوۡلَکُمۡ کَمَا سُئِلَ مُوۡسٰي مِنۡ قَبۡلُ

“‘Would you question the Messenger sent to you as Moses was questioned before this?’ (Surah al-Baqarah, Ch.2: V109)

“Hence, the Holy Prophet’ssa companions were very cautious about asking questions. They narrate that they did not ask questions themselves, but used to wait for some bedouin to come along and ask the Holy Prophetsa a question so that they may increase their knowledge by listening to the answer. Moreover, it is mentioned in the Hadith that Allah the Exalted would quench their thirst for knowledge in this way that sometimes He would send Hazrat Jibra’ilas [Gabriel] in the likeness of a human being, who would ask the Holy Prophetsa questions, and receive their answers. In this way, the companions would have their thirst for knowledge quenched. (Sahih al-Bukhari, Kitab tafsiri l-Qur’an, Bab qawlihi inn Allaha ‘indahu ‘Ilmu s-sa‘ah)

With regard to asking questions, the Promised Messiahas states:

“‘There are many such people who, if they develop a doubt in their hearts, do not make an effort to have it removed and do not ask questions about it. Due to this, that doubt keeps growing inside, then gives birth to more doubts and suspicions and ultimately destroys the person’s soul. Such weakness – that is, forming one’s own opinion about a matter although it was not understood properly and no effort was made to have it clarified – leads to hypocrisy. I do not consider what leads to the ruin of a person’s soul to be courtesy. Yes, it is true that asking questions about every trivial matter is not proper and that is not permitted.’ (Al Hakam, Vol. 7, no. 13, 10 April 1903, p. 1)

“Thus, asking questions is not prohibited, and one should, by all means, ask if they do not understand something. However, making it a habit to repeatedly ask questions regarding every trivial matter for the purpose of debate is not considered appropriate.

“Moreover, it should also be kept in mind that the Holy Quran is the Word of God and a book that consists of the teachings revealed by Him. It is a fact that not everyone is capable of grasping the wisdom and depth of the Word of God Almighty. We observe that human endeavours in research yield new findings on a daily basis. In the same way, new insights and wisdom of the teachings revealed by Allah the Exalted and His commands also continue to be uncovered in every era. Hence, Allah the Exalted states in the Holy Quran:

وَإِنْ مِنْ شَيْءٍ إِلَّا عِنْدَنَا خَزَائِنُهُ وَمَا نُنَزِّلُهُ إِلَّا بِقَدَرٍ مَعْلُومٍ

“‘And there is not a thing but are [limitless] treasures thereof with Us and We send it not down except in a known measure [according to the needs of every era].’ (Surah al-Hijr, Ch.15: V.22)

“In this verse, Allah the Exalted explains that as the Holy Quran is His timeless and lasting Word and contains teachings for the welfare, direction and guidance of humankind until the Day of Resurrection, which will be extracted and drawn upon as needed in each era, therefore, it is not essential for all facets of His Words to be comprehended by a human being at once.

“Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IIIrh states:

“‘Allah the Exalted states that this is a perfect book given to humankind and it will continue to guide them forever. It will never happen that they need any direction or guidance other than the Holy Quran. The Holy Quran has foretold future events and it contains prophecies about every century that are unveiled at their appointed times. […] Almost fourteen hundred years have passed since the revelation of this perfect book. Its history practically demonstrates that God will continue to deal with humankind through the Holy Quran in the same way in the future, revealing ever-new insights as has been foretold and thereby fulfilling its prophecies. As fresh issues emerge, God Almighty will impart new interpretations of the Holy Quran to His beloved and devoted servants, enabling them to address those issues.’ (Friday Sermon, 1 July 1977, Khutbat-e-Nasir, Vol. 7, p. 113)

“In another place, the Holy Quran guides us in this regard as follows:

ہُوَ الَّذِيۡۤ اَنۡزَلَ عَلَيۡکَ الۡکِتٰبَ مِنۡہُ اٰيٰتٌ مُّحۡکَمٰتٌ ہُنَّ اُمُّ الۡکِتٰبِ وَاُخَرُ مُتَشٰبِہٰتٌ ؕ فَاَمَّا الَّذِيۡنَ فِيۡ قُلُوۡبِہِمۡ زَيۡغٌ فَيَتَّبِعُوۡنَ مَا تَشَابَہَ مِنۡہُ ابۡتِغَآءَ الۡفِتۡنَةِ وَابۡتِغَآءَ تَاۡوِيۡلِہٖ ۚ؃ وَمَا يَعۡلَمُ تَاۡوِيۡلَہٗۤ اِلَّا اللّٰہُ ۘؔ وَالرّٰسِخُوۡنَ فِي الۡعِلۡمِ يَقُوۡلُوۡنَ اٰمَنَّا بِہٖ ۙ کُلٌّ مِّنۡ عِنۡدِ رَبِّنَا ۚ وَمَا يَذَّکَّرُ اِلَّاۤ اُولُوا الۡاَلۡبَابِ

“‘He it is Who has sent down to thee the Book; in it there are verses that are decisive in meaning — they are the basis of the Book — and there are others that are susceptible of different interpretations. But those in whose hearts is perversity pursue such thereof as are susceptible of different interpretations, seeking discord and seeking [wrong] interpretation of it. And none knows its [right] interpretation except Allah and those who are firmly grounded in knowledge; they say, ‘We believe in it; the whole is from our Lord.’ — And none heed except those gifted with understanding.’ (Surah Aal-e-‘Imran, Ch. 3: V. 8)

“Hazrat Khalifatul Masih Ira interprets this verse as follows:

“‘In my view, every person’s discourse contains a component that is muhkam, straightforward and easily understood, and another component that is challenging to grasp and can have multiple meanings due to its brevity. This is true for everyone. Allah has shown the following approach in this regard: verses that are clearly understood and are not challenged by experience, intellect, or observation should be deemed muhkam. Moreover, verses, whose meanings one does not understand, should not be interpreted in a manner that contradicts those considered muhkam. […] In summary, some verses are well understood, while the meanings of others are not immediately apparent. A method has been explained for this. […] [Allah] says those who wish to be firmly grounded in knowledge, immediately accept the muhkamat [that are decisive in meaning] and do not deny the mutashabihat [that are susceptible of different interpretations], rather they say کُلٌّ مِّنۡ عِنۡدِ رَبِّنَا, that is, they believe both to be from the Lord. Therefore, they do not interpret mutashabihat in such a way that contradicts the muhkamat. Rather, they keep in mind the principle of کُلٌّ مِّنۡ عِنۡدِ رَبِّنَا everywhere. Irrespective of the number of interpretations a verse may have, it should not be assigned meanings that contradict the muhkamat. The second method is prayer, which He has taught as follows:

رَبَّنَا لَا تُزِغۡ قُلُوۡبَنَا بَعۡدَ اِذۡ ھَدَيۡتَنَا

“‘It means, ‘O our Lord, save us from perversity; that we may not interpret the Holy Quran according to our own desires.’ (Haqaiq-ul-Furqan, Vol. 1, pp. 447-448)

“Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IIIrh states:

“‘There are also mutashabihat in the Holy Quran that require interpretation. Many aspects of these mutashabihat are hidden under the veil of certain metaphors and they are unveiled in due course. As I said at the beginning, it is a magnificence of the Holy Quran, a great characteristic that it is a scripture that provides means for the betterment of humankind until the Day of Resurrection. Every person from every century, every era, every region and every country is in need of the Holy Quran and will never be free from this need.’ (Friday Sermon, 1 July 1977, Khutbat-e-Nasir, Vol. 7, p. 114-115)

“Thus, the above sayings guide us that if we do not understand any of the religious matters or do not get a satisfactory answer from someone, then in such a case we should first try to find a solution to the issue at hand by reflecting and pondering over the muhkam verities of the Holy Quran and the Hadith. Moreover, one should ask Allah the Exalted for guidance regarding these issues by humbly supplicating to Him, and bowing before Him.

“As far as the rest of your question is concerned, in the meeting with Lajna Imaillah Germany, I drew the attention of the Secretary Nasirat to the tarbiyat of the nasirat and said, ‘There is no place for ‘why’ and ‘for what reason’ in matters of faith. Belief in the unseen should be inculcated in their minds at an early age.” That also meant that some matters related to religion are very clear and easily understood, while others have been kept under the veil of faith in the unseen by Allah the Exalted, owing to His boundless wisdom. Grasping their true essence or comprehending them is beyond a human’s exceptionally limited knowledge. Thus, in matters of religious decrees, just as we obey easily understood commandments and inculcate them in our lives, so too is it our duty to obey such orders that are related to faith in the unseen and not to harbour unnecessary doubts. […]”

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