In the Name of Allah, the Merciful, the Mercy-Giving; and peaceful prayers and blessings be upon the Messenger of Allah, his Folk, his Companions and all who are faithful.
Set Aside What Causes You Doubt
Welcome to episode 55 of “The Content of Character” podcast. Today, we will be discussing the idea of setting aside what causes you doubt. The Messenger of Allah (peaceful prayers and blessings be upon him) said, “Set aside what causes you doubt for what does not.” This is related in the collections of Imams Ahmad, al-Nasa’i, and al-Tirmidhi, and [Shaykh al-Amin ibn Ali Mazru’i] includes additional aspects to this hadith. There are different narrations, of course, as we oftentimes find in the blessed ahadith of our Prophet of Allah (peaceful prayers and blessings be upon him).
In one of them, someone asked our master Hasan ibn Ali (may Allah be pleased with them both), “What have you memorized from the Messenger of Allah (peaceful prayers and blessings be upon him)?” And then he said, “I memorize from him,” and he quoted the aforementioned hadith, “Set aside what causes you doubt for what does not.”
In another hadith of the Prophet of Allah (peaceful prayers and blessings be upon him), he said, “Leave that which causes you doubt for that which does not cause you doubt, because indeed truthfulness is tranquility, and lying is disturbance.” In yet another narration, the Prophet advises to once again to set aside what causes you doubt for what does not, “…because indeed truthfulness will save you.” These are very profound meanings.
And finally, in another narration, which the scholars considered to be from the signs of prophecy (dala’il al-nubuwwa) and from the miracles of our Prophet of Allah (peaceful prayers and blessings be upon him):
A man came to the Prophet (peaceful prayers and blessings be upon him), who knew what was already in [the man’s] heart. And so he comes to the Prophet (peaceful prayers and blessings be upon him), [the man said] “O Prophet of God, inform me.” And the Prophet responded by saying, “If you want, I will tell you that which you came to ask about. Otherwise, you can just ask.” And he said, “Rather inform me, O Messenger of Allah, because it is more delightful to me.” And then the Prophet said, “You have come to ask about certainty and doubt.” And then the man said, “That’s right, O Messenger of Allah.” And then the Prophet described him, “Certainty is that which resides in the heart and the heart finds tranquility therein, even if the legist give you their fatwa.” And then the Prophet said, (peaceful prayers and blessings be upon him), “Set aside what causes you doubt for what does not…”
All of these different narrations are pointing to a very fundamental meaning of the religion (din), because this hadith is teaching us about scrupulousness. It is teaching us how to be religiously cautious, which is of the utmost importance especially for people that are taking the Afterlife seriously.
So let’s analyze this hadith a little bit closer. When the Prophet says da’wi, translate that here as ‘set aside’, or ‘to leave’. Da’ma yuribuk… it is perfectly fine to say yaribuk or yuribuk; both of them are valid in the Arabic language, but the first one (yaribuk) is more commonly used verb, derived from the noun rayb, which is the same as shakk, which both mean ‘doubt’.
Our Prophet (peaceful prayers and blessings be upon him) is teaching us that anything that we doubt, whether it is good to do or not, be it legal or illegal, whether it relates to things that we say or things that we do, we have enough from what we know is clearly permissible for us to focus on such that we don’t even need to. [We can] direct our hearts and our minds towards things that we know there is no question about. And so what our Prophet (peaceful prayers and blessings be upon him) is teaching us is to build our religion upon certainty.
From the dominant [Islamic] legal perspective among scholars, it’s not an obligation (wajib) to leave doubtful matters (shubuhat), although some among a minority say that it is. But what our Prophet is teaching us, is that we need to build our din upon certainty.
Seeing With Certain Eyes
As we live our lives, there will be a number of things that will come our way. It could be because of a lack of learning that we don’t know what the right thing to do is at any given moment, and we thus need to constantly increase in learning. Should we or should we not say that? Should we or should we not do that? We need to implement this in a balanced way. But the more certainty that we can build our religion upon, the better that it will be for us in this world and in the next, because we know that the end result ultimately is for the pious (muttaqin). It’s for the people of God-consciousness (taqwa). And in this regard, you will be tested.
It might be that you have a job opportunity and there is a very nice salary in that, but it’s doubtful. Is this what you should be doing, or should you not be doing? Is it really permissible, or is it not? And even if someone gives you fatwa that says it is permissible; if it doesn’t sit well in your heart, then it’s probably best for you to not do that thing.
Peace of Heart, Peace of Mind
But again, scrupulousness is a balance between neglect and between falling to the insinuations (waswasa) of Shaytan. Our Prophet (peaceful prayers and blessings be upon him) is teaching us in one of those narrations is that that tranquility in our heart is a sign that that thing is true. And disturbance in the heart is a sign that the thing we are thinking about doing should not be done. Of course, that is a very difficult standard to apply because it’s something internal and intangible. The more pure the heart becomes, the more clarity we’ll have in relation to the tranquility of the heart.
If you find your heart disturbed about something, even if people are telling you it’s permissible, it’s probably better not to do or say that thing. And know that if you fear some type of loss by not taking that job or not doing that particular thing, if you leave something for the sake of Allah, you have to have absolute certainty that Allah will provide you with something that is better… even if it takes a little bit of time. It might require you to be a little bit detached and be patient in the process. But know for certain that Allah the Exalted will replace that which you thought was good for you was something that definitely is better for you.
Go With What You Know
And so, the meaning of this hadith is very, very important. It’s foundational to the din, and that we hope we want to build our din upon certainty, so that when we meet our Lord the Exalted, we meet Him with acts that we know will be pleasing to Him (Glory be to Him), and [knowing] that we worked hard. This, of course, requires that we learn to detach from this world and to be truthful people… not only in terms of what we say, but also the things that we do, and ultimately truthful in all of our different states.
May Allah the Exalted bless us to implement this blessed hadith of our Prophet (peaceful prayers and blessings be upon him), and may we leave everything that we think is not good for that which is that clearly good, and may we leave all of the doubt from others for that which we know is that unquestionably permissible. May Allah the Exalted give us resolve in all of our different affairs.
Peaceful prayers and blessings be upon the Messenger of Allah, his Folk, his Companions; and all praise belongs to Allah, Lord of the Worlds.
The “Content of Character” podcast is brought to you by Shaykh Yahya Rhodus of al-Maqasid Institute, and powered by SeekersHub Global Islamic Seminary. Listen to this episode in full on the SeekersHub website, or subscribe to the podcast via iTunes, Android, or RSS.