Al-Maidah · Juz 7 · Qur'an Tafseer

Tafseer Surah al-Ma’idah Ayaat 101 and 102

Asking Unnecessary Questions is Disapproved of

In the previous ayah, we learned about not being deluded by the abundance of the evil. In these ayaat, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala narrates the prohibition of asking unnecessary questions.

He says,

يأَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ ءَامَنُواْ لاَ تَسْأَلُواْ عَنْ أَشْيَآءَ إِن تُبْدَ لَكُمْ تَسُؤْكُمْ

“O you who believe! Ask not about things which, if made plain to you, may cause you trouble.”

In this ayah Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala is teaching good conduct to His servants. He forbids them from asking questions about useless things because knowing the answer might upset them. For example, once a man came to the Rasoolullah sallAllahu aalyhi wa sallam. He said, “Where is my father?” The Prophet replied, “In the Hellfire.” (because he was a mushrik/idolator)

Therefore Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala prohibits us from asking unnecessary questions. The answer might disappoint and upset us or bring hardship upon us. For example when the Prophet sallAllahu aalyhi wa sallan narrated ayah 97 of Surah Aal-Imran,

وَللَّهِ عَلَى النَّاسِ حِجُّ الْبَيْتِ مَنِ اسْتَطَـعَ إِلَيْهِ سَبِيلاً

“And Hajj to the House is a duty that mankind owes to Allah, those who can bear the journey.” The people asked, “O Allah’s Messenger! Is it required every year?” He did not answer them, and they asked again, “Is it every year?” He still did not answer them, so they asked, “Is it every year?” He said,

لَا، وَلَوْ قُلْتُ: نَعَمْ لَوَجَبَتْ وَلَوْ وَجَبَتْ لَمَا اسْتَطَعْتُم

‘No, and had I said yes, it would have become obligated, and had it become obligated, you would not be able to bear it.’”

Anas bin Malik radhiAllahu anhu narrated that once, the people were questioning the Messenger of Allah sallAllahu aalyhi wa sallam until they made him angry. So he ascended the Minbar and said,

لَا تَسْأَلُونِي الْيَوْمَ عَنْ شَيْءٍ إِلَّا بَيَّنْتُهُ لَكُم

“You will not ask me about anything today but I will explain it to you.” So the Companions of the Messenger of Allah feared that it was the commencement of a momentous event, and I looked to my right and left and found only people who covered their faces, crying.

Al-Bukhari recorded that Anas bin Malik radhiAllahu anhu said, “The Messenger of Allah sallAllahu aalyhi wa sallam gave a speech unlike anything I heard before. In this speech, he said,

لَو تَعْلَمُونَ مَا أَعْلَمُ، لَضَحِكْتُمْ قَلِيلًا، وَلَبَكَيْتُمْ كَثِيرًا

“If you but know what I know, you will laugh little and cry a lot.” The companions of Allah’s Messenger covered their faces and the sound of crying was coming out of their chests.

The apparent wording of this Ayah indicates that we are forbidden to ask about things that if one has knowledge of, he would be sorry he had asked. Consequently, it is better to avoid such questions.

It is said that some people used to ask the Prophet sallAllahu aalyhi wa sallam unnecessary questions in order to mock him therefore Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala further said,

وَإِن تَسْأَلُواْ عَنْهَا حِينَ يُنَزَّلُ الْقُرْءَانُ تُبْدَ لَكُمْ

“But if you ask about them while the Qur’an is being revealed, they will be made plain to you.”

People always had too many questions to ask, often unnecessary and useless questions. It was the time when Qur’an was being revealed, the commandments were being made clear, if they displayed patience the matter that they are impatient to ask might be answered by Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala through revelation on its own. This ayah carried a warning that you ask ruling about a matter which hasn’t been revealed yet. It could be that because of your asking the ruling which was not there is imposed, and it will be a difficult ruling for you to honor.

A hadeeth states,

أَعْظَمُ الْمُسْلِمِينَ جُرْمًا مَنْ سَأَلَ عَنْ شَيْءٍ لَمْ يُحَرَّمْ، فَحُرِّمَ مِنْ أَجْلِ مَسْأَلَتِه

“The worst criminal among the Muslims is he who asks if a matter is unlawful (or not), and it becomes unlawful because of his asking about it.”

It is recorded in the saheeh that the Messenger of Allah sallAllahu aalyhi wa sallam said,

ذَرُونِي مَا تَرَكْتُكُمْ، فَإِنَّمَا أَهْلَكَ مَنْ كَانَ قَبْلَكُمْ كَثْرَةُ سُؤَالِهِمْ وَاخْتِلَافُهُمْ عَلَى أَنْبِيَائِهِم

“Leave me as I have left you, those before you were destroyed because of many questions and disputing with their Prophets.”

Often it happens we don’t let others complete their talk (someone knowledgeable such as a scholar or an Imam). We keep interrupting them in between. If however we patiently listen to them, let them finish the talk there’s quite a possibility that our concern will be answered without our asking.

All matters that were worth knowing for a Muslim, the commandments, the matters of halal and haram, the issues of wajib and makroh have been made clear through Qur’an. The Prophet sallAllahu aalyhi wa sallam displayed through his Sunnah what needs to be done and from what we should stay away. Hence, there is no need to ask useless questions.

An authentic Hadith also states,

أَنَّ اللهَ تَعَالَى فَرَضَ فَرَائِضَ فَلَا تُضَيِّعُوهَا، وَحَدَّ حُدُودًا فَلَا تَعْتَدُوهَا، وَحَرَّمَ أَشْيَاءَ فَلَا تَنْتَهِكُوهَا، وَسَكَتَ عَنْ أَشْيَاءَ رَحْمَةً بِكُمْ غَيْرَ نِسْيَانٍ فَلَا تَسْأَلُوا عَنْهَا

“Allah, the Most Honored, has ordained some obligations, so do not ignore them; has set some limits, so do not trespass them; has prohibited some things, so do not commit them; and has left some things without rulings, out of mercy for you, not that He forgot them, so do not ask about them.”

Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala completes ayah 101 by reminding us of His Mercy and Compassion,

عَفَا اللَّهُ عَنْهَا وَاللَّهُ غَفُورٌ حَلِيمٌ

“Allah has forgiven that and Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Forbearing.”

Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala has forgiven those questions that were asked in ignorance by the Sahabahs radhiAllahu anhum prior to the revelation of this ayah. There are certain matters which have been explicitly declared halal or haram. Then there are those which are in between and Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala has adopted silence about them. If Allah has adopted silence about these matters then we should not argue about them or dedicate our lives in finding answers to those doubtful matters. We should rather stick to that which has been made clear for us.

LESSONS:

– Asking questions about the things that a person is not obligated to ask or responsible for, goes against him. Asking questions about a matter that has got nothing to do with a person is not a sign of intelligence rather it is a sign of a weak emaan.

– We learn about the prohibition of asking unnecessary questions. It has been called the worst crime. Before asking a question we should ask ourselves what is the purpose of this question. For example, a person asking about crocodile meat. This question would be relevant for someone living in the Amazon rainforest but is it even relevant for someone living in a country where cattle and poultry meat is available in abundance?

– There are certain matters that Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala has left them as they are. And if Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala is silent about them then we should leave them as they are and not get into debates. The revelation of Qur’an has stopped, the Prophet sallAllahu aalyhi wa sallam is no more there to guide us therefore we should stick to that which has been mentioned in the Qur’an or recorded in Sunnah. People in the past were destroyed because of asking too many questions and disputes.

– Asking questions is not wrong. It is termed as half of knowledge. However, a person should only ask those questions which are relevant and good. Don’t ask irrelevant questions. Don’t exercise your tongue for the sake of exercising it. There are many types of food that are halal so is it even wise to ask is crocodile meat halal or haram?

– Asking too many questions hurts us. For example, a woman married to a man who was previously married to another woman asks, “What did you like about her?”, “Where did you go for your honeymoon?”, “How much money did you give her?”. Will the answers make her feel better or hurt her? Obviously, hurt her more so why ask irrelevant questions that chapter of his life is closed now.

– If there was a matter that was really important for us to know then Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala would have informed us. If He chose to remain silent then perhaps those were not important for us to know. We should remain silent about them as well.

– In order to acquire knowledge patience is required. All the ehkaam (commands) are not given on first day. Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala gave the commands gradually. It takes time for us to change therefore have sabr while gaining knowledge.

Tafseer Surah al-Ma’idah Ayah 102

In this ayah, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala is reminding us about what happened to those who used to ask a lot of question. For example, the incident of slaughtering of the cow.

When Prophet Musa aalyhi salaam went away for 40 nights his people started worshipping a calf. Upon his return he was disappointed to see this. We have learned that the punishment is similar to the sin that has been committed. Therefore, these people were told to slaughter a cow as an expiation for what they had done.

Instead of submitting to the command, they started asking too many questions; question regarding its age, color, profession, etc. By their asking too many questions they brought the difficulty upon themselves. Earlier they could have slaughtered any cow but now they were told the exact description of the cow.

In this ayah, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala says,

قَدْ سَأَلَهَا قَوْمٌ مِّن قَبْلِكُمْ ثُمَّ أَصْبَحُواْ بِهَا كَـفِرِينَ

“Before you, a community asked such questions, then on that account they became disbelievers.”

The Jews didn’t accept commands readily. They kept asking questions. The purpose behind their questioning was not to gain guidance rather to mock and defy the instructions of their prophets. In Surah al-Baqarah ayah 67 Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala says, “And [recall] when Musa said to his people, ‘Indeed, Allah commands you to slaughter a cow.’ They said, ‘Do you take us in ridicule?’ He said, ‘I seek refuge in Allah from being among the ignorant.’”

They were asking questions in mockery or defiance therefore when the answers were given for them acting upon the command became too complicated for them. As a result, they abandoned the command and became disbelievers.

LESSONS:

– We learn that we should not ask questions about those things which are not relevant to us.

[SOURCE: Tafseer Ibn Katheer and Tafseer Lecture of Taimiyyah Zubair]

3 thoughts on “Tafseer Surah al-Ma’idah Ayaat 101 and 102

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