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Knowledge, Its Importance & Acquisition
  Imaam ash-Shafi'ee on Legal Knowledge
Author: Imaam ash-Shafi'ee
Source: Ar-Risaalah
Article ID : SCL020005  [14021]  
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42. [Shaafi'ee] said: These communications mean that the jihad, and rising up in arms in particular, is obligatory for all able-bodied [believers], exempting no one, just as prayer, pilgrimage and [payment of] alms are performed, and no person is permitted to perform the duty for another, since performance by one will not fulfil the duty for another. They may also mean that the duty of [jihad] is a collective (kifaya) duty different from that of prayer: Those who per-form it in the war against the polytheists will fulfil the duty and receive the supererogatory merit, thereby preventing those who have stayed behind from falling into error.But God has not put the two [categories of men] on an equal footing, for He said:

Such believers who sit at home-unless they have an injury-are not the equals of those who fight in the path of God with their possessions and their selves. God has given precedence to those who fight with their possessions and their selves over those who sit at home. God has promised the best of things to both, and He has preferred those who fight over those who sit at hoine by [granting them] a mighty reward [Q. IV, 97].

The literal meaning of this communication is that the duty is obligatory on all men.

43. He asked: Where is the proof for your opinion that if some people perform the duty, the others would be relieved of punishment?

44. [Shaafi'ee] said: It is in the communication that I have just cited].

45. He asked: In what part of it?

46. [Shaafi'ee] replied: God said: "Yet to each God has promised the best of things."
Thus God has promised "the best of things" for those who stayed behind and could not go to the jihad, although he clearly specified his preference for those who went to the jihad over those who stayed at home. If those who stayed at home were in error, while others were fighting, they would be committing a sin, unless God forgives them, rather than receiving " the best of things."

47. He asked: Is there any other [proof]?

48. [Shaafi'ee] replied: Yes, God said:

It is not for tile believers to go forth all together, but why should not a party of every section of them go forth, to become learned in religion, and to warn their people when they return to them, perhaps they will beware [Q. IX, 123].

[When] the Apostle went to battle he was accompanied by some of his companions while others stayed at home; for 'Ali b. Abi Talib stayed at home during the battle of Tabuk. Nor did God ordain that all Muslims were under obligation to go to battle, for He said: "Why should not a party of every section of them go forth?" So He made it known that going into battle was obligatory on some, not on all, [just] as knowl-edge of the law is not obligatory on all but on some, save the fundamental duties which should be known to all men. But God knows best.

49. Shaafi'ee said: In like manner are other duties, the fulfillment of which is intended to be collective; whenever they are performed by some Muslims collectively, those who do not perform them will not fall in error.If all men failed to perform the duty so that no able-bodied man went forth to battle, all, I am afraid, would fall into error (although I am certain that this would never happen) in accordance with [God's] saying:

If you do not go forth, He will inflict upon you a painful punish-ment [Q. IX, 39].

50. He asked: What is the meaning [of this communication]?

51. [Shaafi'ee] replied: It means that it is not permissible that all men should fail to "go forth"; but that if some go forth, so that a sufficient number fulfils [the collective duty], the others do not fall into error, because the going forth by some would fulfil the [duty of] 'going forth.'

52. He asked: Are there examples other than the jihad?

53. [Shaafi'ee] replied: Ys, such as the funeral and burial prayers, the performance of which should not be neglected; but men are not all under the obligation to attend to their performance, for those who perform them will relieve those who do not from falling into error.In the same [category falls the duty to] reply to a salutation. For God said:

When you are greeted with a greeting, respond with a better one, or return it. Verily God keeps account of everything [Q. IV, 88].

The Apostle of God said:

He who is standing shall greet hin who is sitting. If [only] one replies to a greeting, he would fulfil [the duty] on behalf of the others.

These are merely intended to mean that a reply must be made. So the response of the few fulfils the duty for all who are obligated to reply, for the [collective] response is sufficient. So far as I have been informed, the Muslims have continued to act as I have stated, from the time of the Prophet to the present. Only a few men must know the law, attend the funeral service, perform the jihad and respond to greeting, while others are exempt. So those who know the law, perform the jihad attend the funeral service, and respond to a greeting will be rewarded, while others do not fall into error since a sufficient number fulfil the [collective] duty.


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