Praise be to Allaah, the Lord of the Worlds, and peace and blessings be upon the most noble of the Prophets and Messengers, our Prophet Muhammad, and upon all his family and companions.
The Muslim may be faced with a number of emergency situations in his life, where he needs an immediate answer as to how he should act in that particular situation. In most cases, however, it is not possible to look for or ask about the appropriate Islamic rulings at that time.
This proves the importance of learning about Islam and knowing the rules of sharee’ah, so that when a Muslim needs this information, he will have it at hand and will thus be able to save himself or his Muslim brother from doing something haraam or making a mistake. In so many cases, ignorance can lead to corruption of worship or – at the very least – acute embarrassment. It is unfortunate that an imaam may mistakenly stand up for a fifth rak’ah, and there may be nobody in the congregation or the mosque who knows what the rulings of sharee’ah say should be done in such a situation. Or a traveller who is intending to perform ‘umrah may come to the airport at the last minute, and suddenly discover that he has forgotten his ihraam garments, but he has no time to do anything about it, and there is nobody among the Muslim in the airport who can tell him what he should do in this emergency. Or a man may come to the mosque on an occasion when the prayers have been joined together because of rain: the congregation is already praying ‘ishaa’ but he has not yet prayed maghrib, so he is confused as to what he should do. In such a situation the people may embark upon a debate based only on ignorance, and so confusion will reign in the mosques. In many individual and personal matters, ignorance may lead to embarrassment and even sin, especially when a person is in the position of having to make a decision and he does not have sufficient knowledge on which to base that decision.
People in this world have prepared information telling people how to behave in emergency situations: what to do if fire breaks out, if someone is drowning, if a scorpion bites, if there is a car accident, if someone is bleeding or has broken a bone… All of these first aid procedures are well known; they teach them to people and hold special courses. How much more important is it, then, that those who are concerned with the Hereafter should learn and teach the rules of this religion!
At this point, we should note the importance of differentiating between hypothetical matters which rarely, if ever, happen, and matters which we know from experience do happen to people and are asked about.
With regard to the first type (hypothetical situations), asking about them is a fruitless waste of time, which is not allowed in Islam. The Prophet
(peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) warned us against this when he said: “Accept what I have left you with, for the people who came before you were only destroyed because of their excessive questioning and their disputing with their Prophets…” (Reported by al-Bukhaari and Muslim; this version was reported by Muslim, no. 1337, vol. 2, p. 975)
Commenting on this hadeeth, Ibn Rajab (may Allah have mercy on him) said: “These ahaadeeth indicate that it is forbidden to ask questions unnecessarily… or to ask questions out of stubbornness or an intention to mock.” (Jaami’ al-‘Uloom wa’l-Hukm by Ibn Rajab, 1/240, edited by al-Arna’oot)
This is how we interpret the words of a group of the salaf, such as the report that when Zayd ibn Thaabit, may Allah be pleased with him, was asked about something, he would say, “Has it really happened?” If they said “No,” he would tell them, “Leave it until it really happens.” (Reported by Ibn Rajab, op. cit., 1/245; see also similar reports in Sunan al-Daarimi, 1/49, and Jaami Bayaan al-‘Ilm by Ibn ‘Abd al-Barr, 2/174).
With regard to the second type, matters that really happen, then it is good to ask about them. The Companions of the Prophet
(peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) sometimes asked him about things before they happened, but it was so that they could act accordingly when these things did happen. For example, they asked him: “We are going to meet with the enemy tomorrow, and we do not have knives, so should we use dried sugar canes as weapons?” They asked him about the rulers who he had told them would come after him, and whether they should obey them or fight them. Hudhayfah asked him about al-fitan (times of tribulation) and what he should do at such times. (Jaami’ al-‘Uloom al-Hukm, 1/243). This indicates that it is permissible to ask about things which are expected to happen.
There follows a discussion about some issues that people are likely to face in real life. These are practical matters which have happened and could happen to some people. In each case, the answer is accompanied by a reference to the sources in the work of trustworthy scholars. There may be differing opinions in some cases, but the answer has been limited to one viewpoint, the one based on the soundest evidence, for the sake of brevity and ease of understanding. I ask Allah to benefit me and my brothers in Islam in this world and on the Day of Judgement. May He reward with good all those who share in this endeavour, for He is the Most Kind and Generous. Allah knows best.
May Allah bless our Prophet Muhammad and all his family and companions.