In a previous post we have established that learning and teaching the Quran is a communal obligation, a Fardu-l-kifayah. If there’s such a thing as a communal obligation, then there must be an individual obligation too, otherwise such distinction would not be necessary; in Arabic this is called Fardu-l-ain. So the knowledge that allows a person to fulfil his individual obligations becomes also obligatory for him to acquire.
The fardu-l-ain, or the individual obligation, refers to what every Muslim has to know; that is, the knowledge regarding a correct belief, or aquidah, the knowledge of the ibadat, the actions of worship (those which are obligatory), and the knowledge of the muamalat, his daily transactions (those in which he engages).
What is the knowledge that every Muslim should possess to fulfil his individual obligation?
Most ulama take the Hadith of Jibreel, which has also been called “the matrix of the Ahadith” for its importance, as the starting point of the knowledge of the Deen and what defines it. The great alim ‘Abd al-Wahid ibn ‘Ali ibn ‘Ashir bases his famous book, al-Murshid al-Mu’in, on this Hadith. In this Hadith, Jebreel asks the Prophet, may Allah grant him peace, about the Deen. He asks what is Islam, what is Iman, and what is Ihsan. After the Prophet answered, Jibreel left and the Prophet told those of his companions that were present: “That was Jibreel that has come to teach you your Deen”. Therefore, it is based on that Hadith that we can come to know what we, as Muslims, are required to know – and act upon it.
Tell me about Islam
The first thing that Jibreel asks the Prophet, may Allah grant him peace, is about Islam. The Prophet answers him saying that Islam is that you say the shahada, you do the Salat, pay the Zakat, fast in Ramadhan and visit the Ka’aba at least once in your life if you are able. The technical term for this is fiqh al-‘Ibadat – the jurisprudence of the acts of worship.
Every Muslim needs to know the pertaining points related to a correct practice of these five things, which are the pillars of Islam. A Muslim should know when and under which circumstances these become obligatory (for example having reached puberty, being sane, the commencement of the time of a prayer, etc.), what are the preconditions for them to be accepted (for example being Muslim or being in a state of ritual purity, etc.), he needs to know which are its obligatory aspects, its recommended ones, those which are disliked and those which invalidate them.
A Muslim needs to learn the fiqh al-‘Ibadat on a need-to-know basis. For example, he is not obliged to know all the aspects related to the payment of Zakat if he does not have the obligation to pay it (because he has not reached the minimum required wealth), but he has to know that this is an obligatory act and he needs to know the minimum that will require him to pay it. The same is true for the Hajj; he is only obliged to learn its requirements when the obligation becomes incumbent upon him (having the necessary circumstances to undertake the Pilgrimage).
As for the Shahada, the Prayer and the Fast, the Muslim is obliged to learn all the aspects from the moment he becomes mukallaf (and it is encouraged that he does that previously, so that he does not miss any of his obligations once it becomes obligatory).
The same methodology applies to all other aspects of his daily life. If a man wants to get married, he needs to learn the fiqh regarding marriage and family life; or if someone wants to start a business, he needs to learn the fiqh about that particular business. Each individual Muslim is also required to know, in general terms, those things which are permitted and those which are forbidden.
Islam is not a religion, in the sense that there is no dividing line between what one believes and what one acts upon, as there’s not a dividing line between the way one behaves privately and publicly. Islam is a life transaction. Allah says in the Quran:
“Allah has bought from the Muminun their selves and their wealth in return for the Garden.” (9:111)
We understand that the Muslim has entered a transaction in his life with Allah in return for the Garden; meaning that Allah has bought all his actions, whether inward or outward, in exchange for the Garden. This transaction, as do all transactions, has its conditions. The conditions, in this case, are that we act according to what Allah has revealed and what the Messenger, may Allah grant him peace, has taught us.
Fortunately, we also know that the way which Allah and His Messenger have taught us, is the best way in which the individual can achieve its highest potential in this life and the next; and we also know that if we make mistakes in this transaction, Allah is all-forgiving, but this does not free us from the responsibility of acquiring this knowledge.
Tell me about Iman
The second thing that Jibreel asks the Prophet about is Iman. The Prophet answers him saying that Iman is belief in Allah, the Angels, the revealed Books, the Messengers, the Day of Judgment and the Decree, the good and the bad of it.
One cannot believe in something that one does not know. Therefore, it is obligatory for every Muslim to know what it means to believe in these six things mentioned by the Prophet, which are also called the Pillars of Iman.
There are things that are obligatory, things that are permissible and things that are impossible for Allah, as well as for the messengers, and one must know which books are referred to and which prophets (it is said that there are more than 240,000, but it is only obligatory to believe in those mentioned in the Quran). One must also know what the Day of Judgment means and what believing in it implies, as well as the Decree.
This knowledge is what is called the aquidah, or the Islamic creed. And when one utters the Shahada all of it is implied. Therefore, to fulfill the first pillar of Islam, upon which the rest depend for its acceptance, the individual is also required to know this.
Tell me about Ihsan
The third thing that Jibreel asks the Prophet about is Ihsan. The Prophet answers him saying that Ihsan is to worship Allah as if you see Him, for if you do not see Him, then truly He sees you.
We would like to quote Shaykh ‘Ali Laraki al-Husaini who, in the introduction of his book ‘The Practical Guidebook’, a commentary on al-Murshid al-Mu’in, says that Ihsan is:
“The excellence of action and state by traveling the spiritual path that starts with awareness of being seen by the One Who sees everything (muraqaba), and ends with His contemplation (mushahada).”
So we can say that the first stage of the individual Muslim, being a born Muslim or a convert, is the realisation of the existence of Allah, which is the first part of the Shahada. We can also deduce from this Hadith that there is a higher station, one that not everyone achieves but everyone has the potential to do so, it is the station of contemplation of Him. Between these two stages there is a path, that path is walked by fulfilling that which Allah has made obligatory firstly and that what is recommended secondly. The aim of this life transaction, of this Deen, is to arrive to the second stage described in the Hadith, that is no other than the realisation of the Truth, which is the second part of the Shahada.
But this path also has its preconditions, obligations and things that can make you drift apart, and one must know them in order to travel swiftly through it.
What we have drafted here is the obligatory knowledge that every Muslim should have. This is the knowledge that will allow him to fulfil his obligations and to travel the path to the highest station. It is also the knowledge that will bring him the best of this life and the next one.
All the above and more, including other aspect of the ‘Ibada, as well as memorization of Quran, Arabic, Tajweed and Sirah, will be studied in our 1 Year Foundational Course, If you would like to know more or apply, you can do so from here