The lives of companions

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It’s OK To Say “I Don’t Know”

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Don’t Speak Without Knowledge, Say “Allahu A’lam”:

Abu Bakr – radiyallahu ‘anhu – said:
Which sky would shade me and which earth would carry me (i.e. let me live upon it) if I were to say about the Book of Allah that which I do not know (about)?! (1)



Shaikh Ibn Uthaymin (rahimahullah) mentions in one of his Khutab (plural of Khutbah) several examples that exhort one from speaking without knowledge. Some of what he has mentioned is as follows:

(1) Abu Bakr’s saying – radiyallahu ‘anhu – (in post above). Narrated by Ibn Majah in his Sunan in the book of Zakat #1791; also mentioned by Ibn Qayyim – rahimahullah – in ‘I’laam al-Muwaqqi’een. The narration is Maqtoo’ but strengthened by all its ways as mentioned here.

(2) Saying of Ibn Mas’ud – radiyallaahu ‘anhu –

يا أيها الناس من علم شيئا فليقل به ومن لم يعلم فليقل الله أعلم فإن من العلم أن يقول لما لا يعلم الله أعلم

“O People! Whoever knows something then let him say it (speak of it), and whoever doesn’t know then let him say ‘Allahu ‘A’lam’ (Allaah knows best), for it is a sign of having knowledge to say about that which one doesn’t know ‘Allahu ‘A’lam’”

[Saheeh al-Bukhari #4435. English Translation Online #4481 in Book of Exegesis of the Qur’an. Also found in Sahih Muslim #5007; English Translation Online Book 39, Ch. 8, #6720 – Sh. Ibn Uthaymin’s site provides more references.]

Abdullah ibn ‘Umar (rd) says: “Knowledge is of three thypes, the Book that is forever speaking (Quran), an established Sunnah, and ‘I do not know’.” (Ad-Daraqutni: Ghara’ib Mälik. Al-Khatib al-Baghdadi: Asmä’ man rawa Abu Dawud. Kitab al-Fara’id, vol. 3, p. 164. Ibn Majah: in the lntroduction to his Sunan, chapter eight.)


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