|Many Muslims quote the following partial verse. ‘Ask those that have knowledge if you do not know’ This statement is arguably one of the most hashed, misquoted verses of the Holy Quran and a justification by many Muslims that knowledge can only be sought or derived from ‘special learned people’ and ‘those that possess knowledge’. WHAT DOES THE QURAN ACTUALLY SAY? Two verses are used to support this concept, verse 16.43 and verse 21.7. Both verses are nearly always partially quoted and torn out of their proper context. 16.43 “And before you also the messengers We sent were but men, to whom We granted inspiration: if you do not know, ask of those who possess the Message” 21.7-8 “Before you, also, the messengers We sent were but men, to whom We granted inspiration: If you do not know, ask of those who possess the Message. Nor did We give them bodies that ate no food, nor were they exempt from death” In both verses, one notes the almighty God informing the Prophet that before him Prophet’s were only men like him who God had granted inspiration. They consumed food and they were not exempt from death. This was clearly a measure of reassurance for the Prophet so that there would remain no doubt in his mind that he was indeed a Prophet. These verses are not directed at anyone but the Prophet and are context specific. What sense would there be to ask the ‘believers’ to consult ‘people of knowledge’ if the messenger himself was amongst their midst? This would also contradict many verses where God clearly asks the believers to refer their matters to the Prophet, especially in disputes! (4.59) Also these verses are one of the most powerful support for verification. Even though God is revealing the message to the Prophet, he is still being asked to verify it for himself. This is one of the most powerful cues for the use of volition and self verification. In this verse, God Himself is asking the Prophet to verify a particular claim. If any wisdom is to be extracted, it is one of verification not of blind following! WHAT THE QURAN ACTUALLY ASKS ONE TO DO IS TO SEARCH FOR THE TRUTH BY USING ONE’S OWN FACULTIES TO VERIFY AND NOT TO FOLLOW BLINDLY 17: 36 “(O man), do not follow that of what you have no knowledge. Indeed! the hearing and the sight and the heart – of each of these it will be asked” From this verse it is clear that we must not follow any matters of which we have no knowledge or have not sought any verification with our own faculties. We will clearly be questioned with regards this. Any groundless assertions about other people or events, statements based on conjecture and unsupported by evidence, matters of inherited faith and doctrine or indeed unverified matters of society, all fall within the ambit of this verse. Those familiar with the story of Abraham will undoubtedly realise that this is exactly the approach Abraham employed when he left the ways of his forefathers. He questioned his inherited beliefs and searched for the truth using his own faculties which put him at odds with his father and his people who even set up to destroy him in a pit of fire! BLIND FOLLOWING OF YOUR LEADERS There is a powerful lesson to be learnt from the people of the previous scriptures. It seems that many may have only repeated the action by taking the opinions of men and their leaders over the message of God and what He has revealed in His scripture. In essence and by doing so, many have set up rivals with their Lords. What is one actually doing when the word of their Sheikh / Leader / Imam contradicts or overrides a particular message from the Quran and is not supported by it? 9:31 “They have taken as Lords beside God their Rabbis and their Monks and the Messiah son of Mary , when they were bidden to only worship One God” FOLLOW THOSE THAT ASK OF NO FEE I have always wondered about the wisdom behind not asking for a fee. From the context of the verses it almost seems to have been used as support for both their authenticity and sincerity. Those that are intent to do good and spread true guidance only wish to do so to seek favour from their Lord, not people. 36.21 “Follow those who ask of you no fee (Arabic: ajran), and who are rightly guided” The Arabic term ‘Ajran’ implies any form of reward, recompense, compensation or payment for service. This theme is picked up in other verses of the Quran with regards other messengers of God. 12.103-104 “And most men will not believe though you desire it eagerly. And you do not ask them for a reward for this; it is nothing but a reminder for all mankind” 38.86 “Say: “No reward do I ask of you for this, nor am I a pretender. 42.23 “That is (the Bounty) whereof God gives glad tidings to His Servants who believe and do righteous deeds. Say: “No reward do I ask of you for this except the love of those near of kin.” And if any one earns any good, We shall give him an increase of good in respect of it: for God is Oft-Forgiving, Most ready to appreciate (service)” 52.40 “Or is it that you ask for a reward, so that they are burdened with a load of debt?” 6.90 Those were the (prophets) who received God’s guidance: follow the guidance they received; Say: “No reward for this do I ask of you: This is no less than a message for the nations.” 68.46 “Or is it that you ask them for a reward, so that they are burdened with a load of debt?” PROPHET NOAH (pbuh) 26:109 “No reward do I ask of you for it: my reward is only from the Lord of the Worlds” PROPHET HUD (pbuh) 26:127 “No reward do I ask of you for it: my reward is only from the Lord of the Worlds” PROPHET SALEH (pbuh) 26:145 “No reward do I ask of you for it: my reward is only from the Lord of the Worlds” PROPHET LOT (pbuh) 26:164 “No reward do I ask of you for it: my reward is only from the lord of the Worlds” PROPHET SHOAIB (pbuh) 26:180 “No reward do I ask of you for it: my reward is only from the Lord of the Worlds” 10.72 “But if you turn back, I did not ask for any reward from you; my reward is only with God, and I am commanded that I should be of those who submit” How many religious authorities, clerics, preachers or spiritual guides exercise a tacit expectation of some kind of reward for their services? LEADERS AND GREAT MEN WILL NOT HELP ONE ON THE DAY OF JUDGMENT 33:67 “And they shall say: O our Lord! surely we obeyed our leaders (Arabic: Sadatana) and our great men (Arabic: Wakubaraana), so they led us astray from the path” CONCLUSION The Quranic verses clearly support self-verification and oppose the notion of ‘blind following’ (Arabic: taqlid). Sadly and ironically, verses of the Quran are often misquoted to support the same ideology that the verses are actually attempting to negate.