What is obligatory is that if a person knows something then let him say it, and if he doesn’t know then let him say Allāhu A’lam, and silence is wara’ (cautionary fear of what might cause harm on the day of Judgement) from the khashyah (fear with knowledge) of Allāh.
Our Shaykh Yahya may Allāh preserve him and keep him safe said in the explanation of the Hadith of Ibn Abbās when ‘Umar used to enter him with the Mashāyikh of Badr at his statement and some of them remained quiet and didn’t say anything:
“For indeed the blessings if gratitude is given to Allāh for them they remain, and if they are met with ungratefulness they go.
(وَإِذۡ تَأَذَّنَ رَبُّكُمۡ لَىِٕن شَكَرۡتُمۡ لَأَزِیدَنَّكُمۡۖ وَلَىِٕن كَفَرۡتُمۡ إِنَّ عَذَابِی لَشَدِید)
And (remember) when your Lord proclaimed: “If you give thanks, I will give you more, but if you are thankless, verily! My Punishment is indeed severe.” [Ibrāhīm, 7]
And they seek forgiveness from Him upon what occurs of shortcomings, for indeed shortcomings accompany a person especially in regards to the blessings of Allāh, also in mistakes which could occur from them, and that blessings are from the means of relief and happiness, and to speak about them and praising Allāh and having gratitude upon that.
(وَأُخۡرَىٰ تُحِبُّونَهَاۖ نَصۡر مِّنَ ٱللَّهِ وَفَتۡح قَرِیبۗ وَبَشِّرِ ٱلۡمُؤۡمِنِینَ)
“And also another which you love, help from Allah and a near victory. And give glad tidings to the believers.” [As-Saf, 13]
From that which the believers love is assistance/aid and victory, this is the answer of some of them and no doubt it is an answer in it’s proper place upon what is apparent from the Qurān.
And some of them remained quiet and didn’t say anything, i.e. from those present from the Mashāyikh of Badr and their scholars and in it is an indication that whoever something becomes apparent to him he says it.
And that going based on the apparent is knowledge, and that the origin is going based on the apparent until something else takes it away from that, and those that remained silent in this instance, nothing became apparent to them, and it is upon a person who the truth has not become clear to in an issue, to remain silent until it becomes clear to him, so he doesn’t speak except with knowledge, Allāh said:
قُلۡ إِنَّمَا حَرَّمَ رَبِّیَ ٱلۡفَوَ ٰحِشَ مَا ظَهَرَ مِنۡهَا وَمَا بَطَنَ وَٱلۡإِثۡمَ وَٱلۡبَغۡیَ بِغَیۡرِ ٱلۡحَقِّ وَأَن تُشۡرِكُوا۟ بِٱللَّهِ مَا لَمۡ یُنَزِّلۡ بِهِۦ سُلۡطَـٰنا وَأَن تَقُولُوا۟ عَلَى ٱللَّهِ مَا لَا تَعۡلَمُونَ
Say: “(But) the things that my Lord has indeed forbidden are Al-Fawāhish whether committed openly or secretly, sins (of all kinds), unrighteous oppression, joining partners with Allah for which He has given no authority, and saying things about Allāh of which you have no knowledge.”
Whether that be in a Fatwa, or in a Tafsīr of the Qurān, or clarification of the Sunnah, or other than that from knowledge,
What is obligatory is that if a person knows something then let him say it, and if he doesn’t know then let him say Allāhu A’lam.
For indeed from knowledge is saying Allāhu A’lam as Ibn Mas’ūd may Allāh have mercy on him said.
They said: “How can it be from knowledge when he didn’t say anything concerning it”, they said: “This wara’ is from the khashyah of Allāh, that he doesn’t speak without knowledge, and wara’ points towards knowledge of Allāh and of the greatness of Allāh, from this angle it is knowledge.
His statement Allāhu A’lam points towards war’ and khashyah of Allāh,
(إِنَّمَا یَخۡشَى ٱللَّهَ مِنۡ عِبَادِهِ ٱلۡعُلَمَـٰۤؤُا۟ۗ)
It is only those who have knowledge among His slaves that fear Allāh.”
So nothing limited him to that except his knowledge of the greatness of Allāh, and the monitoring of Allāh, so this wara’ of his points towards knowledge and that this knowledge was benefited from his heart, and it benefited his character.
For verily a person could speak without knowledge and get caught up and land himself and others in harms way and tight situations, and difficulties, and he attempts to find a way out and (perhaps) he could find (a way out) and (perhaps) he may not find a way out from that,
He ﷺ said;
إياك وما يُعتذر منه
“Be aware of that which is apologized for.”
So this points towards that silence in the state of the truth being unclear is knowledge, and that it is war’, and that it is good, he ﷺ said;
من كان يؤمن بالله واليوم الآخر فليقل خيرا
“Whoever believes in Allāh and the Last Day then let him speak with good….”
He speaks with guidance, he speaks with knowledge, he speaks with advice, he speaks with what is made clear to him, or he remains silent if it is not clear to him, and this points towards war’ and Ēmān, therefore the answers are in their proper places on the apparent, and silence is in its proper places especially those whom nothing has not been made clear to them, and it should be known also that the affair of Tafsīr is not befitting for every so and so to delve into, he speaks concerning the Qurān with his opinion, this has been prohibited in the Book, Allāh said;
(وَلَا تَقۡفُ مَا لَیۡسَ لَكَ بِهِۦ عِلۡمٌۚ إِنَّ ٱلسَّمۡعَ وَٱلۡبَصَرَ وَٱلۡفُؤَادَ كُلُّ أُو۟لَـٰۤىِٕكَ كَانَ عَنۡهُ مَسۡـُٔولا)
“And follow not that of which you have no knowledge. Verily! The hearing, and the sight, and the heart, of each of those you will be questioned.” [Al-Isrā, 36]
And it is prohibited in the Sunnah and with the Salaf. So it points towards that it is a major error to interpret the Qurān with mere opinion, so those ones interpreted based on the apparent, and those ones were silent, this is the path of the Salaf in regards to giving importance to the Qurān may Allāh be pleased with them.
There comes to Imām Mālik numerous questions, so he’s asked about the first so he says I don’t know, and he’s asked about the second so he says I don’t know and like so until it was said:
“O Imām what shall I tell the people when I return to them, the Imām of Dār Hijrah did not answers these questions for me?” He said: “Go on a high mountain and say Mālik doesn’t know.”
And this points towards tranquility and humbleness, and it points towards fear of Allāh, and awe of knowledge, and awe of the Sunnah, and that he magnifies it and he magnifies the Book of Allāh, and he doesn’t speak concerning it except with the truth.
Benefited from: Shaykh, the Allamah, the Trustworthy Advisor, Abu Abdirrahman Yahya bin Ali Al-Hajuri – may Allah preserve him
Translated by: Abu ‘Abdillāh ‘Omar bin Yahya Al-‘Akawi