Monday, September 12, 2011

The Importance of Daleel (Evidence)

In today’s society we have unprecedented access to information thanks to a myriad of technological accomplishments. From virtual classrooms, to video and e-libraries we access to leading universities, scholars, and numerous forums or groups for nearly any subject one would want to know about. This access is one of greatest gifts of technology; however there are always two sides to every story. The ease of access to information has created countless self styled scholars or ‘insta’ sheiks. People appear overnight as authorities on Islam and while it is not my duty to judge their intentions, I must certainly look into the messages, because with this access people now have the ability to reach worldwide audiences. Even the best intentioned Muslims who are simply seeking to share information in chat rooms need to be aware what they are saying can be much more far reaching then a casual comment from one to another.

A little bit of knowledge can be dangerous

The problem with accessing this wealth of information before us is that often we can become overburdened by the sheer abundance of information available. This tends to lead to people offering advice or opinions based on their learning, but even with the best intentions, we as humans are fallible. How do we ensure that we avoid confusion to the best of our ability? How do we make sure that the advice we give does not lead others astray? The answer is in the Daleel.

Daleel linguistically means a proof, indication, or evidence. As a term, Daleel means the source or evidence for a thought, concept, or a ruling. Scholars spend years studying, and yet even scholars must source their information. Knowing, and documenting the source for ones opinions or judgment is of paramount importance; judicial systems are meticulous in documenting the cases, opinions, and judgments they base their verdicts on, the best scholars offer ample documentation of the sources which they used in forming their opinions. Daleel is the backbone of any scholarly or academic research and this is why Daleel is so important, not only for the novice but for the scholars as well.

The call for Daleel

“And We sent not before you except men to whom We revealed [Our message]. So ask the people of the message if you do not know. [We sent them] with clear proofs and written ordinances. And We revealed to you the message that you may make clear to the people what was sent down to them and that they might give thought.” Surah An-Nahl (16:43-44)

We can see that the ultimate form of Daleel, al Quran clearly calls for us to ‘make clear’ with ‘clear proofs and written evidence’ so that others ‘might give thought’. This is a clear directive for us to offer our proofs to those we are communicating with, further illustrated by the following verse:

“O you who have believed, obey Allah and obey the Messenger and those in authority among you. And if you disagree over anything, refer it to Allah and the Messenger, if you should believe in Allah and the Last Day. That is the best [way] and best in result.” Surah An-Nisa’ (4:59)

The aforementioned verse clearly instructs us to refer back to Allah and his Messenger should we disagree (or are confused). Seek the guidance from those in authority amongst you (scholars), but always refer back to Allah and his Messenger.

Understanding Daleel

To further understand Daleel one must understand the aspects of Daleel, namely Riwayah (Reporting) and the Dalalah (Meaning). The Riwayah covers issues related to how the information was relayed, which includes the number and the integrity of the reporters and the Dalalah is related to the meaning of the text in the Daleel. There are also two terms used in connection with Riwayah and Dalalah, Qatai and Thanniy. Qatai is defined as being conclusive or decisive, while Thanniy is the opposite of Qatai and means non-definite or indecisive.

The Qatai in Riwayah implies that the evidence is authentic without any shadow of doubt. Any Ayah from the Quran or Hadith Mutawatir (consecutive) is considered Qatai (conclusive) in its Riwayah (report).This authenticity is established based on the methodology of transmission. The methodology by which Quran was transmitted to us precludes any possibility of fabrication. The report was transmitted generation by generation in exactly the same manner. It is impossible for an entire generation to fabricate, erase, or add contents to the Quran. Hadith Mutawatir was not transmitted generation by generation as was the Quran, but rather by a large number of people. Due to the large number of people reporting the Daleel, and their diversity of residence, their established reliability and conviction, it is inconceivable (based on established standards) that this Daleel could be wrong.

The second aspect of the Daleel is the Dalalah (meaning). If the text of Quran, Hadith Mutawatir or Hadith Ahad is clear, specific, and has only one meaning, then it is considered Qatai. The text of a Qatai Daleel has to have only one meaning and cannot be open to any other interpretation. If the text is open to more than one interpretation, then it is considered Thanniy.

Moving Forward

With a better understanding of what Daleel is and its depth, one can now understand its importance and the need to validate their opinions, judgments or rulings with authentic daleel from only the most reliable resources. From scholar to blogger and beyond, we should always offer daleel, to allow others to look back upon our proofs or evidences and come to their own conclusion based upon legitimate, reliable sources.