Pitfalls in the Quest for Knowledge

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  • Pitfalls in the Quest for Knowledge



    Craving Novelty

    Novelty sometimes enlivens a person.When a person hears something mundane,he rarely takes notice of it.However,when he hears something new and strange,he gives it his undivided attention.A person walking down a busy street will see countless vehicles go by and will scarcely be bothered with them.If a strange car passes by or some unusual event happens,he will stop along with many other gawkers to take a look at it.

    The same goes for academic pursuits.Many students seem to know nothing but the strangest of opinions and deal only with matters that are prone to confusion.We have already discussed how some students make themselves very proficient in discussing some matters of scholarly debate and how they can quote the opinions of this scholar and that. These same students,however,often fail to have knowledge of the matters in which the scholars have all agreed with one another.

    In the same way we find that some students have an insatiable appetite for what is novel or strange.If such a student happens to stumble upon an opinion that is out of the ordinary,he takes to it and may even come to its defense.He does this to satisfy his hidden desire for all things strange as well as his desire to stand apart from others.

    For this reason,it is necessary to emphasize the fact that the opinion of the majority of scholars is usually –but not always –the most correct.The reason for this is that when the scholars are generally agreed about a matter and only one or two hold a differing view,there is usually some reason for their agreement.The majority is not always right, but we should exercise a bit of caution before adopting a strange or unusual position.

    A good example of a strange opinion is the view of some scholars that it is forbidden for women to wear gold rings.Then there is the opinion that a pilgrim must only perform his pilgrimage in the manner known as tamattu`.When we look for how many people held these views from the early days of Islam up to today,we find that they can be counted on the fingers of one hand.Often we can not be certain that those to whom the opinion is attributed actually held that opinion.

    Why then,do we find so many young students take to opinions like these?One reason might be that they are convinced by the arguments for that opinion without having yet developed the aptitude to analyze the evidence.Sometimes it is just because of the appeal of the unusual or strange.Therefore,we must be extra cautious when we are about to go against the vast majority of the scholars.We should only do so when we have clear and unequivocal evidence to support us.

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