Note: Quoted conversation may not be exact.
I was dumbstruck – I felt stupid and idiotic. One minute I was feeling confident and the next I realized that I had just uttered something completely brainless.
It was May 2009, and I was attending my first ‘real experience’ ICNA conference; the last time I had gone was when I was around 6 years old. My knowledge of the ‘in- shuyookh’ was almost zero – the only one I knew was Sheikh Yasir Qadhi. This was because I had taken my first ever Al-Maghrib course a few months before with him. Before I took the course, everyone was raving about how amazing and knowledgeable he was. Since I wasn’t used to sitting for many hours with so much information thrown at me (everyone has their own style of learning), the excitement for me didn’t come from the sheikh himself. Rather, it came from everyone else’s ‘pumping up’ of him and the course. Everyone treated everything he said as if it were…gold.
You know how when you were small, and all of your friends were obsessing over a certain show or toy and you didn’t think it was all that great or you didn’t really understand it or have your own opinion of it so because of your friends, you kind of ‘forced’ your mind to like it and ended up thinking that you really liked it (dang I don’t think I’ve ever written such a long sentence). I remember it happened with me and that anime show Dragon Ball Z. All my cousins went absolutely crazy over that show. I thought it was kind of boring because of all the fighting and whatnot, but I forced myself to like it and, soon enough, I really thought that Dragon Ball Z was my favorite show. Just to clarify, I’m not a dork – I haven’t watched anime shows in a whilei…ts been like, a few *cough* months.
Anyway, I always heard “Sheikh Yasir Qadhi said this” and “Sheikh Yasir Qadhi said that” and “Sheikh Yasir Qadhi is going to be here” and “Sheikh Yasir Qadhi is going to be there. Because of my friends, I was completely dazzled by the great Sheikh Yasir Qadhi way before I even saw him. During the class, he did say some really good things, but I think most of it just flew over my head because, again, it wasn’t my learning style. After the Al-Maghrib class was over, I was convinced that this sheikh was one of my favorites, even though I knew almost nothing about him.
So there I was, standing in the bazaar of the ICNA conference, when I saw a booth with a variety of different foods. I walked over and realized that the man behind the booth was spreading news about how most of the displayed foods were haram.
“Sister!” he exclaimed, happy that I walked over to his booth, “We’re working for blah blah blah” – yeah, I don’t really remember what he said. He picked a bag of Nacho Doritos and asked, “Did you know that most Doritos contain pig enzymes?”
I was a little confused. I knew several people who had stopped eating Doritos because it had something haram in it, but I wasn’t sure what. I remembered then that my friend had said something about Sheikh Yasir Qadhi writing an article and saying that Doritos were ok to eat.
“Yeah, but they’re ok to eat”, I replied.
“There are certain things that Allah (swt) has forbidden us to eat”, he explained. “Pig is haram, and the enzymes in here come from pigs.”
“You know Sheikh Yasir Qadhi?” I asked, rhetorically. I mean, how could someone not know him? “Sheikh Yasir Qadhi said that Doritos are ok to eat,” I stated, triumphantly. I smiled big, thinking that I had changed the man’s mind. He probably didn’t know that Sheikh Yasir Qadhi said they were halal. I felt confident and proud of myself.
“See, this is the problem nowadays”, he said, shaking his head in disapproval.
“Why does he say they’re ok?” “………..”
I had absolutely no stinking idea. “Many Muslims listen to their shuyookh and take everything they say to be a fact”, he sighed, “Shuyookh are normal human beings and make mistakes. If he says something wrong, and you follow blindly, is your sheikh going to stand up for you on the Day of Judgment? Will he be there when Allah (swt) questions you?”
I opened my mouth, closed it, and then smiled like a dodo bird. I was completely dumbstruck. I thought I was making complete sense, but this man broke down everything in a matter of seconds. He gave me his card, and then I told him I had to go I was utterly embarrassed. My sister was with me. “How could you say that?” she cried, reproachfully.
She was right – why the heck did I say that?!?! After the ICNA Conference weekend was over, I thought of the incident over. I was glad that the man in the booth had corrected my way of thinking. Just because someone is given the title of imam or sheikh or scholar doesn’t mean that he/she knows everything and doesn’t make mistakes. We shouldn’t take what they say blindly; we have to be critical. Even the great scholar Imam Shafi said “If I say something, then compare it to the Book of Allah and the Sunnah of His messenger and if it agrees to them, then accept it, and that which goes against them, reject it and throw my saying against the wall”. I’ve heard people say that because our knowledge is zero and we know nothing, we have no right to question the scholars and shuyookh of today. The fact of the matter is that the knowledge of most of these shuyookh and scholars is dust compared to the scholars of the past. So how can we look at them as these great and amazing people that make no mistakes? With todays technology, we really have no excuse. You can find ayaat, ahadith, and books about almost every Islamic topic with the click of a button! I remember listening to a high-profile speaker once, and he said something that didn’t sit well with me. Later, I found so much that went against what he said and it was clear that he had made a mistake (May Allah (swt) forgive him). However, many people walked out of that talk taking everything he said as the truth.
When Muslims put speakers on such a high pedestal and continuously praise them, they start taking everything the speakers say as a fact, without question. This is extremely dangerous because everyone will be questioned for his or her own actions. Therefore, to make sure we’re doing the right thing that we’re convinced of, we have to go back to the Quran and sunnah.
After getting over the whole ‘Dorito shock’, I decided to read Yasir Qadhi’s article on cheese and Doritos. For some reason, what he said didn’t click with me so I still stayed away from Doritos (recently I found another article online that changed my opinion of cheese again though).
About a year later, I was invited to a friend’s house for lunch. She had put out some snacks and I ran to attack the Chex Mix when I realized that there were Nacho Doritos inside. My hand paused over the bowl and I moved on to the next one. One of the girls in line saw what I had done and asked, “You dont want any?” I shook my head in response. She looked at me and smiled, “You know Sheikh Yasir Qadhi said they’re ok to eat”.