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The Use of the Word "if" by Shaykh As-Sa'dee
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The Use of the Word “If” in Relation to al-Qadaa wal-Qadr – Ash-Shaykh as-Sa`dee
What Has Come Regarding (Saying “If”)“Know that the servants use of the word “if” occurs in two types (of ways), ( a) blameworthy, (b) praiseworthy As for the blameworthy, then it is when some matter occurs from him or to him which he does not like, so he says, “If only I had done such and such it would have been such and such”, so this is from the actions of the Shaytaan, because it contains two cautioned-against matters:
The first of them: That it opens up the door of remorse and anger and sadness for him, which is desirable to be closed (in reality), and it contains no benefit in it.
The second: That this contains bad manners towards Allaah, and towards His qadr (decree), because all of the occurrences, the small amongst them and the great amongst them are by the qadaa of Allaah, and His qadr, and whatever from the affairs has occurred, then its occurrence is inevitable, and it is not possible to repel it. So it is as if, in his saying, “If it was such and such”, or “If I had done such and such, then it would have been such and such”, is a type of criticism (of al-qadr) and a type of weakness in faith in Allaah’s qadaa and qadr. And as for the praiseworthy (usage) from that, then it is that a servant says it whilst wishing for goodness, such as his (sallAllaahu `alayhi wasallam): a) “If I had formerly known what I came to know lately, I would not have brought the sacrificial animal with me. Had there been no sacrificial animal with me, I would have finished the state of lhram with you [after `Umrah]…” b) And his saying regarding the man who was desirous for goodness, “If I had the likes of what so and so has of wealth, I would do just like what so and so does with it” c) And, “If my brother Moosaa had patience [with al-Khidr] Allaah would have told us [more] of their story”. And just like when he says “(if)” wishing for goodness, then it is praiseworthy, and when he says it wishing for evil, then it is blameworthy. So the use of “(if)” is in accordance to the situation that carried (a person) to say it. If it was sadness, displeasure, and weak Imaan in al-Qadaa and al-Qadr, or wishing evil, then it is blameworthy. And if was aspiration for goodness, and directing/instructing (others), and teaching, then it is praiseworthy, and for this reason, the author (Ibn `Abdul-Wahhaab) made the tarjamah (i.e. the title of the chapter) to carry both matters (i.e. the praiseworthy and blameworthy aspect).” (al-Qawl as-Sadeed, a commentary upon Kitaab ut-Tawheed, p.173).
NOTES  Such as what be found in the statements of many of the Scholars, in the course of teaching, or instructing, or outlining affairs of the deen, an example is the saying of Shaykh ul-Islaam Ibn Taymiyyah regarding the rebellion of al-Hussain (radiyAllaahu `anhu) “And in his (i.e. al-Hussain’s) revolt and killing was such corruption which would not have occurred if he had remained seated in his (home) town”. (Minhaaj us-Sunnah 4/527). And this statement of Shaykh ul-Islaam is not out of displeasure with al-Qadaa wal-Qadr, but it is due to aspiration for goodness that was lost, and teaching and instructing and admonitioning, whilst discussing the subject of al-khurooj in general. And there are other examples that can be found in the speech of the Scholars, past and present. So as Shaykh as-Sa`dee explained, the use of the word “if” can be blameworthy and it can be praiseworthy, and he explained the nature of each one.
Also the explanation of Shaykh Ibn `Uthaymeen of this chapter will be posted below as well inshaa’Allaah to add further clarity on the prohibited and permissible forms of using “if”.
The Use of the Word “If” in Relation to al-Qadaa wal-Qadr - Ash-Shaykh Ibn `Uthaymeen
What Has Come Regarding (Saying “If”) – Shaykh Ibn `Uthaymeen said, commenting upon the chapter regarding “If”, “And the author (rahimahullaah) made the tarjamah (the title of the chapter) open-ended, and did not assert anything (in particular), because “lau (if)” is used from numerous angles:
The first angle: That it is used to criticise ash-Shar`, (the legislation), and this is unlawful, Allaah the Most High said (quoting the saying of the Hypocrites), “And if they had obeyed us, they would not have been killed…” [Aali `Imraan 3:168], in the expedition of Uhud, when `Abdullaah bin Ubay, during the journey, fell back to about a third of the army. Then when seventy men from the Muslims were taken as martyrs, the Hypocrites criticised the legislation of the Messenger (sallAllaahu `alayhi wa sallam) and said, “If they had obeyed us and returned as we had returned, they would not have been killed, so our opinion is better than the legislation of Muhammad”. So this is unlawful, and it can sometimes lead to disbelief.
The second: That it is used to criticise al-Qadr, and this is unlawful as well, Allaah the Most High said, “O you who believe! Be not like those who disbelieve (hypocrites) and who say to their brethren when they travel through the earth or go out to fight: “If they had stayed with us, they would not have died or been killed”…” [Aali `Imraan 3:156], meaning that if they had remained behind, they would not have been killed, thus, they criticised the decree of Allaah.
The third: That it is used for remorse and distress, and this is also unlawful, because everything that opens up remorse in you, then it is prohibited. This is because remorse, makes the soul acquire sadness and distress, but Allaah wishes that we are (in a state of) open-heartedness and delight. He (sallAllaahu `alayhi wa sallam) said, “Be eager for whatever benefits you, and seek help from Allaah and do not lose heart, and if anything (in the form of trouble) comes to you, don’t say: “If I had not done that, it would not have happened so and so”, but say: “Allaah did that what He had ordained to do” and “if” opens the (gate) for the work of the Shaytaan.” (Muslim, in Baab al-Qadr). An example of that is when a man is eager to buy something thinking that their will be profit in it, but he loses out, and he says, “If only I had not bought it, I would not have suffered a loss”. So this is remorse and distress, and this occurs frequently, and it has been prohibited.
The fourth: That it is employed to use al-Qadr as an argument for (one’s) disobedience, like the saying of the Mushriks, “If Allaah had so willed, we would not have associated partners…” [al-An`aam 6:148], and also their saying, “…If ar-Rahmaan had so willed, we would not have worshipped them…” [az-Zukhruf 43:20], and this is falsehood.
The fifth: That it is used in wishing (at-tamannee), and its ruling is in accordance with what is wished for, if it is for good, then it is good, and if it is for evil, then it is evil, and in the Saheeh, from the Prophet (sallAllaahu `alayhi wa sallam), in the story of the four men, one of them said, “If only I had wealth I would have done what so and so does with it” and he wished good (by this), and the second man said, “If only I had wealth I would have done what so and so does with it”, so he wished evil (by this). So the Prophet (sallAllaahu `alayhi wa sallam) said regarding the first, “He is in accordance with his intention, so their reward is the same”, and he said regarding the second, “He is in accordance with his intention, so their burden (of sin) is the same”.
The sixth: That it is used in mere information (al-khabar al-mahd), and this is permissible, such as “If I had attended the lesson, I would have benefited”, and also from it is his (sallAllaahu `alayhi wasallam’s) saying [to the Companions during Hajj], “If I had formerly known what I came to know lately, I would not have brought the sacrificial animal with me. Had there been no sacrificial animal with me, I would have finished the state of lhram with you [after `Umrah]….”, so the Prophet (sallAllaahu `alayhi wasallam) informed that had he known that this matter would occur from the Sahaabah, he would not have brought the sacrificial animal, and would have finished the state of Ihraam, and this is what is apparent to me. And some of them have said that this was from the angle of “aspiring, wishing (at-tamannee)”, as if he said, “If only I had known formerly, what I came to know lately so that I did not bring the sacrificial animal”. However, what is apparent is that he merely informed [of what he would have done had he known otherwise] on account of what he saw from his Companions, and the Prophet (sallAllaahu `alayhi wasallam) does not wish for something regarding which Allaah had already decreed something different [to it]” (p.362-363, al-Qawl ul-Mufeed).