What distinguishes Islam from all other religions, including it’s prior manifestations before the coming of Muhammed (saw), is it’s insistence on rational thought.
For when the Messenger (saw) left us, he left us with two things the Quran and his Sunnah.
And it is the Quran that insists from the outset that there is no doubt, or contradiction therein (S2 Baqara, v2), and by these very first intimations declares the necessity of trying to rationally understand it.
And then within the same stanza suggests that rationality can compass the belief in the unseen.
We are rational beings.
And Islam was revealed in truth, just as the cosmos was created in truth (S Anam 6, V73).
And belief is both intelligent, and nuanced (sophisticated).
Then the duty falls to each and every one of us that we must attempt to use our rational faculties when we consider the precepts of our beautiful religion.
Whilst at the same time recognising that rationality is limited as are all things including belief. For our belief is, by its very definition, incomplete and unfulfilled.
Thus we should exercise this duty when any man stands on a pulpit and speaks, just as you should here and now as I speak. For how else can we hold those to account, who are over us.
Appeals to authority, by for example the Khateeb quoting the opinion of a celebrated forbear, should no less escape our scrutiny. For did not some of the acclaimed companions hold that Abu Bakr (as) was chosen because he was the one who best knew the Quran.
Below are some of the tools that you should acquaint yourself with before so doing, and questions that you must at all times be ready to ask.
In no particular order..
1- Whenever anyone references a Hadith, consider simply is it a specific Hadith or a general Hadith.
If it cannot be taken generally, then understand that it is specific to it’s circumstance.
2- Can you find counter examples from what you already know of the
Messenger of Allah and his Seerah.
The search for counter examples is a necessary tool to shore up truth, and then to uncover those things on which you should not rely.
The search for counter examples should always precedes the search for backing evidence. As with all things we tend to want to conform, want to agree and find the best in all things. Whilst this sentiment is beautiful, it should only follow once we have determined an element of truth through the search for counter examples yielding no brake.
3- Is it reasonable?
Consider the consequence of the speakers approach.
When his demand is taken to its logical extension, does it still stand the test of reasonableness?
4- Is it of benefit? And to whom?
5- Does the proponent practise what he preaches?
6- All of are past predecessors have agreed that whilst rationality is to be lauded, it has its bounds. And we should all be careful to know those bounds. So whilst Allah t’ala loves the intelligent believer, when you come across a thing that you cannot comprehend, submit yourself in full humility to The Most Gracious, even as David (as) submitted with the litigants or King Solomon (as) submitted on listening to the speech of the ants.
Allah t’ala loves the strong who humble themselves before Him, more so than the weak who also humble themselves.
Know that Islam is resplendent with questions just begging to be asked, just as is the Quran.
If contemplation does not yield fruit, then do not give up. Sometimes people spend years contemplating one verse, or one stanza and keep coming back to it.
Persist, and make Jihad with the Quran, even as was the first command to do so.
I hope that these six things can help you make sense of all the different opinions that you hear daily.
And to disagree with something that someone has said it is not necessary for there to be an argument between you both.
Everyone is entitled to their opinion, just as everyone is entitled to have their opinion questioned, even that is when they shroud it as fact, or the opinion of another. Context is everything.
And when someone says something that is at odds with your understanding of the religion, do not blindly accept it, even if its impact on your religion is negligible.
Many small things adding up together can be substantial.
Instead consider and weigh it using the above six steps as a guide. And then either reject it, or accept it.
Allah t’ala is the guide of us all, and if He guides us then none can cause us to stray, but if He leaves us to stray then none can guide us.
And He blessed us with rationality and told us of our original capacity to name things, and then gave us a sound source of knowledge.
But we must use our intellect to fathom it, and never give up trying to understand it.
And that is the reason that the Messenger (saw) was the seal of the Prophets, and that none would come following on from him.
May Allah t’ala guide us all, forgive us all, bless us all and put love between us all, even when we disagree with one another. Ameen.
What I have said here is my opinion. If it is wrong then that wrong belongs to me.
Knowledge is sought through study and contemplation, not via lectures, nor speeches, nor this above.