I remember a professor once described to our class the four categories of people.  Even though the topic was related to science, I feel it also applies to Islam and the knowledge we possess.  Read the following categories of people and think about which category best suits you.  Without further ado:

1.       Unconsciously Incompetent – This person would be the individual that does not know anything, yet he does not realize he doesn’t know anything.  People in this category tend to jump to make conclusions about Islam and they convey their thoughts and fatwas to others.  Unfortunately, this category probably entails the largest amount of people as everyone thinks of themselves as knowledgeable in Islam.  The masses consider their Islamic knowledge to be sufficient.  However, the reality is, many of us have little to no formal Islamic education.  How can we think we are knowledgeable about Tafseer, Hadith, Fiqh or any other Islamic-related matter when we are probably at a fifth-grade level in our Islamic comprehension? 

2.       Consciously Incompetent – This group of people would include the category of people who do not anything and they know they do not know anything.  Many times, this is the category for the beginner student of knowledge who will quickly realize this is the category that best suits him or her.  We need to learn how much knowledge there is out there for us to learn in terms of Islam.  People with little to no formal Islamic education often times realize their place at the bottom of the food-chain in terms of knowledge.  The masses will often ask these people their Islamic questions, but the people in this category will often refuse to answer or answer with a simple, “Allahu Alim.”   As the saying goes, the more you learn, the more you learn how little you know.

3.       Consciously Competent – This group of people are those that are knowledgeable and they know it.  I would argue that this is the category our ulema (scholars) fall into.  They have formal Islamic education and they have been trained in various Islamic sciences.  These people impart knowledge onto others since they know they have been blessed with such a beautiful thing.

4.       Unconsciously Competent – This is a very small group of people.  It includes those people that know and they know it subconsciously.  Knowledge is natural to them.  I would classify the biggest scholars of Islam into this category.  For the muhaddith of the faqih, knowledge is second-nature to them even though they are quite humbled by the enormous blessing that has been bestowed upon them by the Mercy of Allah (SWT).

Now ask yourself, which category are YOU in?

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