What does fard al-kifayah mean? Will you explain it? Is working and learning ilm (knowledge/science) fard al-kifayah?

Details of the Question
What does fard al-kifayah mean? Will you explain it? Is working and learning ilm (knowledge/science) fard al-kifayah?
The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

Fard al-kifayah: The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said,

"Seeking knowledge is fard or every believing man and woman."(1)

Islamic scholars divide ilm (knowledge) into two as "fard al-ayn" and "fard al-kifayah" acting upon religious evidence. (2)

After classifying "fard al-ayn" and "fard al-kifayah" ilms, Ibn Abidin made the following determination:

Fard al-ayn is better than fard al-kifayah. For, fard al-ayn was rendered fard for the right of the soul. It is more important and difficult for the soul. Fard al-kifayah is not like that. It was rendered fard for the right of the public. If something becomes for public, it gets easier; if it becomes personal, it gets more difficult. Other scholars say fard al-kifayah is better. For, fulfilling fard al-kifayah saves the whole ummah. If it is abandoned, everybody who can do it becomes a sinner. It is definite that a fard that has this quality will be superior. However, according to the report of Tahtawi, the first view (that fard al-ayn is better) is regarded reliable."(3)

Imam Burhanuddin Az Zarnuji states the following:

"It is fard for every Muslim to learn the information/knowledge about the things that occur in his current state no matter what his situation is. For, it is obligatory for a Muslim to perform prayers. Therefore, it is fard for him to learn the knowledge about the conditions and parts of the prayer that will be enough for him to perform the fard prayers. Similarly, it is wajib for him to learn the knowledge that is necessary to perform fard deeds. For, it is fard to learn the knowledge that serves to fulfill fard and it is wajib to learn the knowledge that serves to fulfill wajib."(4)

Thus, he expressed an important subtlety. It is fard for every responsible Muslim to learn the knowledge about the things related to his state. For instance, the knowledge about zakah and hajj is not fard for a believer who is poor. However, if the same believer obtains property that is more than the amount of nisab, it becomes fard al-ayn for him to learn the knowledge about zakah. It is fard for the Muslims whose land is invaded or who are in minority to learn the decrees about congregation and jihad.

It is haram to learn ilms rendered haram by Shari’ah like magic, sorcery, fortune telling and, philosophy, and to drive people away from the line of oneness with them. However, it is permissible to learn them in order to prevent their harms.

It is fard to learn ilms that are fard al-ayn; it is also fard to act in accordance with them. The following glad tiding of the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) is clear:

"If a person acts in accordance with what he knows, Allah will teach him what he does not know."(5)

It is makruh to learn ilm in order to defeat one’s rivals in debates and arguments, and in order to satisfy one’s soul. It is not permissible to learn ilm with the motive of worldly greed and ambition.

When a person who has ilm is asked by a responsible Muslim, he cannot hide his ilm. It is certain that the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said,

"On the Day of Judgment, Allah will bridle a person who is asked something but who hides his knowledge with a bridle made of fire."(6)

According to Hanafis, it is mandub and mustahab to take a child who is abandoned. It is fard al-kifayah to take an abandoned child who risks death if he is left where he is and it is fard al-ayn to take him if only that person has seen him. According to the other three madhhabs, it fard al-kifayah to take an abandoned child and it is fard al-ayn to take an abandoned child who risks death. (7)

“Let there arise out of you a band of people inviting to all that is good, enjoining what is right, and forbidding what is wrong; they are the ones to attain felicity.” (Aal-i Imran, 3/104)

The verse above encumbers a responsibility on believers. This responsibility is to tell people by all means about the good and bad values determined by Allah Almighty Himself, or by the Prophet in accordance with His revelation or by people of certain qualities making use of these two resources. This duty is the most honorable and valuable duty of the world. If there had been a more valuable duty, Allah would have appointed His prophets, whom He created as distinguished slaves, to do it.

When tafsir scholars dealt with this verse in general, they insistently mentioned that this duty was fard al-kifayah in the religious sense. This decree, which was made acting upon the meaning of “some” of the preposition “min” in the word “minkum”, should make every believer think deeply. For, it is a fact accepted by everybody that the number of the people who are aware and conscious of this duty is very low.   In addition, some tafsir scholars say that if there is no group that fulfills this responsibility encumbered by the verse, the duty of enjoining what is good and forbidding what is evil is fard al-ayn.  This shows that the duty that is mentioned is included in the scope of individual responsibilities like prayers, fasting and zakah.

If a community does not bring up guides for conquest armies, mentors for artists, and businessmen and pioneers for all vital issues with its scholars, intellectuals and qualified staff, this community is paralyzed and it is unlucky in terms of future. Therefore, knowing the conditions that are necessary for the worldly affairs to run in a balanced way is regarded as “fard al-kifayah”; and a community in which they are left is regarded as a sinful community. Along with the purity of its conscience, depth of its knowledge and sincerity of its worshipping, a community, as Imam Ghazali puts it, needs to have masters, or in today’s understanding, experts in all jobs from shoemaking to textile, from farming to all branches of industry.

Therefore, a community whose individuals have not reached inner brightness and conscientious purity cannot be innocent; similarly, a community that cannot embrace everything from art to trade, from agriculture to military and the finest details of technology - by distribution of work - is not innocent. 


1. Al Ajluni-Kashful Khafa-Beirut: 1351-2, Vol: 2, p: 43, Had. No: 1665, also Imam Sarakhsi-Al Mabsut-Beirut: nd, Vol: 1, p: 2.
2. Ibn Abidin-Raddul Muhtar Alad Durri'l Mukhtar-İst: 1982, Şamil Publications. Vol: 1, p: 40
3. Ibn Abidin ibid, Vol: 1, p: 41 (Warning part).
4. Imam Burhanuddin Az Zarnuji-Ta'limul Mutaallim-İst: 1980, Çağrı Publications. p: 9.
5. Al Ajluni-Kashful Khafa-Beirut: 1351-2, Vol: 2, p: 265, Hd. No: 2542.
6. Sunani Abu Dawud-İst: 1401, Çağrı Publications. Vol: 4, p: 67-68, Hd. No: 3568.
7. Qasani, ibid, VI/198; Ibnul-Humam, ibid, VI/110; Ibn Qudama, al-Kafi, Beirut 1402/1982, II/363; Ibn Rushd, Bidayatul-Mujtahid, İstanbul 1985, II/259; Shirbini, ibid, II/418; M. Shaltut, al-Fatawa, Beirut 1403/1983. p. 219; Mustafa Shalabi, Ahkamul- Usra, Beirut 1397/1977, p. 709.

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