Amazing hadith for us:
The Prophet ﷺ said: “Let him who hears of the Dajjal (Antichrist) go far from him for I swear by Allah that a man will come to him thinking he is a believer and follow him because of confused ideas [shubuhat] roused in him by him.” [Sahih, Abu Dawud]
If there is any word to describe it, our time is the time of shubuhat.
We might wonder, how could anyone who believes in Allah follow the Dajjal? The answer is in this hadith. Many of his followers will think of themselves as believers. But they won’t actually be believers. They will be deluded by shubuhat, confused ideas, doubts, baseless conjecture, which will take them off the straight path and into the depths of the fire. They will think that following the Antichrist is the path of righteousness and belief, when in fact it will be the opposite.
Also, the Prophet ﷺ tells us that the shubuhat will come from the Dajjal. The Dajjal will use these ideas as a weapon. This tells us that we are all liable to be confused by certain ideas and arguments. Ideas are not neutral. Ideas are not just academic bluster only fit for the halls of the university. Many ideas are poisonous and can cause disastrous confusion even for the most well-intentioned believer if he is not vigilant.
So how does one protect oneself from these confusions? Well, awareness is the first step as represented by this hadith, as well as fleeing from the Dajjal himself. Then there is Surat al-Kahf, which the Prophet ﷺ said would be a protection for him who memorizes and recites it. And there is more which the ulama speak of.
As far as shubuhat, we need to work to rid ourselves of them and this is done first and foremost by sticking with the jama`a. The jama`a doesn’t mean the majority today. It means the majority of ulama throughout time.
I increasingly see Muslim speakers and intellectuals today say things like, “This is the view of the 4 imams and the consensus of the classical scholars, but they were mistaken and the correct view for our time is X.” When you see this, run the other way. Because the lone sheep is eaten by the wolf. This is the hallmark of shubuhat. If you want your mind to be safe from the call of the Antichrist, mentally hold onto the consensus, established positions, even though holding onto them may feel to you like holding onto burning coal.
Even if you don’t understand those positions or they make you feel uncomfortable… especially if they make you feel uncomfortable, that’s the sign that you need to cling to them even tighter. Don’t seek alternatives. Don’t look for something more palatable to “modern” sensibilities. Don’t search for something that is more respectable to the majority of people nowadays. That is the clear path to ruin in times of shubuhat.
May Allah save us from that.
NB: This advice does not mean we “close our minds” and depart from (true) rational thinking. But we have to have a safety net. If what we think is rational thinking is taking us to views that diverge from what the vast majority of scholars maintained, that is not rational thinking. Why? Because we are not more rational than the ulama of our tradition. We are not even close to their level of understanding, insight, and sheer “brainpower” to put it in contemporary terms. Anything that would make us think otherwise is pure delusion. So, if there is some line of thinking or discourse that will help us hold on more firmly to the Shari`a as elucidated by our forebears, that’s great. We need more of that. But the kind of thinking and faux rationality that distances us from them and their views, that is calamitous.