So it is [a must] for him to actualise this aayah, “So ask the people of the message if you do not know.”
For the example of these people who are not from the people of knowledge or from those capable of passing verdicts and yet have the audacity to [actually] issue religious verdicts [fatwas] is like that of the man who the Prophet عليه السلام supplicated against by asking Allaah the Mighty and Majestic to destroy him because he passed a religious verdict which led to the death of an innocent Muslim soul.
You know this hadith which Abu Dawud reported in his Sunan, that the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم sent out an expedition where they fought, evening came and went and in the morning one of them got up after having had a wet dream, he also had a great many wounds on his body. He asked the people with him if they thought he had a concession not to take a bath from ritual impurity. They replied saying that he must take a bath, so he did but died.
When news of this reached Allaah’s Messenger صلى الله عليه وسلم he supplicated against him [i.e., against the one who issued the verdict], saying, “They killed him, may Allaah kill them! Why did they not ask if they did not know? Verily, the cure for ignorance is to ask …” The student of knowledge must always and forever keep this hadith before his eyes so that he does not dare to deliver a religious verdict and so be afflicted with the same thing that the man whom the Prophet supplicated against was afflicted with, when he supplicated that Allaah the Blessed and Most High kill him.
And from what has preceded it comes to light that the bad consequences of being bold in giving fatwas affect the mufti firstly, and the one whom the ruling applies to, secondly.
Thus, once this meaning has established itself in the students of knowledge who have not attained familiarity with the Book and the Sunnah and [nor with] following up the statements of the Imaams and comparing them and choosing the strongest one amongst them, but [who have] only [learnt] how to say, ‘I think such and such … I understand it to be like this …’—then let these people free themselves from/avoid both of these calamities which I just pointed to: firstly, that they themselves fall into a mistake, and [secondly] that they cause others to err.
And that is [achieved] by asking the people of knowledge and after that it is not their responsibility as to whether the one who issued the fatwa was mistaken or not. Because if he is correct, then how excellent, and if he made a mistake then the sin is on the one who issued it–so instead of him bearing the responsibility himself because he gave a verdict without knowledge and [as a result also] embroiled [in the problem] the one he gave the verdict to, [a verdict] not based upon knowledge, let him leave that sin for someone else …
And this does not mean that our youth, in their asking the people of knowledge, do not try to seek information about one scholar or another–between a mere claimant to knowledge and a true scholar, between a scholar of a madhhab and those ignorant of the Book and the Sunnah, and this is another issue.
What is important is that he asks those in whose knowledge and religion he trusts, when he does so he will not fall into the problem which that person who gave the verdict that the injured Companion had to take a bath fell into, and because of his ignorance of the Sunnah, he did not give the [correct] fatwa that it was [in fact] permissible for him to perform tayammum because water was harmful to him. And it really did harm him and was the cause of his death.
So this is a statement [I’ve made] and maybe I’ve prolonged it but I hope that Allaah the Mighty and Majestic will give us the tawfiq to act upon beneficial knowledge and that He makes us aware of our own worth and that He does not make us from those who are self-conceited, for self-importance is a pitfall, there being no greater trap than it.
Al-Hudaa wan-Noor, 181.