Answered by: Shaykh ‘Ali ibn Khudayr al-Khudayr

Source: as-Salafiyyin forum

Question: Is there or is there not an excuse of ignorance in ‘aqidah? And if there is an excuse of ignorance can we say that his deeds have not become worthless due to his ignorance or is it that his deeds have become worthless?

Answer: In the section of major shirk there is no excuse of ignorance by ijma’. The ijma’ regarding this was mentioned by ibnul-Qayyim in “Tariq al-Hijratayn” and it was transferred by the aimmah of the da’wah. So anyone who falls into major shirk such as sacrificing to other than Allah, or seeking refuge in the awliya or those in the graves, or legislates a law, and so on, then he is a mushrik even if he was ignorant, or had a tawil, or was mistaken.

Ibn Taymiyyah said in his fatawa (37-20/38), “The label of shirk is established before [the coming] of the Message due to him committing shirk with his Lord.” The meaning of the words of ibn Taymiyyah here is that one is labeled and called a mushrik whenever he commits shirk with his Lord, even “before [the coming] of the Message,” meaning, even if he was ignorant.

If you want a detailed explanation regarding this matter, then I mentioned it in my following books:

1) Kitab ar-Risalah al-Mutamimmah li-Kalam Aimmah ad-Da’wah fil-Jahl fi ash-Shirk al-Akbar

2) Kitab al-Jama’ wat-Tajrid Sharh Kitab at-Tawhid, Chapter: al-Khawf min ash-Shirk

3) Kitab at-Tawdih at-Tatammat ‘ala Kashf ash-Shubahat, fi ar-Rubu’ al-Awl minhu

As for matters that are apparent, that which is generally known, then the one who does not live between the Muslimin and is a far away desert, or just left kufr, or lives and grew up in the lands of the kuffar is excused if he was ignorant or had a tawil until he comes to know.

As for matters that are hidden, that which is not generally known except by the scholars or in specific cases, then there is an excuse of ignorance and tawil until he shows obstinate rejection and his doubt is removed. This mostly occurs in a time when there is widespread ignorance.

There is no difference in the matters mentioned of apparent or hidden with regards to matters of ‘aqidah or matters of fiqh and ahkam, all of them are treated equally as one.

As for the issue of deeds becoming worthless then this relates to death and what one dies upon due to His (ta’ala) saying, “And whoever of you leaves his din [to disbelief] and dies while he is a disbeliever – for those, their deeds have become worthless in this world and the Hereafter, and those are the companions of the Fire, they will abide therein eternally.”