Once in a while we come across certain type of people who portray themselves as highly knowledgeable about a particular subject but in reality are very ignorant. Usually such people are motivated through their ego and arrogance over their opponents. Sometimes they even think themselves to be some sort of authority over a subject, which they either no nothing about or know very little about.
I want to focus particularly on certain practicing Muslims who after learning a few things about their religion consider themselves as qualified for debates with those who differ with them. However, the reality is that their understanding of the religion is very limited to that of a beginner and are actually ignorant on the topic. Fortunately, there are some signs of ignorance that if a person shows during a debate or conversation can confirm that in reality this person is ignorant in his understanding of the subject:
- Contradiction – The person will contradict himself during the debate. He will say one thing at one point and say the opposite in another point of the same conversation or debate. For example, a person will say “It is haram to protest because it is an imitation of the kuffar!” but after the opposer mentions some benefits of it, he will say “Well it is permissible for men only not women.” A complete contradiction and a clear sign of ignorance.
- Personal Attacks – If a person starts going off topic and starts throwing personal attacks at you, then this is a clear sign of ignorance. This usually happens if that person cannot hold a strong argument or cannot refute an argument. Feeling helpless and defeated, he will usually throw personal attacks at you. During a religious debate, he’ll most likely point out the deficiencies in the opposer’s religious duties or personal beliefs.
- Make Random Statements – If a person starts to spit out random statements not related to the subject of the debate, then this is also a sign of ignorance. Usually in this case, the person is trying to flee from the topic as he is not knowledgeable enough to defend his position. So in order to keep his dignity and humbly admit “I don’t know” he will run into a different topic as a safe haven. This second topic will most likely be something else that the person differs with from his opponent. Usually the person tries to run into a topic he feels that he has strong arguments or proofs against his opponent. Again this is just an attempt by the ignorant person to regain his ego after a defeat on a topic he had no knowledge about.
- Change Opinions Often – If a person changes his opinions often without much thought, then most likely he is ignorant. In this case a person will hold one opinion today but in a few hours might change it completely to something else. This is a sign of ignorance and is usually associated with someone who is a “new candidate” to the game or someone who is not well grounded in his stances which goes to show that he isn’t someone who should be debating on things he himself is not sure about in the first place.
- Does Not Know Proofs – If a person cannot back his stances with proofs or his refutations of your views with proofs, then this is a sign of ignorance. Such a person will usually not be able to give you proof if you ask him for it. He will either ignore it or reinterpret some vague statement from the Quran and Sunnah to support his view. Notice I said reinterpret which means that the vast majority of scholars or the earlier scholars didn’t see it that way especially the companions. A person of this category will also use fabricated or weak reports to defend his arguments and refute yours which in reality are not proof.
- Dragging On Without Point – If a person drags on an argument without a point and does not let you speak or if so, then very rarely, then this is a sign of ignorance. Usually this person will quite often cut you off in mid-sentence and will not give you the right to make your point. And they will usually drag on an argument/debate unnecessarily without making any clear points. Basically, a person with knowledge can usually make his point in a few sentences very clearly but an ignorant has to drag on and on trying to make you THINK they’re making a point when in reality they are not! Usually such a person’s opponent starts to think to himself “What is he talking about? His conversation isn’t making any sense?!” A clear sign of ignorance.
- Lie – Believe it or not an ignorant person is not afraid to pull this move. If a person will lie flat to your face just to win the argument or make himself look superior to you so he can feed his ego, then this person is clearly ignorant. A good example in my personal life is when I asked a brother if he knew the Arabic language fluently and he answered with an immediate and confident “Yes!” Lo and behold after a few weeks he couldn’t use an Arabic word in a sentence! Not only that but he told me then that he was the same level in Arabic as I was and not fluent! So why did he lie before? Most likely just to make me feel inferior to him and have some sort of awe for him.
The above are not the only signs but a few which I personally have observed in ignorant people and/or have heard from people of knowledge on this subject. So if during a conversation or debate (provided your qualified), you find one of the above characteristics in a person, then do not waste your time because the person has no idea what he is talking about.