The subject matter of this treatise is one of great importance, for the aspects of the Days of Ignorance have not ceased to be acted upon till this very day. And the people that call towards these misguided beliefs and practices of the Days of Ignorance are many, such as the innovators and the people of desire.
The word Masaa'il here refers to the various Aspects the people of the Days of Ignorance were upon from beliefs, actions, sayings, practices, ideologies and customs. The word Al-Jaahiliyyah (Days of Ignorance) is a term that refers to the period of time before the advent of Islaam. It is derived from the word al-jahl, which means ignorance, because the aspects that the people of these pre-Islamic times were upon were either not based on any source of guidance or they were from previous revelations that had been corrupted and altered. So Allaah attributed this name to this point in time, out of dispraise for what its people were upon from beliefs, actions and methodology. And He did not mention it once in His Glorious Book, except that He condemned and repudiated it, as is evident in the following four ayaat, which are the only times the word Al-Jaahiliyyah occurs in the Noble Qur'aan:
"And they thought wrongly of Allaah - the thoughts of Al-Jaahiliyyah (The Days of Ignorance)." [Surah Aali 'Imraan: 154]
"Do they then seek the judgement of Al-Jaahiliyyah (the Days of Ignorance)? And who is better in judgement than Allaah for a people who have firm Faith." [Surat-ul-Maa'idah: 50]
"And remain in your houses and do not openly display yourselves like that of the previous times of Al-Jaahiliyyah (Days of Ignorance)." [Surat-ul-Ahzaab: 33]
"When those who disbelieve had put in their hearts, pride and haughtiness - the pride and haughtiness of Al-Jaahiliyyah (Days of Ignorance)." [Surat-ul-Fat'h: 26]
So the time and environment in which the Messenger of Allaah, (صلى الله علیه وسلم), was sent to was founded upon ignorance. It was a time in which the people of the Arab peninsula were praying to statues and idols, supplicating to deceased humans, burying their newborn daughters alive, clans carried out feuds for years, and owners would beat their slaves severely. This was the point in time where guidance was not to be found, and those who held the books once revealed by Allaah, had changed them in order to acquire a small gain in this worldly life. Thus the people did not know the truth from falsehood, and because of this, they created many practices and incorporated many beliefs of which Allaah sent no authority for. These practices and beliefs were what the Prophet, (صلى الله علیه وسلم), was challenged with when he came with the guidance and the Religion of truth. So Allaah commanded His Messenger to oppose and contradict the disbelievers in what they were upon from beliefs and actions, except for that which He allowed to continue.
So the Days of Ignorance became the opposite of Islaam. The author of this book, Imaam Muhammad Ibn 'Abdil-Wahhaab, rahimahullaah, indicates this valuable point in the introduction of his treatise, saying:
"This is since with (understanding) one side of the opposite, the goodness of the other side of the opposite can be made apparent. And it is by (making apparent the) opposite of something that matters become clarified."
So if one studies one side of the opposite, which is the aspects of the Days of Ignorance, in this case, he can better appreciate and understand the other side of the opposite, which is Islaam. This is since the message of Islaam came to eradicate many of the false and misguided practices and beliefs popular amongst the people of that time and location. Therefore, it is hoped that the reader can better understand what Islaam consists of, by seeing what it's opposite - the Days of Ignorance - was about.
Although, the Days of Ignorance consisted of disbelievers, due to the lack of Islaam having arrived to its people at that time, its beliefs and practices are universal. Thus, today, we may even find Muslims adhering to these practices and beliefs, which the disbelievers were upon before the advent of Islaam. But yet, they don't realize it and mix it in with Islaam, thinking it to be part of the religion. So if such an individual was to read and study this treatise and see that the practice he holds as being part of the Religion, such as praying to graves, for instance, was in fact something that was adhered to by the disbelieving folk of the Days of Ignorance, it is then that he can truly understand its evil nature and avoid it.
Imaam Ibn 'Abd-il-Wahhaab, rahimahullaah, lists over a hundred different aspects that the people of the Days of Ignorance were upon, but this does not mean by far, that they are limited to just this number, for there are hundreds more than can be mentioned. Rather, we must understand that he wrote this treatise firstly in reference to his lifetime, a little more than two hundred years ago. So he was warning against some of the beliefs and practices that were rampant amongst the Muslims around his time, which resembled or were in fact taken from the Days of Ignorance./P>
For example, the Prophet, (صلى الله علیه وسلم), said:
"Contradict the polytheists - trim the moustaches and grow the beard." 
In this hadeeth, there is clear proof for opposing a practice that the people of the Days of Ignorance were upon, however the author, rahimahullaah, has not listed it in this book of his. Perhaps this is due to the fact that, for the most, the people of his time adhered to this Prophetic Sunnah and thus there was not a strong need to warn them. Allaah knows best.
Consequently, this book is of the utmost importance even to this day, since many of the aspects that the people of the Days of Ignorance were upon are continuing to be put into practice and effect in this day and age throughout the Muslim lands. But the concern is not with the disbelievers that continue to adhere to them, but rather with the Muslims that have blindly adopted these aspects and consider them to be part of the Religion.
Some of these aspects include blind following, dividing and splitting up in the Religion, failure to obey the person of authority, fanaticism for one's group, taking the graves of righteous people as places of worship and speaking about Allaah without knowledge. And all of these aspects listed above are still present today amongst the Muslims, and refuge is sought with Allaah.
We ask Allaah that He grant the Muslims that read this treatise the ability to reflect upon these aspects of the Days of Ignorance that Islaam came to eradicate. And that if their actions or beliefs resemble the actions or beliefs mentioned among these aspects, that they avoid them and instead adhere to their opposites, which consist of the pure Religion of Allaah. Verily, He is the One we Entrust for that and the One who is Able to grant it.
Isma'eel Alarcon on May 23, 2001
for The Salafi Society of North America.
 Reported by Al-Bukhaaree and Muslim. See Irwaa-ul-Ghaleel of Al-Albaanee (pg. 77).