Monday, October 25, 2004

Speaking Ill of Scholars

Speaking Ill of Scholars

Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim
Alhamdulillahir Rabi'yal 'alamin wa salatu wa salamu 'ala rasul'illah Sayiduna Muhammad wa 'ala ahlihi wa sahbihi wa salaam

Several years ago, I asked Sidi Faraz Rabbani how our beloved scholars feel when they are attacked and slandered online. His response, which has always stuck with me, is that the shayukh only care about how Allah thinks of them. Subhan'Allah. Many of you have been honored to sit in the presence of our shayukh and teachers, and witnessed their humility, their kindness, and, most importantly, their constant dhikr of Allah ta'ala. Islam has traditionally stressed seeking knowledge with the shayukh. Not just for what they can tell you is contained or meant by the words in a book, but because you learn just as much by observing their mannerisms. Our beloved Messenger, sallalahu aleyhi wa salaam, said that he was sent to perfect character. Our scholars are his inheritors, and we have many examples and narrations throughout history until today of our shayukh and teachers, men and women, striving to observe the highest etiquette and to model it for their students

The scholars of this diyn, the men and women who have put their lives into studying it, so that they might pass the knowledge on to others, deserve a certain amount of respect from the rest of us. Not because they are worth more as human beings, but because they have done something, sacrificed of their time, perhaps sacrificed a more financially lucrative way of life, in order to serve the Ummah and the rest of humanity. This doesn't mean you're going to get along with every scholar, or that your personality will mesh with his, it's just simple adab. Your parents are due a certain amount of adab, as are your fellow Muslims, as well, regardless of gender or status.

Those of us born and raised in the West have been inculcated in a culture that encourages a certain degree of iconoclasm. A popular sticker commands us to "Question Authority." There are some in the Ummah who believe it is their God-given right to question everything a scholar teaches, even if, or especially if, the questioning is done in vulgarity, poor taste, or with a certain degree of hostility. They say that the followers of Traditional Islam don't want us to question anything, but to blindly follow the teachers and accept what we are spoon fed, and they say that this gives them the right to say whatever they want, however they want, about those teachers, as well as their students.

Does the seeking of sacred knowledge in a traditional setting demand blind following on the part of the student? It does not. It does demand, however, that we enter into the student-teacher setting with love and respect, just out of regard for our mutual status as Muslims. Questioning and asking for clarification, in this atmosphere, is far from "wrong," it is encouraged. The great scholar and companion Ibn Abbas (Allah be pleased with him) was asked how he attained unto so much knowledge and he said, "By a questioning tongue and an ever-sharp mind."

It is an oft-repeated proverb that we owe our brother and sister Muslim seventy excuses for bad behavior. Whatever you think you see or hear him or her doing, you give them an excuse. And then another, and then another. You inquire about the matter quietly, in private, so that they are not humiliated or slandered. You allow for the possibility that you did not see or hear what you thought you saw or heard, because you allow for the possibility that you are not as perfect or intelligent as your nafs wants you to believe you are. You allow for the possibility that shayukh and teachers make mistakes, misspeak, have bad days, and get angry just like any other human being does. We all know that when we make mistakes or say things that are misunderstood, we don't want to be humiliated in public for it. How can you expect the consideration of seventy excuses to be given to you if you don't extend it to others first?
Slander, backbiting, and tale bearing are all serious matters about which Allah subhannahu wa ta'ala has given grave warnings.

"Those who slander such of the Believers as give themselves freely to (deeds of) charity, as well as those who give according to their means, -- and throw ridicule on them -- Allah will throw back their ridicule on them: and they shall have a grievous chastisement."
(Surat al Taubah, 79)

The Messenger of Allah (sallalahu aleyhi wa salaam) also had very strong words for those who engage in this talk. For example:

"The most prevalent kind of usury [riba] is going to lengths in talking unjustly against a Muslim's honor." (Abu Dawud)

"O community of people who believed by their tongue, while belief has not entered their hearts: Do not backbite Muslims, and do not search for their faults, for if anyone searches for their faults, Allah will search for his fault, and if Allah searches for the fault of anyone, He disgraces him in his house." (Abu Dawud)

Our reputations are sacrosanct in Islam. Unfortunately, it is so easy to wag the tongue, and many of us do not understand the damage that can be done with one sentence, one conversation, one article, until it's too late. May Allah ta'ala forgive us all for the damage we have caused, inadvertently or otherwise.


Blogger Flanstein said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

5:16 PM  
Blogger izzymo said...

Thank you for writing this article. It is good for Muslims to know that whether we agree or disagree with any of the ulema, we can approach them with love and respect as we would like to receive; not with sarcasm and hubris.

1:14 AM  
Blogger Follower of Allah said...

I feel the same way the scholars do, I care only what Allah thinks of me. I know scholars well enough to know that they not only do not all agree with each other. Islam has a tradition of diversity of thought that is not being respected today in that if a scholar disagrees with the conservative view, he is disrespected by other scholars. I have seen this happen many times.

We are encouraged to have a fantasy of scholars, but the best ones know that they are the not the holders of knowledge, Allah is, and their time will pass, while He is eternal. Having been born into the beautiful deen and having complied with His command to learn and study for yourself, I consider it the duty of every Muslim to question. Even the Sahaba questioned. Some of the laws we have come from questioning.

"You shall not accept any information, unless you verify it for yourself. I have given you the hearing, the eyesight, and the brain, and you are responsible for using them." [Qu'ran 17:36]

Follow Allah in all things.


4:02 PM  
Blogger Rumi_UK said...

Diversity of opinions yes, but rejection of the fundamental sources of Islam (which include not only the Qur'an but its EXPLANATION, recorded in the Hadith literature) - NO.

Islam is a big house. You can enjoy the beauty of any of its rooms. But it still has four outer walls, a roof and a great big door. To enter, you just need to say "There is none worthy of worship but God, and Muhammad is the Messenger of God". The house of Islam also has exits, and those are hard to find. Yet some people insist on throwing themselves out of the window...

Rejecting the Hadiths doesn't help you to worship God alone. No, it just makes you ignorant.

Want to know what gave you away? It's the dodgy translation of that verse. If you know Arabic, it should be obvious just how inaccurate it is. Try consulting translations done by mainstream Muslims!

9:15 PM  

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