Disrespecting the Ulama

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Beware Poison!

Assalamu `alaykum

I have kept my silence on this issue for some time, but I feel the time has come for me to say something. Let us stop, pause and re-examine our hearts and intentions. Let us ask ourselves why we are doing what we are doing. The Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) told Mu`adh ibn Jabal, "Is there anything which drags people into the Fire on their faces other than the harvest of their tongues?" And, it is established that he said, "Whoever believes in Allah and the last day, let him say [something] good or keep silent. And, it is narrated that he advised `Uqbah ibn `Amir, "Hold your tongue, let your house contain you, and weep over your misdeeds." Imam al-Ghazzali in Ihya `Ulum al-Din, has a copious section on the Vices of the Tongue.

Brothers and sisters! I exhort you! Before you say, write or post anything, sincerely ask yourself if it is for the sake of Allah, or there is some personal motive [HaZZ al-nafs] present. I don't think any of us is above such caution, for indeed we might often be caught up in the fury of a debate, or overcome by the zeal of wanting to defend a certain issue or idea, to the extent that we lose our focus and perspective. Indeed, so much so that we might take ourselves to the brink of a cliff, ready to hurl ourselves precipitously over the edge, to plunge into the Fire although we perceive not! This is a devious ploy of Satan, whereby he misleads the unwary into transgression through the doors of knowledge and virtue. None is immune from this save those whom Allah has blessed with perspicuous insight and precise scrutiny such that they distance themselves from these temptations. One of the savants said that the pious one scrutinizes himself more intensely than a distrustful and suspicious business partner scrutinizes his comrade.

Allah, the Exalted has ordered us in the Qur'an to respect the dignity of one another in our interaction and speech, saying (translated), "O you who believe! Let not a people make fun of another people; it may be that [the latter] are better than [the former]. Nor defame one another, nor be call one another by [offensive] nicknames . . . . and do not spy on one another, nor backbite one another. Would one you love to eat the flesh of his dead brother? Nay! You abhor it! Fear Allah." [Surah al-Hujurat] "And tell My servants that they should say that which is good. Indeed, Satan will sow dissension amongst them. Indeed, Satan is a plain enemy to man." [Surah al-Isra]

And He, the Mighty, the Majestic, has commanded justice, saying, (translated), "O you who believe! Be establishers of justice, even if it be against your own selves, or parents or near-of-kin." [Surah al-Nisa'] ""And let not your hatred of a people lead you to not be just; be just it is closer to piety. And fear Allah." [Surah al-Ma'idah]

And, the Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) has said, "Whoever covers [the faults of] a believer, Allah will cover his faults on the Day of Arising." [authentic, Riyad al-Saliheen]

And, the distinguished historian and Hafiz, Ibn `Asakir of Damascus, has similarly cautioned against letting our tongues loose against the scholars. He said, "Know, brother, that the flesh of scholars is poisonous [i.e. whoever backbites them is liable to poisoning, for the Qur'an likens backbiting to eating the flash of one's dead brother], and the Way of Allah concerning those who insult them is well-known. So, whoever insults the scholars of this ummah by his tongue, Allah will afflict him in this [very] world by death of the heart."

Why is it that we will take the greatest of pains to defend our own scholars, and keep stressing that the criticisms of them are often unfounded, and that it is essential to refer back the person's own works, and to overlook mistakes, . . . . and yet when we disagree with some positions of another scholar, we fall into that which we were cautioning other against. We are judgemental, cruel, harsh and insulting. We resort to ad hominem attacks, trying to attack the person's dignity and personality rather than focussing on discussing the ideas involved. Telling a man that his wife is ugly will not win you a debate against him. "Do you command people towards righteousness, and forget your own selves, although you are the ones reading the Scripture? Will you then not understand?" [Surah al-Baqarah]

We concentrate on all the evil we can dig out and ignore much good. We make the arguments of scholars our personal concern, as if we are at their level! We forget that a well-established principle among the scholars of Accreditation and Disreputation is that criticism of a scholar generally cannot be taken from his contemporaries or those with whom he differs in some aspects of approach and methodology, due to the possibility of bias and jealousy. The examples of this are well-known to those who have some familiarity with the field, and we need not drag the names of some of the most prominent scholars of this ummah through the mud merely to illustrate this point. Indeed, some people would be surprised if we were to present some of the faults of those men, may Allah have mercy upon them and forgive them, and reward them for their good. The scholars are human beings, who have faults and weaknesses, and we should try to overlook these and to take what is good from them.

Have we finished with criticizing and refuting the depraved and wretched people of heresy, such as the Qadianis and Bahais, and other people of disbelief and misguidance such as the Jews and the Christians, such that we have nothing better to do than to let loose our tongues upon the Muslims, to direct our fire at them, and to gloat over their faults? Not that we should ignore the refutation of evil and innovation; rather, we should observe appropriate limits and etiquettes in doing so. Let us teach, educate and inform people about the essentials of worship and monetary transactions, of marriage and divorce, of good character and avoidance of vice, of cases of Muslim suffering, struggle and persecution and other global concerns, before we start exposing them to the debates of scholars over peripheral issues such as tawassul, and finer points of doctrine and jurisprudence.

Allah's help is to entreated, and in Him is reliance to be placed.

Article taken (with Thanks) from Suheil Laher



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This page was last updated on June 14, 2003 .