Asslamo Allaikum Wa Rahmatullahi Wa Barakatuh,
In Islam, the Ulama enjoy a (well deserved) special status worthy of respect, admiration and emulation, Masha’Allah. It is critical for Islam to be preserved in the future generations for us to continue to honour (and look upto) our Ulama which will motivate people to continue to send their children to institutes of Islamic knowledge to drink from the fountain of knowledge.
Each year thousands get motivated by listening to the Qur’aan of the Huffadh during Taraweeh and send their little ones to memorise the book of Allah (SWT); a rich tradition which is to continue until the day of judgement and may Allah (SWT) give us and our generations the ability to partake from this blessed tradition (Ameen).
However, the modus operandi of gaining knowledge in our times has somewhat changed from the times of Sayyidina Rasul-ulllah (Sallallaho Alaihe Wassallam). Some of the greatest amongst Sahabah (RA) were the ones who had spent time in the blessed company of Sayyidina Rasul-ulllah (Sallallaho Alaihe Wassallam) alongside their regular day-to-day pursuits of working and other jobs i.e. they had not committed themselves (fully) to acquisition of knowledge. In our times (traditionally) one is required to dedicate himself (or herself) to a Darul-uloom setting for a number of years in order to be considered from amongst the Ulama; I admire this fortunate blessing of Allah (SWT) something which I am (still) deprived of due to my sins.
But a dangerous dichotomy (schism) has become (prominently) apparent in our times where everybody else who has not been through the traditional (Darul-uloom) route is considered to be laymen (best impression) and an IDIOT (worst); you can actually read and hear people addressing “Non-Ulama” as IDIOTS, STUPID, IGNORAMOUS and so on.
A young Bangladeshi brother (PhD student) who has spent a year in Egypt learning Arabic (reads, writes and speaks fluently) in addition to having Ijazah in multiple books of Hanafi & Shaf’ae Madhabs had a debate with a young “Maulana” in the parking lot of a Mosque a few years. This young “Maulana” is a graduate of a British Darul-uloom and decided to give a public dressing down to the young Brother when Academically speaking the “Maulana” is deficient in not only Arabic but also reading and was also dead wrong on his interpretation of the Shaf’ae Madhab. The young Bangladeshi brother was then told that Deen should be taken from “Ulama” and not STUPID LAYMEN who have never spent anytime acquiring knowledge under the feet of the Ulama. The Brother didn’t respond (at all) and the (Mosque) laymen cheered while “Maulana” laid down the law; I visited Maulana sometime later and showed him the statement of Imam Nawawi (RA) and the opinion of Shaf’ae Madhab and requested him not to speak about an issue which he hasn’t studied in the Darul-uloom.
For some reason Maulana listened to me (a humble laymen) and agreed.
Reality in life is that many Muslims (men and women) who have never been to a Darul-uloom do have excellent grasp of many (Islamic) subjects and if they don’t they do have the ability to grasp it (when discussed with and taught).
Respect of Ulama is of paramount importance but disrespect (or dismissing of) everybody (else) stems from pride and arrogance. The same derision is also applied to those who take Alim (part-time) classes and courses! A good friend of mine is extremely critical of these part-time (Alim classes); when I ask him about the standards of those who have studies 10 years in a traditional Darul-uloom and their standards he is equally dismayed at the Academic standards. A Doctor while studying in a contemporary medical university puts hard work and long hours to graduate and (many are) intellectually capable of grasping Islamic sciences or at least capable of understanding the evidence (and Adillah) behind Masa’il of Fiqh. Many students of secular universities are sharp, insightful and intelligent enough and capable of grasping Islamic sciences or at least capable of understanding the evidence (and Adillah) behind Masa’il of Fiqh.
Allah (SWT) has created intelligence and grants it to whom He (SWT) wills; those who have never had an opportunity can (and do) surpass those who have sat at the feet of Ulama.
Don’t dismiss the rest as “IDIOTS” because throughout the history of Islam there has never been this false division.
Shaykh Salman Nadwi (HA) sheds some light on the issue beautifully in his talk to the Ulama (in London).
P.S: The article NEITHER disrespects Ulama NOR calls for “Non-Ulama” to be accepted as “Ulama” and for them to be given authority to start issuing Fatwaas or to be taken as Islamic authorities; please read carefully before commenting.