Some Guidelines Concerning the Scholars

  [1]: Virtues of the Scholars
Allaah - the Most High - said:
  "Say: Are they equal, those who have knowledge and those who do not? But only the men of understanding will take admonition." [Soorah Zumar 39:9].

"Allaah will raise up in degrees those of you who believe and those who have been granted knowledge." [Soorah al-Mujaadalah 58:11].

"It is only those who possess knowledge amongst His slaves that fear Allaah" [Soorah Faatir 35:28]. "Indeed those who believe and do righteous actions, they are the best of creatures ... This is for those who fear their Lord." [Soorah al-Bayyinah 98:7-8].

 Ibn Jamaa'ah, rahimahullaah, said:
           "So Allaah decreed in these two Verses that the scholars are those who most fear Allaah, and that those who fear Allaah are the best of creatures. The consequence of this is that the scholars are therefore the best of creatures."

The Prophet sallallaahu 'alalyhi wa sallam said:
           "The superiority of the scholar over the worshipper is like that of the full moon on a clear night over the rest of the stars. Indeed the scholars are the inheritors of the Prophets and the Prophets do not leave behind them the deenaar nor the dirham as inheritance, they leave only knowledge behind as inheritance. So whosoever aquires it, aquires a huge fortune."

Imaam al-Aajurree, rahimahullaah, said:
           "Consider - may Allaah have mercy upon you - a path thwarted with great dangers, yet people need to traverse it, even in the darkness of the night. If there were no light upon this path the people would be terrified. However, Allaah gave to them a guiding light with which they were able to traverse this path in peace and safety. Then came groups of people who also needed to traverse this path, so they traversed it. However, during this time the guiding light became extinguished and the people returned to a state of darkness. So what would your opinion be about their condition? This is the example of the scholars and the people. Most people do not know how to fulfill their obligatory duties, nor how to avoid forbidden matters, nor how to worship Allaah correctly; all of this they learn from the scholars. So with the death of the scholars, mankind returns to a state of anxiety and terror, the teaching of knowledge dies, whilst ignorance prevails; what an enormous calamity this is for the Muslims. Indeed to Allaah we belong and to Him will we all return."

Shaykhul-Islaam Ibn Taymiyyah, rahimahullaah, said:
           "Every nation, before the sending of our Prophet Muhammad sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam, then their scholars were the worst of them, except for the Muslims. For indeed their scholars are the best of them, and they are the successors of the Messenger sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam in this nation."

[2]: Who are the Scholars?

The scholars are: those who possess knowledge of the Laws of Allaah, who have understanding of His Religion and who act by their knowledge.

The scholars are: "the people who possess a deep understanding (fuqahaa) of Islaam; around whom revolve the giving of religious verdicts (fatwaas); who extract rulings; and who lay down precise principles which determine the lawful from the prohibited."

The scholars are: the inheritors of the Prophets. They inherited from them knowledge, which they carry in their hearts and which, in general, is reflected in their actions. And they are those who call the people to it.

The scholars are: the guides for mankind, for which no age will pass without them, until the command of Allaah comes. So they are the leaders of the Aided and Victorious Group (at-Taa'ifatul-Mansoorah); as the Messenger sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam said:
           "There will not cease to be a group from my Ummah established upon the command of Allaah. They will not be harmed by those who oppose them, until the command of Allaah passes and they are victorious amongst the people."

[3]: What is Knowledge?

Shaykh Muhammad ibn Saalih al-'Uthaymeen, hafidhahullaah, said:
"What we mean by it is: knowledge of the Sharee'ah; knowledge of what Allaah revealed to His Messenger, from the clear explanations and guidance. So the type of knowledge which contains praise, is knowledge of the Revealation; knowledge of what Allaah revealed only. The Prophet sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam said: 
           "Whoever Allaah intends to show goodness to, He grants him the understanding of the Religion."

And the Prophet sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam said:
           "The Prophets do not leave behind them the deenaar nor the dirham as inheritance, they leave only knowledge behind as inheritance. So whosoever aquires it, aquires a huge fortune."

And it is known that the Prophets only bequeathed knowledge of Allaah's Prescribed Laws, nothing else. The Prophets 'alayhimus-salaatu was-salaam, did not bequeath to mankind knowledge of the arts and crafts."

Imaam ash-Shaafi'ee, rahimahullaah, said:
           "It is not permissible for anyone to ever say about anything that it is lawful or prohibited, except upon knowledge. This knowledge is what is related in the Book, or the Sunnah, or a consensus (ijmaa'), or an analogy (qiyaas)."

Shaykh Saalih al-Fawzaan, hafidhahullaah, said:
"Knowledge (al-'ilm) is what Allaah said and what His Messenger sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam said: Ibn al-Qayyim, rahimahullaah, said:
           "Knowledge is what Allaah said, what the Messenger said; And what the Companions said, they are the people who possess knowledge.""

[4]: The Scholars are from Olul-Amr

Allaah, the Exalted, said:
           "Obey Allaah and obey the Messenger and those in authority amongst you." [Soorah an-Nisaa 4:59].

Imaam Ibn Katheer, rahimahullaah, said:
           "And what is apparent, and Allaah knows best, is that it is general for all those who are in authority (oolul-amr), from the rulers and the scholars."

Shaykhul-Islaam Ibn Taymiyyah said:
           "This is why those who are in authority are of two groups: the scholars and the rulers. If they are upright, the people will be upright; if they are corrupt, the people will be corrupt."

Imaam Ibn al-Qayyim, rahimahullaah, said:
"It should be realised that the rulers are to be obeyed if they command what knowledge necessitates. So obedience to them follows on from obedience to the scholars. Indeed obedience is only in that which is good and that which is obligated by knowledge. So just as obedience to the scholars follows on from obedience to the Messenger, then obedience to the rulers follows on from obedience to the scholars." Matters related to public welfare and safety (umoorul-'aammah) - from the matters related to Sharee'ah politics, peace, security and fear - should be referred back to the oolul-amr:
Allaah, the Exalted, said:
           "When there comes to them some matter related to public welfare of security or fear, they make it known amongst the people. If only they had referred it back to the Messenger sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam, or to those in authority amongst them, then the proper people would have investigated and evaluated the matter from them. Were it not for the Grace and Mercy of Allaah upon you, you would have indeed followed Shaytaan - except for a few of you." [Soorah an-Nisaa 4:83].

Imaam as-Sa'dee, rahimahullaah, said:
"This is the disciplinary admonition from Allaah to His Servants with regards to their unbefitting action. And that it is a must for them, that when there comes to them some news concerning important issues - such as issues connected to public welfare and safety of the Believers, or those that are related to breach of security, or fear of a calamity befalling them - that they should first verify such news and not be hasty in spreading it. Rather, they should refer such issues back to the Messenger sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam, and to the people in authority; those who possess knowledge, understanding, sound advice, intellect, maturity and composure; those who understand the affairs and have knowledge of the associated benefits and harms. If they see that in broadcasting it there is a benefit and a nashaat and a cause of happiness for the Believers, and a means of protection from their enemies, then they should do so. But if they see that there is no benefit in it, or that there is some benefit but the harm in it is greater, then they should not do so. This is why Allaah said: "Then the proper people would have investigated and evaluated the matter from them." Meaning: That they would evaluate it with their sound understanding and their firm and correct knowledge. So in this is an evidence for an important principle which is: If there arises a need to investigate a particular issue, then it is obligatory that it is left to those who are qualified for it, and no one should preceed them in this - and this is what is closer to what is correct, and safer from error. And in this also is a prohibition of being hasty and impatient in spreading the news as soon as thy hear it. Likewise there is a command to reflect and consider before speeking, so he looks into it to see if there is a benefit in doing so, if so he embarks upon it, and if not, he abstains from it."

[5]: The Well-Being of the Ummah is Linked to the Scholars

Zubayr ibn 'Adee said: We came to Anas bin Maalik and complained to him about al-Hajjaaj, so he said:
           "Patiently persevere! For indeed there will not come upon you an age, except that the age that comes after it will be more evil; until you meet your Lord." I heard this from your Prophet sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam.

Al-Haafidh Ibn Hajr, rahimahullaah, said about the above narration:
           "Many have been confused by this general statement, since some ages have [apparently] not been more evil than the one before it; as was the case with the age of 'Umar ibn 'Abdul-'Azeez, which was shortly after the age of al-Hajjaaj - and the information concerning the age of 'Umar ibn 'Abdul-'Azeez is well-known."

And the reply to this apparent contradiction is from two angles:-

Firstly: Ibn Hajr, rahimahullaah, said:
"Some of them have said that what is intended by the excellence is an overall excellence for one age, as compared to the excellence of the preceeding age. Thus, in the age of al-Hajjaaj, there were many Companions who were still living. However, in the age of 'Umar ibn 'Abdul-'Azeez, most of them had passed away. And an age in which the Companions are present is more excellent than an age in which they were not; due to his, as-salaatu was-salaam's, saying which is reported by al-Bukhaaree (5/199) and Muslim (7/184):   "The best of mankind is my generation."  And also his as-salaatu was-salaam's saying:
           "My Companions are the custodians over my Ummah, so when my Companions depart, that which has been decreed for my Ummah will come to it." This is reported by Muslim (16/82)."

Secondly: Ibn Mas'ood radiallaahu 'anhu said:
           "There will not come upon you a time, except that it is more evil than the one preceeding it. I do not mean a leader better than another leader, nor a year better than another year. Rather, your 'ulamaa and fuqahaa will disappear, and you will not find anyone to suceed them. Then there will come a people who will give verdicts according to their own opinions."

This implies: That goodness remaining in this Ummah is primarily dependant upon the existence of the scholars and the correct understanding of the Religion remaining with the people; and not - as some think - merely upon the rulers or upon economic factors. So whenever the scholars diminish, the true and correct understanding of the Book and the Sunnah diminishes, and consequently evil increases amongst the people.

And this accords with what the Prophet sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam said:
           "Indeed Allaah does not snatch away knowledge, but He takes it away by the passing away of the Scholars. Such that whn no scholar remains, the people take the ignorant ones as their leaders; they are asked and give verdicts without knowledge. They thus misguide temselves and misguide others."

[6]: The Obligation to Honour Them

He sallallaahu 'alalyhi wa sallam said:
           "He is not from us, who does not honour our elders, nor have mercy upon our young, nor honours the rights of our Scholars."

Imaam at-Tahaawee, rahimahullaah, said:
           "The scholars of the Salaf, from the earlier ones and those who followed them, they are the people of excellence and goodness, and the people of knowledge and understanding. They are not to be spoken about, except with goodness. Whosoever speaks about them with evil, then he is upon other than the Straight Path."

Ibn 'Asaakir, rahimahullaah, said:
"Know, O my brother - may Allaah awaken you and I to His pleasure; and make us of those who have piety in Him as we should have, that the flesh of the scholars is poisonous. It is well known that Allaah will expose those who seek to revile and belittle them; and that whosoever unleashes his tongue by insulting and belittling the scholars, then Allaah will cause his heart to die before he actually dies." Likewise, part of honouring them is to have love and allegience (walaa) for them:

Shaykhul-Islaam Ibn Taymiyyah, rahimahullaah, said:
           "What is obligatory upon the Muslims, after having allegience (walaa) to Allaah, the Most High, and to His Messenger sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam, is to have alliegence for the Believers; as is stated in the Qur'aan, and in particular the scholars."

Part of honouring them includes excusing them when their rulings have sometimes conflicted with the authentic hadeeth:

Shaykhul-Islaam Ibn Taymiyyah said:
"And know that none of the scholars, who have met with general acceptance by the Ummah, intentionally opposed Allaah's Messenger sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam in anything from his Sunnah; whether minute or clear. They all agreed with certainty upon the obligation of following the Messenger sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam, and upon the fact that each person's saying can be taken or left, except that of Allaah's Messenger sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam. However, if it is found that anyone from amongst them said something that conflicted with an authentic hadeeth, then they must be given an excuse for it. These excuses can be summed up under three types:- Firstly: that he did not believe that the Prophet sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam had said it. Secondly: that he did not believe that this issue was intended by that. Thirdly: he believed that this ruling was abrogated. These three types then branch of into many causes."

Imaam Ibn 'Abdul-Barr, rahimahullaah, said:
"There is no scholars from this Ummah, to whom a hadeeth of the Prophet sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam was established, and then they rejected it, except [that in their view] it was abrogated by a similar narration; or by a consensus; or by an action which necessitated going to its root and complying with that; or because of a defect in its chain of narration. If [any of them] did that, the their trustworthiness would have been in question, let alone them being taken as Imaams - since [doing] this necessitates sinfullness."

[7]: The Ijtihaad of the Scholars

Infact, when a scholar strives his best to arrive at a ruling, the he is rewarded for that; even if he errs. The Prophet sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam said:
           "When a judge judges and excercises ijtihaad, and is correct; then he is rewarded two-fold. But if he excercises ijtihaad, but is mistaken; then he recieves a single reward."

Ibn Taymiyyah said:
"So the mujtahid who employs inductive reasoning; whether he is an imaam, a judge, a scholar, a researcher, a muftee, or other than that - when he employs ijtihaad and inductive reasoning; having taqwaa of Allaah as much as he can, then he has fufilled the obligation that Allaah has placed upon him, and he is counted as being obedient to Allaah; deserving of a reward from Allaah. So if he has taqwaa as much as he is able, then Allaah will not punish him at all. This is opposed to what the Jahmiyyah say ..."

And Ibn Taymiyyah, rahimahullaah, said:
"Whosoever amongst the Believer is a mujtahid in seeking the truth, yet errs, then Allaah, the Most Perfect, the Most High, will forgive his mistakes, whomsoever it may be - whether in issues of belief or action. This is what the Companions of the Prophet sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam were upon." Issues of ijtihaad may be one in which no text is present; or a text is present, but it is opposed by another text; or that a text is present but the ruling from it is not so clear:

Imaam Ibn al-Qayyim, rahimahullaah, said:
"And what is correct is that which the scholars are upon; which is that issues of ijtihaad in which there is no evidence that clearly requires acting upon - such as an authentic hadeeth that is not opposed by anything from its type - then ijtihaad is permitted in such a case, because of the absence of a clear-cut evidence that requires acting upon; either because the evidence is contradictory, or the evidence is obscure ...."

[8]: How Should the Mistakes of a Scholar be Viewed

The scholars should not be followed in their mistakes, nor does it necessitate abandoning or degrading their scholarship. Rather, being justly balanced is a requirement:
           "O you who Believe! Stand firmly for Allaah as just witnesses; and let not the enmity and hatred of others make you swerve away from justice. But be just; that is closer to piety." [Soorah al-Maa'idah 5:8].
"Do not reduce thing that are due to the people." [Soorah Hood 11:85].

Imaam Ibn al-Qayyim, rahimahullaah, said:
"Recognising the excellence of the Scholars of Islaam, their capabilities, their rights, their station and their sincerity to Allaah and His Messenger, and advising for His sake, does not necessitate acceptance of all that one of them may say. Whatever is to be found in their rulings and verdicts which conflicts with what the Messenger sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam came with; then they expressed a position based upon their level of knowledge, even though it was in opposition to the truth. However, this does not neccessitate completely abandoning all their sayings, criticizing them and distancing oneself from them. These two stances [i.e. absolute acceptance or rejection] are outside the realms of correctness; and the correct path lies in between these two extremes. We also do not say that they have sinned, or that they are infallible. Rather, we travese the path they traversed; and [which was traversed by] those before them from the Companions ... There is no contradiction between these two matters for the one whom Allaah has expanded his chest with Islaam. It may, however, seem contradictory to two types of people:- Firstly: One who is ignorant of the capabilities and excellence of the Scholars. Secondly: One who is ignorant of the realities of the Sharee'ah with which Allaah sent His Messenger. So whosoever possess knowledge of the Sharee'ah and knowledge of the true state of affairs, knows for certainty, that a Scholar having nobility in Islaam; who possesses a pious disposition and good manners, then mistakes and slips will occur from such a person - for which he is excused, yet rewarded for his ijtihaad. It is not permissible to follow him in his mistake, nor is it permissible to belittle him, nor to degrade his status and scholarship in the hearts of the Muslims."

Shaykhul-Islaam Ibn Taymiyyah, rahimahullaah, said:
"From that which is connected to this issue is that you should know that a person having a high and lofty status, with regards to knowledge and the Religion - from the Companions, the Taabi'een, and those who come after them, up until the Day of Judgement - then there will occur from him a type of ijtihaad which is connected to dhann, and a type which is from the hidden desire. So this will result in giving rise to that which is not allowed to be followed; even if he is from the awliyaa (friends) of Allaah and the pious. And the likes of this, when it occurs, leads to fitnah for two groups of people: One group who honour the Scholar in such a way that they desire to consider correct his wrong actions so that they can follow it. And another group who censure him, so they use this as a means to attack and malign his wilaayah (his being a walee), his taqwaa (piety) and his eemaan (faith); to the extent that they expel him from the fold of eemaan. And both of these ways are false and destructive. Indeed the Khawaarij, the Rawaafidh and others from the people of innovations and false desires, enter into the likes of this."

Shaykhul-Islaam Ibn Taymiyyah further said:
"As for the truthful ones (siddeeqeen), the martyrs and the righteous, then they are not infallible. As for what they undertake of ijtihaad, then sometimes it will be correct, and at other times it will be wrong. So when they make ijtihaad and are correct, they get two rewards, and when they make ijtihaad but err, then they earn a single reward for their ijtihaad and their errors are forgiven to them. As for the people of misguidance and deviance, they try to make such mistakes and sins binding upon people to follow. So at times they are extreme with regards to them, and they say: they are ma'soom (infallible). At other times they fall short of what is required, and say about them: they are sinful and disobedient because of their mistakes. However, the people of knowledge and eemaan neither declare them to be infallible (ma'soom), nor declare them to be sinful."
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by Abû 'Aaliyah

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