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Debating Islam ( 28 Apr 2012, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Why is New Age Islam So Critical Of The Ulama?


A respected Deobandi scholar and prolific Urdu columnist on religious issues, Maulana Nadeemul Wajidi seems to be asking editors and contributors of New Age Islam, among some other Urdu columnists, why they criticize ulama (Islamic scholars) so much. As a matter of fact we value ilm a great deal and we naturally have the highest respect for the repositories of ilm that ulama are supposed to be. But if Juhala (ignoramuses) start claiming to be ulama on the basis of knowledge of books through rote learning while they are stopping the Muslim community from acquiring real ilm for which the Prophet asked us to go even as far as China (a country utterly devoid of Muslims at that time but full of non-Muslim scholars and artists), how is one to treat them. In the current article itself translated by Arman Neyazi of New Age Islam, the Maulana (itself an anomaly and perhaps “shirk” as this term should only refer to God) claims that Ilm (Knowledge) means knowledge of Deen.

Now, how on earth can one possibly feel any respect for such worthies who have spent a lifetime in madrasas and yet are so ignorant even of the history of madrasas, history of the greatest Muslim scientists, products of madrasas, who laid the foundation of modern European civilization? It’s not just a few ulama, as Maulana Saheb claims, who are making a few mistakes, it is the entire Darul Ifta of all such institutions in practically all schools of thought, that is making a mockery of Islam. And that is essentially because the so-called ulama are so awfully ignorant of current realities and sciences and arts other than some rote learning of the Quran and Hadees  that they cannot but make the Muslims a laughing stock and an object of Islamophobia. I hope readers of New Age Islam will have more to say on the subject. – Sultan Shahin, editor, New Age Islam



By Maulana Nadeem-ul-Wajidi

(Translated from Urdu by Arman Neyazi, New Age Islam)

27 April 2012

Ulama (Islamic scholars) have perhaps never been a target of so much calumny and censure as in this age. It is a fashion now to badmouth them.

As some people gathered in a party and the topic of discussion turned towards the backwardness of Muslims, be it national or international, Ulama are taken to task. Poor Maulvis are blamed for all kind of problems and backwardness faced by the Muslims. It is generally believed and said in so many words and that all kinds of terror, militancy or sectarian, ideological internal strife in the community is caused by the Ulama and ulama alone. It is as if, had these Maulvis not been there the entire community would have been at peace and free from every evil. This thought is being used as propaganda by some sections to blame Ulama in an organised manner so that common Muslims break their relationship with them. This is why this kind of articles and letters are regularly being published in certain newspapers. Ulama are ridiculed and are made a laughing stock for their beard, caps and Kurtas (a kind of long shirt) and narrow short pyjamas. At times they are ridiculed for their educational qualification and on that basis are called backward and fundamentalist.

There is a certain columnist of Urdu newspapers who has just no idea how to finish writing articles without cursing Ulama. No matter on which topic he is writing, be it American attack on Iraq or atomic agreement between India and America or it is about Pakistan or it is a discussion on India’s social and economical structure, they do not stop before blaming Ulama for all these.  And he is not alone in this crusade. There are some who always are ready to ditto him.

Let someone ask them as to why they are dead against Ulama. Is guiding people in matter of Deen so bad? Is establishing and running madarsas for teaching Quran and Hadees so bad? Or is it illegal? If the answer to all these questions is in the negative, what is the reason that Ulama are taken to task, day in and day out.

As far as Ulama are concerned their presence for the stability, campaign and strengthening of Deen is inevitable. These are the people who perform their duties of safeguarding human civilisation from evil and guiding it on the path of betterment. This class of Ulama has been there since the age of Sahaba-e-Keram (companions of the Prophet pbuh) and it will remain in the coming ages as well. This is the class for which Allah says in the Quran: “And let there be [arising] from you a group inviting to [all that is] good, enjoining what is right and forbidding what is wrong, and those will be the successful.” (Al-Imran 104) How big a misfortune is it then that we are engaged in blaming the very people who are taking God’s Deen to the masses? It is because of them that Quran and Sunnah are reaching people.

Hakeemu-ul-Ummat Hazrat Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanvi said, addressing the Ulama: “My question is whether Ulama are necessary for the community or not? If not, then we will have to accept that Islam is also not necessary. Islam cannot maintain its sanctity without Ulama. For no profession can run without its professionals. It is another thing that some of us may have some limited knowledge of Deen and could fulfill the essential needs of the community.  But a show cannot run without a Master of Ceremonies. And the masters of Deen are Ulama.” (Muwaez Daawat Ahdiyat Tareequ-un-Nijaat Vol: 12, P: 53)


From where will these masters come? Of course, from the madrasas! It proves that establishment of madarsas is also necessary for Deen. Hakeem-ul-Ummat Hazrat Thanvi once said, “There is no doubt that madrasas are very necessary for the knowledge of Deen and that it is such a blessing for the beings of Muslims that nothing more than this can be expected. If there is any way of keeping Deen intact, it is a madarsa because Islam is the name of faith and practice which includes Deen, culture and manners everything. Practice obviously is based on knowledge and knowledge of Deen, if not fully to certain extent it is based on madarsas having the condition of the present time in mind. (Huquq-ul-Ilm P: 84, Tajdeed Taleem w Tableegh P: 66)

On one other occasion Hazrat Thanvi says, as people are getting away from Deen, madarsas are getting increasingly important. (Hakeem-ul-Ummat P: 101) On other occasions he says, “We should not think that if Ambiya-e-Keram did not establish madarsas, these are useless. These are not useless. These are like Wuzu for Namaz. As Wuzu is necessary for Namaz, madarsas are necessary for preaching of Deen. (Al-Tableegh Vol: 20, P 23)

The people who make joke of Ulama are the one who are ignorant of Deen. These are Muslims but just for the name sake. They have not made Islam their way of life and have not made its culture a part of their lives.  Had they taken Islam as a must for an individual as well as a class and a society, had they understood that it solves problems of every kind of economical, social, political and civilisational difficulties, they would have felt the necessity of people who are capable of practicing it in their lives and who have deepest knowledge and understanding of Islam and who have the responsibility of safeguarding it.

Allah sent Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) as His last prophet. Prophet (pbuh) taught every bit of Sharia to Ummah in his 23 years life of Mecca and Madina. After the completion of the work of Nabuwat, the duty of safeguarding it is on Ulama Keram. This is the reason why Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) announced Ulama-e-Ummah as the heirs of Ambiya-e- Keram. This hierarchy is not of wealth rather than that of the knowledge of Ambiya Keram. The Ulama of the present Ummah are also the heirs of the knowledge of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) as the Ulama of previous generations were the heirs of the knowledge of previous Prophets.

Ilm (Knowledge) means knowledge of Deen

There are innumerable descriptions of virtues of knowledge and the people of knowledge. All the commentators are of the view that whereever there is description of knowledge it is about the knowledge of Deen. One such Ayah describes knowledge as a gift of God. He says, “And Allah has revealed to you the Book and wisdom and has taught you that which you did not know. And ever has the favour of Allah upon you been great.” (Al-Nisa: 113)

At one place describing knowledge as great kindness, God says, everybody does not get it. God bestows this great wealth only to the one He wishes. In one Ayah thus have been compared the learned and uneducated: “Say, "Are those who know equal to those who do not know?" (Al-Zumar: 9) On one place God says, “Allah will raise those who have believed among you and those who were given knowledge, by degrees.” (Al-Mujadila: 11)

Author of ‘Tafseer Ruh-ul-Maani Allama Alwasi Bughdai (ra) writes describing the one having knowledge among believers differently has the objective of describing greatness of knowledge. Hazrat Abdullah Ibn Masoud (ra) says that the greatness that God has described through this Ayah has no parallel in the whole of Quran.

In one tradition (Rewayat) Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) says, Greatness of knowledge is more than the greatness of prayer. (Jama-ul-Fawaed Hadees 179) in other Hadees Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) described as, “the greatness of an Aalim (a person with knowledge) on the one who prays to God is such as mine is on the lowest among you. (Tirmizi 50/5 Raqam-ul-Hadees: 2685)

One Rewayat has it that, Prophet (pbuh) once came to the mosque. He saw two groups there; one was busy in teaching and the other in remembrance and Dua. Prophet (pbuh) said, both are engaged in good work but greatness lies with the group which is teaching because my objective also is knowledge, “Innama Bowsat Muallima” (Ibne Maaja: 1/83, Raaquim-ul-Hadees229) and sat with that group.

The people who make a joke of Ulama’s guidance do not consider it a Hadees, says Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), “Ulama in the world are like stars on the sky. One gets the direction of one’s path in the darkness of this world from these very stars. Travellers may lose their path if the stars fade.”(Masnad Ahmad bin Hambul Hadees: 2189) Ulama have been compared with the stars of the sky, who guide in the darkness of land and sea, what greater comparison of theirs could be given? Those are but Ulama who guide the people lost in the darkness of misguidance and lit the lamp of guidance for their rightful path. If we tried to get those lamps off, how will we fight with the darkness?

People who talk ill and badmouth the Ulama must remind themselves of this saying of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), “Who can make a joke of these three ‘men’, a septuagenarian Muslim, an Aalim and a rightful Imam, except a non-believer.” (Jama-ul-Fawaed: Hadees 200)

A tradition which is related to Hazrat Abu Bakr Siddique (rta) says, ‘there is a harsh warning for them who hate Aalims, Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) says, “Be a teacher, or a student, or a listeners of knowledgeable things or be a lover of learned people, do not be any fifth one otherwise will be one of the losers.” (Jama-ul-Fawaed Hadees 199) Who can be that ‘Fifth’ who does not love “the learned” but hates them. It is a lesson for them who keep blaming Ulama for every bad thing happening in the society and make them responsible for it.

Ulama are also human beings like us. They can also take wrong decisions. One person’s mistake cannot be taken as a mistake of the whole community he belongs to. Those who do this are fully mistaken. Can we blame the profession of medicine or engineering for the mistake of one doctor or engineer? Can we say ‘this profession is inhuman or all the doctors and engineers are useless and undeserving? Why this double speak with Ulama, then? Accepted that sometimes a certain Aalim performs uncultured or unsocial act but for the mistake of one or two or a few Aalims we cannot blame the Aalim community. Is it a justice, to do so? Hakeemul-ul-Ummat Hazrat Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanvi says, “Sometimes it is sin to blame Maulvis. It affects common man. If the objective is to save someone from bad deeds, it is good to talk to him in a civilised manner. As badmouthing or blaming ‘oneself’ is dangerous, it is dangerous to be a party of others misdeeds.” (Wa’az Huquq-ul-Ilm P: 96) Hazrat Maulana Mufti Mohammad Shafi Usmani repeats two of Hazrat Thanvi’s sayings; we should consider our deeds under the light of these two points with much care. He says, “It is the demand of Deen that we should help our Ulama, even if they are not good as if common man starts disrespecting Ulama, Deen will come to an end.” (Majalis Hakeem-ul-Ummat P: 131) Hazrat Thanvi (ra) has gone so far in saying that even a bad Aalim is respectable. He says, a common man has to respect an Aalim as one has to act according to the guidelines of a doctor even if the doctor himself does not practice it on himself. The patient will get well acting on doctor’s advice even if the doctor himself dies.  Doctor in any case is respectable. An impractical Aalim is like a public prosecutor who himself is suffering for his illegal activities but one has to take his advice as he is a learned lawyer. (Aadab-ul-Muta’allemeen b Hawala Hakeem-ul-Ummat Hazrat Ali Thanvi (ra) P: 111)

The above mentioned observations are in the service of those some people who have taken it upon themselves to hurt, blame and badmouth Ulama. This way they themselves are getting misguided and are misleading others, coming towards Deen. How nice it will be that every one of us believes in ‘self-criticism’ as the best criticism.

Source: Akhbar-e-Mashriq, Delhi,