God-fearing ‘Aalim and his importance to the Ummah
by Imâm al-Haramain 'Abdul-Bârî ibn ‘Awad ath-Thubaytî
All praise is due to Allaah, Lord of all the worlds. May peace and blessings be upon our Prophet Muhammad saws, his household, his companions and all those who follow their guidance till the Day of Reckoning.Islaam respects the ‘Ulamaa and reveres them because they are the heirs of the Prophets who follow their way. Infact, it is in respect to their dignity and merit that Allaah mentions them along with His Name and that of His Angels when He says:
“Allah bears witness that Laa ilaaha illa Huwa (none has the right to be worshipped but He), and the angels, and those having knowledge (also give witness); (He is always) maintaining His creation in Justice.” (Aal ‘Imraan 3:18).
It is enough a distinction for the ‘Aalim that Allaah sends blessings to him; and His angels and the inhabitants of the heavens and the earth also do ask Allaah to bless him. The Messenger of Allaah saws said:
“Verily, Allaah do send His blessings to him who teaches people good. Also, the inhabitants of the heavens and the earth, even ants in their holes and fishes do ask Allaah to bless him.” (At-Tirmidhee).
‘Ulamaa are the friends of Allaah; they are the ones who really fear Allaah.
“It is only those who have knowledge among His slaves that fear Allaah.” (Faatir 35:28)
They bear the knowledge with the fear of Allaah, He then compensate them with great reward. Allaah says:
“Their reward with their Lord is (Eden) Paradise (Gardens of Eternity), underneath which rivers flow, they will abide therein forever, Allaah Well-Pleased with them, and they with Him. This for him who fears his Lord.” (Al-Bayyinah 98:8).
“Scholars of Islaam and those around whose sayings revolves Fatwa (religious counselling) among people; those who are endowed with the ability to derive rulings from the (the Qur’anic and Hadeeth) texts and whose preoccupation is the regulation of the lawful and unlawful things are to the earth what the stars are to the heaven. It is through them that the confused get guidance and people’s need of them is greater than their need of food and drink. Allaah makes obeying them greater than obeying parents when He says: “O you who believe! Obey Allaah and obey the Messenger (Muhammad), and those of you (Muslims) who are in authority.” (An-Nisaa 4:59). The ‘Ulamaa are the people’s refuge during calamities. Many a blind people have seen through them; many a dead have been given live by them; many a Sunnah have been spread through them and many an innovation have been efaced through them.”
God-conscious ‘Ulamaa are leaders in piety; if they had wanted beauties and high positions of this world, it would have come to them submissively, but they live with their knowledge and meritorious deeds in a happiness that is far better than that of the people of worldly positions; that is because, their whole life revolves around no more than what Allaah and His Prophet saws say. They do not learn knowledge for adornment purpose but to benefit from it. Their impact is so strong that, if they walk on a barren land it becomes fertile and if they step their feet on a territory full of darkness it becomes illuminated. A ‘ Aalim in the real sense of the word, is not the holder of higher certificates and academic titles. He is rather the one who has a combination of knowledge, strong and deep Eemaan, obedience to his Lord and a lot of Ibaadaat (acts of worship). These are the people of knowledge whom Allaah describes as incomparable to others when He says:
“Are those who know equal to those who know not.” (Az-Zumar 39:9).
Ibn Al-Mubaarak was asked:
“How can a true knowledgeable man be recognised?’ He replied: ‘He is the one who is ascetic in this world and occupies himself with the affairs of the hereafter.”
Nevertheless, ‘Ulamaa should not be regarded as perfect beings who are immunised against any defects, errors or mistakes; for, this is quite impossible. However, one should not be looking for the mistakes of a knowledgeable man because he may have an excuse that is unknown to us or that, this mistake may have a reason which can not be perceived by us. If the Prophets -peace be on them- have the right to be honoured and revered, their inheritors should also have a share of that. The Messenger of Allaah saws said:
“The ‘Ulamaa are indeed the heirs of the Prophets.” (Aboo Daawood and others).
It is therefore incumbent on us to love them, to obey them in good, to defend them and ask for Allaah’s Mercy for those who are deceased among them. Ibn Abbaas ra said
: “Whoever annoys a knowledgeable man has annoyed the Messenger of Allaah; and whoever annoys the Messenger of Allaah has annoyed Allaah.”
Brothers in Islaam! Death of ‘Ulamaa is an irreparable loss to this Ummah. We beseech Allaah to forgive the deceased among them and to benefit us with the knowledge of the living ones.
Yes! Eyes do shed tears and hearts do get saddened, but if all of us shed our tears, that cannot change the situation nor prevent any harm. Actually, reaction of people of weak minds -after the death of ‘Ulamaa- do not go beyond shedding tears and mere wailings and lamentations; but people of lofty aims and enlightened minds do go beyond that for, they know that sincere love for those scholars means to live according to their way; to die on their path; to be good example in knowledge and good deeds; to be leaders in piety and humbleness; to be models in patience and perseverance and to be pace-setters in generousity and sacrifice. Such are the characteristics of the ‘Ulamaa and such should be the characteristics of those who love them. The ‘Ulamaa are not personalities whose virtues should merely be sung or written on pages without benefiting from their light. Ibraaheem ibn Habeeb said:
“My father told me: My son! Go to the ‘Ulamaa, take knowledge from them and learn from their manners, characters and guidance; that is dearer to me than your learning of many Hadeeths (without manners).”
Brethren in Faith! There is nothing strange in the death of ‘Ulamaa for, such is the end of all living creatures; but the big calamity and the greatest tribulation is when their knowledge dies with them and their illuminating legacies gets buried with them. Therefore, it is a matter of obligation for those who are indebted to these ‘Ulamaa -i.e. their children and students- to promptly bring out their scholastic treasures so that this Ummah and the coming generations may benefit there from.
Death of some ‘Ulamaa no doubt posses a big challenge to their contemporaries as well as other students of knowledge. They are obliged to fill the gap and keep the light of guidance burning.
Dear brothers, responsibilities of ‘Ulamaa vary according to the differences in levels of their knowledge. The responsibility of the person who has got a share of the Prophets’-peace be on them- Legacy is the fear of Allaah, constant remembrance of the hereafter, following the path of those Prophets, seeking knowledge for Allaah’s sake, high degree of moral character and striving to remove bonds of ignorance from the midst of this Ummah. It is improper to be an inheritor of the Prophets’ Legacy without being perfectly on their path.O you people of knowledge! Be trustees over this religion by saveguarding it from alterations and acquaint the Ummah with the realities of Islaam and lead it back to its pure sources: the Qur’aan and Sunnah. Protect the Ummah from epidemic tendencies and misleading ideologies. Do not hide the knowledge that Allaah has endowed you with. Allaah says:
“Those who conceal the clear proofs, evidences and the guidance, which We have sent down, after We have made it clear for the people in the Book, they are the ones cursed by Allaah and cursed by the cursers.” (Al-Baqarah 2:159).
O you people of knowledge! Dangerous is that discord and deadly contention which is rampant among you. Give harmony and mutual love a chance amongst yourselves and keep yourselves away from insignificant issues.
O people of knowledge! Let not your goal be mere attainment of academic titles and degrees lest you abandon your teaching roles in scholastic gatherings where the rising generation of ‘Ulamaa are being groomed. When you take a keen look at this Ummah, whose membership of over one billion Muslims scatter all over the world and you see that, a vast majority of them are engrossed in ignorance of their religion, you will realize for sure that the Ummah is in dire need of tens (of thousands) of God-fearing scholars; those who regard this world disdainfully and preffer what is with Allaah; that it is in need of ‘Ulamaa who will be vanguards of this religion, directing people to Allaah with their sayings and deeds and explaining to them the lawful and unlawful things. If not for the ‘Ulamaa, mankind would have been like beasts and people would have remained in perplexed state of ignorance. Yahyaa ibn Mu’aadh said:
“‘Ulamaa are more compassionate to the followers of Muhammad saws than their fathers and mothers... because, their fathers and mothers protect them from the hell of this world and the ‘Ulamaa protect them from the hell of the hereafter.’’
The Ummah is therefore in need of those ‘Ulamaa, whose deeds do actually have more impact on people than their words. Yes, the world is full of books which one can read and benefit from, but it can not make a God-fearing ‘Aalim dispensable, because, a ‘Aalim is a living example of knowledge and good deeds; an epitome of piety and righteousness.
Dear brothers! When you ponder over the histories of God-fearing ‘Ulamaa in the first stages of their learning, you will see that they had many contemporaries during this stage. But Allaah selected them and blessed them with extraordinary qualities that make them well-accepted and loved by the dwellers of the heaven and the earth. Allaah made them a direction of knowledge and meeting point of its seekers. Their love is very deep in people’s hearts and scenes of their funerals are enough an evidence for that. This mammoth crowd do not come out for their funerals because of their money, for, they usually do not leave any money behind, nor do these people trooped out because they were forced to. Such is the case of God-fearing ‘Ulamaa. Hundreds of years do pass after their death and yet their stories and remembrance remain fresh in people’s memories. Then let us ponder: How did these people attain what they have attained? It is by the power of knowledge, good deeds and sincerity. They were truthful with their Lord so He treated them with truth.
Brethren in Faith! The ‘Ulamaa do die and others also do die. But there is difference between two deaths. Far is the difference between a death after a life that was full of generousity and through which Allaah revived a set of people and brought light to them after they had been in darkness; and a death after a slugish life ridden with weak piety and preocuppied with mundane affairs. When the ‘Ulamaa die, their knowledge perpetuate for them in this earth a new life, their names are engraved in peoples’s hearts as a result of the useful knowledge they leave behind and their written works that seekers of knowledge devote themselves to. But as regards others, some of them die before the actual death comes to them. They may even not have any good mention while they are alive nor any prayer for Allaah’s Mercy on them when they die.The companions of the Prophet saws were overpowered by despair and confusion after his death because of their burning love for him. Aboo Bakr ra then came and said his famous saying:
“Whoever used to worship Muhammad r should be aware that Muhammad r is now dead and whoever used to worship Allaah should know that Allaah is Ever-Living, Immortal.”
The Islamic Faith shall remain and the Divine Message shall survive. The religion survived after the death of the Messengers -peace be on them-; it survived after the death of Muhammad saws and it shall survive after the death of some ‘Ulamaa. There should be no pessimism nor weakness no matter how great the calamity may be. The Religion is Allaah’s and He has guaranteed its safety and victory. Allaah says:
“It is He Who has His Messenger (Muhammad) with guidance and the rreligion of truth (Islam), to make it superior over all religions even though the Mushrikun (polytheists, pagans, idolaters, disbelievers in the Oneness of Allaah) hate (it).” (At-Tawbah 9:33).
Therefore, we should not lose hope at all in the Mercy of Allaah for, the Prophet saws has assured us thus:
“A group of my nation will ever be consistently prevalent with the truth they shall abide by; those who forsake them will not be able to harm them. They shall remain so until the command of Allaah comes.” (Muslim).
In view of all this, this Ummah is so fortunate that Allaah has made it the True Community and promised that He shall never forsake it. He endowed it with ‘Ulamaa who are the inheritors of the Prophets and He has not left this Ummah throughout her history in a period without ‘Ulamaa so much so that each time a ‘Aalim dies Allaah substitute him with many of his contemporaries and his like to continue keeping the religion upright. All praise be to Allaah.