بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
Scholars of Islam have a special place in our Deen because they are the inheritors of the Prophetic Message and are commissioned to solicit the truth and bring people to the truth. They should not call to themselves or to others whom usurp the truth or seek to undermine the laws and Commands of Allah and His Messenger ﷺ. Allah Almighty جل جلاله exhorts scholars with piety and righteousness:
كُونُوا رَبَّانِيِّينَ بِمَا كُنتُمْ تُعَلِّمُونَ الْكِتَابَ وَبِمَا كُنتُمْ تَدْرُسُونَ
“…Be you Rabbaniyyoon , because you are teaching the Book, and you are studying it.” [Aal-Imran, 79]
The ‘Rabbaniyoon’ are learned men of religion who practise what they know and preach to others. The Rabbani is the one who does not choose anyone over his Lord (Rabb); and the word itself is derived from (the word) ‘Ruboobiyya’ – the specifics of which is that Allah alone provides for the needs – spiritual and material – of the believers, and sustains them and takes care of them.
People whose religious knowledge is derived from the Knowledge of Allah, which He bestows upon them, are those who are elevated in degree by virtue of that Knowledge. This is also why scholars and the learned have special virtue, as Allah جل جلاله Said:
اللَّهُ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا مِنكُمْ وَالَّذِينَ أُوتُوا الْعِلْمَ دَرَجَاتٍ
“Allah will exalt in degree those of you who believe, and those who have been granted knowledge” [Al-Mujaadilah, 11]
Thus, not every learned scholar is necessarily pious. The sincere people of knowledge have always spoke about the ulama’ al-shuuw’ [evil scholars], and the damage such people inflict upon the religiosity of their communities and their consequently, their Deen. Imam Al-Dhahabi رحمه الله for example, said in regards to the characteristics of the wicked and harmful scholar who causes loss and damage to the religion he represents:
علماء السوء يُحسِّنون للأمراء ما يقتحمون به من الظلم، ويَقلبون لهم الباطل، أو يسكتون مع القدرة على بيان الحق
“Evil scholars are those who persist (supporting and) doing good towards the umara’ [ruling authorities] by protecting (and appeasing) them – even when they are unjust (and oppressive). This way, they cause them to alter their outlook into falsehood, or by remaining silent when having the ability to manifest the truth.” [Siyar A’lam An-Nubala’, 7/125]
Ibn ‘Uthaymeen رحمه الله said in his, ‘Liqa’ Bab al-Maftooh’, 9/112:
أكثر العلماء اليوم إما علماء دولة وإما علماء أمة، وقل من يكون من علماء الملة
“Many scholars of today are either scholars of state, or scholars of the ummah; and lesser still are the (real) scholars of the millah [i.e. Deen].”
He further elaborates these categories in his highly beneficial commentary, ‘Sharh Riyadus-Saliheen’, 4/307:
ليس كل عالم يكون ثقة، فالعلماء ثلاثة: علماء ملة، وعلماء دولة، وعلماء أمة. أما علماء الملة – جعلنا الله وإياكم منهم – فهؤلاء يأخذون بملة الإسلام وبحكم الله ورسوله صلى الله عليه وسلم، ولا يبالون بأحد كائناً من كان. وأما علماء الدولة فينظرون ماذا يريد الحاكم، يصدرون الأحكام على هواه، ويحاولون أن يلووا أعناق النصوص من الكتاب والسنة حتى تتفق مع هوى هذا الحاكم، وهؤلاء علماء دولة خاسرون، وأما علماء الأمة فهم الذين ينظرون إلى اتجاه الناس، هل يتجه الناس إلى تحليل هذا الشيء فيحلونه، أو إلى تحريمه فيحرمونه، ويحاولون أيضاً أن يلووا أعناق النصوص إلى ما يوافق هوى الناس
“Not every scholar is considered trustworthy. The scholars are of three type: scholars of the millah [Deen], scholars of state, and scholars of the ummah. As for the scholars of the millah – may Allah make you and me from them – They receive and take the Deen of Islam and rule according to what Allah and His Messenger ﷺ command with, not caring for who anyone else is. As for the scholars of state, they see what the ruler wants and they make judgments according to his desires. They try to blindly approach the texts of the Qur’an and Sunnah so that it conforms and agrees with the state ruler’s edict. And such scholars of state are the real losers.
As for the scholars of the ummah, they are those who look at the orientation (and trend) of the people; considering if the people will allow and permit this thing in their favour, or prohibit it as impermissible? These scholars also try deafly wrapping the divine texts to what the people agree with, and so conform to what they like.”
May Allah keep us connected with our true scholars, who sincerely serve the Deen without fear or favour. Ameen.