ARE ULEMA (SCHOLARS) OF ISLAM SIMILAR TO PAPACY-
WHO HAS THE RIGHT TO INTERPRET THE SHARIAH IN ISLAM?
Who should be considered as competent to interpret and explain the Quran and Sunnah (Prophetic traditions) and to deduce various injunctions for problems arising in new circumstances? What are the conditions and requirements necessary for this job?
We find the answers to these questions in an authentic Tradition reported by Hadhrat Ali R.A. in which he said:
I said, “O messenger of Allah (SAWS)! If we are confronted with a problem which has not been described in the Qur’an and Prophetic traditions, with no injunctions in favor or against it, what am I to do in such a situation?”
He said: “Take advice of the Fuqaha (jurists-Ulema of Fiqh) and Aabideen (faithful worshippers) and do not employ your individual opinion”.
[Al Mu`jam al-Awsat ; Hadeeth 1641, Classed as Authentic (Hasan) by Abu Yahya noorpuri]
[Al Mu`jam al-Awsat ; Hadeeth 1641, Classed as Authentic (Hasan) by Abu Yahya noorpuri]
عن علي قال : قلت : يا رسول الله ، إن نزل بنا أمر ليس فيه بيان : أمر ولا نهي ، فما تأمرنا ؟ قال : تشاورون الفقهاء والعابدين ، ولا تمضوا فيه رأي خاصة
The Holy Prophet (SAWS) has explicitly stated in this narration that two conditions must be fulfilled by a person who wants to deduce laws and injunctions from the Qur’an and Prophetic traditions. Firstly; he must be a jurist and secondly, he must be a devotee to worship.
The importance of the first condition is obvious because objectives of the Qur’an and traditions can be well conceived only by those who possess vast and deep knowledge, who are fully aware of the rules laid down by the earlier jurists and who have spent their lives in understanding the intentions of divine laws.
Similarly, the Prophet has made it a condition for him to be a devotee and faithful, that is, he must have devoted himself to the practices of these laws. Anyone who can not make distinction between permissible and forbidden in practical life and whose every day practices are in contrast of these laws can not comprehend the intentions of Islam.
Deduction of the laws is, in fact, the “Search for the Truth”, and the Qur’an states that Allah
bestows the faculty of cognizance of the truth to the one who confides in it in his practical life. It is said:
(If you fear Allah He will give you the power of discrimination between truth and falsehood). (8:29)
This verse has clearly stated that “Fear of Allah” is the primary condition for a sense of discrimination between right and wrong. It is quite obvious from the above verse of the Qur’an and the Prophetic tradition that a religious and juristic solution can best be found by a person who is a “jurist” and a “devotee” (or “Muttaqi”, that is, the one who abstains from evil for fear of Allah).
Mufti Muhammad Shafi, Grand Mufti of Pakistan and President, Darul-Ulum, Karachi had summarized the same thing in the following words:
“The method of solving the problems not mentioned in the Book and the traditions is the joint consultation of jurists and devoted scholars of Islam. Imposing the personal and individual opinion on the Muslims is forbidden.”
But for reasons unknown our modernists are allergic to this way of thinking. The traditional knowledge of the Qur’an and the Sunnah is not considered by them as an essential requirement for interpretation of and deductions from the Qur’an and the Sunnah, nor do they ‘think it necessary that such a person should necessarily’ be fearful of Allah and a devoted worshipper.
For some time they have been making loud suggestion to this effect.
“There should be no monopoly of religious scholars” on the interpretation of Quran and the Sunnah. No papacy should be allowed in Islam. No particular group, therefore, can be given the right of legislations. “The interpretation of the Qur’an and the Tradition is the right of all Muslims and not of the religious scholars alone” — “Religious scholars cannot be given the power of veto in the affairs of Islam”, etc., etc.
These are the suggestions that are expressed in almost all the writings of the modernists. As far as the instructions of the Quran and the Traditions are concerned we have already submitted that the greatest emphasis has been laid down on the fundamental requirement of knowledge and devotion for interpreting the religion; but it seems proper here to discuss real frets, that are the source of these misunderstandings.
Their first suggestion is: “There is no Brahmanism or Papacy in Islam; hence the religious scholars cannot be given the exclusive rights of legislations”.
Either they are totally ignorant of the real meaning of papacy and theocracy and the ills in them, or they are deliberately deceiving the simple people of the Ummah. Anyone having the slightest sense of justice and the truth can understand that “knowledge” and “fearfulness of Allah” (Taqwa) is not limited to any race, color, caste or creed which one cannot achieve through his efforts and resources. It is the name of ‘Eligibility and Qualification” of a specific objective which can be achieved by everyone at any time.
If setting some qualifications for certain responsibilities is papacy, no section of life can be said to be devoid of it.
The educational standard and moral character needed for the presidentship and ministership of a country would also be termed as “papacy”. The condition of being an expert on legal affairs for a judge would also be another form of “papacy”. The attainment of a law degree for legal advisor or advocate should also be called papacy. The condition of having relevant academic degrees for teaching in a university, college or school should be removed. The limit of age, intellect and normal character fixed for qualifying as a candidate in elections, should all be cancelled as they are different forms of “papacy”. But it is not so. Then how can the condition of “Knowledge” and “Taqwa”, for interpreting the Qur’an and the Tradition, be termed as papacy?
Anyone having a little knowledge of the term “Papacy” and “Brahmanism” cannot overlook the differences between the religious scholars of Islam and the Popes and Brahmans.
(1) “Pope” and “Brahmans” are practically the titles of a specified class of color, caste and creed. Anyone outside these jurisdictions cannot enter into their fold despite all eligibilities and efforts. That is why we find dacoits and robbers becoming “Popes” in the history of the Christian church. Contrary to this, Religious scholar of Islam (Ulema) is an attribute for which there is no restriction of caste and creed. In the fourteen hundred years of the history of Islam we find religious scholars in every color or creed, even the slaves have emerged as great scholars of Islamic learning and accepted as leaders of the Ummah. The cause of their
(2) The religion of which the Pope is claimed to be a spokesman is a religion which does not provide with guidance for the most important aspects of life. That is why the word of Pope has become the word of God, and no one else can defy this.
Thus he is no more an interpreter of law but a free and independent law-maker. Contrary to this, the injunctions of the Book (Qur’an) and the Sunnah (Prophetic traditions) are universal and the rules and regulations for their interpretation are prescribed and preserved in their original form. Any scholar saying anything against these rules and regulations will be rejected by other scholars on the ground of these principles. A number of such scholars are always present to check such misinterpretations.
(3) The process of law-making and interpretation of religion in papacy ultimately ends on one man. He alone been regarded as the “Shepherd of the sheep of Messiah” and the deputy of the founder of the church. Contrary to this, “Religious scholar” of Islam is not the name of any person who is the head of an organization, but anyone who has attained religious knowledge on true lines is a Religious scholar and an heir to the Holy Prophet. Hence no individual scholar has right to impose his personal views and whims on the entire
In the presence of such an obvious difference between the roles of the Pope and of the Islamic scholars, any one applying the term Papacy to the services of the Ulema simply exhibits his loss of knowledge and common intellect.
The second demand of the modernists, is that “there can be no monopoly of the Ulema on the Book and Traditions. Therefore, the right of their interpretation cannot be reserved for religious scholars alone”.
Those under the charm of this propaganda are tirelessly repeating this slogan and do not stop for a while to think that thus they are making themselves similar to a person who had never seen a medical college but raises the objection as to why the treatment of diseases has been served for qualified doctors only or like a fool who criticizes by saying why the experts in law and jurisprudence –alone have the right of the interpretation of law and why not others are allowed to do so?
No sensible or conscientious person can ever think on these lines.
However, if one has such an imbecile approach he should know that, any one has the right to perform all these duties, but to gain proficiency and eligibility for this you will have to spend years and years of hard work and labor, seeking the guidance from experts for practical experience, obtain degrees and diplomas and other related experience, then, of course, you will be allowed to make interpretations.
The most sensitive and delicate work of interpreting the Qur’an and the Sunnah is said to require the same process how can it be termed as a monopoly. Does it not require any one to get educated for it? Why the Qur’an and the Sunnah alone are considered to be as pitiable as to be treated by any individual at his own will? How one can be given the right to interpret the Qur’an and the Sunnah while he has not spent even a few months in acquiring the relevant knowledge.
They express their anger against the religious scholars all day long as to why they alone should deserve the right to interpret the Qur’an and the Sunnah? But they never reflect on the amount of pain and labor they have undergone to acquire this right? How in the two hundred years of British rule in India they had remained the target of the British atrocities and aggression? With all the doors of livelihood closed on them by the British rule they preferred to live on meager resources and devoted themselves to acquire this knowledge against all odds. They are still doing it despite the harassment from these modernists. How they their eyes glowed in front of the dim light of oil lamps of clay? And how they attempted to shape their lives in the mould of religion?
If, after all that, the Holy Prophet (PBUH) gives them the right to interpret the Qur’an and his Sunnah, and the Muslims place their trust in them why is this resented by them?
The eagerness of modernists for interpreting the Book and the Traditions is certainly commendable; but for this they should also undergo the physical and mental strain needed for it. They, too, should spend some part of their life in toiling on the roads to knowledge of the Qur’an and learn the manners of living on that ground. If after that any one refuses to recognize them as interpreter of the Qur’an and the Traditions, then their complaint against the scholars would be justified.
When any common Muslim really wants to understand the Qur’anic injunction or prophetic tradition would he seek the help of a modernist self-styled “scholar” or of those “Obscurantist” scholars whom the modernists blame to have robbed the people of their democratic right?
If the multitude of Muslims turn to these traditional scholars without any compulsion, pressure or legal restrictions, place their trust on them and their conscience gets satisfied with it where does the democratic right of people get hurt.
Who have injured the beliefs of the Muslim Ummah with their interpolation, the Ulema or these modernists, is known to all.The Prophet (s.a.w.s) said:
إِنَّ اللَّهَ لاَ يَقْبِضُ الْعِلْمَ انْتِزَاعًا يَنْتَزِعُهُ مِنَ النَّاسِ وَلَكِنْ يَقْبِضُ الْعِلْمَ بِقَبْضِ الْعُلَمَاءِ فَإِذَا لَمْ يُبْقِ عَالِمًا اتَّخَذَ النَّاسُ رُءُوسًا جُهَّالاً فَسُئِلُوا فَأَفْتَوْا بِغَيْرِ عِلْمٍ فَضَلُّوا وَأَضَلُّوا "
”Allah will not cause extinction (or take away) of knowledge by taking it away from the servants, but He will cause extinction of knowledge by taking away the Ulema (learned ones). When no Alim (learned man) remains, the people will then take the ignorant as their leaders. They will seek religious verdicts from them and they will deliver those verdicts without knowledge and the people will go astray and lead each other into error.” [Bukhari and Muslim, Sunan Ibn Maajah, Vol. 1, Book 1, Hadith 52]
The Biggest objection of the Modernists:
Their last and biggest objection is on the condition of “Taqwa” (Fear of Allah, Piety, and Abstinence from evil- doings).
According to them “Taqwa” like “knowledge” is not essential for interpreting the Qur’an. We do not understand what apprehension they have against it.
According to them the complication in this regard is:
“The condition of “Taqwa” is a condition that, every scholar can reject the judgement of another scholar, because everyone has his own standard for Taqwa”.
It should be thoroughly understood that ‘Taqwa’ is not an ambiguous and unsettled term which can be given any meaning by anyone according to his individual liking.
In Islam “Taqwa” is a legal Phrase and countless religious injunctions depend on it. Whenever it is used in a legal sense it would mean “practising the permissibles, abstaining from major sins and not insisting on minor sins.” In the phraseology of the Qur’an it is the opposite of “Fujur” (Apparent Sins, Immorality).
The Qur’an says:
“Then inspired it (with conscience of) its wickedness and its piety.”
Hence anyone abstaining from “Fujur” is a man of Taqwa, and therefore the people shall have no difficulty in deciding about the piety and devotion (Taqwa) of a person. With this in view, one can easily conceive that there can be no complexity or difficulty arising from imposing the condition of knowledge and Taqwa for interpretation, explication or exegesis of the Qur’an and Prophetic tradition.”
In the end we would again like to humbly request the modernists that the use of Street slogans and propaganda weapons would neither render any service to the Ummah nor can any problems be solved with them, nor would it leave any pleasant effect on any serious mind. In the hue and cry of their slogans at the most they can suppress the voice of truth for a short while. But that can only affect the ears, but not the hearts. A stage does come when the cries become hoarse and their throats get dry. It is then that the dignified voice of truth overcomes with full force, directly affects the hearts and stays permanently there.
Adapted from Mufti Taqi Usmani's book "Islam and Modernism".