What is the Status of Scholars?
by Abu Shama
What gives scholars superiority over others?
The Lofty Task of Transmitting Knowledge
The blessing of knowledge is essential for the advancement of humanity and its happiness in this life and the next, for knowledge is a lofty blessing whichever form it takes; seeking it is a blessing, benefiting from it and benefiting others by it is a blessing, preserving it and transmitting it to the following generation is a blessing, as is spreading to people. Those who are nearest to the source of knowledge are the scholars. The Messenger of Allah (peace be on him) said regarding the status of the scholars amongst his Ummah:
‘The superiority of the scholar over the worshipper is like my superiority over the lowest of you.’[Tirmidhi]
How can one imagine the superiority of the Prophet (peace be on him) over the lowest amongst us? It is like comparing a grain of sand to the sun, so what is the status of the scholars? In another hadith the Messenger of Allah (peace be on him) draw similitude of a scholar to the image of a full moon; lighting the darkness of the night and outshining the brightest star (worshipper) to nothing but a speck of light. He said:
‘The superiority of the scholar over the worshipper is like that of the moon, on the night when it is full, over the rest of the stars.’[Abu Dawood]
In ahadith like these, the Prophet (peace be on him) is giving motivation to the Ummah to go and seek knowledge. This superiority here means more responsibility. We have already established that with knowledge comes more responsibility.
Scholars are responsible for propagating the message of the Prophet (peace be on him) in his absence. They are responsible for calling the people towards the good and forbidding the evil. It is not about showing off but rather about encouraging the people to go and seek knowledge, to guide the people to the truth, to help the people to worship Allah correctly and to be in service to the people; advising and often resolving their dilemmas on a daily basis. It is the blessing of knowledge, the subsequent responsibilities that it entails and its undertakings by the scholars which honours them with this superiority in the eyes of Allah Almighty and His creation.
No one is ever envied (the good kind of envy where one only wishes to have the good which others have, without wishing for this blessing to be taken away from them) as scholars are, as the Messenger of Allah (peace be on him) said:
‘None except two types of people may be envied, a man to whom Allah has given wealth which he spends in good cause, and a man to whom Allah has given wisdom (knowledge) by which he judges between people and teaches it to others. [Abu Dawood]
The Messenger of Allah (peace be on him) said:
‘The angels lay down their wings for the seeker of knowledge in approval of what he does.’[Ahmed and Ibn Majah]
This hadith should not be taken literally, but it means facilitation, approval and support from the angels. The angels make repentance on behalf of the knowledge seeker as do the fish in the depth of the sea. It is imperative that you have the right intention, sincerity and humbleness on your quest to seek knowledge.
Arrogance and pride will destroy knowledge. It removes the purity from the knowledge. Ibliss (the Shay’tan) is without a doubt one of the most knowledgeable of Allah Almighty’s creation, but he had pride and arrogance and look at where it led him?
If you have the sincerity in your intention, be assured that you will see the difference and the results in your life.
This is a series compiled following lectures on ‘The Manners and Etiquette of the Teacher and the Students’. The course was based on a book written by Shaykh al-Islam, Badr al-Din Ibn Jama’ah and conveyed to us by our Shaykh Haytham Tamim.
Qadi al-Qudat, Shaykh al-Islam, Badr al-Din Ibn Jama’ah was born in 639 AH (1241 AD). Originally from Syria and later moved to Egypt. He was educated at Hama, achieved excellence in religious studies and jurisprudence, and became a leading promoter of the Shafi’i Fiqh. Eventually, he attained the high status of Shaykh al-Islam and held the high position of Chief Justice. Imam al-Dhahabi has observed that Qadi Ibn Jama’ah was well versed both in prose and poetry, and had left abundant notes on Fiqh, Hadith, Usul al-Fiqh, and Tarikh(History). He commanded respect and influence, and had a large number of students and followers. He died at Cairo in the year 733 A.H. (1332 A.D.), aged 94, and was buried by the side of the great Imam Shafi’i.
His book on the subject of Adab al-Alim wal-Mutaalim
It was in the year 672 AH (1273 AD) that Ibn Jama’ah completed this book as a guide for both students and teachers to help improve quality of their academic life and work.
Ibn Jama’ah – Etitquettes of Seeking Knowledge
Abd Al Barr – Jami’ Bayan Al Ilm
Al Khateeb Al Baghdadi – Al Jami’ li Akhlaq Al Rawi
February 21, 2023
November 27, 2022