Ulema Does Not Mean Scholars

Posted: December 17, 2014 by millatibraheem in Arabic, Rebuttals

The term ‘Ulemaa (عُلَمَاءُ) is a plural correspondent of the singular ‘Aalim (عالم), that means “to know” or “have knowledge” about something.  It has nothing to do with becoming an expert in a particular field as the word has evolved.  What will be discussed is its usage in the religious sense.

Allaah aza wajal says,

وَمِنَ النَّاسِ وَالدَّوَابِّ وَالْأَنْعَامِ مُخْتَلِفٌ أَلْوَانُهُ كَذَٰلِكَ ۗ إِنَّمَا يَخْشَى اللَّهَ مِنْ عِبَادِهِ الْعُلَمَاءُ ۗ إِنَّ اللَّهَ عَزِيزٌ غَفُورٌ

And among people and moving creatures and grazing livestock are various colors similarly. Only those fear Allaah , from among His servants, who have the knowledge [al-Ulema]. Indeed, Allaah is Exalted in Might and Forgiving.

(Faatir 35:28)

This ayah has been translated in different ways, including:

…Only those who fear Allaah, from among his servants/slaves, are knowledgeable ones…”

However, in Arabic it means only one thing, the second translation is the nearest to its correct meaning.  It gives us two main characteristics of the real true Ulema:

1) They fear (خَشِي) Allaah aza wajal

2) They are from the servants of Allaah aza wajal.

That a person who fears Allaah, from the servants, are the ‘Ulema.  Not the one who goes through universities, or a person who is given titles and studies under other so-called ‘Ulema.  The true fear is in the heart and this is only known to Allaah aza wajal.

So the idea of calling people ‘Ulema just because they may have a mouthful of knowledge, or have memorized books, does not make them actual ‘Ulema with Allaah aza wajal.  The ‘Aalim is a matter of the heart and it is unreasonable to give titles to people based on something that only Allaah knows about.

And realistically, many of the people who are looked as ‘Ulema, are the worst of human beings.  They lie on Allaah aza wajal, they break up his Deen into sects, they innovated divisions disguised as schools of thought and made haraam into halaal and likewise, they fabricated reports to the Prophet, especially the fake ahadith about the virtues of scholars, self praise and amusement…and so many other things.  They are also the ones to call each other Ulema, hiding behind the term with their bogus beliefs.

The proper term for a scholar is habr (حَبْر).  It is usually used for a Jewish Rabbi, yet, it literally means “a scribe” or a “learned person.”  The state of the heart is irrelevant and has no connection with fear or being a servant.  Hence, it is more proper to call a scholar – habr, then it is to call them ‘Aalim, since the former is apparent and the later is hidden.

“The books of ahbar and their fatawa

Just because someone may have studied for years and looks like a pious person, does not mean that they are fearing Allaah, or that they are saved from the fire.  One major example are the hypocrites.  Allaah aza wajal says regarding them:

وَإِذَا رَأَيْتَهُمْ تُعْجِبُكَ أَجْسَامُهُمْ ۖ وَإِن يَقُولُوا تَسْمَعْ لِقَوْلِهِمْ ۖ كَأَنَّهُمْ خُشُبٌ مُّسَنَّدَةٌ ۖ يَحْسَبُونَ كُلَّ صَيْحَةٍ عَلَيْهِمْ ۚ هُمُ الْعَدُوُّ فَاحْذَرْهُمْ ۚ قَاتَلَهُمُ اللَّهُ ۖ أَنَّىٰ يُؤْفَكُونَ

And when you see them, their bodies please you, and if they speak, you listen to their speech. [They are] as if they were pieces of wood propped up – they think that every shout is against them. They are the enemy, so beware of them. May Allaah destroy them; how are they deluded?

(Surah al-Munaafiqoon 63:4)

Allaah aza wajal tells us that the hypocrites bodies – or forms- may please us when we look at them, and we listen to them when they speak.  They may be good looking, clean, and wear nice clothes.  Their speech may be eloquent and full of poetry.  Yet, Allaah calls them the enemies and warns us against them.  So we must be careful not to be fooled by the “outer shell” of a person.  Islaam is not people, it is only Qur’aan and authentically proven sayings of Allaah’s Messenger.  Nothing else beyond these two sources is Deen.

A narration (with weakness in it) in Saheeh Muslim, Book of Governance, describes a questioning of several people, including a man who was called an ‘Aalim BY THE PEOPLE and praised for his knowledge and recitation of the Qur’aan.  Yet, he was thrown into the Hell-fire.  Please read the hadeeth carefully here.

حَدَّثَنَا يَحْيَى بْنُ حَبِيبٍ الْحَارِثِيُّ، حَدَّثَنَا خَالِدُ بْنُ الْحَارِثِ، حَدَّثَنَا ابْنُ جُرَيْجٍ، حَدَّثَنِي يُونُسُ بْنُ يُوسُفَ، عَنْ سُلَيْمَانَ بْنِ يَسَارٍ، قَالَ تَفَرَّقَ النَّاسُ عَنْ أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ، فَقَالَ لَهُ نَاتِلُ أَهْلِ الشَّامِ أَيُّهَا الشَّيْخُ حَدِّثْنَا حَدِيثًا سَمِعْتَهُ مِنْ رَسُولِ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم قَالَ نَعَمْ سَمِعْتُ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم يَقُولُ ‏ “‏ إِنَّ أَوَّلَ النَّاسِ يُقْضَى يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ عَلَيْهِ رَجُلٌ اسْتُشْهِدَ فَأُتِيَ بِهِ فَعَرَّفَهُ نِعَمَهُ فَعَرَفَهَا قَالَ فَمَا عَمِلْتَ فِيهَا قَالَ قَاتَلْتُ فِيكَ حَتَّى اسْتُشْهِدْتُ ‏.‏ قَالَ كَذَبْتَ وَلَكِنَّكَ قَاتَلْتَ لأَنْ يُقَالَ جَرِيءٌ ‏.‏ فَقَدْ قِيلَ ‏.‏ ثُمَّ أُمِرَ بِهِ فَسُحِبَ عَلَى وَجْهِهِ حَتَّى أُلْقِيَ فِي النَّارِ وَرَجُلٌ تَعَلَّمَ الْعِلْمَ وَعَلَّمَهُ وَقَرَأَ الْقُرْآنَ فَأُتِيَ بِهِ فَعَرَّفَهُ نِعَمَهُ فَعَرَفَهَا قَالَ فَمَا عَمِلْتَ فِيهَا قَالَ تَعَلَّمْتُ الْعِلْمَ وَعَلَّمْتُهُ وَقَرَأْتُ فِيكَ الْقُرْآنَ ‏.‏ قَالَ كَذَبْتَ وَلَكِنَّكَ تَعَلَّمْتَ الْعِلْمَ لِيُقَالَ عَالِمٌ ‏.‏ وَقَرَأْتَ الْقُرْآنَ لِيُقَالَ هُوَ قَارِئٌ ‏.‏ فَقَدْ قِيلَ ثُمَّ أُمِرَ بِهِ فَسُحِبَ عَلَى وَجْهِهِ حَتَّى أُلْقِيَ فِي النَّارِ ‏.‏ وَرَجُلٌ وَسَّعَ اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَأَعْطَاهُ مِنْ أَصْنَافِ الْمَالِ كُلِّهِ فَأُتِيَ بِهِ فَعَرَّفَهُ نِعَمَهُ فَعَرَفَهَا قَالَ فَمَا عَمِلْتَ فِيهَا قَالَ مَا تَرَكْتُ مِنْ سَبِيلٍ تُحِبُّ أَنْ يُنْفَقَ فِيهَا إِلاَّ أَنْفَقْتُ فِيهَا لَكَ قَالَ كَذَبْتَ وَلَكِنَّكَ فَعَلْتَ لِيُقَالَ هُوَ جَوَادٌ ‏.‏ فَقَدْ قِيلَ ثُمَّ أُمِرَ بِهِ فَسُحِبَ عَلَى وَجْهِهِ ثُمَّ أُلْقِيَ فِي النَّارِ ‏”

It has been narrated on the authority of Sulaiman b. Yasar who said:

People dispersed from around Abu Huraira, and Natil, who was from the Syrians. said to him: O Shaikh, relate (to us) a tradition you have heard from the Messenger of Allaah. He said: Yes. I heard the Messenger of Allaah say: The first of men  will be decided on the Day of Judgment will be a man who died as a martyr. He shall be brought. Allaah will make him recount His blessings and he will recount them . (Then) will Allaah say: What did you do (to requite these blessings)? He will say: I fought for Thee until I died as a martyr. Allaah will say: You have told a lie. You fought that you might be called a” brave warrior”. And you were called so. (Then) orders will be passed against him and he will be dragged with his face downward and cast into Hell. Then will be brought forward a man who acquired knowledge and imparted it (to others) and recited the Qur’aan. He will be brought And Allaah will make him recount His blessings and he will recount them. Then will Allaah ask: What did you do (to requite these blessings)? He will say: I acquired knowledge and disseminated it and recited the Qur’aan seeking Thy pleasure. Allaah will say: You have told a lie. You acquired knowledge so that you might be called “a scholar,” and you recited the Qur’aan so that it might be said: “He is a Qari” and such has been said. Then orders will be passed against him and he shall be dragged with his face downward and cast into the Fire. Then will be brought a man whom Allaah had made abundantly rich and had granted every kind of wealth. He will be brought and Allaah will make him recount His blessings and he will recount them and (admit having enjoyed them in his lifetime). Allaah will (then) ask: What have you done (to requite these blessings)? He will say: I spent money in every cause in which Thou wished that it should be spent. Allah will say: You are lying. You did (so) that it might be said about (You):” He is a generous fellow” and so it was said. Then will Allaah pass orders and he will be dragged with his face downward and thrown into Hell.
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