"…Those truly fear Allah among His servants are those who have knowledge (Ulema). For Allah is Exalted in Might and is Forgiving." [Al-Fatir: 28]
Regarding "…Those truly fear Allah among His servants are those who have knowledge…"
Ibn Kathir stated that, "The more the knowledge of Allah and His (swt) power is complete, the more He (swt) will be feared by those who have the complete knowledge."
Imam Al-Qurtubi said that, "The scholars are those who know the power of Allah (swt). They are in no doubt of his (swt) punishment no mater what the sin is."
It was narrated by Ali ibn abi Talha that Ibn Abbas (ra) said, "The scholars are those who know that Allah is capable of anything."
Al-Rabee narrated that Ibn Abbas (ra) said, "He who dos not fear Allah (and His punishment) is not a scholar."
Ali ibn abi Talib (ra) said, "The true faqih is the one who will not make the people give up or lose hope in Allah’s mercy; an does not belittle disobedience to Allah; and does not make the people feel protected from Allah’s punishment; and does not leave the Qur’an deliberately (when judging) to judge by other than the Qur’an. A worship not based on knowledge has no value. And a knowledge with no understanding has no value. And a recitation without reflection has no value."
"For Allah is Exalted…" i.e. the One who punishes and rewards should be feared.
The amount of Islamic knowledge, however varies from individual to individual. Therefore, some will know more than others and will need to teach those whose knowledge is less. Those who have the knowledge of the Islamic rules are called ulemaa'. While they do not occupy any spiritual position in Islam, they are given more responsibility then others due to the knowledge they posses. They are the ones who teach the Ummah their Deen, help guide them through the problems of life and direct them to the Islamic priorities. Allah (swt) made it clear that His revelation is to be openly declared to all:
"And Allah took the covenant from those who had received the scripture to make it known and clear to mankind and not to hide it" (TMQ 3:187)
He (swt) has warned against hiding the knowledge, which He (swt), has entrusted us with. He
"Those who hide the proofs and the guidance which We revealed, after We had made it clear in the scripture, on them shall be Allah's curse and the curse of those who are entitled to curse." (TMQ 2:15 9)
Allah's Messenger (saw) informed us of the status and importance of the scholars when he (saw) said, "Whomever Al1ah wants goodness for, he makes him understand the Deen (Islam)." [Al-Bukhari]
He (saw) also said, "The scholars on earth are like the stars in the sky. People are guided by them in the darkness of the land and the sea. If the stars are covered, people would get lost." [Ahmad]
So we are told by the Messenger (saw) himself that scholars play an important role in guiding the Ummah and championing its cause. They are most needed nowadays at a time when Islam is no longer implemented, shirk of legislation is the law of Muslims, division and fragmentation pervade the Ummah, and the Western nations dominate over us. They are desperately needed now to show the Ummah how to re-establish Islam, unite as one body and take control of the international arena. It is the scholars who must lead the Ummah in its struggle against the tyrant rulers who not only insist on implementing western laws on Muslims, enslaving them to imperialist masters, but also imprisoning, torturing and killing those who want to simply live by Islam. The Islamic scholars of the past played such a leading role. They always stood firm and favoured Islam and the well-being of the Muslim Ummah over any other interest, and sometimes even at the expense of their own lives. They feared no one but Allah (swt) and thus they spoke the truth with absolutely no compromise of Islam. This was especially the case when it came to the rulers and how they conducted their affairs.
Muhammad (saw) said, "Whoever sees an unjust ruler breaking the prohibition of Allah, breaking His covenant, disagreeing with the Sunnah of the Prophet, committing sins and creating animosity against the servants ofAI1ah, and he does not say or do anything against it, then it is the right of Allah to put him where he belongs (hell)." (reported by At Tabbai in At-Tarikh and Ibn Al-Atheer in AI-Kamel).
Muhammad (saw) also said, "There will be unjust rulers who cause hardship to their people. Whoever went along with their lies and helped them with their injustice, he is not from me nor am I from him, and he will not drink from the Al-Hawd (pond)" (Ahmad, An-Nisa'ii, At-Tirmithi).
The following accounts are examples of how the scholars remained steadfast to Islam and did not remain silent in correcting the rulers of their time. Their love of Allah was far greater than any fear of torture the ruler could administer.
1 - The scholar Imam Sufiyan At-Thawri said "when AI-Mahdi Abu Jaa'far AI-Mansoor (the Khalifah came to Hajj, he asked for me. So [his men] watched the house and took me at night. When I was before him, he sat me close to him. He said, "Why don't you stay close to us where we can consult you in our affair. Whatever you tell us to do, we will comply with it." I [Sufiyan] said to him, "How much did you spend on this trip [for Hajj] of yours." He said, "I don't know. I have trustees and appointees [to take care of these matters]. "I said, "What excuse will you have tomorrow when you stand in front of Allah (swt), and He asks you about it?" (Sufiyan then related the example of Omar Ibn Al-Khattab). Omar Ibn Al-Khattab asked his servant, when he performed Hajj, for how much did he spend on their trip? He said, "O Ameer of the believers, I spent 18 Dinars." Omar said, "We overspent from the Muslims treasury" (Sufiyan then added) You know, Ibn Mas'ood reported that the Prophet said, "A person who spends from the wealth of Allah and His Messenger [extravagantly], will be rewarded hell." One of Abu Ja'faar's aids said (to Sufiyan) "You say this to the Ameer of the believers!?" Safiyan answered him, with the dignity and strength of the believers: "Silent! It is Haman (minister of Pharaoh) who destroyed Pharaoh and Pharaoh destroyed Haman. (Meaning the one who gave advice and the one who should follow the advice destroyed one another when they did not do as they should.)."
2 - Hajeej Az-Zayyat was a scholar at the time of Hajjaj who was a tyrant governor of Iraq. Al-Hajjaj asked him, "What do you think of me?" Az-Zayyat replied, "I say you are one of the enemies of Allah. You break Allah's laws and you kill for mere doubt." Al-Hajjaj asked him, "What do you say about the Ameer of the believers Abdul Malik bin Marwan?" He said, "He is a bigger sinner than you. You are but one of his sins." Al-Hajjaj ordered him to be tortured. They split bamboo sticks and tied his flesh with it. Then they started splitting the sticks tearing his flesh with it. He died shaheed. He was only 18 years old; may Allah (swt) have mercy on him.
3 - Sulayman bin Abdul Malik stopped by Medinah on his way to Mecca. He sent for a scholar named Abu Hazem. Once Abu Hazem entered, Sulayman asked him, "Why do we hate death?" Abu Hazem replied, "Because you ruined your hereafter and took care of your life. So you hate to go from luxury to ruin. Then after giving him sincere advice, Sulayman asked him, "What do you say of me?" Abu Hazem said, "Do not push me to answer." He said, "It is advice. You must tell me." Abu Hazem said, "Your forefathers overpowered the Muslims and took over the ruling position without the Muslims consultation or approval. They also killed a great number of them. You should know their behaviour and what was thought of them. One of the people said, "How could you say this!" Abu Hazim said, "Allah took the covenant from the scholars to explain things to the people and not to hide (true knowledge)"
Imam Malik bin Anas stated: "It is a duty upon every Muslim whom Allah has given some knowledge or fiqh to confront any ruler, command him to do good, forbid him from evil. This differentiates the scholar from others when they approach a ruler. This is the status that is not surpassed."
The reader should compare the positions taken by the scholars of the past against unjust, yet legitimate Khalifahs and governors and those taken by nowadays scholars. Al-Jaahith reported in Al-Byan wat Tabiyeen that Muhammad (saw) was asked, "0 Messenger of AI1ah, who is the worst people?" He replied, "The scholars, if they become corrupt."
Imam Ali is reported to have said, "Two types of people I cannot tolerate are - a scholar who is shameless and an ignorant worshiper. The ignorant worshipper fools the people with his worship and the scholar with his shamelessness."
If these scholars were true Islamic scholars they would show the people by example, standing by the Islamic rule, even if it costs them their lives. Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal realised his role as a scholar who is to show the Ummah that the Muslim is to fear none but Allah. He stated, "If the scholar uses Tuqyah (concealment of knowledge for one's own protection) in his answers, the ignorant person does not know, when will the Truth become known!"
These scholars have misled many people, especially those who have taken them as idols without knowing it. While denouncing imitation, they keep repeating what their scholars say, rejecting the tangible. We remind our brothers and sisters of a basic part of our Aqeedah called al-walaa wal- baraa' (allegiance to the believers and its supporters and denouncing the disbelievers and their supporters).
When a ruler rules by Kufr and scholars support him, what is their Islamic verdict? And what is our position vis-à-vis them? 0 Allah, have we conveyed the Message? 0 Allah be our witness!
Imam AI-Ghazali in Ihya'a Uloom id-Deen, volume 7, page 72 said, "This was the way and tradition of the scholars: commanding good and forbidding evil. They cared less for the might of the rulers. They depended on Allah's blessing to protect them and accepted Allah's rule of giving them the Shahadah. When their intentions were pure, their words softened the hard hearts. But now, greed has tied up the scholars tongues and made them quiet. Even if they talk, their speech will help none of the affairs at hand and thus they will fail. Had they told the truth and intended to give knowledge its due right, they would have succeeded. The corruption of the people is due to the corruption of the rulers; the corrupt rulers exist due to the corruption of the scholars (for the scholars are not speaking out against these rulers); and the corruption of the scholars is due to the love of wealth and power.
Whoever is dominated by the love of this world, he is so preoccupied that he is unable to question the general public. If he cannot even question the general public of their duty, then how will he have the capacity and the courage to question the rulers and those in higher positions?"