ASK A MUSLIM SCHOLAR DECEMBER 2021
- Is a degree in Islamic studies a requirement for an Islamic scholar?
Although having a degree in Islamic studies in itself is not an essential requirement, receiving proper education and training under capable scholars is. Considering that a scholar may be called upon to pronounce a judgement on a question of halal and haram or he may also need to explain verses of the Qur’an and the Hadith, this is easily understandable. To give an Islamic ruling without proper knowledge is highly sinful as it is tantamount to attributing false claims to Allah. As Imam Ibn al-Qayyim has stated, it is akin to committing shirk or associating partners with Allah. Moreover, the Prophet has also warned us against interpreting the Qur’an without proper knowledge. He said, “whoever interprets the Qur’an according to his own personal opinion, let him find his abode in hell-fire.”
Because of the above-mentioned considerations, Islamic scholars have stipulated rigorous requirements for a scholar eligible to pronounce rulings. Essentially, besides possessing thorough mastery of the Arabic language and ancillary sciences, he must possess thorough knowledge of Islamic sources, namely the Qur’an and the Sunnah. He must also be fully conversant with the disciplines of jurisprudence, principles of jurisprudence, etc.
In other words, proper scholarship in Islam requires specialized training under capable and qualified scholars. A degree or license is, therefore, an indication that a person has completed a prescribed course of study; it is, therefore, a plus. Imam Shafi was speaking on behalf of all other imams when he said about the credentials of a proper Islamic scholar, “ My brother, you cannot be a scholar unless you fulfil six conditions: intelligence, passion (for knowledge), perseverance, sustenance (to single-mindedly devote to study), guidance of a teacher, and many years (of dedicated study).
- I often hear hadiths which seem to be very strange. How do I deal with them?
One should remember that everything that is recorded is not per se the words of the Prophet, peace be on him. Our scholars have recorded everything – they did not burn the evidence. But at the same time they were very careful to scrutinize hadiths. They established the criteria for scrutinizing the evidence in order to sift the authentic ones from those which were false or spurious. Hundreds of scholars gave their lives to this noble task.
Thanks to their efforts, all hadiths have been sorted out and labeled according to their degrees of authenticity and non-authenticity.
Therefore if you hear a speaker quoting a certain hadith that sounds strange, ask for sources. Chances are that it could be one of the many hadiths labeled as weak or outright fabrication, and therefore, should never be used by speakers or writers.
One of the most disheartening things about some speakers today is that they are not careful in using hadiths. For general information we give below three of the most common categories of hadith.
Sahih: A hadith that is of unquestionable authenticity.
Da’eef: A hadith that has weakness in its chain or text.
Mawdu’: A hadith that is undoubtedly an outright fabrication.
All hadiths of the famous collection of al-Bukhari, known as Sahih al-Bukhari are considered authentic. If, however, a hadith in Sahih al-Bukhari does not sound rational to you, please check with a scholar of Islam who should be able to explain and interpret it for you.
A person is praying, but he is commiting all sorts of sins such as theft, lying, etc. The other day when we were discussing this issue some of us were inclined to say it is better for this person to start praying only after he has left such sins. Is this a sound opinion?
A number of points need to be clarified in answer to this question:
Prayer, in itself, is the best thing a person can do in this world; there is nothing better a person can do than pray at the time of prayer.
We should never tell a person who is praying to stop praying. However, if a person is praying and yet persisting in sins, the question is: Why is he acting against the spirit of prayer? It could be that the person is not praying properly, or he is not aware of the effect of prayer and its significance. If a person is praying properly, it is bound to refine the internal and external of the person. Prayer instills the consciousness of Allah and reminds a person of his accountability to his Creator. Therefore, if he conditions himself to pray consciously and in the proper spirit, visualizing the meaning and significance of salah, he must, sooner or later, eventually give up all sins.
It is, therefore, the Islamic duty of his brothers to remind him to be true to the spirit of salah. Ultimately it is only prayer that will help a person give up sins. Allah says, “verily prayer restrains (a person) from acts of lewdness and vices.” The Prophet also told us that praying five times a day is bound to cleanse a person thoroughly (both morally and spiritually), just as bathing five times a day in a pool of fresh water rids a person off all of his physical impurities.