Laypeople, Students of knowledge and Scholars
بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
وعليكم السلام ورحمة الله وبركاته
This is a brief yet comprehensive guideline that detailes the differences between lapypeople, students of knowledge and scholars. Despites the core of the topic, I could not find better section to post this treatise at other than the Section of Islamic Adab & Tazkiyah since I am writing while considering the application of this topic rather than being concerned with category of the subject. I hope this soften hearts and be a reason to soften manners and how one should act with students of knowledge and scholars.
The purpose and the drive behind writing about this topic can be summed up in the following points:
a. It is common to hear "This knowledge is religion, so becareful from whom you take your religion". However, people still unawre of what constitute a scholar or a student knowledge. Therefore, they end up taking religion and knowledge from unreliable people without realizing so.
b. The arise of the new fashionable trend of " I only follow the Daleel" amongst average Muslims in the west, therefore we started to find everyone is more than happy to share and introduce his views about religion. Also, it became common to find laypeople insult, disrespect and defame scholars because those scholars do not adopt the Daleel, as they flasely claim.
c. The need to draw lines between laypeople and people of knowledge so that everyone knows hi stance and his status and act upon it as he should. Also, it will change the approach of people to seek knowledge and how they view scholars.
So, I hope this topic bring the expected benefits to Muslims and clarify the existing misconceptions that appeared amongst Muslims in this era. that said, I obligate myself to write based on my observations and what I witnessed in person. Therefore, if one finds some of the incidents I mention here might apply on him, to excuse us and to consider the fact and the purpose behind this writing i.e. to join the right and goodness and offer the sincere advice that we are obligated to give to our Muslim fellows.
Generaly speaking, Muslims are divided, according to scal eof knowledge in this religion, to three groups:
a. Laypeople b. Students of knowledge c. Scholars
Each group comprises different levels and ranks as shall be explained inshallah. So, lets examine the first group inshallah.
They are the majority of Muslims and they are those who lack the knowledge and its instruments that enable them to conclude rulings or weight proofs or decide what is more correct. These are referred to as "العوام" and "المقلدة" which means: common people and followers (i.e. follow a ruling that has been adopted by a scholar). Upon this definition, we conclude that laypeople are known as well to be "المستفتي" which means: The one who asks for the Fatwa (i.e. islamic verdicts).
The reason why this group has been identified in that manner is because they lack the following instruments, which they are required to qualify one to conclude a ruling from religion:
a. Arabic langauge: This is most important science amongst all sciences because all other scienecs rely on it. This science cannot be obtained by self-study although a self-study can enable one to grasp the basics of this noble science. There are many different areas that Arabic language includes such like: Grammer, Arab Dialects, Balagha (i.e. Eloquence), Sarf (i.e.Syntax & Morphology), poetry and etc.To be continued inshallah..
Tafseer and its principles: This science has been viewed by many to be the easiset since they tend to think of Tafseer to be as simple as googling for an online copy of a tafseer book then view the quotes that are mentioned there about an ayaa. However, in reality, this is one complicated science because it is based on principles and fundamentals. So, one is required to be well versed at abrogation, Fiqh, creed, science of Hadeeth and Arabic before stepping forward to this science. Neverthless, Tafseer books indeed can enable one to understand scholars view about an ayaa but one would not be able to balance views or conclude a ruling without acquiring this preliminary knowledge.
Science of Hadeeth: This noble and precious complicated science has been, unfortunately, looked at by many average Muslims as Mathematics that anyone can do. They simply bring you the chain then google the names of each narrator then end up saying: Thiqa + thiqa + Thiqa = It is authentic. Or they find one weak narrator in the chain then come out with their own clasification that this is weak hadeeth! This science is indeed one of the most complicated sciences due its importance to the religion and due its endless information. It is enough to show how complicated it is and at the same time show its relation to other sciences: sometimes scholars declare one hadeeth to be fabricated or weak based on the text by saying: the style of words cannot be said as it is weak style. How would an average Muslims tells the difference between a weak and strong style. Also, it is known that styles of speak differed after the 4th generation so how one average Muslim be able to recognize such difference!! This science requires in depth study to the following fields: Arabic, I'lal (defects), biographies of men, geography, history, names of towns and cities, principles of Hadeeths in addition to mastering Arabic, Fiqh, Usool, abrogation and other scineces.
Fiqh and its Usool: For many this might as simple as googling the Muhalla or Nail al-Awtaar to start showing the muscles. However, in reality the topics are more complicated than what many think because not every matter is dependent on proof and not every analogy is correct and not every proof means it includes a ruling. This science requires one to be well versed in Arabic language in addition to all what has been mentioned before from sciences.
Based on the above, we can realize that people who happen to read one article or some articles about one matter, or even read couple of chapters from fiqh books, opr even read a compelte fiqh book (which I highly doubt) do not give them the right to take the position of others (i.e. scholars and students of knowledge). That said, it is clear to note that one cannot defend what he adopted because how would a Muqalid defend what he could not concluded himself and hence had to adopt someone else view!!
This group consist of different levels as it is obvoious and it would be unfair to consider all laypeople stand on the same floor when it comes to knowledge. So, we can rate them from 1 - 10 in scale of knowledge according to the standrads of laypeople and the higher rate one gets the closer he gets to the level above him. So, if one for example happens to attended many lectures and seminars and read extensively about a topic then that makes higher in rank than a person who has not acquired this knowledge. Neverthless, both are laypeople and one who is higher in rank yet still belong to this group must not think high of himself or act as if he is a student of knowledge or scholars.
Imam Malik was able to step forward after 40 years from continuous study under the feet of his scholars. So, let no one ever think that he is more knowledgable than Imam malik or that you are more intelligent than him. This is must be a reason to humble yourself down.
So, if the above is knonw, how laypeople should react to issues of religion, doubts and arguments of anti-Islam?
This is very important question and the answer as simple as this:
If the matter is knonw by necessity in religion such like alcohol is Haram, cheating, liying, backbiting, slandering and etc are Haram or that Salaat, Zakaat, Fasting, Hajj, Believing in Quran and Sunnah and etc are complusory. The one does not need nor expected to be student of knowledge to advise, inform, disjoin the wrong or join the right.
If the matter concerns doubts that one have, then if it is concerning one of the matters that are known by necessity in religion, as mentioned before, then one should explain it and clarify it to the asker. However, if the matter requires so much details that is beyond one's knowledge then people need to refer to scholars and people of knowledge and ask for consultants.
If the matter is about refuting arguments of the deviants or the anti-islam followers then there are two approches:
a. Some people are specilised in one field due their focus on learning about it. Those are encouraged to defend Islam as they aquaired the needed instruments to defent Islam in this particular area. Those what we tend to call them "Du'aaat"
b. Some people might not have the enough knowledge to refute but at same time others with knowledge do not have access to this doubt to refute. So, he is encouraged to consult peopleof knowledge and either ask them to refute it there or they can provide him with the answers that he quoted.
This has been said while I know there are many who wanted to do good deed by preaching islam or defend it then they caused more harm than anyone can think of due their lack of knowledge.
By Ust. Ayman Bin Khaled