This essay was written with the understanding that American Muslims do not live in a country that has Muslim courts. And because of this truth, much of what we choose to accept as ‘practice’ will come from various pathways of Sunni discipline, and this is ok, because we will tailor our practice to fit our situation. It is also my position that, taken as a whole, the Four Schools of Sunni legal thought, the Madhhabs, that has developed over the centuries through critical analysis, has as one of its primary goals, the responsibility to direct the ‘Ummah’ to the Middle Course and away from extremism. May Allah keep us away from extremism, Ameen !
Mahmoud Andrade Ibrahim
Scholars are academics. Yes even Muslim scholars are academics, nothing more. They each have opinions and sometimes, really more often than not, they have differing opinions. It is in the nature of true scholarship to disagree so that the works of the scholars are subject to inquiry, debate and most importantly, improvement.
There are traditions attributed to our Beloved Prophet (pboh) such as “The scholars are the inheritors of the Prophets” that are used in arguments when someone is trying to advance a position in favor of a particular scholar as if to suggest that because this particular scholar has this position, the entire Muslim world must conform to it. To me, that is as ridiculous as to suppose that because one academic from Harvard held a particular position, all other professors and academics around the world must hold the same position.
How did we get into such a convoluted state. These guys are not gods, but many in the community attach themselves to one sheikh or a group of scholars as if they were the only light in the darkness. Scholars are like lawyers, they thrive on different interpretations of everything they put their hands on. Everything !
There is a little story I heard from a student of Al Azhar after eating an evening meal at a relative’s house. He said “ once a pious man was walking down a lonely dark road and was surprised to see shaytan sitting on the side of the road with his hands holding his head and a very worried look on his face. The pious man, after asking Allah for protection, asked shaytan why are you sitting here looking so worried? Shaytan looked up and said, ‘with so many scholars giving opinions and the believers in a state of total confusion, there is nothing left for me to do.”
In Al Azhar in Egypt, the world's most important Muslim University with a history that goes back many hundreds of years, the religious library is filled with hundreds of thousands of books with differing opinions on any given topic (click here). That's the true nature of scholarly pursuit.
How many Muslim scholars are living now ? Well I don’t know, but if one half of 1 percent of the Muslim world ( 1.5 billion people ) are academics, that would mean there are about 7.5 million scholars in the world ! I’m just saying !
So why is this an important bit of information ? Its because in order for something to be binding on the Muslim Community, there must be a unanimous consensus, not a majority consensus, a unanimous consensus by the scholars about that particular issue, this process is called IJMA'A. So when you think of all of the topics we fight over, high pants, beards, niqab vs hijab vs covering at all, music, jihad, when is it ok to finance your home or your car etc. , then you have to imagine 7.5 million scholars ALL in agreement with that particular issue. The same way they would all be in agreement with the 5 salat as an obligation.
HOWEVER, once you know that there is a difference of opinion among the scholars about a topic or an issue, then do what you think is best and most pleasing to Allah and view it only as a personal opinion and do not force anyone else to agree with your personal opinion nor oppress anyone for not agreeing with you on that matter.
Because Allah says: يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ اتَّقُواْ اللّهَ وَابْتَغُواْ إِلَيهِ الْوَسِيلَةَ وَجَاهِدُواْ فِي
سَبِيلِهِ لَعَلَّكُمْ تُفْلِحُونَ
O ye who believe, be careful of your duty to Allah, and seek that which is better, and strive in His way in order that you may succeed. (Sura Ma'idah : 5 : 35)
THIS IS WISDOM !
any given topic ( if you dare )