In today’s world we have many respected scholars amongst us. Brilliant scholars of Islam who spend their time and efforts teaching and imparting knowledge to the ‘awaam (common people). And Islam teaches proper etiquette and respect when dealing with our scholars. For their role is of extreme importance and we owe them so much, that even when Allah commanded the Muslims to go for battle He made an exception:
And it is not for the believers to go forth [to battle] all at once. For there should separate from every division of them a group [remaining] to obtain understanding in the religion and warn their people when they return to them that they might be cautious. [Surat at-Tawbah, verse 122]
But remember in all things the old principle holds true, we are the middle nation, who do not go to either extremes of the spectrum. Of course we hold our teachers and scholars with the utmost respect, but it is important to know how to distinguish what is ok and what is opening the doors to extremism. Afterall, didn’t Allah سبحانه وتعالى say regarding the Jews and Christians in Surat at-Tawbah, verse 31:
They have taken their scholars and monks as lords besides Allah , and [also] the Messiah, the son of Mary. And they were not commanded except to worship one God; there is no deity except Him. Exalted is He above whatever they associate with Him.
Allah said this regarding the Jews and Christians regarding how they treated their scholars and yet, they did not pray to or literally ‘worship’ them. So what is it that they did, that Allah equated to their worshipping lords besides Him جل وعلا? It is reported that ‘Adiy bin Haatim who was a Christian, came to the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم while he was reciting this verse, at which ‘Adiy said “They did not worship them”. The Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم responded to this:
بلى إنهم حرموا عليهم الحلال، وأحلوا لهم الحرام، فاتبعوهم، فذلك عبادتهم إياهم
Nay, indeed they prohibited what was permissible, and made permissible for them what was prohibited, and they (Jews and Christians) followed them, so that was their worship of them. [Part of the full narration in Ahmad & at-Tirmidhi]
The Jews and Christians took their scholars as lords besides Allah because they attached themselves to personalities instead of Allah. Their loyalty was to their scholars instead of Allah, such that they followed them whether they were wrong or right. And our beloved Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم also told us that there would be those of this Ummah who would fall into the same mistakes as those before them. Today we see this everwhere, where people will blindly follow their “shaykh” whether they are wrong or right and close their minds to anything else. It is of utmost importance therefore that we ensure that no matter what, we always attach our loyalty to Allah and make Him our goal سبحانه وتعالى. Our sincerity should be to Allah Alone, as He ends the previous verse in Surat at-Tawbah, verse 31:
And they were not commanded except to worship one God; there is no deity except Him. Exalted is He above whatever they associate with Him.