As Muslims, part of that which is established in our deen is honour and respect for our pious scholars (may Allaah have mercy on them) and the avoidance of speaking evil of them. This is what Allaah has commanded that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) has exemplified and was what the companions were upon. (May Allaah be pleased with them).
Who they are
Amongst the believers, there are of his servants that He has favoured with the knowledge and understanding of His Book, the Qur'aan, and the Sunnah of His Messenger Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him). Through them the lawful and the prohibited ,the truth and the falsehood, good, bad and the disliked are made known.
Allaah has elevated them with knowledge and beautified them with gentleness since there is nothing worse than someone who has been blessed with knowledge but whose knowledge the people abandon because of the corruption of his ways.
About the Jews, Allaah says:
"The likeness of those who were entrusted with the Tauraat (to obey its commandments and to practice its legal laws), but who subsequently failed in those(obligations), is as the likeness of a donkey who carries huge burdens of books (but understands nothing from them). How bad is the example(or the likeness) of people who deny the Aayat (verses, signs, revelations) of Allaah. And Allaah guides not the people who are Zalimoon (wrongdoers, disbelievers, etc.)."(Q62:5)
So, knowledge then becomes a burden and a shackle on the neck of the one who possesses it when it is not acted upon.
Honour for them
Allaah mentioned virtues and excellence of the scholars. He also says:
"o you who believe! When you are told to make room in the assemblies, (spread out and) make room. Allaah will give you (ample)room (from His Mercy). And when you are told to rise up [for prayers, Jihad or for any other good deed],rise up. Allaah will exalt in degree those of you who believe, and those who have been granted knowledge, degrees higher. And Allaah is Well-Acquainted with what you do." (Q58:11).
The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said:
"The Scholars are the inheritors of the prophets. Verily, the Prophets neither left behind (for inheritance) a dirham nor dinar rather, they left behind Knowledge. Whoever grabs it holds on to fortune," (Abu Dawud).
In another narration he informed us that the fishes in the sea seek forgiveness for them and the angels spread their wings for them in respect. And on the Day of Judgment they would be the next to intercede for men after the prophets (peace be upon them).
All these point to the fact that Allaah bestowed great blessings on the scholars and has made them exceed other than them in excellence and virtue.
The Duty on us
It is therefore the duty of every Muslim to honour and respect the scholars, past and present; having great regards for them as they are most honoured by Allaah and His Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) and not to speak ill of them or hunt for their mistakes to spread evil and demean their status in the sight of the people. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said:
"He is not of us one who does not respect our elders, nor is he merciful to our young ones nor does, he regard the rights of our Aalim (scholar).” (Abu Dawud).
Some shortcomings which may be found in their works does not warrant their condemnation since no human is free of errors and mistakes. Rather we should pray for them as was the practice of the Companions of the Prophet concerning whom Allaah says:
"And those who came after them say: 'Our Lord! Forgive us and our brethren who have preceded us in Faith, and put not in our hearts any hatred against those who have believed. Our Lord! You are indeed full of kindness, Most Merciful.'
This article was culled from the publications of Deen Communication Limi