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The Identity of the Ulama

Source: Ain-al-Hayat, By: Allama Muhammad Baqir Majlisi


Imam Hasaan Al-’Askari (as) narrates form Imam Zain-ul-’Abidin (as), “When you see a person who has the appearance of a religious scholar, gives deep thought in giving opinion on religious matters, shows excessive humility in his dealings, don’t make haste in falling to his stratagems. There are plenty of people who, for worldly gains, pretend to be what they are not in reality. If you notice that the person is not interested in material gains, manifests external piety, even then one should be careful in deciding about his authenticity. Remember! There are many kinds of mundane desires. If a person is not interested in wealth, he might be inclined towards other things that are against the Law of the Religion (Shara).
If you are sure that the person is free of these aberrations too, you have to observe him further that there are some persons who lack in intellect and for this failing sometimes they cause grave damage to the Religion in their ignorance. Even after assuring yourself about this, observe the person further unless you know that his emotions don’t prevail over his better sense in any matter.
Ensure that he doesn’t prefer worldly pomp (Riyasat) and show. There are many persons in this world who lose their Faith in search of worldly gains! They may be deprived of both! Because of these sins Allah removes His Munificence and Mercies from them and leaves them in the morass of depravity. Then they start pronouncing as legitimate (Halal) what is termed taboo (Haram) by Allah and they try to prove Haram things that are deemed Halal by the Almighty. For worldly pomp the person forgets his Religious obligations. These are the people who will be the accursed of Allah and will have stringent Retribution in store for them!
A bold person is one who controls his carnal desires. He expends his energies in the way of Allah. He will have a firm belief that he has to prepare for the benefits of the Hereafter in this life. He knows that the worldly fame and adulation is transitory. If he has to bear some hardship in this world to follow the dictates of the Faith, he is sure of the perpetual pleasure and benefits in the other world. He will have all the qualities that make him fit and ideal for emulation (taqleed) by others. His prayers are always answered!
Amir’ul-Mu’mineen ‘Ali (as) says, “Two persons break my back! The first, a person who is wise but is a transgressor and immoral. The second,.one who is ignorant but keeps himself very much busy in prayer. The first person misguides others with his wrong acts. The second sets a bad example for others with his excessive indulgence in prayer. O people! Beware of the transgressing scholar and the ignorant worshipper because their emulation might lead you astray. I have heard the Prophet of Allah (S) say, ‘My people will suffer at the hands of the hypocrites!’”
It is narrated that Imam Ja’far As-Sadiq (as) told to Abu Hamza Shimali, “O Hamza! Beware pomp and pelf! Avoid making disciples and also avoid following others!” Abu Hamza said, “O Imam (as)! Pomp I don’t know of, but I have been emulating others that I tried to find your sayings from them!” The Imam (as) replied, I don’t mean what you have understood from my talk. But remember, every act doesn’t qualify one for a reward. Bearing every hardship doesn’t bring one nearer to Allah! The yardstick of judging acts, good or bad, is according to the Ordinance of Allah and His Prophet (S). The Deliverance is only through this route.
The unfortunate Jews are very rigid about not accepting any change in their Shariat. They don’t accept that in later periods Allah could have made amendments and changes in the Shariat. The changes are not because of the ignorance of the commentator or interpreter. But they are because of the changed circumstances and needs of the times. A physician, while treating his patient, changes the medicine as he makes progress towards the cure. Similarly, the Shariat has to undergo changes to suit the circumstances and the times. Therefore, the Prophet of Islam (S), and the Infallible Imams (as) after him, have laid down the norms of Shariah, for their times. Any alteration, addition or deletion of these is tantamount to innovation (Bidaa) that is taboo (Haram).

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