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Respecting Scholars

What is the proper etiquette of dealing with our scholars?Imam Sajjad (peace be upon him) explains the rights of the preacher in the famous Treatise of Rights: “It is the right of the person who guides you that you remain humble to him, and put your heart into his talk, and open your ears to his call, so that you may understand his talk, then examine it carefully. If he is right, be thankful to Allah, accept the preacher’s advice, and respect him for it. And if you could not discern the truth, have mercy on him, and do not blame him. You should appreciate that he did not withhold his advice from you though his ideas were mistaken. Of course, if you know that he is not sincere to you, then the matter is different. But in that case, you should not listen to him at all, and there is no power but with Allah.”

What is the proper etiquette of dealing with our scholars?In this holy month of Ramadan, we perform a lot of actions to bring us closer to Allah. Along with the required injunction of fasting, we pray a little more than usual, we are careful to not backbite or hurt others’ feelings, and we make sure to avoid vain acts that would take us away from the remembrance of our Lord. One other thing we do is listen to the scholars a little more. Whether it is attending the speeches at our local center or benefiting from talks we hear on the internet, it is easier than ever to hear the wise words of one of our great scholars. The scholars are the backbone of our religion, and Imam Husain (peace be upon him) said it best when he said, “Verily, the paths to Muslims’ affairs and the religious ordinances are in the hands of the godly scholars who are the trusties of Allah in His lawful and unlawful things.” So it is undoubtedly true that scholars hold a supremely important position in our religion and should be shown the proper respect.

It is also easier than ever to access our scholars for questions and discussion. We can stay after the lecture to ask questions, give them a call, or shoot them an email. Many scholars are willing to give us as much of their valuable time and energy they can spare in order to serve the people. Accordingly, they should be shown the proper respect, and certain etiquette should be kept in mind when interacting with scholars. Too many times there are people who, knowingly or unknowingly, act in a rude way with scholars. Things such as asking too many unnecessary questions, interrupting the scholars when they speak, and not letting them get a word in while you explain your view on a subject are all examples of improper ways to speak with our scholars.

Imam Sajjad (peace be upon him) explains the rights of the preacher in the famous Treatise of Rights: “It is the right of the person who guides you that you remain humble to him, and put your heart into his talk, and open your ears to his call, so that you may understand his talk, then examine it carefully. If he is right, be thankful to Allah, accept the preacher’s advice, and respect him for it. And if you could not discern the truth, have mercy on him, and do not blame him. You should appreciate that he did not withhold his advice from you though his ideas were mistaken. Of course, if you know that he is not sincere to you, then the matter is different. But in that case, you should not listen to him at all, and there is no power but with Allah.”

Be Open-Minded

Many of us have very firm views on certain topics. Be it our capacity in participating in the government to achieve Islamic goals or the best course of action to help Muslims abroad, there are many issues that don’t exactly have one correct answer. When we question a scholar, we should question with an open mind and be willing to consider another point of view from one we currently have. If not, asking such a question only helps to serve one’s ego and will only harden our views and possibly cause animosity.

Let the (Wo)Man Talk!

Many times we see people ask questions of our scholars, only to see that question become the person’s life story or a speech of their own. We all have things we want to say, but there is a time and place for everything. Our questions should be as to the point as possible, in order to not cause any confusion and to receive the most beneficial answer. The scholar should be the one doing most of the talking, but unfortunately in many of our sessions, the opposite is true. Imam Baqir (peace be upon him) said about this topic, “When confronting a sage, try to be more inquisitive than talkative, and learn how to listen well as much as you learn how to speak well, and do not interrupt the statement of anyone.”

Come Prepared

During the months of Ramadan and Muharram, many of us are blessed to have the presence of one or more of our great scholars. Many times we take these Q&A sessions for granted, because not many people come prepared with a question but will just ask the first thing that comes to mind or just ask the same question they have asked other scholars. This can be a big time waster and can prevent those with real, thoughtful questions from asking the scholar. The best thing we can do to prepare for these sessions is to just take a few minutes beforehand to think of any questions that have been on our mind and write them down. Better yet, we can carry a notepad or use our smartphones to jot down questions as we go through our daily lives. If you do not have a question prepared, it would probably be a better use of your time to just listen to other questions rather than just ask one for the sake of asking.

These are a few suggestions just to get us thinking about how we interact with our scholars. There are lots of specific narrations and instructions from the Prophet and the Ahlul Bayt (peace be upon them), but it would be impossible to fit them all in one article. Maybe it would be something to ask a scholar to elaborate upon!

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One comment

  1. Jazakallah , A very insightful articular indeed covering very useful instructions on how to think , speak , listen and learn like issues. thanks for sharing it !

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