بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
In the Name of Allah The most Gracious The Most Merciful
The scholars have a high position in the religion of Islam as the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) said: “…The scholars are the heirs of the Prophets, for the Prophets did not leave behind Dinars and Dirhams, but they left behind knowledge.” (reported by Ahmad, Abu Dawud, At-Tirmidhi and Ibn Majah).
Unfortunately everyone who has a bit of knowledge is now called a scholar or “shiekh”. What is worse is that the true scholars are insulted and criticized because what they say does not go with the desires of the masses and what they wish to hear from them. A scholar should not be followed on his personality but on the authenticity of his statements and his knowledge of the Quran and sunnah with its true understanding like that of the salaf. Allah has blessed the ummah with great knowledgeable scholars and as the prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) said the disappearance of knowledge will occur due to the deaths of the scholars: “Narrated ‘Abdullah bin ‘Amr bin Al’ As: I heard Allah’s Apostle saying, “Allah does not take away the knowledge, by taking it away from (the hearts of) the people, but takes it away by the death of the religious learned men till when none of the (religious learned men) remains, people will take as their leaders ignorant persons who when consulted will give their verdict without knowledge. So they will go astray and will lead the people astray.” (Sahih al-Bukhari, Book of Knowledge, hadith 100). We should hold on to the scholars and sit in their lessons as much as possible while we still have the blessing that Allah has given us.
Recognizing the High Status of the Scholars
From his other noteworthy sayings, may Allaah have Mercy on him, elevate his and our positions, and reward him with the best reward, the most plentiful and loftiest one, “Whatever the scholars of Ahlus-Sunnah have detested, then it is evil.” He (Imam Ahmad) said (repeating), “Whatever the scholars of Ahlus-Sunnah have detested, then it is evil.” He meant that the scholars of Ahlus-Sunnah are to be referred to in affairs of what is to be considered evil and what is not.
So whatever the scholars of Ahlus-Sunnah have detested in the issues of ‘aqeedah, then it is evil. Whatever the scholars of Ahlus-Sunnah have detested with regards to manners, then it is evil. Whatever the scholars of Ahlus-Sunnah have detested in affairs of ordering righteousness and forbidding evil, then it is evil. This means that a man must return to the scholars of the Sunnah if he wants to know about the affairs of the Sunnah, about the proper understanding of righteousness and evil.
So whatever the scholars of Ahlus-Sunnah have detested, then it is an evil thing, the evil of which we have no doubt in. This is indeed a great lesson from Imam Ahmad for every Muslim, that he must follow and take guidance from the scholars of Ahlus-Sunnah, those who have great concern for the Sunnah of the Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alayhe wa sallam).
This goes for all aspects of towheed, as well as acts of worship, business transactions, manners, education, work, and all dealings between people in the society. You must refer to the scholars of Ahlus-Sunnah in these affairs. This will free your heart from your desires. This will cause your heart to be detached from what your intellect likes and dislikes. Therefore it is binding for us to be followers, for us to return often to the people of knowledge, to the people of the Sunnah for religious rulings.
For whatever the scholars of Ahlus-Sunnah detest, then it is an evil thing. That means that you do not classify things as being evil according to your own opinion, nor do you get to know affairs by way of your opinions, rather you must refer to the scholars of Ahlus-Sunnah regarding the current and future affairs. This is something that there is no doubt about, since the scholars of Ahlus-Sunnah are the inheritors of the prophets and the guides to the Sharee’ah. They are the ones that Imam Ahmad spoke of in the introduction to his book, “The praise is for Allaah, the One who keeps a group of scholars available during the times when there is no messenger, scholars who bring those who have strayed back to the Guidance, curing their blindness and bringing them back to life using Allaah’s Book.”
Therefore, they are the ones we refer to. The affairs are not about, “Is this a bad thing or not? Should I reject it or not? Should I respond or not? Is this correct or not?” These things must not come from a person’s independent judgments from his own opinions, rather he must refer these matters back to the scholars of Ahlus-Sunnah. Why? That is because these things are affairs of ‘aqeedah, affairs of the Religion. Everyone claims that they understand the affair of enjoining good and forbidding evil. The Khawaarij claimed it, and thus stood up against the imams. The Mu’tazilah claimed it, and thus viewed the opposition of the imams as being a good thing. Like them, many groups claimed to be enjoining good and forbidding evil, and thus stood up against the imams. However, the affair is to be according to the judgment of the scholars of Ahlus-Sunnah, and whatever they have classified as being an evil thing.