The Significance of a Competent Scholarly Guide in Islam
Some Basic Requirements of an Imam in Islam
To be an Imam is a position of great responsibility and leadership in Islam; ideally an Imam is supposed to be a representative of the religion for the people as a teacher, a worship leader, a community head et cetera. Earlier this title was given to the king [head of state] of the country in areas such as Yemen.
Since this is a position that demands such responsibility, there are qualities which a potential Imam must possess for him to even be considered. We at Baaghi TV have managed to find a copy of an advertisement published originally by Al Ahram Newspaper on 22nd September, 1986. According to this copy, the job description of an Imam includes the following:
- To have excellence in multiple languages such as: Latin, Arabic, Turkish and Persian.
- To have a mastery of the Qur’an as well as other Holy books: the Bible and the Torah.
- To be a scholar in Shariah and fiqh.
- He must have mastered the sciences including: physics and mathematics.
- He must be a master in chivalry, archery, sword fighting as well as the arts of war.
Apart from such qualities he must also possess:
- A handsome countenance and a strong, melodious voice.
If an Imam truly possesses all the above qualities there is no doubt that he would be able to provide better assistance to those in need. However, as we see around us on countless occasions, an Imam is anything but the qualities required of him.
In the 21st Century, the debate has shifted from priority of being a good role model to demanding model students. How can an imperfect, incomplete guide and teacher ever expect hard-woking and competent students?
This perfection is not considering your person to be all-knowing without imperfections rather, it is perfection of learning. A person who continues to learn and teaches by example is what a true Imam is. While the traits of an Imam highlighted through the advertisement are key factors, these are by no means absolute.
As can be seen in the advertisement, the employer is Sultan Suleyman, ruler of the Ottomon Empire dating back to 1360 CE. While the need for a good Imam was ever present then, it is a far greater prerequisite today. Irrespective of the castes Muslims have segregated themselves into for instance, sunni, shi’a, wahabi et cetera, the need for a learned community head remains intact.
Every other day we see a new video or article surface about the brutal or evil acts of the religious scholars, either it is an instance where the Imam physically and/or sexually abuses and tortures the kids or he scares them away from Allah and the religion by turning every innocent act of ignorance by a child into a grave sin severely punishable by Allah in Islam.
Recently, a video had surfaced where the Qari had beaten a child to death because he wasn’t learning the Qur’an quickly enough.
Another incident of child abuse committed by a supposedly reputable Qari came forward this Ramadan, where Qari Tamjeed Taimur Attaari who is considered a specialist in the recitation of the Holy Qur’an, was accused of child abuse and murder of his own 9 year old niece with his like-minded companions in Lahore. According to reports, he even pleaded forgiveness from the Lahore High Court (LHC) which thankfully was rejected.
Therefore, this is another point of contention. As Muslims our purpose is not to learn the Qur’an but, to understand it.
If we learn it along our journey of understanding and following it then that serves as a bonus. However, it is by no means the sole purpose. Anyone can learn the Qur’an but only a few can truly understand the way of life it preaches as is oft repeated in the Holy book.
In Surah al-An’am it says:
“Say: ‘With Allah is the perfect proof and argument, (i.e. the Oneness of Allah, the sending of His Messengers and His Holy Books, to mankind); had He so willed, He would indeed have guided you all.’” (6:149)
Another time it says in the Quran:
“Verily, you (O Muhammad) guide not whom you like, but Allah guides whom He wills. And He knows best those who are the guided.” (al-Qasas 28:56)
Similarly, in Surah Al-A raf it is mentioned:
Those who behave arrogantly on the earth in defiance of right – them will I turn away from My signs: Even if they see all the signs, they will not believe in them; and if they see the way of right conduct, they will not adopt it as the way; but if they see the way of error, that is the way they will adopt. For they have rejected our signs, and failed to take warning from them. (146)
This is where the Imam comes in. If he is as enlightened and learned as his job demands he will guide the people towards the Holy book and not away from it. He will preach his students to understand the book and not only memorize it.
Unfortunately what happens in the Pakistani society at the very least, is that Qari’s and other religious scholars stress on memorizing the Arabic recitation of the Qur’an and a select few hadiths [sayings of the Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.)] but they never teach one to understand the hidden life lessons and meanings that lie within the verses of the Qur’an.
The Qur’an is an open book for any who wish to learn from it, to follow it, none the less, an ignorant teacher will always take you away from it. This is why an Imam must possess the qualities mentioned above for his purpose is to guide you to Allah and your religion, and help you to the path of Allah.