I know this post is long but I would appreciate it if we take out the time to read it all.
I joined Sunniforum a number of years ago, primarily to post details of different events organised in our local masjid. I did not have any information regarding the background of the forum nor was I acquainted with any of the moderators or senior members. It was only after I began frequenting the site did I come across a number of things which I found quite disturbing and totally inappropriate.
I have felt I should share my observations, not because I think I am better than anyone or for the mere intent to criticise, but so that it is of benefit to everyone who takes an avid interest in the threads on Sunniforum and visits the site regularly. Alhamdulillah, without a doubt, there is a wealth of Islamic knowledge one can avail from on here and I can confidently say that I myself have benefited on a number of fronts. In particular, I have come across many links to useful Islamic websites and downloads of Islamic books not widely available in UK bookshops. Alhamdulillah.
However, it is very easy for this benefit to be diminshed - if not obliterated - if we fall into the tendencies which are becoming more and more common on this forum. It would be a great shame indeed to waste away the good we achieve from here, a situation that can easily be avoided if we stick to a few simple Islamic principles.
I have felt the dire need to write something on this topic for a long time now, but kept deferring it. However, due to a number of recent threads becoming an illustration of my fears, I feel it is necessary to pen down a few words without any further delay.
These are some of my observations:
Lack of decorum: Belittling and criticising senior ulama and mashaaikh, finding fault with their practices and using inappropriate words with reference to them is becoming a common feature on Sunniforum. Without a doubt, nobody is above criticism or scrutiny, but that in no way justifies the kind of behaviour we are beginning to witness. In many cases, there is no real objective behind asking such questions except to satisfy the dictates of the speculative, gossip-loving nafs, and more than often, we delude ourselves by thinking that our level of conversation is purely academic and totally Islamic. It is similar to the predicament of certain extreme Salafis who criticise anyone and everyone and then have the audacity to legitimise their backbiting under the pretext of Al-Jarh wa’l-Ta’deel.
And it is natural to feel a sense of honour when one’s teachers and elders are being openly criticised on a forum. This should not be naively equated with denying the truth or unjustly condoning a wrong action. The issue at hand is the approach and methodology in criticising.
Firstly, can we not approach the scholar in question personally or at least through a third person to seek clarification on whatever seems to be a problem? Why do we need to air our views so openly on a forum? Are our scathing comments anywhere near being proportionate to the nature of what is under scrutiny? And not to forget, would we pose the question to the scholar or shaykh in person if we honestly feel so strongly about the issue or is it just that we feel very confident and smug typing away our objections behind the screen over a mug of coffee? Is it food for our intellectual ego when we criticise ulama, because we begin to think we have some grounding in Islamic knowledge to do so? These are all serious questions we need to ask ourselves and points we need to contemplate.
Ibn Asakir (rahimahullah) states, "Know my brother - may Allah enable us and you to do that which pleases him and make us among those who fear Him as is the right of Him to be feared - that the meat of scholars is poisonous and the custom of Allah in disgracing those who criticise them is well-known, and that whoever lets his tongue loose in defaming the ulama, Allah will afflict him with death of the heart before he dies."
I will conclude this point with a few quotes from the great muhaddith Shaykh al-Hadith Mawlana Muhammad Zakariyya’s (rahimahullah) Fadhaaile Tableegh, which far outweigh anything I have to say on the topic:
“Another thing that you must keep in mind is that even the righteous scholars and preachers of your nation are also human beings, and as such they too can have some weaknesses. The responsibility of their good or bad deeds really rests on them and the final reckoning belongs to Allah: but I hope that by His mercy and immense generosity He will forgive them for after all they have been serving His Religion and Faith at great personal sacrifice throughout their lives. In short, either to entertain doubts and objections against the religious preacher himself, or spread them amongst others, will take people away from religion and be the cause of geat distress for those who participate in such affairs. The Holy Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) has said:
"Whoever respects the following three. he really pays respect to Allah: (1) an aged Muslim, (2) one who teaches and preaches the Holy Qur'an without any excess, (3) And a ruler who is just to the people." (Targheeb) Also the following saying of the Holy Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) tells us:
"He is not among my followers who does not respect our elders, is not merciful to our youngsters, and does not pay due reverence to our scholars."
There have been many minor differences of opinion about prayers among the four Imaams; I myself know of about two hundred, but this does not mean that their followers should doubt the faith of one another, and call each other 'infidel'. The fact is that the common people are mostly unaware of the finer points on which various scholars differ in their views; these differences are a blessing in disguise. As a matter of fact, good preachers and sincere servants of Islam do not attach any importance to such trifling things, but continue their attempt to bring people to the Right Path. We know that doctors differ among themselves and lawyers differ in their advice, nevertheless people continue to make use of their services. But those who are ignorant, selfish and lazy, they simply use their difference of views to raise objections against the religious scholars. Anyhow, it has been enjoined on every Muslim to listen to those scholars of the Holy Qur'an, whom he respects and knows to be the followers of the Sunnah, and should avoid reproaching those whom he does not like. Anyone who has no proper knowledge of Islam and the Holy Qur'an, has no right to raise objections against the scholars. The scholars of Islam should always keep this saying of the Holy Prophet (sallallaho alayhi wasallam) in mind and act accordingly: "It is to waste knowledge to address those who are not fit for it."
Speaking without knowledge: Allah’s Messenger (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) said, “It is sufficient for a person to be a liar that he relates everything he hears.” This hadith is a stark warning against the unregulated gossip and hearsay we circulate, especially when it concerns another Muslim, and more so when it is to do with ulama. If you don’t know, maintain silence. Simple rule. Our duty to ascertain the truth of the matter increases when the information we are relaying is accessible to millions across the globe. Unfortunately, our nature has become such that feel we must always put in our two cents in every conversation, regardless of whether we know what we are talking about or not.
Useless knowledge: Among the treasure of Prophetic supplications is one which begins by seeking refuge with Allah from knowledge which is of no benefit. Such knowledge becomes an obstacle in the path of attaining that knowledge which truly brings one closer to Allah and enhances one’ relationship with Him. Thus, let us not waste our time aimlessly discussing topics which are of no relevance or of little significance to us, but rather utilise this time correctly and wisely.
I’ll end on this point. I would like to make it clear that neither is this thread aimed at any particular individual/s nor is it to boast or show that I am better than others on Sunniforum. These were a few of my concerns which I thought should be shared with others, and I pray Allah forgives any mistakes therein and makes whatever I have written solely for His pleasure. Amin.
May Allah enable us all to act in accordance to His pleasure and make Sunniforum a means of benefit to all. Amin.