Among the well-chosen decrees issued by the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, one specifically sought to praise and protect Saudi Arabia’s religious scholars, as according to the words of God Almighty “are those who know equal with those who know not? But only men of understanding will pay heed” [Surat Az-Zumar, Verse 9]. In addition to this, the Holy Quran says “when it is said: Rise up, then rise up. Allah will exalt those of who you believe, and those who are given knowledge, in high degrees; and Allah is Aware of what you do.” [Surat al-Mujadila, Verse 11].
This [protection of religious scholars] is not something new with regards to Saudi Arabia’s state policy, for the first state of Saudi Arabia was established following agreements between imams and scholars. This resulted in the unification of [political] power and Islamic Shariaa law, as well as the Holy Quran and the Sword becoming as one, and knowledge and the pen being in harmony. However what is admirable about the decree, issued by the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques to protect and defend religious scholars in Saudi Arabia, is that it was issued after a number of erroneous arguments made by those who do not think favorably of religious beliefs, or respect Islamic Shariaa law. These arguments were made through seemingly general statements which aimed to undermine the role or influence of religious scholars. For example, some writers said that “scholars are not antagonists” and this is true, but this statement aimed to undermine, disparage, and even insult religious scholars. Others wrote that “scholars are not infallible prophets” and this is also correct, but this phrase aimed to cause harm, for these writers are aiming to undermine the prestigious position of religious scholars. This is what happened when one reckless youth addressed a scholar, who was referring to the teachings of Imam Muhammad Ibn Idris Ash-Shafi [founder of the Shafi madhab], Imam Malik Ibn Anas [founder of the Maliki madhab], and Imam Ahmad Ibn Hanbal [founder of the Hanbali madhab]. The youth heckled the scholar, shouting “they were just men…as we are men.” The scholar replied “you are right, they were men, and you are a man, but they were men who gathered knowledge and good deeds, and honor and leadership….whilst you are a man in the sense that you are not a woman that can become pregnant, or give birth.”
The words of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz, provide a source of satisfaction for every student of Islamic Shariaa law, regardless of their age or level of knowledge. This is because respecting the institute of Islamic Shariaa law confirms the prestige of the state, as well as it confirms the state’s commitment to the [religious] principles it is based on, without neglecting any other branch of knowledge. Anybody who specializes in any subject deserves respect and appreciation, but Islamic Shariaa scholars – according to Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyyah – are the guiding stars. God Almighty said “the messengers We sent were but men, to whom We granted inspiration; if ye realize this not, ask of those who possess the Message.” [Surat al-Anbiya, Verse 7]. The Holy Quran also says “Allah bears witness that there is no god but He, and (so do) the angels and those possessed of knowledge, maintaining His creation with justice, there is no god but He, the Mighty, the Wise.” [Surat al-Imran, Verse 18].
Anyone who underestimates or attempts to belittle religious scholars are therefore either ignorant, being uneducated or misinformed, or a hypocrite who secretly despises religion and the dignified Islamic Sharaa law. These writers spit venom in their articles, failing to show any respect for the prestige of the state, or any concern about inciting Muslim anger. We have often read articles in the press, or on the internet, to the effect that a certain religious scholar is just an ordinary human being, and that we are all human beings and equal, having been nurtured in the womb for 9 months. Commenting on this, I would say what does the process of a 9 month pregnancy have to do with equality? The prophet (peace be upon him) was born after 9 months, as was Abu Jahl and Abu Lahab [two of the enemies of Islam during the prophet’s time], whilst [famous Islamic figures] Khalid Ibn al-Walid, Salahuddin al-Ayoubi, and Imam ash-Shafei, were also born after 9 months. God Almighty decreed that not all people would enjoy equal standing, even if they do share certain characteristics in common, therefore a knowledgeable religious scholar and an ordinary man are not equal, whilst a Muslim and a non-believer are similarly not equal. God Almighty said “Shall We then treat the People of Faith like the People of Sin? What has happened to you? How do you judge?” [Surat al-Qalam Verse 35-36]. This inequality is applicable to all areas, take hunting for an example: The quarry of a trained hunting hound is considered Halal, whilst the quarry of an untrained dog is considered religiously impermissible. Speaking of hunting with a hound, God Almighty said “they ask thee what is lawful to them (as food). Say: lawful unto you are (all) tings good and pure: and what ye have taught your trained hunting animals (to catch) in the manner directed to you by Allah: eat what they catch for you, but pronounce the name of Allah over it: and fear Allah; for Allah is swift in taking account.” [Surat al-Maeda, Verse 4].
Religious scholar Hafez al-Hakami said: God has even distinguished between [hunting] animals who have been trained and those who have not. This [lack of equality between those with knowledge and those without] even applies to the Hoopoe [bird] that brought Quranic knowledge from Yemen, and this bird was praised by Prophet Solomon, “But the Hoopoe tarried not far: he (came up and) said: “I have compassed (territory) which thou has not compassed, and I have come to thee from Saba with tidings true.” [Surat al-Namly, Verse 22]. May God reward the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques for his decree, bless him with good health, and reward him for protecting Saudi Arabia’s religion scholars.