Tafseer Benefits: The Scholars are Authority Figures

In the Name of Allaah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful…

In a response to a recent exposition of the Almaghrib Institute and their direction, one of our visitors who has (apparently) been influenced by their teachings requested us to reflect on the Verse of the Quran:

يا أيها الذين آمنوا أطيعوا الله وأطيعوا الرسول وأولي الأمر منكم وإن تنازعتم في شيء فردوه إلى الله والرسول إن كنتم تؤمنون بالله واليوم الآخر ذلك خير وأحسن تأويلا
“O you who believe! Obey Allah, obey His Messenger, and (obey) those of you who are in authority. If you differ in anything, refer it back to Allah and the Messenger, if you truly believe in Allah and in the Last Day. That is better and a more suitable outcome.” [4:59]

The confused advisor assumed that -based on his misunderstanding of the Verse- Muslims are required to return the affairs they disagree about back to the Book and the Sunnah, and not to the scholars of Islaam, and that is one more reason to avoid “blindly following” the scholars. (While blind-following was never endorsed or encouraged in any of our writings in the first place!)

This is one of the common effects of the Almaghrib scheme – that people understand any connection to the scholars as “blindly following” them. As a result, people actually believe that removing the scholars from their lives is better and even supported in the Quran!

Response to This Point of Confusion

Yes indeed, we refer back to Allaah and His Messenger (may Allaah raise his rank and grant him peace). But without the scholars? How could we come to this conclusion?

We do not take one Verse and ignore other Verses! Allaah has made returning back to the scholars an obligation:

فاسألوا أهل الذكر إن كنتم لا تعلمون
“And ask the people of knowledge when you do not know.” [16:43]

ولو ردوه إلى الرسول وإلى أولي الأمر منهم لعلمه الذين يستنبطونه منهم
“Had they only referred it back to the Messenger and back to those in authority among them, so that those of them who know how to extract it (the ruling) would have known it…” [4:83]

And Allaah has even made it an obligation to OBEY the scholars in many matters, saying:

يا أيها الذين آمنوا أطيعوا الله وأطيعوا الرسول وأولي الأمر منكم
“O you who believe! Obey Allaah, and obey the Messenger, and (also obey) all those in authority [the scholars and the rulers] amongst you…” [the first part of the Verse quoted: 4:59]

This person quoted the second part of the Verse in an attempt to discount the importance of the scholars. Yet the first part of the same Verse commands us to obey them!

أفتؤمنون ببعض الكتاب وتكفرون ببعض
“Do you believe in part of the Book and disbelieve in other parts?” [2:85]

May Allaah excuse us! Quoting a Quranic Verse which commands us to obey the scholars, thinking it frees us from any obligation to follow them! Such people are clearly confused in their Religion, and obviously incapable of deriving the intended rulings from the Quran themselves.

In essence, this commenter has given us a very poignant example of exactly why we need our scholars, perhaps more effectively than my original article attempts to do, and for that we thank him.

And tanaazulan (for the sake of argument), if there is no need for the scholars (as some may assume), then there would certainly be no need for the fake ones at Almaghrib Institue either, and certainly no need for people to fork over large amounts of cash for their seminars!

The Meaning of “Those in Authority” in the Verse

Some people may assume we have incorrectly explained the meaning of the Verse, and that “the people of authority” are not the scholars, but only the Muslim rulers. Let us look to two of the most important books in Quranic Exegesis (Tafseer): Tafseer at-Tabaree and Tafseer Ibn Katheer.

Tafseer at-Tabaree

Imaam Muhammad ibn Jareer at-Tabaree (d.310) mentions a number of opinions about the Verse, that “those in authority” in the Verse are:

(1) The Muslim rulers
(2) The scholars
(3) The Companions in general
(4) Aboo Bakr and ‘Umar specifically

He mentions which scholars expressed which opinions. In that discussion, he brings a number of narrations from Ibn ‘Abbaas, Mujaahid, ‘Ataa’, al-Hasan al-Basree, and others saying that “the people in authority among you” (referred to in the Verse) are the scholars. He ends by preferring the first position: the Muslim rulers.

Tafseer Ibn Katheer

Imaam Ibn Katheer (d.774) mentions that some scholars understood the people of authority to be the rulers, while others understood them to be the scholars. He concludes:

والظاهر -والله أعلم-أن الآية في جميع أولي الأمر من الأمراء والعلماء، كما تقدم. وقد قال تعالى: {لولا ينهاهم الربانيون والأحبار عن قولهم الإثم وأكلهم السحت} [المائدة:63] وقال تعالى: {فاسألوا أهل الذكر إن كنتم لا تعلمون} [النحل:43] وفي الحديث الصحيح المتفق عليه، عن أبي هريرة، عن رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم أنه قال: “من أطاعني فقد أطاع الله، ومن عصاني فقد عصا الله، ومن أطاع أميري فقد أطاعني، ومن عصا أميري فقد عصاني”. فهذه أوامر بطاعة العلماء والأمراء
What seems apparent -and Allaah knows best- is that the Verse refers to all authorities, both the rulers and the scholars, as has preceded. Allaah has said [what means]: “Why do the firmly-grounded scholars and priests not forbid them from their sinful statements and their devouring of evil things (immoral transactions, oppressive earnings).” [5:62] And Allaah has said [what means]: “Then ask the people of knowledge when you do not know.” [16:43] And in the authentic hadeeth which is agreed upon, from the narration of Aboo Hurayrah, who related that the Messenger of Allaah -may Allaah raise his rank and grant him peace- said [what means]: “Whoever obeys me has obeyed Allaah, and whoever disobeys me has disobeyed Allaah. Whoever obeys my ameer (appointed leader) has obeyed me, and whoever disobeys my ameer has disobeyed me.” These are orders to obey both the scholars and the rulers.

These are two of the most important staple books of Quranic Interpretation. Of course, this same discussion can be found in the many other books of Tafseer as well.

A Clear Verse in Support of the Scholars Being Authority Figures

The Statement of Allaah describing “the people of authority” can be used to help understand that indeed the scholars are people of authority:

ولو ردوه إلى الرسول وإلى أولي الأمر منهم لعلمه الذين يستنبطونه منهم
“Had they only returned it (the affair) back to the Messenger and back to those in authority among them, those of them who could derive rulings about it would know it (what is correct)…” [4:83]

Those in authority: according to this Verse are those who are capable of making istinbaat (extracting the correct rulings from texts and principles to apply to a certain situation or issue), i.e. the scholars. This was a specific connection between the two Verses made by Abul-‘Aaliyah, one of the leading students of Ibn ‘Abbaas, as collected by At-Tabaree.

From the Principles of Quranic Explanation

One of the most important principles in Tafseer, as explained by the scholars, is not to dismiss the explanations of the early scholars from the Companions and Taabi’oon, unless their understanding is clearly wrong, in contradiction to clear evidences. Rather, we are to consider Verses to carry the meanings they understood, so long as they are not contradictory. We do not believe that there must only be one single understanding of a given Quranic Verse. It is the Speech of Allaah, miraculous and divine in its expressions and meanings. So instead of viewing the opinions in this case as a case of problematic discord in need of a solution, we can accept them as harmonious, as demonstrated by Imaam Ibn Katheer above. The “people of authority” mentioned in Allaah’s Book are the scholars and the rulers.

Based on this, “the people of authority” also include the Companions in general, as well as Aboo Bakr and ‘Umar specifically, since all of them were people of knowledge and authority in their own right. So then all four opinions mentioned by Imaam At-Tabaree are correct and harmonious. We should not understand his personal preference (based on the specific reason for the Verse’s revelation) to be a rejection of the other meanings expressed by the Companions and Taabi’oon.

That Which Aids the Almaghrib Agenda

To keep people disconnected from the scholars of Islaam, we find people dismissing the conclusion of Ibn Katheer and even discounting the possibility of the Tafseer of the Companions and Taabi’oon, that the scholars of Islaam have any authority in our lives. This is to avoid allowing the people to recognize the status of the scholars, regain an attachment to them, and eventually slip away from the Almaghrib scheme.

However [Plan B], if the people are able to recognize the importance of the scholars, they simply redefine the word “scholar” to essentially mean: Almaghrib instructors, as previously explained. And Allaah knows best.

Written by: Moosaa Richardson


15 thoughts on “Tafseer Benefits: The Scholars are Authority Figures

  1. jazakumu Allahu khair, May Allah guide them and if they reject guidance may Allah expose the people calling to misguidance and humiliate them in this life and the next.

  2. I would like to learn about seeking knowledge from the perspective of it being an act of worship with pillars and conditions. People across all sects seem to understand full well that you can’t pray without making wudhu and your prayer is not valid unless you recite al-faatiha.

    Why is it that anyone who says la ilaaha ila allah is able to understand that things need to be done carefully when it comes to acts of worship such as salah, but when it comes the great act of worship of seeking knowledge, this great meticulous attitude towards the sunnah goes out the window.

    Suddenly, worship stops being following the way of the salaf and now it’s just following of desires left and right. People simply feel that “the scholars don’t understand their condition”, so they throw the sunnah away based on a whim—a nice little phrase of propaganda that has no truth behind it and mountains of evidence against it.

    What would you say if I simply felt in my heart that I didn’t have to make wudu or recite fatihah in the salah? A lot of people would rip my head off for this. Now imagine if I called to this and developed a following consisting of friends and family they loved…people all over the world would be refuting me left and right.

    And people blame the Salafis for refuting people and institutions like Yasir Qadhi’s al-Maghrib institute that want to destroy the sunnah of seeking knowledge. What act of worship is more in need of being preserved than the great ibaadah of seeking knowledge?

  3. Jazak Allahu khairan for this article! Almaghrib has been conditioning their paid students in their exclusive, private classes for ten years now – to reject the authority of the scholars of Islam. It used to be kept quiet and limited to just their students, in their private pay-per-view bubble. But now they are bold. They have emerged to the general public. This new video shows how clear the open Almaghrib agenda is, directly from the mouth of Yasir Qadhi, Dean of Academic Affairs: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6xlaurlSyp8

  4. Is there something wrong with blind following scholars? Don’t scholars agree that the general people blindly follow their scholars? It’s a sort of praise when lay people claim that they don’t blindly follow and think it’s as simple as looking at a hadeeth to give their own understanding/tarjih in declaring what is weaker/stronger. If a person hasn’t studied Usul al-fiqh, he will be a muqallid according to definition, whether he claims he is not a blind follower or not.

    This isn’t related to al-Maghreb, I don’t even take from them, but just saying.

    • The scholars say that the blind following of a pious and knowledgeable scholar is permissible when a person is incapable of understanding the relative evidence from the texts of revelation or the principle being used. Sometimes, when recovering from the enforcement of blanket blind following upon even people who can understand the evidences, some people rebound into the other extreme and say no one is ever allowed to blindly follow a scholar. Of course, blindly following a scholar is not knowledge, by total consensus, so people cannot guide others to the position they have blindly followed in. And Allaah knows best.

  5. Assalaamu ‘Alaikum brother Moosaa,

    I need an answer to this question, and I could not find a relative article except this one was the closest.

    Should I accept the Hadeeth given by ‘Ali ibn Abi Talhah about the Tafseer of Ibn ‘Abbaas? I read that he never met Ibn ‘Abbaas, so there is a break in the chain of narration. Why should I accept his narrations of Ibn ‘Abbaas, which I see all over the Tafseer of ibn Katheer, yet, reject the Hadeeth ff a Taabi’ who narration about the messenger of Allaah (sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) without a Sahaabah in the chain? This is causing me great confusion as this cancels many Tafseer of Ibn ‘Abbaas.

    Jazaakallaah Khayr

    • Wa ‘alaykas-salaamu wa rahmatullaah. Yes, the scholars of hadeeth classify ‘Alee ibn Abee Talhah’s narrations from Ibn ‘Abbaas as munqati’ah (broken). For the narration to be authentic it needs a witnessing chain, whether it is a statement of Ibn ‘Abbaas or a hadeeth he narrates. Also, keep in mind that the scholars would be generally more lenient in reports not attributed to the Messenger of Allaah (may Allaah raise his rank and grant him peace). This is one of the reasons why a person needs to know about Hadeeth Sciences to be able to distinguish what is authentically established from the Tafseer of Ibn ‘Abbaas vs. what is attributed to him, but may not be authentic. The scholars, like Shaykh al-Islaam Ibn Taymiyah, and as far back as Imaam Ahmad ibn Hanbal, have warned that unauthentic narrations in Tafseer are common! In the real scales of established Islamic scholarship, from how many angles are people ignorant of essential Islamic sciences like Nouman Ali Khan disqualified from speaking about Tafseer?!

      • Ok. I am currently reading the Tafseer of Ibn Katheer. Should I accept these narrations of Ali ibn abi Talhah of Ibn ‘Abbaas? I don’t know what to do with them.

        • Study under someone knowledgeable enough to help you distinguish between when Ibn Katheer builds an argument upon one of those narrations and interacts with it as an authentic proof vs. when he just mentions it as something that has been reported. Ibn Katheer was also a great scholar of Hadeeth, so when you do not know about the chains of narration, you can take his verdict on them. And Allaah knows best.

  6. For the brothers who are interested to learn Tafsir ibn Kathir, I do recommend the lessons of Ustaadh Abu Hakeem Bilal Davis. More than 145 lessons are available on salafisounds.com and the explanation is still ongoing. His intention is to finish the whole book in shaa’ Allaah. May Allaah reward him for his efforts

    • Jazaak Allaahu khayran. Some people claim: If we warn people away from Nouman Ali Khan’s tafseer (based on ignorance), then who will we replace him with? Like there is no substitute! How about IMAAMS of Tafseer like Ibn Katheer, as-Sa’dee, Ibn ‘Uthaymeen, and other great scholars of tafseer, their books being read and explained by real students of knowledge?! Let’s snatch back the Science of Tafseer from the pretenders who commercialize it to make money and build franchises!

  7. بارك الله فيك brother Moosa Richardson, I used to listen the tafseer of Nouman Khan but after I came across your lectures in which you refuted Nouman, Wallah from that day I hate that person for the sake of Allah, and may Allah guid him and his followers to be upon the manhaj of the Salaf.
    Brother Moosa my question is, Is it okey for a student of knowledge to call people upon the manhaj of the Salaf even if he is not a shaikh or he did not study under great scholars but he is just listening to the lectures of the shaikhs who are upon the manhaj of the salaf and also he is reading books which are recommended by the scholar?.

    • May Allaah bless you, my brother Ashraf. You call people to properly practice Islam when you have developed knowledge, gentleness, and patience. Until then, focus on learning your Religion and being sincere to Allaah. May Allaah give you the ability to travel and learn from our great scholars, with sincerity and true following.

  8. As salamu-alaicum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh!

    Ustadh, is it permissible to introduce as an scholar everyone who graduated with Phd from any Salafi Universities regardless of their age and refutation?

    Is it proven by history that everyone who graduated as doctors from every Salafi Islamic Universities to be upon truth and did not deviate or died upon truth and repentance?

    Barak Allah Feek!

    • Wa ‘alayk as-salaamu wa rahmatullaahi wa barakaatuh. A PhD holder is not a scholar, a scholar is someone whom the scholars recognize as a scholar. No matter what the tazkiyah or recommendation, those are only initial recommendations which open up the first doors. A person’s true worth and real “tazkiyah” is known by the long-term benefit he brings. This is what the scholars refer to when they say: His actions are his (real) tazkiyah. There are many high degree holders who are deviant and harmful. And Allaah knows best.

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