Whoever has completed the religious education and has received the degree in theology in any recognized institutions or has been long recognized by the Muslims as an Islamic scholars are call by nowadays Muslims as Ulama.The title is given to them by the general Muslims public according to their understanding of who is the Ulama of Islam. No Institution has been accredited by the Muslims to be able to award the title Ulama to any Muslims in this world. The title Ulama is a title given by the general Muslims to a certain personalities that they believed to be pious and God fearing person. The title is given base on the general impression of the general Muslims. When certain group of the Muslims communities recognized certain individuals in the communities as pious and God fearing they call them Ulama while those Muslims that do not recognized the individuals as pious and God fearing would not call that particular person as Ulama.The title Ulama is very ambiguous and inconsistence. There is no standard being use in designating a person as Ulama. Because of this, the term Ulama is not a reliable indicator of a person well verse in Islamic theology and a God fearing. We may have a standard in Islamic theology but it is almost impossible to have a standard in God fearing qualities. How can we measure the quality of God fearing in a person?
Ulama can be defined as a person well verse in Islamic theology and a God fearing person. A person can be seen outwardly as God fearing by his attires. A God fearing person is a person who fears Allah and the signs that the person has the fear Allah, he or she obeys all the commandments of Allah in the ways of Prophet Muhammad s.a.w and they remain steadfast in the obedience of the orders of Allah in all condition. Steadfastness in the obedience of the orders of Allah in all situations is a sign of strong faith in Allah and the life of hereafter. The strong faith in Allah and the promise of Allah makes a person remain steadfast in the obedience of the orders of Allah in all situations. The first order of Allah is the propagations of the Kalimah Shahadah, I bear witness there is no God except Allah and Muhammad is the Prophet of Allah, to the non-Muslims and to the Muslims, to remind them about the meaning of the Kalimah Shahadah and to invite them to obey the orders of Allah. The second order of Allah is to pray the five obligatory solat in congregation like Prophet Muhammad s.a.w did. The third order of Allah is to perform one month fasting in the month of Ramadan. Many Muslims including those who are well verse in Islamic theology are not practicing the first order of Allah and only some of them are practicing the second order of Allah like what has been practice by our Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. Can we call those who are well verse in Islamic theology but are not even practicing the first and the second order of Allah like what has been practice by our Prophet Muhammad’s as God fearing person or otherwise. A God fearing person is a person who always obeys all the orders of Allah in the ways of our Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. They are not only observing the small Sunnah but they are very particular about the Great Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. The works of inviting the non-Muslim to enter Islam and to pray solat with congregation in the mosques are the great Sunnah of the Prophet s.a.w. Many of the so call Ulama is so particular about small Sunnah yet they are negligence of the great Sunnah particularly the work of inviting the non-Muslims to enter Islam and to pray solat with congregation in the mosques.
The titles Ulama are given by the people. When a person is truly learned and God fearing, Allah will put in the heart of the pious people of the communities that the particular person is Ulama. When Allah has accepted a person as Ulama, Allah will put in the heart of all pious people that the person is learned and God fearing or Ulama.The persons themselves does not claim that they are Ulama but all people from among the pious unanimously agreed that the person is an Ulama. Only the pious and the God fearing people can identify the true Ulama as they have light in their hearts. The non-pious and the non-God fearing people would not be able to identify the true Ulama. Since most of the people nowadays are ignorant and non-God fearing people, so the persons that they think are Ulama are usually not Ulama. Most of the persons whom the Muslims call today as Ulama are basically only learned Muslims who have studied and thought many years of Islamic theology .A person may be learned but they are not necessarily pious or God fearing but all God fearing persons are learned. They should be call only as learned Muslims but not as Ulama. All Ulama are learned and God-fearing but not all learned people are Ulama.
As most Muslims nowadays are themselves ignorant and non-God fearing, they start to call whoever is learned about Islam as Ulama, particularly when these scholars of Islam put on themselves the pious attires of Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. A learned person wearing the pious attires of Prophet Muhammad s.a.w is not necessarily pious and God fearing as the qualities of piety should not be judged only by a person attires but more important by their actions. Actions indicate the level of belief that the person has. The actions of a person are influenced by his or her belief and not by his or her knowledge. A person who has knowledge about Islam is not necessarily practicing Islam until he or she has belief in Islam. There are many Islamic scholars who are not Muslims. These Islamic scholars have knowledge about Islam but they do not have belief in Allah and Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. It is a known fact that peoples do not do according to what they know but peoples do according to what they belief.
Learned Muslim scholars who are not practicing their knowledge certainly have weak iman or belief. They have knowledge about Islam but they have weak iman. Because of weak iman they are not capable of practicing the orders of Allah and as they are not practicing the orders of Allah, their iman become weak. It is a signs of weak iman that they are not capable of giving dakwah to the non-Muslims or to remind the Muslims about Allah and the orders of Allah. As they continue to disobey Allah, their iman continue to become weaker. They can wear the pious Muslims attires but they cannot obey the orders of Allah. They will obey the orders of Allah only to be seen by men. In public they appear very pious and God fearing but in reality they do not even have the slightest fear of Allah. When they are alone they will disobey the orders of Allah. Once the companion of the Prophet s.a.w asked the Prophet, who is the most wretched among mankind? Prophet Muhammad s.a.w replied with the approximate meaning, do not asked me negative question, the most wretched among mankind are the learned Muslims who does not practice what they know, they will enter hellfire earlier than the non-Muslims. In my opinion a person will not become Ulama if they do not have the fear of Allah. A person will have the fear of Allah only if they know Allah and have the true belief in all the qualities of Allah. A person will know Allah and have the true belief in all the qualities of Allah when Allah bestows in his or her heart the true iman. Allah will bestow in the heart of a person true iman when Allah loves the person. Allah will love the person when that person obeys all the orders of Allah, particularly the first orders of Allah that is the orders of inviting the entire mankind to Allah.
Dr. Nasoha Saabin
Head of Dept. Optometry
International University College of Technology Twintech
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia