Sunday, August 21, 2011

Who is 'Ulama'?

Answering Artane About 'Ulama'


By Syed Akbar Ali


A reader called Artane sent me some comments about 'ulama' in reply to another post a few days ago. Artane's comment has also been replied by some others. Today I want to revisit this issue which actually concerns how Muslims are programmed to think. I have written about this subject before on June 27, 2010, you can refer my Blog No Such Thing As "Ulama" Class In Islam.

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First here is Artane's comment in full.
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Artane said...Assalamualaikum Mr. Syed, I think some of us here may have gone beyond their capabilities to comment on Islamic issues. Why am I saying this? I can tell a few reasons.
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Some of us are openly mocking these ulama'. Yes, I know what you guys think of them. And yes, they are human too. But here is what you may miss. They learn about these things. They are trained about these things. They may graduate from different schools, may have different thoughts, but they have their own reasons why (unless they are "paid" to think and speak).
Now think of them as professionals; doctors for example. There are many doctors in the world. They graduated from different schools. Some may have failed repeatedly, but they may still become doctors. Now, when they are practicing, you come in with a set of undiagnosed, mysterious symptoms. If you go to 10 different doctors, you may be diagnosed with 10 different things. You find an immunologist, he/she may think it's an infection. If you find an oncologist, he/she may think it's a cancer. It's a matter of interpretation. And they have their own reasons why. You may get cured or you may not.
Now you may get frustrated with the different diagnoses and everything. But is it OK to diagnose yourself based on some articles you find or from something you read? Can that beat all those years of medical training? If everyone can do that, why bother having doctors? We have books, we have internet, we can buy anything online, why bother training doctors?
The same thing happens to these ulama'. Not only now everyone can fly, everyone can claim to be ulama'. They want to rationalize things based on what they know. If you really want to be an ulama', go take the course for 5-6 years, then when you graduate you can claim to be one. I can also diagnose a disease based on symptoms, but I never claim to be a doctor. I also do have opinion on religion but I never claim myself to be an ulama' or claim that I'm better than them in their profession.
My point being, don't go caterwauling in blogs about your opinion on Islam. You have something to say, gather your proof, make your case to the ulama' you want to address. Or go look for second opinion. Same as with doctors, when you are not satisfied with the diagnosis, go make your case with evidence to the doctor, or get a second opinion. Then not only you can ascertain the truth, but you can also correct the perception of the ulama' and ultimately the society if you are correct.
Well, I made my case here. Thank you for your time.
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Salam Artane. And thank you for your comments. First of all, by coincidence, I received the following piece of writing by one Dr Djohan Effendi just a few days before I wrote that Blog where you have posted your comment.

Dr Djohann alo talks about the 'ulama'. I will reproduce his views in full (which I agree with) before adding my own comments later.

"Teman2, dalam percakapan ini kita berulang kali memakai perkataan ulama. Dalam pemahaman dalam masyarakat kita ini kata ulama dimaksudkan mereka yang memiliki pengetahuan keagamaan bahkan seringkali disamakan dengan fuqaha atau ahli2 fikih.

.Bahkan juga ada yang memahami bahwa perkataan ulama hanya khusus untuk kalangan umat Islam yang memiliki pengetahuan keagamaan Islam. Bagaimana sebenarnya perkataan ulama itu dipakai dan dipahami di masa Nabi?

Dalam al-Quran perkataan ulama dipakai dua kali, pertama dalam surah 26 (asy-Syu'ara) ayat 197 yang menyebutkan tentang ulama Bani Israel. Dus kata ulama justru dipakai untuk kalangan Yahudi.

.Yang kedua dipakai dalam surah 35 (al-Fathir) ayat 28 yang menegaskan bahwa yang sesungguhnya yang takut kepada Allah itu di kalangan hamba-Nya adalah ulama.

.Siapa yang dimaksud dengan ulama dalam ayat ini dapat kita bisa baca selengkapnya bunyi ayat tsb. Bahkan dimulai dari ayat sebelumnya.

.Bunyinya: Apakah engkau tidak melihat bahwa Allah menurunkan hujan dari awan, lalu dengannya kali keluarkan buah2an yang beraneka ragam warnanya. Dan di gunung2 terdapat garis2, putih dan merah, bermacam2 warnanya sedang yang lain hitam pekat. Dan begitu juga di antara manusia, binatang dan ternak, ada yang berbeda2 warnanya. Hanya orang-orang yang berilmulah (al-ulama) dari kalangan hamba2Nya yang takut kepada Allah. Sesungguhnya Allah itu Yang Perkasa dan Pengampun.

.
Dari kontek ayat ini maka perkataan ulama lebih merujuk pada para scientist atau ilmuwan.

.Lalu bagaimana dengan ungkapan yang menyatakan "al-Ulama adalah pewaris para Nabi" (al-anbiya, jamak)? Kata ulama di sini pun tidak membatasi maknanya hanya para ahli ilmu agama.

Mungkin lebih mendekati pada kata kaum intelektual, kaum terpelajar/cendekiawan. Sebab dalam sejarah kaum muslimin kemudian dikenal katagore "ulama`us-su`" atau ulama jahat yang sepengertian dengan istilah "pelacur intelektual".

Dan kalau kita menyimak peri kehiudupan para imam mujtahidin seperti empat imam madzhab, mereka bukan hanya ahli ilmu agama tapi juga ilmu2 lain seperti sejarah, sastra dsb, dan mereka juga memiliki integritas moral yang teruji.

Mereka tidak menghamba pada penguasa. Keempat imam mazhab misalnya menghindar dari penguasa dan bahkan disiksa dan dipenjara oleh khalifah di zaman mereka.

Billahit Tawfiq wal Hidayah. Dr Djohan Effendi"

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Now here also are replies by two other commenters to Artane.

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Anoynymous said : Artane ni lahir tahun berape agaknya.Tak ikut perkembangan parti Pas zaman tahun 80an. Masa tu isu kapir menkapir ulama PAS yang ungkitkan. Pas tu tambah dgn sembahyang 2 iman, kahwin tak sah dgn pak iman UMNO dan macam2 lagi. Adik beradik putus sedara sebab fatwa ulama Pas. Bapak aku seorang guru agama bila cuba memerangkan kepada abang dan kakaknya yg gila Pas tentang Islam dan bila jatuhnya kafir seseorang terus diputuskan sedara macam tu. Bila dah nak mati, baru lah si abang & kakak mau berbaik semula. Kau punya comparison ulama dgn doktor langsung tak betul.Pakai logik je. B*d*h.

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1munafikmalaysia said...Artane, ISLAM is for all. It's not 'Hak cipta terpelihara Ularmak". BTW which university did prophet, the caliphs and the friends of prophet graduate from? If they can interpret the Quran what's stopping anyone else doing so. Is there an injunction in the Quran that says so? I think there is a verse that says the quran is made easy to understand and is there anyone willing to learn.Read surah Al Qamar :17 and Al Baqara:185 If something is easy to understand why do we need a third party to tell me what it says. You analogy with Medicine is childish at best. Medicine changes with time. New things are discovered old things are discarded. Are you saying that ISLAM also changes with time?? God has given us a brain so that we can think for ourselves.

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Now here are my comments: First of all I agree that trying to compare the 'religious people' with doctors is childish. I am sorry but it is reflective of the immature thinking that has become religious education among Muslims all over the world. As time wasting as it is, I wil have to dwell on this 'comparing with doctors' issue too.

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I use the words 'religious people' and not ulama simply because I dont think the religious people are ulama. From a Quranic point of view the two are not the same. Please read my previous Blog on this : No Such Thing As "Ulama" Class In Islam.

.

As I have written in that article, and as Dr Djohan Effendi also points out, Surah 35:27-28 defines an ulama:

.

Surah 35:27-28 "Do you not see (Alam tara) that GOD sends down from the sky water, whereby we produce fruits of various colors? Even the mountains have different colors; the peaks are white, or red, or some other color. And the ravens are black. Also, the people, the animals, and the livestock come in various colors. This is why the people who truly reverence GOD are those who are knowledgeable (ulama). GOD is Almighty, Forgiving."

.
The people who see or observe :

i. the cycle of rain are meteorologists
ii. those who study plants, fruits, flowers are agronomists, plant biologists and horticulturalists
iii. those who study the colours and types of rocks on mountains are geologists
iv. the people who study the birds are ornithologists
v. those who study humans are anthropologists, medical doctors, biologists, scientists
vi. those who study livestock and animals are veterinarians and animal biologists.

.

The Quran says the people who see all this Nature and observe all this Creation and appreciate all this handiwork of the Creator are called the 'ulama'. Clearly then this is a description of scientists. An ulama is therefore a scientist.

.The word science comes from the Latin word 'scientia' which means knowledge. And the arab word 'ulama' is the plural form of 'alim'. Alim comes from the arabic word "Ilmu" which ALSO means knowledge or science.

.An alim is therefore a knowledgeable person and ulama is plural meaning 'many knowledgeable people'. Ulama are therefore scientists who study everything around them and appreciate all the things that the Creator has created in this universe. Those are the ulama. I dont think today's religious people can be called ulama at all.

.But will a Book such as the Quran fail to provide a proper name for the priests of religion, those guys who wear beards and robes, who dress funny, talk funny and behave funny who are part and parcel of every "religion"? Here is the Quran again :

.
Surah 9:31 "They have set up their religious leaders (habar) and rabbis as lords, instead of GOD. . . "

.
The Quran refers to 'religious leaders' and the priests as HABAR. The Quran does not refer to them as 'ulama'.

Habar are the religious priests who wear strange clothes, wear beards, speak strange and say that they are "closer to God". They can promise things like the keys to paradise. They are best given doodle pads to draw on and be locked up in asylums. If allowed to roam free, they can become "mursyidul am", ayatollah, pak sheikh and so on (in extreme cases).

.How lets talk about Artane's comparison of religious people with doctors. A doctor is a man of science. A knowledgeable person, a real ulama. It is a strict requirement of science that you must criticise, argue, ridicule, poke holes in scientific findings. The scientists thrive on this.

Whenever a scientist discovers something new, they must publish it in scientific journals. Then other people will read what they have discovered and criticise it. If the new discovery can withstand all the criticism, only then it becomes established as scienctific knowledge. Then the doctor who discovers something new in medicine or a new treatment will not call you 'sesat' or a deviant just because you criticise him.

.On the other hand, the religious people, who dont know anything about science or logic or dont appreciate science or logic, will call you 'sesat', 'kafir', etc if you criticise them. You cannot disagree with them at all. And then the funny thing is there are so many types of religious people. You have shiah, sunni, wahhabi, sufi, tablighi, ismaili, alawite, ahmadiah, tareqat, arqam etc etc. They all say that if you question them, you are sesat or deviant.

.This is not Islamic behaviour. That is why the religious people are often childish and immature in their reasoning capabilities. They are definitely not the same as doctors and scientists who thrive on questioning and criticism.

Now lets go back to something else that Artane said : "
Some of us are openly mocking these ulama".

.
So, does this mean that it is ok to mock other people? This is what I understand from the religious people. They dont make any noise if someone mocks others. For example if you mock Tun Dr Mahathir, well that is ok by many religious people. One assh*le religious munafiq even said that 'Tuhan juga mencarut'. So he said that it was ok for another assh*le to write a filthy book criticising Dr Mahathir using words like puk*mak !! To me these are pengikut ajaran setan.

So be careful. The indoctrination that you can mock other people, but it is not ok to mock the religious people is munafiq or hypocrisy.

.Now let us go back to the doctor example. This is a very bad example and it shows incapacity to think in a logical manner. It is reflective of the type of indoctrination that is dished out by the religious people. This is why the Islamic countries are in the Club of Doom. Over the centuries, the religious people have destroyed the peoples' capacity to think.
.

A doctor goes to medical school where he studies the most rigorous science for five or six years. Usually only the best and the brightest from any society even qualify to study medicine. You must have a string of As in your high school exams before you can enter medical school. On the other hand, for centuries now, it is always the practise that those young people who have no other options or have little chance of going to medical school. university, college, teacher training, joining the army or the police will end up going to religious school. It is usually the last option, they have no more choice.

.In other words, religious education usually absorbs or attracts the least capable people from society.

.A doctor is trained to think logically and scientifically. As a scientist, a doctor's entire thinking process runs on logic. There must be a logical reason why a person got sick. Lets study the symptoms. Lets logically identify the causes. Even if we cannot identify the exact cause, thens lets rule out other reasons that we know of. This is the logical and scientific method. This is science.
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And as I said, the doctor will be most happy if you criticise him. He will not call you murtad, sesat, kafir and other such things if you dont agree with him. He will not say that you will go to hell if you disagree with him or if you prove him wrong.

.Now the religious people, who were usually school dropouts or the intellectually less capable from among society who cannot qualify to go to medical school, will say that 'Kita tidak boleh gunakan akal'. I have heard this a hundred times.

.So the religious people dont like logic. They insist that you cannot use logic to answer anything. This is just one of the many reasons why you cannot compare a doctor and a religious person. You are comparing apples with oranges. Tak boleh. It is also very insulting to compare doctors with the religious people. A doctor studies for five or six years in a very tough scientific curriculum, which keeps changing all the time.

.This is also the same reason why you cannot compare a medical doctor with a magician, David Copperfield, a witch doctor, a bomoh or pawang. They are also very dependent on "tidak boleh menggunakan akal".

Some religious people believe (I think this is from the Shiah) that during the time of the Prophet, the moon was split in two. And then one half of the split moon fell in the backyard of Saidina Ali's house. (The Shiah use this story to say that it was a petanda that Saidina Ali should be the true Khalifah, and not anyone else).

.How a belief like this cannot rely on logic. It must be an illogical belief. You must rely on the conept of "tidak boleh menggunakan akal" to believe that the moon actually split and that one half of the moon then fell in Saidina Ali's backyard.

.Think logically, in the recent earthquake and tsunami in Japan, it was just one earthquake which caused all that damage in Japan. The earthquake was caused by the movement of just a small part of the tectonic plates under the sea.


Imagine what would have happened to the earth if the moon had split in two? Or that one half of the split moon had fallen into the Pacific Ocean? The entire world would have been destroyed. But this is thinking logically. We know the moon did not split in two because the moon is still there in the sky above us.


If you want insist on "tidak boleh menggunakan akal" then you might agree with those people who say that Saidina Ali's backyard was big enough to accomodate half the moon that fell down ! !

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The same concept applies if you insist in believing the children's nursery rhyme :

.
Hey diddle diddle,
the cat and the fiddle.
The cow jumped over the moon
and the dish ran away with the spoon.
.

You can insist that the cow did jump over the moon, but that would be based on the concept of "tidak boleh menggunakan akal". It will not be accurate (or fair) to compare such illogical beliefs with medical science which runs on pure observation, science and logic.

.
So Artane, you now have to choose, which 'tidak boleh menggunakan akal' you want to follow? The Shiah, Sunni, Ahmadiah, Sufi, Tareqat, Tablighi etc. There are so many to choose from. In Malaysia, the religious law (which also is based on "tidak boleh menggunakan akal") decides what you can or cannot be in your religion. Recently shiahs were arrested in Gombak. A man who declared himself a Rasul was jailed for 10 years. And so on.
.

But back to the word 'ulama' - surely the scientists, including doctors are the ulama - the knowledgeable people. This is because they observe God's Creation (alam tara) and they use logic.


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