Ulema are the heirs of Prophets - Islam reveres Ulema because they are heirs to the Prophets (peace be upon them) who follow their way. In fact, it is in respect to their dignity and merit that Allah mentions them along with His Name and that of His Angels when He says: “Allah bears witness that La ilaha illa Huwa (none has the right to be worshipped but He), and the angels, and those having knowledge (also give witness); (He is always) maintaining His creation in justice.” (Qur’an, 3:18)
It is a distinction for the Aalim that Allah sends blessings to him; and His angels and the inhabitants of the heavens and the earth also beseech Allah to bless him.
The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said: “Verily, Allah do send His blessings to him who teaches people good. Also, the inhabitants of the heavens and the earth, even ants in their holes and fishes do ask Allah to bless him. (At-Tirmidhi)
Ulema are the friends of Allah; they are the ones who really fear Allah. “It is only those who have knowledge among His slaves that fear Allah.” (Qur’an, 35:28) They bear the knowledge with the fear of Allah, He then compensate them with great reward. Allah says: “Their reward with their Lord is (Eden) Paradise (Gardens of Eternity), underneath which rivers flow, they will abide therein forever, Allah Well-Pleased with them, and they with Him. This for him who fears his Lord.” (Qur’an, 98:8)
Ibn Al-Qayyim said: “Scholars of Islam and those around whose sayings revolves Fatwa (religious counseling) among people; those who are endowed with the ability to derive rulings from the (the Qur’anic and Hadith) texts and whose preoccupation is the regulation of the lawful and unlawful things are to the earth what the stars are to the heaven. It is through them that the confused get guidance and people’s need of them is greater than their need of food and drink.” Allah makes obeying them greater than obeying parents when He says: “O you who believe! Obey Allah and obey the Messenger (Muhammad), and those of you (Muslims) who are in authority.” (Qur’an, 4:59) The Ulema are the people’s refuge during calamities. Many a blind people have seen through them; many a Sunnah have been spread through them and many an innovation have been effaced through them.
God-conscious Ulema are leaders in piety; if they had wanted beauties and high positions of this world, it would have come to them submissively, but they live with their knowledge and meritorious deeds in a happiness that is far better than that of the people of worldly positions; that is because, their whole life revolves around no more than what Allah and His Prophet (peace be upon him) say. They do not learn knowledge for adornment purpose but to benefit from it. Their impact is so strong that, if they walk on a barren land it becomes fertile and if they step their feet on a territory full of darkness it becomes illuminated.
An Aalim in the real sense of the word is not the holder of higher certificates and academic titles. He is rather the one who has a combination of knowledge, strong and deep Imaan, obedience to his Lord and a lot of Ibadat (acts of worship). These are the people of knowledge whom Allah describes as incomparable to others when He says: “Are those who know equal to those who know not.” (Qur’an, 39:9) Ibn Al-Mubarak was asked: “How can a true knowledgeable man be recognized?” He replied: “He is the one who is ascetic in this world and occupies himself with the affairs of the Hereafter.”
Nevertheless, Ulema should not be regarded as perfect beings who are immunized against any defects, errors or mistakes; for, this is quite impossible. However, one should not be looking for the mistakes of a knowledgeable man because he may have an excuse that is unknown to that or us, this mistake may have a reason, which cannot be perceived by us.
If the Prophets (peace be on them) have the right to be honored and revered, their inheritors should also have a share of that. The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said: “The Ulema are indeed the heirs of the Prophets.” (Abu Dawood and others) It is therefore incumbent on us to love them, to obey them in good, to defend them and ask for Allah’s Mercy for those who are deceased among them. Ibn Abbas said whoever annoys a knowledgeable man has annoyed the Messenger of Allah; and whoever annoys the Messenger of Allah has annoyed Allah.
Death of Ulema is an irreparable loss to this Ummah. We beseech Allah to forgive the deceased among them and to benefit us with the knowledge of the living ones.
Yes! Eyes do shed tears and hearts do get saddened, but if all of us shed our tears, that cannot change the situation nor prevent any harm. Actually, reaction of people of weak minds — after the death of Ulema — do not go beyond shedding tears and mere wailings and lamentations; but people of lofty aims and enlightened minds do go beyond that for, they know that sincere love for those scholars means to live according to their way; to die on their path; to be good example in knowledge and good deeds; to be leaders in piety and humbleness; to be models in patience and perseverance and to be pace-setters in generosity and sacrifice. Such are the characteristics of the Ulema and such should be the characteristics of those who love them.
The Ulema are not personalities whose virtues should merely be sung or written on pages without benefiting from their light. Ibrahim ibn Habib said: “My father told me: ‘My son! Go to the Ulema, take knowledge from them and learn from their manners, characters and guidance; that is dearer to me than your learning of many Hadiths (without manners)’.”