Imam Rabbani does not inform us only about matters which are related to Sufism; he also speaks about the problems of Islamic scholarship in general. His advice targets both the illiterate as well as the educated.
As we all know, Islam values learning and education very much. It considers the ink of the scholar to be more valuable than the blood of the martyr killed defending his country. Prophet Mohammed (SA) even said that the death of a scholar is equivalent to the death of whole world. However, this great importance attached to the scholars in Islam also burdens them with great responsibilities. It is the scholar of Islam who are also responsible fort he rise as well as the fall of Islam. Scholars are indispensable in the teaching of Islam and its practice among the people. It is also interesting that the very scholars who benefit Islam in the greatest way can also cause the greatest damage to Islam. In letter 33 Imam Rabbani explains the reason why scholars can be harmful to Islam and how to eliminate causes that can corrupt scholars. His warnings towards scholars are still valid today since, due to some worldly reasons, many scholars produce ideas that are contrary to Islam.
“Loving the world and having an inclination towards its glamour is like dirt on the faces of scholars (of Islam). The knowledge of such scholars might benefit others, but they will not receive any benefit from their own knowledge. Although the propagation of Islam is their privilege, sometimes Allah Almighty can support His religion through a non-believer or a sinner. Concerning this matter the Prophet Mohammed (SA) says: Certainly Allah can support His religion by (using) a sinner.”
According to Imam Rabbani, those who use the religion for their personal interests will loose in the Hereafter. They volunteer to distort religion so they can attain fame and government posts. Rather than serving Islam they are trying to make Islam serve them:
“Worldly scholars are like flint. They contain the energy that causes fire. People light fires from the flint, but the flint does not benefit from the flames. Similarly, worldly scholars do not benefit from their own knowledge. It can even harm them since they can’t state the excuse that they were unaware of the principals of Islam. However, in the Divine Court they will not be excused as they will not be able to say that they did not know that what they did was wrong. The Prophet (SA) said: The most severely punished person in the hereafter will be those scholars of Islam who did not benefit from their own knowledge.”
In the following words Imam Rabbani also explains why using religion for worldly purpose is a great sin:
“Knowledge has an immense value in Allah’s sight. The scholar who wants worldly gain uses such a valuable gift in order to attain worldly possessions that have no value in the Divine Court. Hence, such a scholar is abusing highly honored knowledge to collect money, friends and other passing interests. Allah Almighty dislikes those who are worldly and therefore spend knowledge for purpose that are disliked by Almighty Allah; this is very bad conduct which will bring spiritual disaster. Such conduct is paramount to disliking what is liked by Allah and loving what is disdained by Him. Teaching Islam or preaching is only good when it is done for the sake of Allah, when it is not used as a stepping-stone for other worldly purpose. The sign of such a sincere scholar is that he does not have worldly desires that lie behind his knowledge.”
Imam Rabbani goes one step further and says that the worldly scholars of Islam cannot be considered to be men of religion. He calls them thieves of the treasure of religion:
“The scholars of Islam who love the temporary goods of this world are in fact men of this world, although they consider themselves to be the spiritual men of Hereafter. They are evil and the most harmful of all human beings. They are thieves of the religion. In the chapter of Mujadele in the Holy Quran Allah Almighty states: “On the day when Allah will raise them all together, then will they swear unto Him as they (now) swear unto you, and they will fancy that they have some standing. Lo! Is it no they who are the liars? Satan has gained mastery over them, so he has made them forget the remembrance of Allah; they are of Satan’s party; now surely Satan’s party is the looser. (Mujadilah, 58: 19-20)”
According to Imam Rabbani the duty of the scholars is to show how Islam is to be practiced. But he says that sadly some scholars show people how to evade fulfilling the commandments of Islam. They do the opposite of what they should do: it is a reality that the weakness people show in fulfilling the commandments of Islam is due to the false scholars of Islam. Such heedlessness is caused by the evil words and intentions of scholars who work under the disguise of men of religion.
Opposed to this group there is another group of scholars whom Imam Rabbani calls the scholars of the Hereafter. These are the scholars who have gained their freedom from the shackles of worldly interests. This is the group which was praised by Prophet Mohammed (SA). Imam Rabbani explains their characteristics in the following words:
“The scholars that do not give their hearts to the love of possessions, gaining of fame or high positions, those who do not desire to be rulers over people are the scholars of the Hereafter (Ulema-i-Akhiret). These are the best people. Their ink will weigh more than the blood of martyrs who gave their life for the sake of religion. For this group the Prophet (SA) said that their sleep is a kind of worship. The beauty of the Hereafter and the ugliness of this world are clear to them. They know well that this world is transitory whereas the Hereafter is endless. Therefore, they are not attracted to the passing glamour of this world and they have focused all their attention on the eternal, the never-decomposing beauties (of the Hereafter).”
Imam Rabbani is not categorically opposed to worldly possessions. If a Muslim of Scholar desires the world, not for selfish reasons, but for the good of Muslim Nations, then such a desire is acceptable. Worldly possessions, as long as they do not invade a scholar’s heart, are positive as they can be employed in order to help the Religion and Muslims. However, such scholars are few in number. Using worldly possessions for the sake of the Owner of the worlds is not considered to be worldliness.
“Some scholars love this world in order to use it for the sake of Allah without feeling any love for this world. They love it only for the sake of spending it in the good way. The following verse of the Quran describes them: “Men whom neither merchandise nor selling diverts from the remembrance of Allah and the keeping up of prayer and the giving of poor-rate; they fear a day in which the hearts and eyes shall turn about.” (Nur, 24:37) Bahauddin Naqshband states: there was a young trader at the market in Mina who was trading to the worth of 50 thousand gold pieces, but his heart never forget Allah, even for a second.”
In these difficult days, when Muslims are going through difficult times, we need such good scholars more than ever. The rise and fall of the Muslim Ummah is very much in the hands of the scholars. If they serve Islam selflessly like the Companions of the Prophet Mohammed (SA), the Ummah will raise from this difficult situation. If they put their interest first before the interest of Islam, then they will cause the fall of Islam as well as their own downfall. Hence, intellectuals should heed the words of Imam Rabbani and take lessons from his warnings.