Consulting the Rightly-Guided Ulama
The principle “refer to the experts of the field” is a principle commonly-quoted and practised in all spheres of life. Consider the example of a person who intends constructing a triple-story mansion. What steps will he follow to fulfil his intention? He will first contact an architect to draw the plans. Thereafter, he will hire the services of an engineer as well as a contractor to put up the project.
If he has to independently embark on such a project, without the aid of the architect, engineer and contractor, we can well imagine the devastating outcome that he will cause for himself and others! Without the correct guidance, experience and expertise, it is highly possible that the entire structure will collapse, endangering his life and the lives of others.
Likewise, when faced with a health-related issue, the opinion of expert doctors is sought. Similarly, in managing one’s business, an accountant is consulted, and when faced with a legal challenge, a lawyer is contacted. Thus, we see that in all walks of life, people adhere to this principle by taking guidance and assistance from others whom they recognize to be the experts in their respective fields.
Just as implementing this principle is essential in all spheres of a person’s life, it is also essential in one’s deen. Islam teaches us that when faced with any situation which requires deeni direction and guidance (whether relating to one’s deen or dunya) then one should refer to the rightly-guided Ulama or deeni elders for guidance and assistance.
The reason for Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) encouraging the ummah to make mashwarah and consult the rightly-guided Ulama before making a decision is that they possess the knowledge of deen. Through consulting them, one will understand the Shar‘ee perspective and ruling relating to his situation, thereby assisting him to make the correct decision and please Allah Ta‘ala. Hence, taking a decision in any situation, without first acquiring deeni knowledge, is akin to a person walking blindly in the dark.
Even, in regard to the institute of nikaah, Islam advocates that one refers to his elders. More so in regard to a girl, Islam lays great emphasis on her seeking guidance from her parents and family elders in choosing the right partner. It is absolutely reprehensible and against shame for a girl to look for her own suitor and perform her own nikaah. Thus, the Hadith explains that if a girl performs her nikaah without her guardian, then such a nikaah will be devoid of barakah and goodness.
The reason for the Hadith emphasizing the need for a girl to refer to her parents or elders is that generally, pious parents have greater understanding and experience compared to their children. Due to parents having passed through these phases and seen the ups and downs of life, they will be able to guide their children correctly. Hence, it is safer for the girl to follow the experience of her parents rather than trying to experiment this department of life on her own. There are many cases where women put themselves through immense difficulty and complications on account of them independently looking for their suitor and not consulting their parents and elders.
It should be borne in mind that referring to the pious seniors and the learned Ulama is not only a means of acquiring safety in one’s deen and dunya – but it is also the key to acquiring barakah, goodness, prosperity and success in one’s life.
Hence, in the Mubaarak Hadith, Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) said, “Barakah lies with your learned seniors.” (Majma’uz Zawaa’id #12618) In another Hadith, Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) mentioned, “The one who makes mashwarah will not regret.” (Majma’uz Zawaa’id #13157)
Below is a thought-provoking incident which highlights the great importance of ensuring that one always consults his seniors and rightly-guided Ulama before embarking on any decision:
Incident of the granddaughter of Sheikh Ali Tantawi (rahimahullah)
Sheikh Ali Tantawi (rahimahullah) was an Aalim of Syria. His granddaughter mentions that at one point in her life, she and her family were considering migrating to Canada. However, her grandfather, Sheikh Ali Tantawi (rahimahullah), prevented them from doing so and said to them, “Choosing to live in the land of kufr leads to your offspring losing their deen. Even if you are able to protect the deen of your children, you can never guarantee to protect the deen of their children and their grandchildren. Do not carry the responsibility of them losing their deen.”
His granddaughter mentions that at that time, she was skeptical to accept his reasoning and jumped to the assumption that he was too strict and only wanted to control his children’s lives. However, despite her feelings, she and her family decided to accept his advice and listen to him. Many years later, when she saw the large number of people whose children and grandchildren left the fold of Islam after migrating to non-Muslim countries, she realized and appreciated the advice and guidance of her grandfather. She made du‘aa for him saying, “May Allah have mercy on him! Now I fully agree with him, and whenever I come across a story of people whose children have lost their deen in the midst of the busy life in the West, I recall his wise decision.”
From the above, we understand the importance of adhering to the teaching of the Hadith – of always referring to the rightly-guided Ulama or deeni elders. Through doing so, one will ensure that he follows deen correctly and will also save himself and his progeny from the harm of this world and the next.