Our treatment of our scholars – a case of Shaykh Hamza Yusuf

Muslims believe in one God, one last prophet – Muhammad, and in one last book – Quran. But after these niceties starts our real belief system.  We have 

  • Political affiliations 
  • Country, Nationality & Place affiliations
  • Race affiliations
  • Madhab affiliations
  • Scholar affiliations

If a person has so many affiliations how can that person truly worship one God and practice the teachings of his Prophet and Quran. Surely our understanding of Islam will be influenced by our other affiliations. Our worship of Allah will be influenced by our associations and connections. It is extremely difficult for a person to put aside his own inner self and truly submit to the teachings and commandments of Allah almighty.

I am deeply troubled with the recent incident with Shaykh Hamza Yusuf.  What he has said during RIS 2017 interview with Mehdi Hasan is for him to clarify and ultimately to be answerable to Allah. But what has troubled me is that how Muslims have started using this incident to disrespect and to go as far as to ridicule a Muslim scholar.

It seemed as if the some Muslims were over joyous just to know that he had made these remarks and it became uncontrollable for these Muslims to start spreading and disseminating his comments online. It was a one time opportunity for these Muslims to show their frustration and their dislike of this highly esteemed scholar. How could these Muslims let go of this opportunity not to show their inner jealousy for Shaykh Hamza Yusuf. All of his years' of learning and service to Islam and to the Muslim community was left aside due to the political, national or race affiliations of those people who were throwing insult at Shaykh Hamza Yusuf.  

One of the methods used to ridicule Shaykh Hamza Yusuf is to give him the title of Sufi. In their articles and social media posts Shaykh  Hamza Yusuf is increasingly being referred to as 'Sufi Hamza Yusuf'. Due to their religious and sect affiliations they regard 'Sufi' and what this word stands for in a lower state. By replacing 'Shaykh' with 'Sufi', this is their way of showing their disgust towards Sheikh Hamza Yusuf.  

It is also a sad state of affairs that a word that had such hight prestige and status in the past is disregarded in the current times. Part of the blame goes to the people who claim to be sufi and yet do not practice authentic sufism. This has given a bad reputation to sufism and ammunition to the opponents of sufism. Therefore, by calling Hamza Yusuf a sufi, he is being associated with a malpractice in Islam with a hope to taint his reputation of being the most respected scholar in the Western land.   

But we should deduct positivity out of every negativity and hope that the new title is a compliment to Shaykh Hamza Yusuf's list of achievements. After years of learning and hard work he has finally moved towards a higher station of wilayat. Everybody is becoming a Shaykh nowdays and less and less people are becoming Sufi as it takes less effort to learn knowledge and takes greater efforts to apply that knowledge to our nafs. 

Imam Ghazali has quite rightly said in his magnum opus:

"A wise man has said 'Whenever a man reaches the limit in his knowledge, people cast stones at him'

That is, his discourse goes beyond the limit of their comprehension and so they consider what he says a transgression or a blasphemy."

(Al Ihya: Kitab al-Mahabba)

So congratulations to Shaykh Hamza Yusuf on becoming a Sufi and we pray to Allah Almighty that he enables the rest of us to also follow in the footsteps of Sheikh Hamza Yusuf in learning and disseminating knowledge to others.   

I have never had a personal sitting with Sidi Hamza Yusuf, therefore I do not know his personal views about what he said in his interview. This article is not in defence of Shaykh Hamza yusuf but in defence of respecting our elders and respected scholars.

This post was written with no particular person in mind therefore if you find it offensive please do not think it was aimed at you.

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