After a long and some what absent period, my college friend rang me yesterday. We had a long and a strong discussion. Mostly centered around the typical issues generally a confused, lost and ‘new’ practising muslim tends to ask. Why follow medhabs? why celebrate the melad? etc. Now back during our college days he was one of those types of muslims who were on the edge, so to speak. In that, if there was any sign of anyone having the slightest indication of knowing he is a muslim, my friend would go-out-of-his-way to display attitudes contrary to Islam and the actions of an average muslim. You may say that he was a scared and frightened muslim. With 9/11 freshly etched on the minds of people. That era of time saw tremendous things unfold on the playing fields of life. which was, Muslims were afraid of being classified or even noticed as being a muslim.
People, especially the ones who were non-practicing muslims, increased their stereotypical views of practicing muslims, which to be frank, already somewhat etched in the minds. That, they are a bunch of archaic, backward, out of fashion and dumb people. This was pretty much the view my friend held and how he saw practicing muslims. Having said that, by enlarge, this was the view of most if not all ‘muslims’. Anyway, after the pleasantries were over, i was pleased and disappointed at the same point about my friend. Pleased in that, my friend had seemed to have taken a change for the better. Started becoming a practicing muslim. On the other hand, i was disappointed to know that the circle of friends he was associating with now, are a group of people who are quick to accuse people of apostacy and shirk. The people who are the adherents, followers and stanch-fans of Dr. Zakir Naik and his henchmen. One thing which emerged from our discussion was, the sole reference point my friend used, and time and again refered to was the infamous ‘Dr. Zakir Naik’. His whole arguments was based on what Zakir Naik, the famous da’ii, (albeit in the indian sub continent community) says about medhabs and on certain issues of Islam. After a lenghty discussion i was happy to make one thing clear in his mind.
That, Zakir Naik is not a scholar! And, that we should not take our Islam from any Joe Blogs of the street.
Going back several years, the first i had come across of Zakir Naik was when someone gave me a tape of Ahmed Deedat. After listening to deedat, i was elated. Elated in the sense that we had in the ummah people who could take on the christians, and the jews at their own game. Using their own religious scriptures to score points against them. At the back of the tape was an image of a very skinny, small man, with dark complexion. This man, as i would find out later on in life, was the young Zakir Naik. The next up and coming debater for the muslims. The self-proclaimed student of Ahmed Deedat. Things were looking good, since Ahmed Deedat was getting old and had already suffered health scares, it was good to know there was someone just like him to replace him, once he died. Unfortunately, as things would turn out later in life, this Zakir Naik will not be the same as Ahmed Deedat. With Zakir Naik’s popularity growing at an exponential rate, especially in the indian sub-continent. He soon opened a new islamic ‘Dawah’ TV station called the ‘Peace TV’. This was to be the first of its kind. The first 24 hour islamic Dawah channel. When it opened a number of years back it was highly popular. His debates with pastors, priests, rabbis, etc, were amazing to watch. The velocity with which he could quote verse upon verses of any religious scriptures was tantalizingly sublime! This gave him a huge following, both within the non-muslim crowds and within the muslims. However, slowly (as most people are aware) HE STARTED TO DIVULGE. He started to deviate from strictly sticking to his speciality, which was dawah. To giving out judgements, fatwas and guidance for his ever-growing muslim fan base! Taking up the position of a islamic scholar.
With his ability to memorize anything in parrot fashion. He is very good at quoting hadiths and quranic verses with references, when he makes his arguments and judgements. This mezmorizingly, magical ability he has, has made people become spellbound to his spells. Anything he says or issues decree on, is seen as a islamic injunction, issued by a high level islamic scholar. Although to be blunt, he does not even know how to read and write arabic properly!
The point of this post is to point out a number of facts.
Firstly, just memorizing and then quoting hadiths and quranic verses does not make you an over night scholar. Each hadith and quranic verse has lengthy interpretations and meaning behind it. Which a person has to learn from a teacher. Sitting under him for a great number of years.
Secondly, the student has to master the arabic language, then he can only begin to dream of learning the islamic sciences.
Thirdly, once a person has become fully QUALIFIED as a shaykh, does he has the legal backing (which links him back to the prophet (Saw) though a chain of transmission) to preach and give out fatwas and judgements of the topics/issues of islam.
A person can read a scientific journal on open heart surgery and be quoting his knowledge to people. Saying, ‘this is what you do, and this is how you do it’. His ability to demonstrate how to do open heart surgery does not mean he is a qualified surgeon. No! He has to go through an institution of learning and qualify as a surgeon before any credibility can be given to him. Likewise a person can tell you and quote to you hadiths and quranic verses like songs off a hymn. But, as long as he/she has not studied under a teacher or has gone through a institution of learning, learning the islamic sciences and the interpretations according to the 14 centuries ulema. Then he has no right to issue out judgements or even say, ‘This is what so a so says, im only quoting their views’. Even in this a person can take things out of context and meanings.
Zakir Naik should simply stick to what he is good at. That is, giving dawah and debating with people of other faiths. He has no legal authority or the legal backing of islamic shuyukhs to be discussing the pros and cons, the rights and wrongs of the greatest islamic scholars. Imam Abu Hanifah, Imam Shafi etc. The likes of whom he tries to put down as being normal, incompetent, average muslims!
His deviance is not only causing him harm, but also the millions of his fans who religiously watch his programs. My friend is just one example amongst the ocean of people zakir naik is causing to become confused, dumbfounded and frustrated at the intricacies of islamic issues, sunnah, lifestyles and jurisprudence. His incompetence is leading many people who are barely managing to lead a islamic life, pick up Quran and hadith, and derive their own understanding and meanings, just like he tends to do! As far as i can see, it is the beginning of a great calamity waiting to happen. In on other time in our history have the muslims faced such dangerous times as now. We are being told by unqualified, incompetent, laymen how to lead islamic lives. What is right and what is wrong. The sense of having a qualified, and highly knowledgeable scholar guiding and supporting the muslims, is slowing being eradicated from people’s minds.