What Qualifies One to be a Scholar?
It is necessary to make clear before we begin what a scholar is and what it is not. While I understand that most people don’t know what a scholar is, it needs to be clear that a scholar ISN’T every and any person who teaches at a masjid or Islamic center. A scholar is not even any and all people who have written Islamic books as the writer may be well versed in a certain topic but totally lacking in another topic. A scholar ISN’T necessarily any and every person who speaks about the religion and seems sincere. A scholar is someone who is qualified to give a fatwa. Let’s start by stating what a scholar is. The scholar Imaam Shawkaani listed 5 conditions for someone to be considered a scholar. For the sake of brevity I will list the bullet points, for the complete explanation it can be found in Irshaad al-Fuhool, 2/297-303
1. Clear knowledge of Quran and sunnah. The Shaykh mentioned it doesn’t mean he needs to have memorized every hadeeth of the sunnah but he must be able to find the necessary and relevant reports first and foremost in the well known books of hadeeth of:
Saheeh Al Bukhaari
Sunan Abi Dawood
Sunan Al Tirmidhi
Sunan Ibn Maajah
Additionally he must know which hadeeth are sound and which are weak. Meaning he has to have studied the chains of narration and have studied the reliability of those men in the chains of narration. Otherwise, the person may pass fatwas based upon unsound texts.
2. He should have knowledge of the issues of consensus (ijmaa’)
3. He should be well versed in the Arabic language. You cannot become knowledgable of the sunnah of the Messenger of Allaah without being able to read his statements and understand it in the Prophet’s native language.
4. He must have knowledge of usual al fiqh (basic principles of Islamic jurisprudence), including analogy (qiyaas). Without this knowledge of fiqh, the person would have no clear path to understand one text in relation to another and so on. It’s like having map but you have no knowledge in terms of how to read it.
5. He must have knowledge regarding what abrogates and what is abrogated Another scholar Shaykh Muhammad ibn Saalih al ’Uthaymeen mentioned many of the above mentioned qualifications as well. His complete explanation can be found in the book: al-Usool fi ‘Ilm al-Usool, p. 85, 86; Sharh (commentary thereon), p. 584-590.
It is reasonable that not every Muslim will have clear knowledge of what it entails to be qualified to give fatwas. Nor do I expect every soldier within the ranks of ISIS fighters to know this. However I CERTAINLY do expect that the leadership of ISIS to know this. Surely they have studied the religion enough to know who is and isn’t qualified to give fatwa. Right? Or is it that they are trying to deceive the people by padding a list with a bunch of names to dazzle their supporters? If I am sick and go to a hospital for treatment I do not know all of the necessary qualifications for a doctor who works at their hospital to have. However I do expect that the hospital management has that well in hand. If my treatment goes wrong, and I question the doctor who promptly tells me that he really isn’t a doctor but read a few books then it is quite reasonable that I’m going to be upset. Right away the credibility of the management comes into question and would most likely be prosecuted in a court of law for negligence. Now that we have an idea of what a scholar is then we can examine the two lists provided by ISIS.
Name: Sheikh Ibrahim Awad
Notes: This is Abu Bakr Baghdadi and his scholarly aptitude will be looked at in part 2
Sheikh Ahmed Musa Jibril
Notes: It is a shame that ISIS would resort to putting his name of this list. There is not a single shred of support shown for Baghdadi or ISIS either in his Facebook or Twitter accounts nor in statements he’s made during lectures. Non Muslim media outlets have tried to brand him with the ISIS label however there isn’t any evidence whatsoever and I challenge anyone to prove me wrong. There is however a video on Youtube entitled “Open Letter to ISIS leader al Baghdadi - Muslim Leaders Worldwide Speak Up”. Here is the link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s6tN2BAt378 If you scroll down there is a comment that is indeed a comment from Shaykh Ahmad Musa Jibril. Here it is:
However if you look at 2 things:
1. It was not posted by Shaykh Ahmad Jibril. It was posted by someone named “MrNatty513” (whoever that is).
2. The Date. I took this screen capture today November 20th, 2014. It says that it was posted one month ago, approximately October 20th. Shaykh Ahmad Jibril made this statement on his twitter account on February 4th. Here is a screen capture:
Obviously this was not written in response to the video as it was posted to his twitter account a full 8 months prior to the youtube video being posted. Why would ISIS leadership try to parade Shaykh Ahmad as one of their scholars when he has no statements of support for them?
Notes: Shaykh Faisal is indeed a staunch supporter of ISIS. However I sincerely doubt his credentials as a scholar. The link mentioned above is the link that ISIS provided in their own document. In the link he makes assumptions that everyone who thinks that ISIS are khwarij supports the alliance bombing of ISIS positions in Iraq and Syria which is nothing more than his attempt to grant legitimacy his statements. He quotes a statement from Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthaymeen out of context saying that it was the Shaykh’s position that it was permissible to kill innocent women and children which wasn’t the shaykh’s position but that issue will be handled in another article. However at 4:07 he says: “And this is what Allaah says in Baqarah 194: ‘If they kill your innocent then you are allowed to kill their innocent’”. The first issue is that he severely misquoted Allaah as there is no translation that says “If you kill their innocent then you are allowed to kill their innocent”. Rather it says: So whoever has assaulted you, then assault him in the same way that he has assaulted you. And fear Allah and know that Allah is with those who fear Him.
About this verse the true scholar Ibn Taymiya said:
“So if someone swears at a person, then this person has the right to swear back at the person, as long as it does not transgress Allaah’s set boundaries and as long as this does extend to other than the oppressor (perpetrator) himself.
Another true scholar Imaam Al Qurtubi explained this verse wherein he said:
“Whoever oppressed you – you can take back your rights from HIM. But don’t transgress against other than him, such as his father, or son or his relatives!”
Yet another scholar Ibn Katheer said in his tafseer regarding this verse:
“And His Words: “But let him not exceed the limits“, it was said that this means: the guardians (of the murdered person) should not exceed the limits, by mutilating or by taking revenge on other than the perpetrator of the murder.” “Tafsir Ibn Kathir”, 5/74
To be honest I do not know if Shaykh Faisal meets the above mentioned criterion to be called a scholar. Rather he is a known person of takfir for many years. He posted the following tweet from his account:
Is there any true scholarly evidence to support this? Are even those whose hearts are inclined towards Baghdadi’s group ready to tell their wives that since they have not given the oath of allegiance to Baghdadi they are now haram for them? Do you see how destructive takfir is not only to a family but to the ummah in general. Do you see the level of takfir this brother has fallen into? Why would ISIS embrace him as one of their “scholars” unless they were on the same page? May Allaah guide us and him.
Name: Musa Cerantonio
Notes: This is another staunch supporter of ISIS and their “caliphate”. Musa Cerantonio has only been Muslim for approximately 14 years as he accepted the faith at age 16. Is it possible that he would have fulfilled the criterion to be a scholar as mentioned above in such a short span of time? Theoretically it is possible, however extremely unlikely. However if he indeed is a scholar then his Shaykh should have no problem in vouching for the fact that he is a scholar. You don’t become a scholar simply by reading on your own having no teacher. Perhaps someone would contact Musa Cerantonio and ask him if he has the qualifications to give fatwas and have them post his response so we can see what he says. Musa Cerantonio obviously has the tools for giving motivational speeches. However that does not mean that he is a scholar by any stretch of the imagination.
Name: Sheikh Hassan
Notes: Unfortunately, the link above is in a language I am not familiar with and ISIS didn’t provide much of a name to research. Only “Sheikh Hassan”. Shaykh Hassan who?
Name: Mizanu Rahman
Notes: Is not fluent in Arabic and therefore cannot be listed as a scholar as he would not have the means to study the texts.
Name: Anjem Chowdry
Notes: Chowdry is not fluent in the Arabic language and cannot be classified as a scholar. He is known to be an outspoken supporter of ISIS however it is not genuine to call him one who has the knowledge to pass fatwas.
Name: Abu Raghal
Notes: Abu Raghal is not a name, it is a kunya (nickname-the father of so and so). Therefore I cannot verify who this man is. Additionally the link to the Facebook page they provided does not work.
Name: Sheikh Bilal
Name: Sheikh Abu Sarah Al Filastini
Notes: His name is Bilal Duqmaq. Why they listed him twice on this list and under two different names is not clear. It may be a typo. At any rate, Shaykh Bilal has appeared on many TV programs as a guest and analyst. He received a diploma in Islamic studies in Syria. However just having a basic diploma in Islamic studies is something that hundreds of thousands of people have around the Islamic world. Does the diploma give you the qualifications mentioned above? No, any person of knowledge will tell you that the diploma is only the very beginning. It’s like saying every haafidh of Quran is qualified to give tafsir. Actually memorizing the quran is only the beginning. As for Shaykh Bilal it is not clear as to his studies after receiving his diploma so it is possible he may be a scholar. However there is one interesting note: I could not find any endorsement of Shaykh Bilal for Baghdadi or ISIS except for the following exchange on a televised debate which can be found in the link above:
Abdur Rahman Ali Dila’ (Referring to Abu Bakr Baghdadi): “…because Saudi Arabia has been feeding this ungrateful dog”
Shaykh Bilal (interrupting): “Bashar is the dog, not Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi”.
I cannot nearly imagine that this statement alone could mean that he is an ISIS scholar. Actually this is the only “pro-ISIS” statement I could find. However, I did find condemnation of ISIS actions made by Shaykh Bilal wherein he says: “The issue of slaughtering the soldiers and cutting off heads is not a praiseworthy act. It goes against what we know from the sunnah of the Prophet and the blessed verses of surah at Tawbah.
This statement can be found at this link: http://sahelmaten.com/بلال-دقماق-قضية-ذبح-الجنود-وقطع-الرؤوس/
There is nothing to suggest he is an ISIS scholar and I have no idea why he is on this list. Either time.
Name: Hussain Muhammad Hussain
Notes: Hussain Hussain is indeed here on Al Jazeera giving the bay’ to Baghdadi. However when I saw his suit, tie, and trimmed beard I couldn’t help but feel something was wrong. He certainly didn’t fit the description of a “Scholar of the Islamic State”. I could be wrong. He may be just a supporter but why put simon the “scholars” list?
Conclusion to Part 1
46 of 57 names on list number two that are unverifiable is an alarming number, and that doesn’t mean those other names will check out as we’ve seen here. ISIS might want to say that for security purposes their names are left out. So where does that leave the ummah? We have no idea who appointed Baghdadi and bogus names appear on their list of “scholars”. This gives us doubt. What are we to make of all this? Am I not Muslim anymore, as some have suggested, simply for questioning the “Islamic State”? Does my desire to know the truth like so many others mean I am aligned with Obama’s bombing campaign? Muslims are in need of transparent governance, the days of servitude to unjust leaders are over.