Basis of Religion: Quran or Scholars?
One of my colleagues at my university asked my students to not listen to what my teacher, Javed Ahmed Ghamidi, says on religious matters because, he claims, his views are representative of only a tiny minority. Following views on Islam that are not supported by a large number of ulama, according to him, is misleading. Further, there are also comments like this sent to students: “What are you going to do on the Day of Judgment when all scholars of the ummah will be on one side and you along with Mr Ghamidi will be on the other, lonely, side?”
When we are confronted with religious differences, the ultimate criterion to decide which of the views is correct is the Qur’an. This fact is so natural that every unbiased individual would appreciate it. In the absence of the book of God, one could have felt the need to look for other sources; if the book of Allah is with us, resorting to other sources is clearly misleading. The Qur’an itself emphasizes this fact in several of its passages. The Qur’an declares itself to be al-Furqan, the ultimate criterion that would clarify what is right in religious matters from what is wrong (25:1). It declares that its message is al-Mizan, the balance that acts to weigh the value of acceptable elements in religious views from the ones that are not acceptable (42:17). It mentions that from after its revelation till the day of Judgment, it is its verdicts that would serve to be Muhaimin (guardian) over all the previous divine books (5:48). It also clarifies that even the prophet, alaihissalaam, could not do or say anything that went contrary to Qur’anic description (10:15). It, furthermore, insists that God’s purpose behind revealing all His books was to ensure that the books “give the correct verdict to men in (religious) matters where they disagreed.” (2:213)
Given the above facts, all serious-minded, truth-seeking Muslims should look for the correct understanding of the Qur’an, wherever they can get it from. It is the verdict of the Qur’an that would serve to enlighten them to know whether the truth in different matters of religion lies with the majority or minority of scholars. It could be that in some matters one scholar is right and in another, some other may hold the correct view. For the purpose of knowing the correct religious view, one should always continue to look for views of scholars in the light of the arguments they present from the Qur’an.
When the Qur’an makes such clear claims that its teachings are the ultimate source of knowledge, then could it be that those teachings are designed by the Almighty to remain inaccessible to the common man, in a way that he remains dependent on the reputation and quantity of scholars to judge whether a certain religious view is correct or misleading? The entire claim of the Qur’an that it is the most significant source of religious knowledge is attempted to be reduced to nothing by those people who concoct arguments from their own minds to prove that for most of the Muslims the Qur’an is not a book of guidance; instead, it is their scholars who are the only real source of guidance for them.
My religious guide, Javed Ahmed Ghamidi, says that the Qur’an is the ultimate source of guidance for all Muslims, whether they are scholars or non-scholars. The former should get guidance from the book of Allah directly. The common Muslims should try as best as they can to find out which one amongst the diverse views of scholars in a certain matter seems to be the closest to the Qur’anic message. He never insists that people should follow his point of view only. Instead, he believes that those scholars who are insisting that common people should follow their views blindly are misleading them.
The Qur’an declares that on the Day of Judgment, the prophet, alaihissalaam, is going to plead against a certain group of people to the Almighty not because they went against the majority opinion of Muslim scholars, but because they ignored the Qur’an: “And the Messenger will say my Lord, my people deserted this Qur’an.” (25:30)
I therefore believe that the statements of my colleague are an attempt to emotionally scare people to not do their own research to find out the truth.
This indeed is a very serious problem. People resort to emotionalism only when they lose on the front of arguments. What would people do on the Day of Judgment if the Almighty would ask them why they didn’t bother to understand and follow His book when it was presented to them? The Qur’an says that on that day all those people who were mislead because they blindly followed their leaders will face serious disappointment: “When those who were followed would disown those who followed them . and their relations will be cut off from them. And those who followed would say, ‘If only we had one more chance to return (to the worldly life) we would disown them as they have disowned us.’” (2:166-7) The prophet, alaihissalaam, is reported to have said “The Qur’an shall serve as an evidence (on the day of Judgment) either in favour of you or against you.”