They say, ‘This is a clear attack on our scholars, designed to undermine the faith of the masses.’ But in reality, most of these men and women who apparently represent us are simply people who have put themselves forward for the role.
Of course many of these community sages have indeed studied long and hard prior to establishing their mass followings on social media and strutting the globe delivering lectures and speeches to crowded conference halls. Of course, amongst them are brilliant thinkers, with brilliant minds, and masters degrees and PhDs, which seem to qualify them to stand before us and represent us and our faith. There is no disputing that.
But penetrating insight and erudite scholarship do not extricate men from their human flaws. Scholars, rabbis, priests, imams, monks… irregardless of their assumed piety, they are all just ordinary humans with nice titles in front of their names.
Our community has a problem with terminology. As soon as the word ‘scholar’ is mentioned, suddenly we are in awe. The scholar becomes a giant, a more-than-man, a superhuman being, so lofty and detached from the rest of us. But in reality they are just men and women like the rest of us, who just so happen to have read volumes of books and devoted their lives to study. I do not belittle them for that: it is an amazing feat that few of us could achieve.
But beneath the layers of apparent wisdom and piety still stands the seed of a man or woman. Beneath the greatness we ascribe to them is a human soul, with all its ingrained traits and passions… both humility and arrogance; ego at different stages; the inner and outer addictions of the self.
We have done the same as the People of the Book before us and taken our preachers and scholars as Lords beside Allah, assigning to them greatness far beyond their due, forgetting that they are in the end just men and women, who like the rest of us must decide how to live their lives, for good or bad, for the self or others, for truth or falsehood. In short, we are not called to worship men and women, who are falible and liable to fall. We are called to worship the One, who can never be undermined.