The Prophet Muhammad was recorded addressing his companions:
“You (the companions) are in a time when there are many learned people in this religion who truly understand the religion, there are few orators (those who ask questions), those giving are much more than those asking, action in this time is better than knowledge. But there will come a time when the Fuqaha (those who understand the religion) are few and the orators will be many, many will be asking and few will be giving and in that time, knowledge will be greater than action”
The crisis that we have... this morning I was having breakfast and the man who served us, I asked him, “Are you from Senegal?” and his jaw dropped because for a white person in America to know a Senegalis , that always shocks them. Then I said are u Wolof? He was even more shocked. He said, “Yes”. I said I studied in Mauritania and he said “that’s true Islam, all of our teachers studied in Mauritania. All the problems today are because people do not know what Islam is," This is a man who is working as a server. His knowledge is basically at the essence of the problem, that we have a crisis of knowledge. I want to mention something that one of our greatest scholars said, Imam al-Shatibi in his work ‘Al-Muwafaqqat’ said in that book, in a hadith, the prophet SAW said,
“The best of generation is my generation, and then comes those who follow them and those who follow them”
Imam al-Shatibi says “In this tradition there is an indication that the status of each following generation with respect to what went before it will be like this. It is related from the prophet that he said that at the beginning of your religion will be prophethood and mercy, followed by domination and mercy, and then by domination and coercion and then by cruel domination.
And then Imam al-Shatibi says that this is not possible unless good become scarce when evil competing with it gradually gaining ground, what we are discussing is in included under this absolute meaning, the creeping villainy, as Kierkegaard mentioned, that is so indiscernible when it first emerges and yet continues to creep until villainy becomes a norm.
He says there is no year that is followed except by one that is more evil, I did not say that it rain more in the previous year or that there was more fertility in one year than the other or that one ruler was better in one year compared to another, rather I mean by it, the disappearance of the best among you, the disappearance of your scholars. Finally, a group will rise up who settle things according to their personal views thus attempting to demolish Islam and defiling it.
In another hadith the prophet said, “Knowledge will be snatched away by the taking away of scholars along with their knowledge, leaving behind ignorant people who will be asked to settle matters and they will do so in the basis of their personal views. Thus being misguided and misguiding others,”
The prophet SAW said, “Islam began as a strange thing and it will revert to estrangement, of which it began, blessed be the strangers,”. It was said, “Who are those strangers, oh messenger of god?” And he said, “They will be the strangers from all the various clans,” In one narration they said, “There are those who set matters right when things go wrong with the people,”
It is related that Abu Idris al-Haulani said, “Islam is bare without people attached to it and it will be torn away, thread by thread “, In other words, Islam is a ‘naked’ thing and it’s the beauty of the people that adorn its nakedness. If you strip away those beautiful people, you leave it, naked.
We’re living in a time when people associate Boko Haram with Islam. We’re living at a time when people don’t think of Imam al-Ghazali or Fakhr ad-Din ar-Razi or all these great giants that went before us. They think of the ignorant people and too many people believe that this is Islam.
The words above were uttered by the co-founder and president of the Zaytuna Institute, the first Muslim liberal arts college in the US, Sheikh Hamza Yusuf during the Zaytuna College Commencement ceremony three days ago.
How close to home does it feel to hear the quotes by Imam al-Shatibi on the nature of society facing a decline of the people of knowledge? And the hadith by prophet Muhammad that has somehow precisely described the kind of people we look up to as celebrities, leaders and decision makers in this country, "Knowledge will be snatched away, leaving behind ignorant people who will be asked to settle matters and they will do so in the basis of their personal views. Thus being misguided and misguiding others"
With this Muslims in Malaysia have to ask ourselves, whether those given prominence on our news outlet and social media, whether done deliberately or coincidently, actually represent the truth of our religion and at best, representing us. Organisations like ISMA, Perkasa and Aswaja to name a few, and personalities such as Ridhuan Tee and Ibrahim Ali, and popular Ustazs that narrated doubtful hadiths and rulings, in the likes of Ustaz Azhar al-Idrus, are the entities that grace the society's discussion on Islam. We also have to ask ourselves whether prominence given to these people were done deliberately to achieve a sinister objective of defaming the religion and portraying it as a religion laden with bigotry, corruption, falsehood and injustice.
I believe that a majority of Muslims in our country are not properly represented with the current line up that we have above. Even so, the number of actual scholars who can set the ground firm on the true representation of Islam in our country is too few to actually make an impact. Former Mufti of Perlis, Dr. Maza is one of the few scholars who can represent a middle path and rationality when addressing the conflicts of Muslims in our time. But how much of an impact can a sole man make, compared to the voices from the heavily-funded ISMA/Perkasa and the highly-connected Aswaja?
Even so, the blame of our demise should not be loaded on the shoulders of leaders only but also the community itself that is barren of knowledge and tradition. As Muslims, it is wajib upon us to seek the truth, especially during a challenging climate such as now, when information can be retrieved at the tip of everyone's fingers and yet people can be so far from the truth.
Dear Muslims, the day of reckoning is not far from us as we are the living proof of an ummah suffering from the crisis of knowledge. But as long as we are breathing, there is still time for retribution. Wake up.