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Is it shirk to say mawlana?

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To claim that usage of the word “Maulana” for a scholar of knowledge is not permissible and that it constitutes to shirk, is due to ignorance ofthe Quran, Hadith, and the Arabic language.

Firstly, the word Maula has almost 20 meanings in the arabic language, which one can refer to in the classical Arabic dictionaries. A few meanings that can be found in any arabic-english dictionary are, master, lord, protector, patron, client, friend, companion, associate. (Hans Wehr). The word “Maula” also refers to a freed slave, and can also refer to one who frees a slave.

To claim that the word Maula has only been used twice in the Quran and refers only to Allah is also false. Allah Ta’ala states in Surah Tahreem, فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ هُوَ مَوْلَاهُ وَجِبْرِيلُ وَصَالِحُ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ. “Then verily Allah is his Helper, and Jibraeel, and the righteous believers”. In this verse, Allah has used the word Maula to refers to Himself, to Jibraeel, and the pious believers, ie they are all Mawla of Rasulullah sallallahu alayhi wasallam.

The Prophet of Allah (Salla Allahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) has said regarding Hazrat Ali Radhi Allahu Anhu, من كُنْتُ مَوْلاَهُ فعَليٌّ مَوْلاهُ , “Ali is a friend/patrion to who whoever I am a patrion/friend to”.

In the narration of Bukhari, the Prophet of Allah (Salla Allahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) said to Hazrat Zaid ibn haritha Radhia Allahu Anhu, انت اخونا ومولانا, “You are our brother and our close associate/highly respected one.”

Tamam Ibn Muhammad narrates a Hadith in his Al Fawaaid, in which one of the narrators refers to Hazrat Anas Ibn Malik as Maulana.

حَدَّثَنَا أَبُو الْحَسَنِ خَيْثَمَةُ بْنُ سُلَيْمَانَ إِمْلَاءً وَقِرَاءَةً، ثنا أَبُو جَعْفَرٍ مُحَمَّدُ بْنُ مَسْلَمَةَ الْوَاسِطِيُّ بِوَاسِطَ، ثنا مُوسَى الطَّوِيلُ، ثنا مَوْلَانَا أَنَسُ بْنُ مَالِكٍ، قَالَ: قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ: «طُوبَى لِمَنْ رَآنِي، وَطُوبَى لِمَنْ رَأَى مَنْ رَآنِي، وَطُوبَى لِمَنْ رَأَى مَنْ رَأَى مَنْ رَآنِي»

Furthermore, in the narration of Bukhari the Prophet of Allah (Salla Allahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) explicitly mentions that a slave should not refer to his master as Rabb (Lord), but should rather refer to him as Sayyidi or Maulaayi (my master).

لاَ يَقُلْ أَحَدُكُمْ: أَطْعِمْ رَبَّكَ، وَضِّئْ رَبَّكَ، اسْقِ رَبَّكَ. وَلْيَقُلْ: سَيِّدِي مَوْلاَىَ. وَلاَ يَقُلْ أَحَدُكُمْ. عَبْدِي، أَمَتِي. وَلْيَقُلْ: فَتَاىَ وَفَتَاتِي وَغُلاَمِي.

From these examples we can clearly see that the world Maula has been used in different meaning and does not always refer to Allah Ta’ala. Can someone Nauzubillah claim that the Prophet Salla Allahu Alayhi Wa Sallam commited shirk by calling Hazrat Zayd Maulana or referring to Hazrat Ali as Maula. If a slave can refer to his master as Maula, then why should it not be permissible for one to call a scholar of Deen “Maulana?, when he is the leader of the community and is an heir of the Prophets.

Imam Nawawi R.A states that word Maula comes for 16 different meanings. Then he says, that I have seen some Mashaaikh who would hesitate to use the word Sayyid when writing to someone because Sayyiduna is a word which is solely used to show eminence. Therefore they would use the word Mawlana instead because in can be used in so many different meanings. (طرح التثريب في شرح التقريب6/222)

Allamah Teebi R.A who is the commentator of Mishkat while commentating on the words Sayyid and Maula says, it can be concluded that the real Sayyid and the real Maula is Allah alone. Whether these words can be used for anyone besides Allah is something that only Shariah can decide. Since there is no prohibition from Shariah to use these words for anyone besides Allah, it will be permissible and this is widespread throughout the Muslim world, and whatever the Muslims (God Fearing educated Muslims) see as good then it is good in the eyes of Allah Ta’ala.

وَالْحَاصِلُ أَنَّ الْمَوْلَى وَالسَّيِّدَ عَلَى الْإِطْلَاقِ هُوَ اللَّهُ سُبْحَانَهُ، وَجَوَازُ إِطْلَاقِهِ وَعَدَمِهِ عَلَى غَيْرِهِ لَا يُعْرَفُ إِلَّا مِنَ الشَّارِعِ، وَلَمْ يَرِدْ نَهْيٌ عَنْ إِطْلَاقِ الْمَوْلَى عَلَى غَيْرِهِ سُبْحَانَهُ، فَيَجُوزُ عَلَى أَصْلِ الْإِبَاحَةِ وَهُوَ الْمُتَعَارَفُ فِيمَا بَيْنَ الْمُسْلِمِينَ، «وَمَا رَآهُ الْمُسْلِمُونَ حَسَنًا فَهُوَ عِنْدَ اللَّهِ حَسَنٌ. (مرقاة 7/3009)

Based on the above, one can easily conclude that there is nothing wrong with referring to a scholar as “Maulana”. No doubt, the true Lord and Master is Allah Subhana Wa Ta’ala alone. Maulana is only a title of honour and respect which a scholar deserves and is equivalent to calling someone of a high rank, “Sir” or “Your Honour”.

And Allah is All-Knowing

(By mufti Ismail K 07/13)

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