Are the ulama untouchable?

 Are the ulama untouchable?


Liberals in Malaysia has always had an itch towards the ulama. It seems that every statement the ulama came up with is deniable and has a negative  effect on society. It is not just towards mere ustaz or ustazah at suraus or masjids but also the ulama or muftis in respected organization albeit it JAKIM, PAS, ISMA etc. Take an instance at the hudud issue or the implementation of shariah by the ulama in PAS. It wades a serious backlash by liberal feminist organization SIS saying that we are Malaysians and hudud and Syariah law does not have a part in Malaysia’s constitution and its multiracial background.

When JAKIM made a fatwa saying that liberal are deviants of Islam, SIS responded by declaring JAKIM are ignorant and that JAKIM could not comprehend the meaning of liberal and what it represents. When JAKIM issued a fatwa on homosexuals saying that the practice of homosexuality is bad for health and a cause for the spread of HIV, SIS again countered that JAKIM is misquoting and ignoring real facts saying that the main cause of HIV spread is between married couples and not homosexuality. Liberals gamble the health of the public in the name of human rights and the lifestyle that is condemned by Islam.

Liberals also attacked JAKIM and certain muftis on issues like celebrating Valentines Day and Christmas in which JAKIM raised the issue that these celebrations could affect some core beliefs in Islam. Liberals replied that this issues are made up to stir racial and religious indifference in Malaysia’s multiethnic diversity saying that these celebrations has no ties to any religious beliefs and these celebrations are a way for malaysians could create a more harmonious and tolerant nation.

The clash goes on between the ulama and the liberals. Due to the strong media support from Malaysiakini and Malaysiainsider, the ulama seem to be portrayed as ignorant, racist and extreme whereas liberals like SIS and G25 are portrayed as knowledgable, tolerant and a new voice for moderation, in which they are actually not.Those are some of the crystal clear example of the rejection of ulama, or any of its institution such as JAKIM by the liberals, especially so called Muslim liberals.

So why are liberals are so ANTIULAMA?

The answer is very simple; they believe that the ulama think, act and behave like the clergy in the later  middle ages/dark ages. The clergy and its institution in the dark ages was at its most condemned state. They were making profits from the sale of the Indulgences, stealing welfare money that was given to the church and even persecuted anyone who went against them by killing, crucifying, burning and impaling them.They feel that the ulama is an impediment, a hindrance and also a restraint against knowledge and freedom like the clergy in the dark ages.

It needs to be cleared that the clergy in dark ages rejected any new discovery that was brought forward by scientist and researchers. They labelled such  scientist and researchers as godless infidels, apostates and heretics. The ulama or theologians or scholars of Islam never in its history rejected science and new discoveries, even the ulama themselves are the pioneers in new frontiers of science such Al-Khawarizmi, Ibn Sina (Avicenna) and Ibn Rusyd. New discoveries were dealt with enthusiasm, curiosity and inquisitiveness. There was always room for discussion, debates and dialogues but all are within the compounds and spectrum of shariah.

The clergy was also infallible. To go against the church is to go against god and the holy spirit. No one up to this day could argue and question the church and the pope’s orders. These orders are from the divine and should never be questioned. On the other hand, the scholars of Islam however are not infallible, they only convey the message and teaching of Islam from the prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and they are accountable for every word and action that they convey to the muslim community. The ulama could also be questioned and argued by any muslim who can stand up and make their argument with the right reasoning and justification. It is shown in countless of times in the time of prophet Muhammad and his successors Abu Bakr r.a and Umar r.a one of which the prophet accepted the suggestion of Salman Al-Farisi to dig a trench in the battle of Khandak after ‘syura’ and consultation with his companions.

The clergy also did many ridiculous alterations and amendments to the bible and its teachings. It started with the sudden appearance and emergence of the Trinity doctrine first announced after the First Constantinople Conference in the year 381 followed by the Conference of Rome in 1215 in which the Pope was given grants to absolve and forgive any sins committed by Christians and the clergy even made the Pope infallible after the the Conference of Rome in 1869. All this alterations were done without any sort of discipline and accountability with none of them being arguable. Islam on the other hand forbids any alterations and amendments outside the barriers of the Quran and Hadith and what is told by prophet Muhammad s.a.w and if any, these alterations would be put into debates and discussions and the people who are involved will the held accountable for their arguments and the decisions made after.

Even the Quran tells us that we can ask, question and argue with the ‘ahl zikr’ or the people of knowledge and remembrance in surah An-Nahl (16:43).

وَمَا أَرْسَلْنَا مِن قَبْلِكَ إِلَّا رِجَالًا نُّوحِي إِلَيْهِمْ فَاسْأَلُوا أَهْلَ الذِّكْرِ إِن كُنتُمْ لَا تَعْلَمُونَ

“And We did not send before you any but men to whom We sent revelation– so ask the followers of the Reminder if you do not know—“

The way I see it, liberals are asking questions inside the boundaries, compound and spectrum of Islam and shariah but not to understand them nor practice them in their lives like what the companions of the prophet did. Instead, this is done with the sole purpose of dismantling and striping Islam to its core until there is nothing left of Islam but mere beliefs that are devoid of value and impact in the lives of muslims. This explains their attitude and behavior toward the ulama and the people of knowledge and remembrance.


Suhayl Musauddin
5th year in Alexandria University Medical School, Egypt
ISMA Mesir activist, columnist