Students and Politics
The other part of your question pertains to scholars and students (especially of deen). As for me I consider that, for a student to indulge in any other activities other than his studies,is like taking poison because of the disruption and distraction it causes. It is quite possible that some of my elders may disagree with me most emphatically. It is also quite possible that what they say in contradicting me, is correct. They being my elders and worthy of respect, my opinion holds no weight when weighed against theirs. However as much as I ponder over this issue, I, in my humble and imperfect understanding, come to this conclusion that students should not indulge in other activities other than their studies. I have reached the conclusion for various reasons. I would like to bring some of these to your notice:
a. We have a well-known saying in Arabic:
“To know the best way of action, ask the man of experience and not the man of wisdom.”
I ask you: Have a good look at the world or at least at India today and see all those Ulema who are masters in various Islamic academic fields and who have made their mark in intellectual progress. Then study their lives as students!!! Today they may be pinnacles of knowledge in any field of Islamic learning but during their student days they devoted themselves entirely and diligently to their studies. On the other hand there will be those who in their student days had been busy with other activities. Even though they are famous and respected today and are considered within the ranks of the Ulema, you will find that their efforts in the field of Islamic knowledge lack depth and they lack insight in Jurisprudence, Ahaadeeth etc. Whenever an unusual fiqah question arises which requires deep insight, vision and academic research, they are unable to arrive at the proper conclusion. We need not argue about the truth hereof and there is no need for me to substantiate my statement. The situation regarding the Ulema of India is quite clear. Anyone casting a look will surely
come to know the truth.
b. Among our elders and those before them, lim-Sulook – the Knowledge of attaining purification and cleansing of the inner self through Zikr – has always been a very important part of their existence. For them the acquisition of knowledge and the cleansing of the self for spiritual progress were two items completely inseparable in their lives. However, in spite of considering these two forms of knowledge and training as indispensable, one to the other, all the elders from that time to the present day Shaikhs of Tariqat have all refused to accept the bay „at (oath of allegiance) of students who are engaged in
studies. They refused to initiate students into Tariqat even though they considered this training and discipline of the utmost importance. The reason being that they did not want to cause distraction during the time for studies.
c. My own experiences with students as well as logical observation confirm that it is unwise for students to participate in public gatherings and functions or in processions and shows. Long after these functions are over, students continue to discuss and review these events, arguing about their benefits and advantages. This becomes a distraction from their major objective of acquiring knowledge.
d. When one further considers the social life of students in their hostels and how, in a collective manner, they spend their twenty-four hours, we find that this type of life does not allow the reviewing and discussions of functions and processions to come to an end. In every student gathering, discussions are renewed:‟ Now, how much time is left for study, research, revision of work and classes? This is indeed something which occurs daily and no amount of argument can deny the truth.
e. That is not all. Often the result is that these discussions and debates, with students supporting opposite views, lead to disputes, disagreement and quarrels. Whenever a majority favours or adheres to any particular view, they try to suppress the minority who oppose it. Initially they try to do it by force. If however, this proves unsuccessful they try to lodge false or half true complaints with the rector of the Madrasa In reply, the other party again brings forth a list of untrue and concocted accusations. Then it is a general occurrence that the dominant party is in a position to produce a long list of witnesses to substantiate their accusations, while the suppressed group has difficulty in finding even one true witness for their side of the story.
The poor rector, unaware of the true state of affairs judges according to the evidence, with the result that it often happens that the real culprits go scot-free while the innocent are reprimanded. These are not mere figments of my imagination. This is what actually happened and still happens quite often. We know that differences of opinion often emerge among the ordinary people as well. They also disagree. But their disagreements are of a temporary nature. Their gatherings are usually confined to specific times and when the function ends everyone returns to his own home. But as far as these students are concerned, this Madrasa is their home. This is the place where they spend their daily twenty-four hours, this is where they reside. Hence if any minor disagreement erupts, it lasts for months and months. Let us look even further.
f. Is there any Madrasa where the teachers are all in agreement over all issues? No! Sometimes two or three may be on this side of the fence with two or three on that side. Sometimes in classes without any relevance to the topic under discussion, those discussions (about which there is disagreement) are raised, discussed and reviewed. The views of those who favour the same opinions are praised while those who differ are criticised most fiercely and even scoffed and jeered at. In this way those holding opposite views are being ridiculed in front of all.
Respect towards Teachers
g. Let us go still further. Often students do not share the views of their teachers. Sometimes it happens that the student who is being praised by the teacher is one whom the students do not agree with and they feel he should be criticised and rejected. There are also times when the student whom the teacher criticised and ridicules is the one whom all the students or some of them hero-worship and support. As a result that the teacher is looked upon by students as one not worthy of respect, full of prejudice and without insight and understanding. Now, if this is the attitude of students towards their teacher, how can they possibly benefit from him?
This is a known fact and as such has always been Allah‟s decree that he who shows disrespect to his teacher will never be able to benefit from his knowledge. Whenever the great Imams of Islam had laid principles for a proper student – tutor relationship, they most emphatically stressed that students should respect their tutors. The Ulema of Hadeeth even include in their books a chapter on the „Etiquette of a student”, a detailed account of which you will find in the preface of the book “Owjaz-ul-Maalik – Sharah Mu‟tai Imam Malik”.
In the „Ihya”, Imam Ghazzali (Rahmatullah Alayh) has also discussed it in detail. He writes: “For the student, it is necessary that he should place his reins completely in the hands of his teacher and that he should submit to the teacher in the same way as a sick patient submits to his sympathetic physician.” Sayyidina Ali (Radiallahu anhu) said: “I am a slave of him who had taught me even a single letter. If he so wishes he may sell me and if he wishes, he may keep me in bondage.”
Allama Zarnooji says in his book “Taleemul-Muta-‟Allim” (“The teaching of students”) “I see many a student who does not acquire the benefits and fruits of knowledge. This is because he fails to observe the basic rules and etiquette of acquiring knowledge. Hence they became deprived in spite of effort.”
The same Allama then wrote a complete chapter wherein he emphasized the need for showing honor and respect to teachers. He writes: “Students will definitely not be able to derive benefit from knowledge unless they accord due respect to the Ulema, teachers, lecturers and instructors.” Whosoever attained knowledge did so as a result of the respect shown to them and whosoever fell by the wayside in failure, did so because of disrespect… This is also the reason why a man does not become a Kaafir (infidel, renegade, apostate) through sinful acts committed. He does however become a Kaafir through insulting and degrading any part of the deen.” How well the Persian Poet says:
From Allah we beseech the grace of respectful behaviour
For the discourteous one is indeed deprived of the Grace of the Lord.
To show respect is a crown granted by the Lord
Adorn the head therewith and proceed where you wish.
There is a further saying:
“Those with respect are fortunate and for the disrespectful there is misfortune.”
Imam Sadooddin Shirazi says: “I have heard the saints say: „When anyone desires that his son should become an Alim, he should show great respect to the Ulerna and be of excessive service to them. If his son does not become an Alim, his grandson will surely become one.”
The story about Imam Shansul-aimmah Halwany (Rahmatullah Alayh) is quite well-known. It so happened that he once had to visit a certain village for some special need. On hearing of his arrival all his previous students living there came forward to meet and honour him. One, Qazi Abu Bakr did not appear. Later when the Shaikh met him and inquired as to why he had been absent on that occasion, he mentioned that he had to perform some task for his mother which resulted in him not being able to meet his Shaikh. The Shaikh said: “This man will surely be well-endowed as far as worldly riches are concerned but there will be no benefit for him in his knowledge.”
And this is exactly what happened later. It is a famous and true saying among the elders that for serving parents diligently one is increased in wealth. On the other hand, honour and respect to ustads gives increase and depth in knowledge. This is a truth which cannot be denied. But our attitude and behaviour today is something that is clear to all.
When in affairs of politics, students and teachers disagree with one another. We see students resorting to degrading teachers, insulting them and finding all kinds of faults with them. This only serves to deprive them of the benefits of knowledge. It has been my observation and experience that even those students who attend schools for English (Western) education and have to endure the beatings handed out by their masters, make good progress and finally attain high posts in life. We even see that they attain the objectives for which they study. As for those who act arrogantly and with pride towards their teachers, later, in spite of having obtained their degrees, are found wandering all over the place looking for recommendations and testimonials in order to find a job. And when they do find some sort of employment, some mishap or calamity follows them even then.
Anyway, whatever type of knowledge one pursues, one will never be able to attain perfection and progress therein unless due respect is shown to one‟s teachers and masters. If that is the position of one who does not show respect, i.e. that he cannot benefit, you can well imagine how much more unfortunate is he who opposes and fights his tutors.
In the book: “Adabud-dunya-wad-deen” it is written: “It is most necessary for a student to be in the favour of his teachers and to be servile and humble before them. If they adopt these attitudes they will reap benefit and if they discard it, they will suffer loss and be deprived of beneficial rewards.”
Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam) is reported to have said: “It does not befit any believer to resort to flattering in order to acquire anything except for the acquisition of knowledge.” Sayyidina Ibn Abbas (Radiallahu anhu) said: “At the time of seeking knowledge I became humble and for this reason, at the time when others sought me for knowledge I became respected and honored.”
There is a saying of the wise men: “Whosoever does not tolerate humbleness at the time of seeking knowledge, will forever remain in the indignity of ignorance.”
h. Further (concerning these disagreements between student groups and students and teachers) the results become even worse and more painful. You will find that the teacher becomes the object of discussion and controversy. In the eyes of the supporters he appears as an angel, so much so that even his faults are considered to be virtues and his every action is put forth as a proof and argument of correctness. On the other hand, in the eyes of his critics and opponents, he is looked upon as not being worthy of being an ustad, not fit even to teach. Neither has he the required capability and qualifications, nor are his lectures logical and understood. Even his virtues and good points are resented, and every action worthy of criticism. They even stoop so low as to search for his faults and defects and, where none exists, defects and vices are fabricated against him. Then these are advertised all over in an organised manner according to plan.
Now, I ask of you: Are not these the true state of affairs about which those connected with Madrasas are aware? Can those in charge of Madrasas deny it?
i. Here is a recent incident of a certain Madrasa. A group of students while having their meals in their room were discussing the question whether the decision of the majority was binding upon all at all times and under all circumstances or not. At first, it was merely a discussion. Later it developed into a hill-fledged debate which led to a vehement quarrel. The result was that soon a fight took place with sticks and shoes as weapons. Is there a Madrasa where a warden can stay with the students twentyfour hours of the day like a shadow in order to oversee that conversations remain within bounds at all times?
j. Here is a similar incident of recent times of a certain Madrasa. Some Madrasa students attended a function. Later it so happened that they expressed their opinions about the events of the function. Again it resulted in a debate, with two parties holding opposite views. One group started to threaten the other. Then one day the one group locked a student from the opposite party in a room and beat him to such an extent that he almost died. These are daily occurrences – not merely fairy tales or what may probably happen in the distant future.
k. Another point to bear in mind is that the purpose for which the guardians had handed over their children – the students – to the authorities of the Madaaris is solely for the acquisition of knowledge. Even though many of the parents themselves belong to some party or other, they lodge complaints when they are informed that their children at the Madrasa are involved in the same. Many letters expressing concern about this are in the possession of Madrasa authorities. Some of them even state emphatically: “It is true that politics and political discussions are part and parcel of our family‟s life.
If they remain with us for just a short while they will quickly come to know all the ins and outs, pros and cons of it. However at this stage, our objective in keeping them in the Madrasa is only for them to acquire a strong background of knowledge.”
Next we come to the question of whether such monies that were given for the propagation of knowledge can be utilized on such students, who take part in activities outside their planned program of study. The donors provide these money as scholarships for those who seek knowledge. I admit that there are surely some who have no objection to such scholarships and bursaries being granted to politically-active students as well. On the other hand, there are also those, who, if they should discover that their donations are being utilized for financing political activities or that students involved in political agitation are receiving bursaries out of their donations, will most definitely not tolerate such a situation. There are in fact those donors who stipulate that such students should not be financed from their grants. Is it then not necessary that in view of this, that special precautions should be taken in the expenditure for such students? Teachers who are paid out of donations and grants to the Madrasa. and spend some time in such Non-Madrasa activities can, under the rules of Shariat, still compensate for such loss by working overtime. This will make up for the loss, but can the students say the same?
These are some of the reasons which I have penned down by way of examples to substantiate my case. If one ponders over the matter there will be more scope for further discussion. Imarn Ghazzali (Rahmatullah Alayh) writes in the Ihya-ul-Uloom: “There are numerous rules and regulations governing the behavior of a student. Of these rules, ten are more essential. Among these is this one, that, while seeking knowledge. he should not occupy himself with any activities other than his studies. The student in search of knowledge should travel to a distant place far from his hearth and home so that relatives and the domestic needs of his family do not distract him from his object, because relations with others always
tend to divert one‟s attention from the acquisition of knowledge.” It is a known fact as Allah says that: “He has nor created two hearts in the breast of anyone” Hence we have the well-known saying: “Knowledge does not grant you a small fraction of itself until you give yourself fully over to it.”
Inam Ghazzali (Rahmatullah Alayh) writes further: “The heart of the person who keeps himself busy with various activities is like an irrigation canal passing through agricultural fields with its banks not properly raised. The result is that the water flows out of it in all directions. Some of it evaporates and not much is left t benefit the crops in the field.”
After all this I must stress something: I must admit that the student group which has no problems and worries is more successful in reaching their objectives. In this present environment and in the prevailing atmosphere around us, there are more dangers and evils lurking about, bringing the possibility of harm and injury. When one has a choice between those affairs wherein there is possible harm and those where possible benefit may be had, it is our general rule that the choice should fall upon avoiding those things wherein lies harm.
And so is it (for the student) to participate in the present political agitation. We admit thai there is a certain amount of benefit as well as some harm. And as such with the present political situation continuing to prevail, it is, in my opinion dangerous and harmful until a change takes place in the political climate. If however, some such way can be devised whereby matters can be kept within proper limits, the matter changes.
The Public and Politics
The third part of this question concerns the non-students i.e. those people who are not actively and directly involved in special religious affairs. Certainly they should take part in politics but with sincere motives and with a clear conscience -such a conscience with which they can appear before Allah tomorrow. Such should be their deeds that it can be written in their favour as deeds of righteousness.