Is the thought ‘the Quran and sunnah are enough for us, there is no need for scholars’ appropriate?

The Details of the Question

- You say that the Prophet and scholars have the duty of conveying the Quran to people and explaining it. I understood the duty of conveying, but is there any evidence in the Quran related to the duty of explanation by scholars?

- How can we respond to those who say, “The Quran and the sunnah are enough for us; we do not need scholars; scholars have no duty of explaining; the Quran is clear”?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

a) Since the religion of Islam will continue until the Day of Judgment, it is a rational necessity to have scholars who undertake the task of explaining the commands of this religion to people.

b) “And before thee also the apostles We sent were but men, to whom We granted inspiration: if ye realize this not, ask of those who possess the Message.” (an-Nahl, 16/43) The verse above indicate that scholars have the duty of explaining.  

c) “Nor should the Believers all go forth together: if a contingent from every expedition remained behind, they could devote themselves to studies in religion, and admonish the people when they return to them,- that thus they (may learn) to guard themselves (against evil).” (at-Tawba, 9/122) Learning knowledge is regarded equal to jihad in the verse above and the reason for it is mentioned their teaching, that is, explaining this knowledge to those who make jihad.

d) “(Ye are the best of peoples, evolved for mankind, enjoining what is right, forbidding what is wrong, and believing in Allah.” (Aal-i Imran, 3/110) It is stated in the verse above that one of the most important duties of the ummah of Islam is explaining because knowledge is necessary for enjoining what is right and forbidding what is wrong. Those who do not know cannot do it.

So, what is meant by the Islamic ummah in question is the scholars of this ummah. Undoubtedly, there are people who are not included in the category of scholars as a term, but they share what they think is true with others. They are also regarded as scholars of that issue. There are many people who teach children the Quran, prayer and wudu.

e) “There is no god but He: That is the witness of Allah, His angels, and those endued with knowledge, standing firm on justice. There is no god but He, the Exalted in Power, the Wise.” (Aal-i Imran, 3/18) In the verse above, scholars are shown as witnesses of Allah’s oneness after Allah and His angels. Witnessing is only possible through seeing something with eyes. Witnessing the oneness of Allah is possible only through certain knowledge as if you see it, certainty and foresight. In Islam, the oneness of Allah and belief in tawhid is a fact that must be learned before everything else.

It means that the scholars who are described as witnesses of “marifatullah (knowledge of Allah)” in the verse above are obliged to teach that fact to others in the name of the truth. Otherwise, how can people learn about it?

f) “We have, without doubt, sent down the Message; and We will assuredly guard it (from corruption).” (al-Hijr, 15/9) The guarding of the Quran promised in the verse above, besides its miraculousness, is the existence of scholars who teach this miraculousness. The continuation of this guarding until the Day of Judgment is possible only through knowledge because Allah does not directly interfere with those who attack the Quran and its content. As a necessity of His wisdom, Allah realizes this promise of guarding by educating scholars of tafsir, hadith, fiqh, kalam, and even some exact sciences, along with hafizes, in order to protect the text and content of the Quran. (cf. Razi, Sharawi, Maraghi, the interpretation of the verse in question)

The following statement of Badiuzzaman Said Nursi can be considered in this context: “The Quran grows younger as it grows older; its signs become apparent.” (Mektubat, p. 475)

g) “Doubtlessly, scholars are inheritors of prophets. Prophets do not leave gold or silver as inheritance; they only leave knowledge. (Abu Dawud, Ilm, 1-h. no.3641) It is necessary to understand from the hadith above that scholars are obliged to explain the religion. Otherwise, there is no sense of being inheritors. In that case, scholars are obliged both to convey and to explain the Quran and the Sunnah of the Prophet.

h) The following statement of Badiuzzaman Said Nursi sheds light on the issue:

“Why was I being prevented in my spirit from winning through good works the spiritual ranks and the happiness of the hereafter that everyone wants, although it is licit and harmful in no way? Then it was shown to me that to serve belief, seeking divine pleasure alone and as an innate, scholarly duty, was itself the wage.” (Emirdağ Lahikası, II/106)

“But since I am obliged by the Shari’a to serve people in respect of learning so that they may profit too, I want to perform that duty. However, such service will either concern social and worldly life, which I cannot do, and also in stormy times it is not possible to perform such service soundly. I therefore gave up that side of it and chose the side of serving belief, which is the most important, the most necessary, and the soundest.” (Mektubat, pp. 62-63)

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