بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمنِ الرَّحِيْم

اَلْحَمْدُ لِلّهِ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِيْن،وَالصَّلاۃ وَالسَّلامُ عَلَی النَّبِیِّ الْکَرِيم وَعَلیٰ آله وَاَصْحَابه اَجْمَعِيْن۔

Using the Word Maulana For Ulama

The Ulama are usually called Maulana or Molvi in the sub-continent. Some people oppose this usage by saying that the Maulana is the attribute of Allah, and therefore, it should not be used for any human being. But the fact is that the Prophet (PBUH) who is the best of all in the universe had once called Zaid ibn Harithah (RA) with the word Maulana. This statement of the Prophet (PBUH) is related in the authentic collections of ahadith, including the Sahih of Imam Bukhari. Some extremists even opine that calling any human being as Maulana is an act of shirk. In response to a question, Abdullah ibn Baz, former GrandMufti of Saudi Arabia said: the word Maulana can be used for the Prophet (PBUH), leader of a tribe, father and king etc. This opinion can be heard and read on the website of Abdullah ibn Baz.

Let us firstanalyse the word Maulana. This word is composed of two different Arabic words: Maula and Na. This is not a single word as understood by some people. The word Maula, the plural of which is Mawali, has about twenty meanings. Some of them are as follows: master, owner, sustainer, friend, the one who sets a slave free, an emancipated slave, a kind person. For more meanings of the word, one may refer to the reliable and famous Arabic dictionaries. The word Naaccording to Arabic grammar is a pronoun meaning “our”. The word Maula’imeans my master or leader. The word Maulakum means your leader. The word Maulahu means his leader. In short, the meaning of the word Maulana is our leader, our master, our friend etc. As a slave can call his master as Maula’i, so a person can call his religious leader as Maulana. While speaking the chain of narrators for a hadith, great hadith scholars like Imam Bukhari and Imam Muslim introduced some narrators as “Maula Fulan” (the emancipated slave of someone who has set him free). For example, Imam Bukhari introduces Kuraib as “MaulaIbn Abbas” and Nafey as “Maula Ibn Umar” (the freed slave of Ibn Abbas and the freed slave of Umar respectively). The books of ahadith are full of such examples. The word Maula has been used in different meanings in the famous books of fiqh and principles of fiqh.Our actual Maula (sustainer and master) is, of course, Allah Almighty alone with no partners. But this word can also be used for others in different meanings.

The word Maula has also been used in the Holy Quran in different meanings.This word has been used aloneas well as with different pronouns. Verse seventy-eight of Surah al-Hajj reads “Wa’tasimubiAllahiHuwaMaulakum, Fa Ni’ma al-MaulawaNi’ma al-Nasir” This verse has the word Maula two times; firstly, with pronoun Kum and secondly without any pronoun. But both of them refer to Allah Almighty. This word has also been used in other meanings in the Holy Quran. Verse forty-one of Surah al-Dukhan reads: “Yaum La YghniMaulanan MaulanShaiá, wa Hum La Yunsarun.” (…the day when no close relation will be of any use to any close relation, nor will they be helped.) The word Maula in this verse has not been used for Allah Almighty.Instead, it refers to friends, i.e. human beings. Likewise, verse fifteen of Surah Al-Hadid reads: “Fa al-Yauma La Yu’khadhuMinkumFidyatunwala min al-LadhinaKafaru Ma’wakumal-NaruHiya MaulakumwaBi’sa al-Masir” (So, no ransom will be accepted from you today, nor from those who disbelieved (openly). Your abode is the Fire, and itis an evil end.) The word Maula in this verse is attached with the pronoun kum used for anabode. In short, Allah Almighty Himself has clarified that the word Maula can be used in different meanings. This word has been used with pronoun Na two times in the Holy Quran(Surah al-Baqarah: v. 286 and Surah al-Taubah: v. 51).At both places, it refers to Allah Almighty as (our Creator). But it never means that Maulana is a single word specific with Allah Almighty. The fact is that Maula is a word that can be used with numerous pronouns, like Maulana, Maulai, Maulahu etc.

Verse four of Surah al-Tahrim reads: “Fa InTazaharaa ‘alihifa Inna AllahaHuwaMaulahuwaJibriluwaSalih al-Mu’minin” (And if you back each other against him (the Prophet), then Allah is his supporter, andJibrail (Gabriel) and righteous believers).In this verse, the word Maula has clearly been used with pronoun Hu, referring to Allah, angel Gabriel and pious believers. In short, Allah is Maula, Gabriel is Maula and also the pious believers are Maula according to this verse. When Allah Almighty Himself has called the common pious believers as Maula, why should we not use for Ulama by adding the pronoun Na (meaning our leader)?

In short, the word Maulana is acompound of two different words Maula and Na. the word Maula has numerous meanings in the dictionaries. It has also been used for different meanings in the Holy Quran. It has been used in both ways, alone as well as with pronouns. So, it can be used for Ulama also.

We have famous authentic hadith which reads “Man Kuntu Maulahu, fa Ali Maulahu.” (The one whom I befriend, Ali also befriends with him.) In this hadith, the Prophet (PBUH) used the Maula with pronoun Hu and established that it can be used for human beings too. This authentic hadith is found in numerous collections of ahadith. Sahih Bukhari (Kitab al-Maghazi) records a hadith in which the Prophet said to Zaid ibn Harithah(RA): “Anta Akhunawa Maulana” (You are my brother and helper.) The Prophet (PBUH) has used the word Maulana for Zaid ibn Harithahin this hadith. Had this word not been suitable to be used for any human being, the Prophet (PBUH) would not have used it. May Allah Almighty guide those who say that using the word Maulana for any human being is impermissible or even an act of Shirk, while the Prophet (PBUH) himself has used it for Zaid ibn Haritha (RA)! Likewise, Sahih Bukhari, Sahih Muslim and other books record that the Prophet (PBUH) said: “No one should say to his slave: serve ameal to your lord, help your lord make ablution or bring water to your lord. One should instead say only Syedi (my master) and Maula’i (my leader). Likewise, no one should say “My abd (the one who worships someone) waabdati (female that worships someone)”. On should instead say: My male slave and female slave”. The Prophet (PBUH) has not only permitted to use this word with a pronoun for a human being, but also he himself did it. Therefore, no one in the twenty first century has the right to say that using the word Maula with pronoun Na for Ulama is not permissible.

Musannafibn Abi Shaibah, a renowned collection of hadith compiled even before Sahih Bukhari and Sahih Muslim, records that Anas ibn Malik (RA) was asked about some issues. He replied: Ask Maulana (our leader) Hasan. Imam Navavi the most renowned commentator of Sahih Muslim says that the word Maulan has nearly twenty one meanings. Some Ulama has avoided the use of the word Syedina, because it reflects a kind of power for oneself. Therefore, they use the word Maulana which is used for numerous meanings. In short, the use fo the word Maulana for the Ulama has been customary for a long time.

In short, there is not ashadow of doubt that our actual Sustainer and Lord is Allah alone. Yet the word Maula can be used for human beings taking in mind other meanings. For example, the word Azam (the greatest) and the word Akbar (the biggest) are the attributes fo Allah. But these names can be given to any human beings also as compared to other fellow human beings. Al-Ali is the name of Allah. But the same name was also given to the cousin and son in-law of the Prophet (PBUH). In short, an alim can be called as Maulana as it has been explained in the light of the Holy Qurán and hadith. Muhaddith, Mufassir, Muwarrikh, Faqih, Shaikh, Fazilat al-Shaikh, Mufti and such title words were not customary during the lifetime of the Prophet (PBUH). Yet using these words is correct. So, using the word Maulana for Ulama will also be correct, because this is not a single word. Instead, it is acompound of two different words. The word Maula has numerous meanings and the word Na is a pronoun meaning ‘our’. In short, the word Maulana means ‘Our leader’. The Prophet (PBUH) himself has used the word Maulana for his companion. So, no one has the right to say that calling an alim with the word Maulana is not permissible. May Allah Almighty enable to hold fast the Holy Quran and hadith! 

Dr. Mohammad Najeeb Qasmi