I received the news today of the death of the Shaikh, the Pole, the Lamp of Truth, Shaikh Murabit Al-Hajj and was left with so many emotions and ideas in my mind; but one stood out that I often get from people: What does it mean when a scholar dies?
This can be answered from many different angles and I want for the readers to understand that when a member of the leadership of the Muslims dies, it is a big deal. The marja` people occupy a huge part in our lives with regards to spiritual and temporal matters along with the right interpretation of the Religion.
In Islam books are important but the safeguarding of the proper interpretation of the Religion is locked up in the presence of people. The wicked and the unrighteous knew this as well; this is why when they sought to try to harm Muslims, they didn’t burn books initially. Instead… they killed scholars.
Knowing that by taking away the access to the past and the torchbearers of light, this would leave nothing to the laity that they could cling to in times of distress and confusion, the tyrants were eager in their quest. This is part of what it means when a scholar dies.
This is not when your local imam, Friday preacher, Thursday pamphleteer or Saturday scream box at the da`awah table dies. Their deaths are a relief and a lifting of a burden from the Muslims in masse; but when one of the marja` people should die/be killed, then this is huge.
When a marja` figure dies in these days and times, there is no ONE person to replace him; instead five or more people have to scramble and gather themselves in order to fill the gap. Take for instance the death of the great marja`, Imam Ibn Rajab Al-Hanbali (d. 795 AH), who self abdicated and later died. His void was so great that he had to have his duties fulfilled by Imams Ibn Muflih Al-Maqdisi (d. 763 AH) and Ibn ul-Lihhaam (803 AH) and they struggled.
When a scholar like this dies, the void sometimes has government scholars, liars and the ignorant inject themselves to fill it. This happened when Mahmud Shaltut – a Mu`tazilah cultist at the time – came and usurped the rightful post belonging to the Shaikh ul-Azhar. The confusion that this caused and how much the office of Shaikh ul-Azhar was besmirched cannot be enumerated at this point in time and belongs to another article or research.
The death of a scholar like this leaves common believers bewildered, saddened and feeling increasingly alone in a world of wickedness. The brother that informed me of the death of Shaikh Murabit Al-Hajj had a heavy heart, great sadness and had actually been planning on visiting the late Imam this year. Slaves of Allah try to find out the wider sense of the death. Is this an indication that the Lord is displeased with us? Has the Hour come even closer? Does this signal a punishment is about to be unleashed upon a group of Muslims in that area or upon those who are heedless?
All of these things leave people to wonder. The death of a scholar of this kind leaves one with food for thought and reflection. When this happens, Slaves of Allah will ask what should be done. Yes, the mourning is to be done, the prayers and so forth; but what else should be contributed to the legacy that this scholar left behind?
As that scholar lived, so you should live. If your will isn’t written, then it should be. If you find yourself falling into heedlessness, then combat it. If you see others need your assistance, then offer it. Your life should be dedicated to leaving behind a legacy that will stand long after you have died.
When we gaze upon a demolished building, we often see nothing remaining afterward but the footprint. Where a 100 floor building might have stood we see a huge footprint. If they decide to build a new building there or a set of buildings, planning must begin right away and the right workers must be called in to complete the job. It wont be anything like the previous building but it or they will fill the space…eventually.
If nothing will be built in its place, it might take weeks to fill in the massive and gaping hole that was left when the previous building ceased to be. The area will be cordoned off, signs put up warning of the dangers of trespassing and the successive workers must pick up the pieces. It remains as a sign to any in the area that saw it come down.
And this is what it means when a scholar dies.