Sr Taimiyyah was recapping lessons learned from this ayah, and I found this so relevant that it’s worth taking time out to post about even though I have hours more of lessons to listen to by this Saturday. So here goes:-
Indeed, We sent down the Torah, in which was guidance and light. The prophets who submitted [to Allah ] judged by it for the Jews, as did the rabbis and scholars by that with which they were entrusted of the Scripture of Allah , and they were witnesses thereto. So do not fear the people but fear Me, and do not exchange My verses for a small price. And whoever does not judge by what Allah has revealed – then it is those who are the disbelievers. [Al Maaidah 5:44]
In this ayah, 3 categories of people are mentioned, the prophets(النَّبِيُّونَ), the rabbis(الرَّبَّانِيُّونَ) and the scholars(الْأَحْبَارُ). Of course, English translation doesn’t do it justice so I’m going to refer to the Arabic.
Look at the order of these 3 categories. The prophets are mentioned first and this shows that the status of the prophets are higher than the status of the scholars & Daa3e and experts. Sr. Taimiyyah pointed out that many times, people put their scholars way above the Prophet saw in that whatever their scholars say, they take firmly even if it contradicts what the Prophet saw said. Subhanallah…
Next up are the الرَّبَّانِيُّونَ. الرَّبَّانِيُّونَ are scholars who are very strong in their academics, but are also strong in doing tarbiyyah. They, on top of being very knowledgable, also focus on tarbiyyah and purification of other people and nourishing their iman. They reach your hearts and are very effective. Sometimes you see scholars who are very strong in their field but he’s not very spiritual (not leading or doing tarbiyyah to the people). These are not the الرَّبَّانِيُّونَ.
The الْأَحْبَارُ are those scholars who are very strong in their academics, and they are known as experts in their fields. It is said that this word حبر comes from the word بَحر. So, just like the sea is so vast, the knoweldge of a حِبر is also vast. The word is also used for ink, and so this is a person who is very academic, schlarly, who is always using ink, writing, teaching, studying. It is said that حِبر also comes from تَحبِير which means to beautify. This scholar, even in the most technical issues, he can explain it in a way that is easy for the layman to understand.
Both the الرَّبَّانِيُّونَ and الْأَحْبَارُ are scholars, both have vast knowledge, but the only difference between them is that the former, on top of having ilm, focuses on tarbiyyah, he uses the ilm to worship Allah. In explaining this, Sr. Taimiyyah gave an example of memorizing the Quran.
Why does one want to memorize the Quran? What is the purpose of memorizing the Quran? To better reference it, to better be able to quote it as prompted, etc? The main purpose should be to recite it in Salah. When that is done, one is worshipping Allah through this ilm.
By the way, this in no way criticizes the الْأَحْبَارُ, for Allah mentions them all, and they’re all entrusted the protection and safeguarding of the scripture.