The Day Two Scholars Slapped Me

The other day I was sitting in the utopia of my library staring at my bookshelf admiring the great spiritual and intellectual legacy left behind by these great men and women. I love my books; I love the authors of my books even more. Scholars, raising to the challenges of their time, taking ink to paper suggesting solutions to the problems plaguing their societies. And here I am, one thousand years later, memorizing their words, mastering their lessons, and teaching them to others.

Oh how proud they would be!

My heart suddenly glances to two names on the shelf, Imam al-Ghazali and Shaykh Ibn Taymiyyah. Arguably two of the most gifted Islamic scholars in history, giants in their own right. I envision them springing to life standing before me. They must be here to encourage me to keep their legacies alive, maybe even to thank me. How exciting this moment is!

Suddenly I sense a change in their moods. Their faces turn grim. They glance towards each other, nod their heads and simultaneously slap me right across the face.

Ouch, not the greeting I was expecting.

Their scolding was swift and blunt. "We wrote our works responding to the contemporary issues of our time, not yours. Instead of learning from the spirit of what we did and applying it to your society, you've decided to rehash all of our problems digging yourselves into historical minutiae that have no relevance to your framework."

I sit pondering over their words.

“Our tradition is to be built upon, not frozen in time, discarded or overthrown. You've occupied the minds of Muslims around you with theological arguments that have no bearing to your current surroundings.”

I look up towards the great men standing before me and stammer, "But, but aren't your works on Aqidah essential to every Muslim's relationship with Allah?"

“Indeed, they can be used as a foundation. But what happened to the rest of the structure? In our time, we formulated incredible intellectual constructs—"

"And physical," Imam Ghazali chimed in.

"Yes, yes. Let's not forget the breathtaking beauty of the physical structures erected in our time. The point is what are you striving to achieve with the foundations we have provided you? Where is the scientific innovation? What of social and economic change?"

The famous author of the Ihya took over, "My son, our works were written to safeguard the deen from threats around us. What have you done to safeguard the deen of Muslims living in your society? What's your response to atheism? The arguments for scientism? The apathy for religion and morality? Where's your living, fluid embodiment of the Prophetic tradition that speaks to your time?

And just like that, they returned to the bound pages facing me on my bookshelf.


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