In a recent article in Muslim Matters, Shaykh Osman Umarji highlights the plight of many scholars of sacred knowledge who give up their careers and livelihoods to study abroad and subsequently return to the West to teach the Muslim community. Instead of being honored and respected for their sacrifices, they face criticism and complaints. Instead of being compensated generously for their services, most of them do not receive a living wage. They are not able to provide sufficiently for themselves and their families, many living in cramped one-bedroomed apartments. As a result, many of them are forced to forsake their teaching and service to the community. They retrain, take up secular work, or brand themselves as the providers of specialist services to the community, usually in exchange for a considerable fee. So spiritual growth and religious knowledge become the domain of the elite of the community, and the poorer members are marginalised.
Muslims Should Rethink the Value of a Religious Scholar
Shaykh Osman takes the view that we must “rethink the value of a religious scholar in our community as an investment, not a charity cause”. Scholars should be regarded as professionals who bring specialist skills to their positions. They should be paid a market-related wage that takes account of their levels of education and experience, as well as differences in the cost of living in different areas. They should also be given medical insurance and retirement plans. In addition, consideration should be given to the establishment of a scholars’ union that provides guidelines for remuneration.
He concludes by pointing to the spiritual and intellectual crisis that is besetting the Western Muslim community, with the incursion of un-Islamic world-views, and emphasizes the importance of sound scholars. If the community is not willing to value its scholars by paying them a reasonable wage, this crisis will cement into a permanent dearth of sacred knowledge.
Commendable Work By Muslim Matters
Muslim Matters is to be commended for highlighting one of the most fundamental challenges facing the contemporary Muslim community in the West. The community’s lack of support for its scholars, at an individual level, is replicated by its lack of support for organisations and initiatives that seek to raise funds to support such scholars. The Islamic Scholars Fund at SeekersGuidance, and many other organisations like it, struggle to raise funds for their scholars precisely because they are not valued and respected. A change of attitude is necessary to protect the community from sliding into the secularism and materialism that is the fabric of the broader American society, and which is at odds with the Islamic way of life. May Allah Most High transform all our hearts and open our hands this Ramadan to give generously to those without whom the Muslim community cannot continue to exist.
To read the Muslim Matters article, click here.
The Islamic Scholars Fund at SeekersGuidance aims to create an infrastructure to support the scholars’ efforts to attend to the community’s pressing needs: by researching, writing, teaching, and responding to questions. Please take a moment of your time this Ramadan to make a generous contribution to the Zakat fund at SeekersGuidance.com/donate. Whatever you give is worthy. As God reminds us in the Qur’anic verse, “…whatever good you may spend will be repaid unto you in full, and you shall not be wronged” (Qur’an, 2:272).