In The Name of Allaah, The Most Merciful, The Bestower of Mercy
Shaikh Rabee Bin Haadi Al-Madkhali [may Allaah preserve him] said:
I will mention what Ibnul Qayyim and other than him amongst the people of knowledge [rahimahumullaah] drew attention to, regarding the virtue of the scholars in the statement of Allaah [The Blessed and Exalted] said:
يَـٰٓأَيُّہَا ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُوٓاْ أَطِيعُواْ ٱللَّهَ وَأَطِيعُواْ ٱلرَّسُولَ وَأُوْلِى ٱلۡأَمۡرِ مِنكُمۡۖ
O you who believe! Obey Allah and obey the Messenger (Muhammad, and those of you (Muslims) who are in authority. [Surah An-Nisaa’ Aayah 59]
The Salaf explained the term [Ulul Ilm – those who have been given knowledge] to mean [Al-Umaraa -those who are in authority], and some of them explained it to mean [Al-Ulamaa – the scholars]; but what is correct is that the Aayah includes both the scholars and those in authority [i.e. the rulers]. The scholars propagate the Sharee’ah of Allaah, teach the people, give rulings to the people and the rulers; and the rulers implement the rulings – they implement the knowledge [of the sharee’ah] which the scholars possess and propagate. So, the Aayah includes both the scholars and rulers. And due to this, Ibnul Qayyim said that it is obligatory to obey the scholars when they say, ‘’Allaah said and Allaah’s Messenger said’’ in issues related to Aqeedah, acts of worship or deeds. [likewise] in affairs related to halaal and haram, if they say, ‘’Allaah said and the Messenger of Allaah said’’ and then they give verdicts and judge based on what the Book and Sunnah necessitates, it becomes obligated on the people to obey them. [Ref A] If the rulers command [the people] to obey Allaah -in accordance with what agrees with the Sharee’ah of Allaah- then it becomes obligated on the people to obey them. [Ref B]
[However, what is clearly] witnessed [in relation to this affair] is that many people do not acknowledge the status of the people of knowledge, and they say, ‘’They [i.e. scholars] are not guardians over us and there are no popes in Islam.’’ This [i.e. statement of those who do not recognise the status of the scholars] is tantamount to toppling the scholars, belittling them and removing them from their status [i.e. although neither are the scholars regarded as popes nor are they to be treated as popes, but they are the inheritors of the prophets and must be obeyed when they give rulings and judge based on what the Qur’aan and the Sunnah necessitate]. This chronic illness appeared since the appearance of nationalism, western colonization [i.e. when the west began colonizing many Muslim lands], the destructive views of the Naasiriyyah [i.e. Pan Arab Socialists] and Ba’thiyyah [i.e. the Ba’ath party – socialists] etc. The figureheads of these filthy dogmas [i.e. socialism, nationalism] made strenuous efforts to eliminate Islaam and remove it from their path, which they could not accomplish except by toppling the [upright] scholars. Then, this disease spread amongst the [deviated] groups that attribute themselves to islaam, so you see them earnestly [seeking] to topple the [upright] scholars and describing them as stooges of the [government] authorities, spies, tails of the ruler and [giving them] other evil nicknames. The [aim behind] all of this is to topple the scholars, especially the scholars of the Salafi methodology – the methodology that declares the one who is correct, the one upon error, the one upon falsehood, the misguided one and the deviated one as they are. There is neither flattery nor Mudaahanah [i.e. showing agreement -being pleased with what an opponent is upon, leaving him in his path and not seeking to rectify him, whilst saying, ‘’As long as he keeps quiet about me, I will keep quiet about him (Ref 1)] because the inheritors of the prophets [i.e. the upright scholars]- those who present the truth- are just. They aid the religion [ordained by] Allaah and propagate it in the ummah.
They propagate justice, Ihsaan [i.e. all that will perfect the worship of a person, good dealings and benefiting the people through one’s knowledge, wealth and position etc (Ref 2)] and righteousness. And they wage war against evil, Fawaahish (i.e. great evil sins, every kind of unlawful sexual intercourse), shirk, misguidance, bidah and khuraafaat [i.e. superstitious beliefs – beliefs not ordained by creator (Allaah)].
Source: Marhaban Yaa Taalibal Ilm’ pages 58-60. Abridged and slightly paraphrased
Ref A: Rights of the scholars and how to behave towards them when they err or when they hold a different view in issues of permissible Ijtihaad: http://www.salafitalk.net/st/viewmessages.cfm?Forum=9&Topic=12294
How to deal with a Salafi when he errs- by Shaikh Muhammad Baazmool: https://www.sahab.net/forums/index.php?app=forums&module=forums&controller=topic&id=144483
Ref B: How to deal with the rulers
Ref 1: See Sharh Hilyati Taalibil Ilm’ page 272’ by Shaikh Uthaymeen (rahimahullaah). See Arabic text below…
Ref 2: See Explanation of the three fundamental principles’ pages 90 onwards’ translated by Ustaadh Abu Talhah Daawud Burbank (may Allaah have mercy upon him and his wife) Aameen]