In The Name of Allaah, The Most Merciful, The Bestower of Mercy.
Shaikh – An Old Man
Allaah [The Most High] stated: [قَالَتْ يَا وَيْلَتَى أَأَلِدُ وَأَنَا عَجُوزٌ وَهَذَا بَعْلِي شَيْخًا إِنَّ هَذَا لَشَيْءٌ عَجِيبٌ – She (i.e. the wife of Ibraaheem) said (in astonishment): “Woe unto me! Shall I bear a child while I am an old woman, and here is my husband, a Shaikh (an old man?) Verily! This is a strange thing!] [Surah Hud. Aayah 72]
Allaah [The Most High] said: [قَالُوا يَا أَيُّهَا الْعَزِيزُ إِنَّ لَهُ أَبًا شَيْخًا كَبِيرًا فَخُذْ أَحَدَنَا مَكَانَهُ إِنَّا نَرَاكَ مِنَ الْمُحْسِنِينَ – They (i.e. Prophet Yusuf’s brohers) said: “O ruler of the land! Verily, he (i.e. Bin Yameen) has أَبًا شَيْخًا (an old father) (who will grieve for him); so take one of us in his place. Indeed we think that you are one of the Muhsinun (good-doers)]. [Surah Yusuf. Aayah 78]
Allaah [The Most High] said: [قَالَ مَا خَطْبُكُمَا قَالَتَا لَا نَسْقِي حَتَّى يُصْدِرَ الرِّعَاءُ وَأَبُونَا شَيْخٌ كَبِيرٌ – He (i.e. Prophet Muda) said: “What is the matter with you?” They (i.e. the two sisters) said: “We cannot water (our flocks) until the shepherds take (their flocks). And our father is a Shaikhun kabeer (a very old man)”.] [Surah Al-Qasas. Aayah 23]
Allaah [The Exalted] said:
[ هُوَ الَّذِي خَلَقَكُمْ مِنْ تُرَابٍ ثُمَّ مِنْ نُطْفَةٍ ثُمَّ مِنْ عَلَقَةٍ ثُمَّ يُخْرِجُكُمْ طِفْلًا ثُمَّ لِتَبْلُغُوا أَشُدَّكُمْ ثُمَّ لِتَكُونُوا شُيُوخًا – He, it is Who has created you (Adam) from dust, then from a Nutfah (mixed semen drops of male and female discharge (i.e. Adam’s offspring) then from a clot (a piece of coagulated blood), then brings you forth as children, then (makes you grow) to reach the age of full strength, and afterwards to be Shyookhan (old men and women)…] [Surah Ghaafir. Aayah 67]
“If he has gray hair and his old age has become manifest, then he is a Shaikh” (1)
Shaikh – a Pious Person
Abdur Rahmaan Bin Abee Haatim [may Allaah have mercy upon him] said, “I heard my father saying, ‘Hajjaaj Bin Firaasatah is a righteous Shaikh – one devoted to worship'”. (2)
Shaikh – A Person Recognised By Scholars as One With Knowledge
Raaghib Al-Isfahaanee [may Allaah have mercy upon him] said, “It is said about the one who is aged “The Shaikh”. And it may be used among us regarding someone who has a lot of knowledge, because one of the affairs related to a Shaikh is that he has a lot of experience and knowledge”. (3)
Al-Allaamah Hasan Al-Bannah [may Allaah have mercy upon him] said: All praise be to Allaah, maashaa’Allaah, they have organisation (in da’wah), they have a maktabah salafiyyah, they have a school, a kindergarten or primary school, all these things are tremendous and all praise be to Allaah they have big numbers with them. They also have with them many Mashaayikh from amongst them Shaykh Abu Khadeejah, they have knowledge, with them is knowledge, and other than him like Shaykh Abu Hakeem Bilal. All of these Maashaa’Allaah and many other people beside them – they are many people I met so I cannot recall their names – but those that are with them I find that they are upon khayr (goodness). Since they have many students of knowledge with them from their likes, so it is laazim (incumbent) that they traverse upon their way, because they have indibaat (firm discipline, groundedness), and all praise is due to Allaah, and they have cooperation and love for the sake of Allaah. They are from the best we have seen here from the different centres and (…) them upon steadfastness(..)”. (4)
In the above statement of Al-Allaamah Hasan Al-Bannah [may Allaah have mercy upon him], he referred to some Salafi teachers – in the West – as Shuyookh and that they have knowledge. Indeed, we know very well that all the Salafi teachers who are referred to as Shaikh are of different levels in knowledge- some are Senior scholars and Mujtahideen, such as the likes of Al-Allamah Rabee Bin Haadee, Al-Allaamah Saaleh Al-Fawzaan, Al-Allaamah Ubaid Bin Abdillah Al-Jaabiri and others [may Allaah preserve them]. All the other well known Salafi teachers who are referred to as Shaikh – whether they live in the West or in the Muslim lands – know the clear difference when this word Shaikh is applied to them and when applied to the above three scholars and those at their level. Likewise, Al-Allaamah Ubaid Bin Abdullah Al-Jaabiri refers to Shaikh Abdullah Al-Bukhaari [may Allaah preserve him] as Al-Allaamah, but one knows that neither Shaikh Abdullah nor anyone amongst the Salafiyyoon places Shaikh Abdullah at the same level as Shaikh Ubaid.
Likewise, when we say “Shaikh Abu Khadeejah, Shaikh Abu Hakeem, Shaikh Abu Idrees, Shaikh Abu Iyaadh and Shaikh Hasan Somali, Shaikh Abdul Ilaah, Shaikh Uways etc”, we do not intend that they are at the same level as Shaikh Abdullah Al-Bukhaari and those at his level; rather they have been referred to as Shuyookh by an experienced Senior Salafi Scholar and we know exactly what this means, which is that they have knowledge and deserve the title based on what that senior scholar (Al-Allaamah Hasan Al-Bannah) witnessed in person about them. However, it must be understood that neither do these elder brothers demand that they should be given the title Shaikh nor that whoever does not call them Shaikh is disrespectful; rather they were called Shaikh by Al-Allaamah Hasan al-Bannah who also mentioned that they have knowledge. Bear in mind that none forces you to call our elders “Shuyookh” nor is there any suspicion on anyone who refrains from doing so, rather refer to any of them as “Ustaadh” if you wish; but do not object when we call them Shaikh because we have a precedence and we know exactly what this implies. They are people well known for referring back to the Senior Scholars of the Ummah and transmit their works on various topics, clarify the sound Islamic methodology and refute all those who oppose the sound Islamic methodology of the Salafus Saaleh (The Pious Predecessors). This is the context in which Shaikh Hasan Al-Bannah referred to them as Mashaayikh. They are more aware of their level than us and they are not pretenders, rather their efforts in the path of Dawah, teaching and Tarbiyah in the West – together with constant consultation with the Senior Scholars of the Ummah – is well known. May Allaah increase them in knowledge, piety and sincerity Aameen.
[Ref 1: Lisaan Al-Arab 3/31-33]
[Ref 2: Al-Jarh Wat-Tadeel 3/164]
[Ref 3: Al-Mufradaat Fee Ghareeb Al-Qur’aan]
[Ref 4: During Al-Allamah Hasan Al-Bannah’s visit to the West]