With the abundance of Islamic literature and scholars, the question that regularly arises is: “Who should I follow and whose lectures should I listen to?”
The great Maaliki scholar, Imaam Shaatbi (rahimahullah) (d. 790 A.H.) gives three simple signs by means of which one can recognize a true and reliable scholar of deen:
- He practises on his knowledge and his actions conform to his words. If his actions contradict his words, then he is not worthy of being a teacher and of being followed.
- He was nurtured by the experts of that field, studying under them and holding firmly to them, until a time came when he became worthy of the same titles as them. This was in reality the noble practice of our pious predecessors.
- He follows in the footsteps of his teachers, and adopts their conduct and mannerisms as was the practice of the Sahaabah (radhiyallahu ‘anhum) in following Nabi (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam), and the Taabi‘een in following the Sahaabah and this process continued from generation to generation. When this quality was ignored and overlooked, innovations began creeping into deen, because choosing not to follow one’s elders is due to some new factor, the root cause of which is the following of one’s desires. (Al-Muwaafaqaat – vol. 1, pgs. 83 – 85)