Humility is the key to scholarship and self-righteousness is perhaps the
greatest impediment to it. In the study of religion, contemporary Muslims
scholars have generally adopted the latter approach. It is the opinion of
this writer that this approach has contributed significantly in promoting
sectarianism and dogmatism.
A student admitted to a conventional Madrasah is indoctrinated with the
notion of self-righteousness throughout the years he studies there. From the
very first day, he is labeled as an orthodox follower of a particular sect.
His destiny seems to be carved out beforehand as one of a devout denouncer
of every other sect and an ardent acclaimer of his own. He is made to
believe that only his brand of beliefs is in direct conformity with the
Qur’ān and Sunnah. An inference attributed to a highly revered scholar of
his sect stands supreme till the Day of Judgement. That it can be challenged
by cannot be dared thought of.
The time has come to realize how wrong this attitude is. As Muslims, we must
understand that self-righteousness is actually a declaration of the
infallibility of human intellect. Obviously, no human being can make such a
claim. So if Muslim scholars want to become men of scholarship and
erudition, they must abandon this approach. They should instead reflect,
deliberate and then humbly submit their inferences to criticism. They must
always think that the religious opinions they present are not the last word.
No scholar can ever be totally sure that he has
stumbled upon the final truth in matters that require interpretation of the
scripture. So he must be keep his eyes and ears open and his intellect tuned
to change for the better.