Q: Can Moulana be used a term of reverence for a Islamic Scholar. I have been told that no country uses “Moulana” title, but rather the ‘Mullahs’ have adopted for themselves the honorific title of “Maulana” (which means, Our protector, Our Lord, Our Master) which has the most serious un-Islamic connotation of placing another with the Almighty.
A: The word 'Moula' in Arabic has many meanings, some are mentioned here,
5) Freed servant
9) Paternal cousin
12) Protector and
13) many other meanings
Given that the term ‘Moula’ has multiple meanings, as is the case with many Arabic words, its usage is also varied. It will depend upon the context it is used and who is being addressed.
When it is used for Allah it will have one meaning and for humans it will adopt the related meaning, as per the context.
In the Quran and Hadith 'Maula' is used in different meanings. In Hadith it is used for other than Allah.
Some examples are cited below:
1) In Surah Nisa V.33, Allah says:
وَلِكُلٍّ جَعَلْنَا مَوَالِيَ مِمَّا تَرَكَ الْوَالِدَانِ وَالْأَقْرَبُونَ
Translation: For everyone we have made heirs in what the parents and the nearest of kin have left.
2) In a lengthy Hadith, Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam) said to Hazrat Zayd ibn Harithah (Radiyallahu Anhu),
أَنْتَ أَخُونَا وَمَوْلاَنَا
Translation: "You are our brother and our Maula (freed slave)." (Bukhari #2699, #4251)
3) Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam) said regarding Hazrat Ali (Radiyallahu Anhu)
مَنْ كُنْتُ مَوْلَاهُ فَعَلِيٌّ مَوْلَاهُ
Translation: "Whoever's friend I am, then Hazrat Ali (Radiyallahu Anhu) is also his friend." (Ibn Majah #121)
4) Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam) said, "You should not say, 'Feed your Rabb (referring to the master/owner), Assist you Rabb in performing Wudhu, Give water to your Rabb,' but should say (instead of Rabb), Sayyidi (My leader) or Maulaya (my master)." (Bukhari #2552, Muslim #2249)
5) Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam) said,
مَنْ عَلَّمَ عَبْدًا آيَةً مِنْ كِتَابِ اللهِ، فَهُوَ مَوْلَاهُ
Translation: "Whoever teaches a slave (of Allah) a verse from the Book of Allah (Quran) he is Maula (master or teacher)..." (Al Mu'jamul Kabeer lit Tabrani #7528, Shuabul Iman lil Bayhqi #2023).
It is clear from these examples that the use of the word 'Maulana’ has many meanings and is used in various contexts in the Quran and Hadith. It can be thus concluded that it is permissible to use the title Maulana for scholars.
And Allah Knows Best
Darul Ihsan Fatwa Dept.