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How do you become a “Maulana”?

Posted on February 23, 2009
Filed Under >Adil Najam, Education, Religion, Society
49 Comments
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Adil Najam

The media is full of “Maulana” Sufi Mohammed and “Maulana” Fazlullah.

All the television news channels are falling over themselves inserting the “Maulana” honorific not only to these two, but to everyone in their coterie.

Makes me wonder, how do you become a “Maulana“?

I mean this as serious question. Is there a process? A certification agency? An exam of some sort? A public process? The coming together of popular sentiment? What? And, how?



We as a society take honorifics seriously. As we should. Visiting Pakistan, I still get unnerved being called “Professor Sahib” and “Daktor Saab.” (Even more so since I suspect that people think that the later is somehow more important than the former!)

I understand that honorifics are an important cultural recognition. I also realize that sometimes they are simply terms of endearment bestowed by one’s fans or supporters. But they can also be publicity stunts for attaining false public credence. In the case of Aamir Liaquat Hussain (Alim OnLine) and his fake degrees, we also know that the repeated use of fake titles can, in fact, sway public opinion.

I had always assumed that there was a sense of intellectual contribution, maybe even piety, being attributed by the title of “Maulana.” I think many Pakistanis still assume so. Yet, it does not seem that many who have adorned with the title recently can make a claim to either.

My honest question merely wishes to figure out how these religious titles are being bestowed today. I assume that for such a title, there must be some criteria or process. Or is it self-proclaimed or based on looks alone? If so, is it now OK to call all the cabin crew on PIA whose facial hair is being targetted as “Maulana”?

I wonder if by throwing the title of “Maulana” on everyone, our media is actually diluting the value of the title? Demeaning the achievements of those who actually deserve it? Most importantly are they not giving “Islam a bad name” to the world at large by turning every gun-totting bearded guy like Fazlullah into a “Maulana”!

(Interestingly, till the writing of this, Wikipedia - which must never be fully trusted – calls Fazlullah a “Maulana” but Sufi Mohammad is not one in the headline, although he is in the text. Yet another reason not to take Wikipedia seriously)!

49 comments posted

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  1. Faizan Ali says:
    December 25th, 2009 6:01 am

    Firstly, the most harmful and dreadful ignorance in the world is atheism. and secondly, maulanas do not hate people rather they sacrifice their time and efforts into guiding other towards the right (Straight) path and to save others from a painful chastisement.

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