How do you become a “Maulana”?

Posted on February 23, 2009
Filed Under >Adil Najam, Education, Religion, Society
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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 responses to “How do you become a “Maulana”?”

  1. Abdul Hai says:

    In USA, the word Maulana has been replaced by Sheikh. This title is also awarded in the US mosques. Most of these sheikhs or Imams have no formal training. Their biggest contribution besides having a beard is the Juma Khutbah.
    About 300-700 Muslims come to pray on Friday at each mosque. They are captive audience of the Imam and his speech (khutbah). However, I notice usually the attendees tune out what Imam is saying in the first five minutes. The Imam usually tells them how bad they are in their practice of religion. He talks about Hijab for woman 90 percent of the time. However, he does not tell the men that things like beard is also Sunah and pronunce them as Kafirs. Imagine what will be the reaction of a young girl who takes time of work on Friday and hears this. She is likely to stop coming. She needs encouragement. I have found that woman start wearing Hijab on their own when they are ready and are not motivated by Khutbahs.

    The Sheikh/Imam’s is usually a recent immigrant with poor command of English. It is almost impossible to undersatnd him. He thinks he knows it all about Fiqah and Sunnat. However, his knowledge is rudimentary. According to traditions of the prophet, the Khutbah should be shorter than the time it takes to pray. However, the average Imam holds the audience with his monlogue for 30 minutes instead of a schedule of 15 minutes. The audience are looking at their watches because they have to go back to work. He moves from subject to subject without any direction or central theme. If he was teaching a class instead, all the students will drop out.

    I have seen congregations aroused by a young Imam with English as his native tongue. I have seen how the word spreads and mosque gets very active. However, most of the mosques in USA are usually taken over by so called conservative immigrants and they do not like to part their authority. These trustees are usually no where to be seen when the mosque is being built by avearge muslims; however, they appear on the scene immedately after the infrastructure is complete.

    What we need is to encourage young bright Muslims to study religion here in United States and not in places like Saudi Arabia or Madrassas of Pakistan. We have to collect funds to award scholarships to these students. Furtermore we have to make the Imam’s salary attractive for these bright persons after they graduate.

  2. Irfan Mirza says:

    The same question was asked from Maulana Fazlur Rehman and his brother Maulana Atta ur Rehman that how came you have added Maulana to your names. They said it is hereditary. Since our father Maulana Mufti Mahmud used it with his name therefore we have added it with our name in the same manner son of pir is sometimes pir or pirzada.

    Dr. Allama Tahir ul Qadri was confused for a long time how to add and what to add to his name…..

  3. KK says:

    I went through all 6 pages of comments under this article and not a single person commented on how this title is obtained in the Shia sect. Frankly I was kind of surprised that none of you guys knew this so I decided to give my two cents on this topic.
    In shias, ‘moulana’ is a special title given to a man who has done is Islamic studies from a accredited university in Qum, Iran. Once this man graduates from that university, only then he is allowed to be called a Moulana and also wears that special black turban that you often see Shia Alims wear. Not every shia speaker (zaakir) is a moulana. The only way to distinguish between a Moulana and a regular Zaakir is that a Moulana wears a (black or sometimes white) tightly wrapped turban. Any Zaakir can be called a Alim for example Alama Talib Johari (a very renounced Shia Alim), if you have seen him on TV or even live, he wears a Jinnah cap not a turban.

  4. AHsn says:

    Dear MQ,

    In your last contribution, you have given us a plenty of information concerning the madrassa system of education. If I understand correctly, the Maulana degree awarded by the madrassa is something like a University degree of a Master or perhaps a Bachelor. It is not clear if these degrees are recognised by the Pakistan Education Commission (Board).

    In any case the title of Maulana is certainly less than a University Ph.D., because higher to Maulana there is a degree of Mufti. In case Maulana Fazlullah is a graduate from one of these madrassas; my opinion is that this type of Maulanas are blood hungry Jihady Maulanas.

    I will never dare to suggest a Maulana title to Adil or even to MQ. Both of you are much above the knowledge and intelligence of a Jihadi Maulana. Adil has a Ph. D. He has published many articles and research reports without counting all those posts for ATP. To give him a title of this madrassa Maulana will be an insult!

    In my comments when I was talking of Maulana, it was not in terms of Jihadi Maulanas, but in terms of Maulana Azad, Maulana Hali, Maulana Jauhar and Maulana Rumi. All these people did not get their titles from a University, nor from an Academy or from any established institution. They were awarded this title by their pears and the people. So, on behalf of the pears like you and the people like me I repeat my proposal to call him Maulana Adil Najam.

  5. Asim says:

    Can we somehow get this in all the mullas

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