"With great power comes great responsibilities" as Spider-man's wise uncle once said to him.
I grew up on this principle and take it very seriously. After all, Islam teaches us the very same. The prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said that all of us are shepherd and responsible for our flocks. The bigger role we have in the world, the bigger our responsibilities towards others becomes.
This brings me to the issue of Islamic knowledge and the responsibility that comes with it. I do not think many students realize this but we are looked upon by others as role models. They watch our very move and when we do stupid things, either people will lose respect for us or think it is right. We need to realize that knowledge is power and with great power comes great responsibility. When you choose to gain knowledge of Islam, realize that you become responsible for assisting and serving the Ummah.
Yet many people do not seem to realize this. I found too many students of knowledge and scholars, who I initially look up to, disappoint me by displayed such character that even an ignorant Muslim knows is wrong. This is true for people from all schools of thought including Salafis, Deobandis and Sufis. Below are some of my experiences with such people:
1) I visited a student of knowledge who runs his own Islamic center and who has been praised as knowledgeable in the Deen with the hope of working for him. He invited me to his house for dinner were I noticed two things that put me off working with him, firstly he was very harsh and judgmental in his way of talking.
The entire time at dinner he would just lecture me about certain faults I have (he had just met me and assumed these faults). Secondly, his sons sat at dinner scared and silent, clearly terrified by their father. When he asked me if I had children, I responded that I had two sons. In front of his sons, he told me they only get harder to deal with as they get older. It was clear in his sons' faces that they were embarrassed and hurt by his statement in front of a stranger.
I decided never to work for him or visit him again. I guess being a knowledgeable person with your own center is more important than your children's feelings or your character in dealing with others.
2) I met a world-renowned Salafi Islamic teacher, only to immediately recognize that his character was lacking. He does not know how to talk to people and seems disconnected from the world and unable to relate to others. I would later learn that he treats his wife horribly and clearly does not love or care for her.
3) I attended the lecture of a famous Sufi scholar at a conference. In the middle of his lecture, he pointed to me in the audience and told me to sit properly. The entire audience turned to look at me. Perhaps he did not learn the manner of correcting people and the prohibition of publicly embarrassing people (especially for something as small as the way they sit at a conference).
4) I attended the lecture of a female scholar who seemed very impressive until the Q&A session in which she displayed utmost arrogance and humiliated a Madinan Graduate for questioning a statement she made. She even said that she is right because she has a PHd and then accused him of being a chauvinist for questioning her opinion.
5) I met too many scholars who tell me some strange ruling and when I ask for evidence, their evidence is, "I'm a Moulana/Mufti/Shaykh, I'm telling you so," So apparently his view counts as proof in of itself.
All the above examples show the exact same problem, many people focus on the book knowledge while ignoring the Adab and practical aspects of dealing with people. Too many times we get so caught up in studying Fiqh that we become like walking emotionless books unable to relate to others, care for them, completely devoid of empathy.
A lot of emphasis needs to be placed on studying human interaction, psychology, importance of family and plain old good character. Such issues need to be incorporated into our curriculum at the universities.
If you can not care for people, treat them well or relate to them, you can not help them and you end up doing more harm than good. Especially if it is your own family. Children raised by such religious people who do not know how to treat their wives or children end up becoming averse to Islam because they do not want to be like their parents.
I know this came across as a rant but I needed to let this out. Firstly as a warning to myself, as well anyone else studying Islam. This religion is an Amaanah (trust) on our shoulders and our actions are Dawah, whether we like it or not.
When you wear the mantle of knowledge, people watch you and learn more from your behavior than your lectures.