Ibn al-Jawzi on the Devil’s Deception of Scholars who Get Close to Rulers

It is from the Devil’s deception of scholars to make them intermingle with rulers and sultans. They look away from their faults and never admonish them in spite of their ability to do so. Some of them might even give fatwas allowing them to do things just for worldly gain. Three aspects of harm are involved with such behavior:

First:  The ruler assumes that had he not been on the right path, then the scholars would have admonished him. And had my wealth been gained through illegitimate ways, scholars would not have eaten from it.

Second: The general public will think that this ruler, his wealth and his actions are fine because the scholar is always visiting him.

Third: The scholar himself ruins his religion. Sometimes the scholars use an excuse just to (be able to) mix with the rulers. They say: ”We will only visit the ruler to intercede for so and so.” However, what proves that this is from the devil is that if someone else goes to intercede he would get annoyed, and might even attack that person for visiting the Sultan.

lblis also deceives them to take from the ruler’s wealth. It is known that if the ruler’s money was from an impermissible source then it would be a sin to take from it. And if it was from a suspicious source then it is best not to take from it. And if the money was gained from a permissible source then the scholar ought to only accept an amount that was appropriate in return for his services. The general public might follow the scholar’s footsteps in taking that which is not theirs. On the other hand, Iblis has deceived some scholars who refrained from frequenting the Sultan to backbite scholars who do. Thus they combine between two problems: backbiting others and glorifying themselves.

In general, frequenting the Sultan entails great dangers because the intention might be proper at first, but after receiving good treatment, intentions change, and the scholar begins to flatter the Sultan and stops admonishing him.

Sufyan al-Thawri used to say: I am not worried about them (the ruler) insulting me. I worry from them acting generously towards me, so my heart becomes softer towards them.

Early scholars used to stay away from leaders because of their oppression, but leaders continued to ask for their services in matters relating to governance. A group of people thus became interested in worldly affairs and learned the sciences suitable for such positions.

The proof that they seek to please the rulers is that when rulers became interested in arguments related to creed, scholars busied themselves with kalam. And when rulers preferred fiqh debates, scholars went towards such debates. Then when leaders tended toward preaching sermons, many scholars practiced preaching.

Iblis also persuades jurists to be lenient with respect to some prohibitions. This is why we see some of them wearing silk clothes and gold. The reason for this leniency varies: Some of them only practice fiqh to conceal their true identity of being enemies of the religion. Others do so to gain a leadership position.

And others are not enemies of religion but fall victim to their own desires and lusts. They do not have the self-control required to resist temptation, in fact they possess qualities that cause the opposite. Resistance to desires only comes with practice and referring to stories of previous scholars.

[Al-Hafiz Jamal al-Din Abd al-Rahman ibn al-Jawzi, تلبيس ابليس (The Devil’s Deceptions), pp. 709-712]

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