Question # 430: Sometimes we hear people calling a shaykh “mawlana” especially in Indo-Pak subcontinent or saying “So and so is mawlana” – is that permissible?

bismi-llahi r-raḥmani r-raḥīm,

Assalamu ‘laikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh,

All praise and thanks are due to Allah (سبحانه و تعالى), and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger (صلى الله عليه و سلم).

Dear questioner,

First of all, we implore Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) to help us serve His cause and render our work for His sake.

Shorter Answer: al-mawla is from the names of Allah. The scholars say that it is permissible to use the word ‘mawla’ to refer to a Muslim who is distinguished in knowledge or righteousness. The word ‘mawla’ appeared frequently in ahadith in different context, either to mean the Lord, the owner, the master, the benefactor, the freed slave, the supporter, the lover, the follower, the neighbor, the cousin, the ally, the son-in-law, the slave, the freed slave, and the recipient of kindness. Hence, it is permissible to call another person “mawlana” so long as he is not a disbeliever.

Long Answer: al-mawla is from the names of Allah, because Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) says in the Qur’an:

  • “And if they turn away, then know that Allah is your Mawla (Patron, Lord, Protector and Supporter, etc.), (what) an Excellent Mawla, and (what) an Excellent Helper!” (Soorah al-Anfaal, 8:40)
  • “Pardon us and grant us Forgiveness. Have mercy on us. You are our Mawla (Patron, Supporter and Protector, etc.) and give us victory over the disbelieving people” (Soorah al-Baqarah, 2:286)
  • “Say: Nothing shall ever happen to us except what Allah has ordained for us. He is our Mawla (Lord, Helper and Protector).” And in Allah let the believers put their trust” (Soorah at-Tawbah, 9:51)

And the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said:

  • “You are its Guardian (Wali) and its Lord (Mawla).” (Narrated by Muslim)

[However,] it is permissible to call another person “mawlana” if he is Muslim, but it is not permissible to say that to a disbeliever. Some of the scholars said that it is permissible to use the word ‘mawla’ to refer to a Muslim who is distinguished in knowledge or righteousness.

  • The Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said to Zayd ibn Haarithah: “You are our brother and our mawla.” (Narrated by al-Bukhari)
  • Whoever considers me as his Mawla (master), then Ali is his Mawla.’’ (Ahmad, At-Tirmidhi and Ibn Maajah; graded sahih)
  • Under the topic ‘General Behavior (Kitab Al-Adab)’ – ‘Chapter: The slave should not say Rabbi or Rabbati (My lord, My lady)’ This report was narrated from Abu Yunus that he narrated from Abu Hurairah, with this narration. But he did not say that the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said: “Let him say Sayyidi and Mawlaya (both meaning my master).” (Sunan Abi Dawud; graded sahih by Al-Albani)

The word ‘mawla’ may be used with reference to an owner, companion, relative, neighbor, ally, supporter, lover, benefactor, recipient of kindness, slave or freed slave. (al-Qamoos al-Muheet)

Ibn al-Atheer said: The word ‘mawla’ appears frequently in ahadith. It is a word that may be applied to many things. It may refer to the Lord, the owner, the master, the benefactor, the freed slave, the supporter, the lover, the follower, the neighbor, the cousin, the ally, the son-in-law, the slave, the freed slave, and the recipient of kindness. It mostly appears in hadith and should be interpreted according to the context of the hadith in which it is mentioned. Everyone who is in charge of a matter or undertakes a matter may be described as its mawla or wali.  (an-Nihaayah fi Ghareeb al-Hadeeth)

Hence there is nothing wrong with giving this name to a person so long as he is not a disbeliever.  Ibn al-Qayyim (may Allah have mercy on him) said: “Section: The dhimmi cannot be addressed as Sayyiduna etc.” With regard to addressing (the dhimmi) as sayyiduna, mawlana and the like (titles roughly meaning “our master”), that is definitely haraam. (Ahkaam Ahl adh-Dhimmah)

An-Nawawi said: Imam Abu Ja‘far an-Nahhaas said in his book Sinaa‘at al-Kitaab: With regard to the word al-mawla, we do not know of any difference of opinion among the scholars concerning the fact that no one should say “mawlaya (my master)” to another person. But I say: We have seen in the previous chapter that it is permissible in all cases to say mawlaya and there is no difference between (the two forms of the word). an-Nahhaas was speaking of the word with the definite article (al-mawla). Similarly, an-Nahhaas said: The word sayyid may be said to anyone who is not an evildoer, but it should not be used with the definite article (as-sayyid) to refer to anyone other than Allah (سبحانه و تعالى). But the more correct view is that there is nothing wrong with saying al-mawla and as-sayyid (with the definite article, with reference to people) subject to the conditions mentioned above, i.e., a person may be called as-sayyid (with the definite article) if he is a person of virtue and goodness, either because of his knowledge or his righteousness and so on. If he is an evildoer or there is some doubt concerning his religious commitment and the like, it is makrooh to call him sayyid. (al-Adhkaar; see also Mu‘jam al-Manaahi al-Lafziyyah)

(Most part of the above reply is based on answer provided by Islamqa.info on the topic)

Allahu A’lam (Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) knows best) and all Perfections belong to Allah, and all mistakes belong to me alone. May Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) forgive me, Ameen.

Wassalaam